Friday, May 31, 2013

May Foodie Pen Pals Reveal

Here we are again. Last month was a little sad with no box appearing, but this month more than made up for it. 

I was matched up with Kristen from Pudgie Pies and she sent a doozy!

Can I even pack this nicely? Never!

 The box was chock full of amazing things, all locally from the York, PA area.

There was Wolfgang Candy's Farmer Fair chocolate covered pretzels, salted cashews from Mike's Nuts, Kaufman's apple butter, Kessler's honey mustard, an assortment of soft drinks from the Appalachian Brewing Company, a couple of meat snacks from Shaffer Venison Farms and a home-made mix of m&ms, cookies, nuts and pretzels! Mmmmm..

Even more so, Kristen added a note for each item giving some background on it:

The way to any librarian's heart is through provenance description!

The nuts and apple butter went within a day. Too, too good. I especially liked how the apple butter had no added sugar or sweeteners. Just apples and spices. Perfect for Streamlined Ska Librarian lifestyle (although eating it all in a day may not be!)

The pretzels and home-made mix managed to survive enough for me to share them at work. 

Since my time in Japan, I tend to shy away from sodas, but I had to give these a try. So far, I've drank the Birch Beer (reminiscent of a good cream soda) and the root beer (gassily good!)

As for the venison, you can see from that note that Kristen said it was all right if I didn't eat them. But what was the first thing I opened?


And I wasn't the only house member who got excited once the package was opened: 

Flying leap kitty. I barely escaped with all my fingers.

So, thank you SOOO much, Kristen! It was not only an excellent FPP package, its inspiring me to step it up on my own boxes!

Speaking of which, my box this month was sent to Sara at Nubcakes. As she was also a NYC-based person, it made my package more of a challenge. You can check out her sight to see what I sent.

Interested in Joining Foodie Pen Pals? Check out the website to join!

The Lean Green Bean

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Boy Body Talk

OK, this will be no surprise to anyone who knows me, but I'm a talker. The art of gabbing/conversation is part and parcel of my personality. I like chatting with people. In fact it took me a long time to warm up to texting's not talking.

What may be even more of a surprise is that I DON'T like talking about my body issues with folks. Well, of course, here on this blog, it's fine. It's not the aspect of anonymity that make it easy, but rather the ability to exposit my thoughts without declaring it a dialogue, even with a comments section. I'm not sure that makes perfect sense, even as I type it, but there it is.

But why is that? Well, to be honest, I have a rather adverse reaction to folks talking about their bodies. I was and in many ways still am, pretty self conscious about my body issues. Being scolded for being fat most of my life (even when it seems I wasn't as fat as I imagined), had left me not feeling quite permitted to join in on the discussion. And now that I'm in Streamlined mode, I feel I don't quite have the right to say "Oh, my stomach is still big" or "I can't fit in these pants" without usually getting a derisive look. Yeah, most of that's in my head, but weight issues and stigma can mess anyone up. 

There's been a lot of articles as of late on "Fat Talk," the self-denigrating process of comparing yourself to your friends about body issues. Of course, a lot of this pertains to women. Because men tend not to talk about this or bond other over weight and appearance. 

Is this why I don't like talking about it?

Well, it turns out a recent study of body talk among male college students showed the same results happen. The talk is less about "being fat" and more about muscle and definition, but hearing a peer talk about their body helped promote self-dissatisfaction. It seems like this should be surprising, but really it's nothing new:

And this is why I try to avoid these dialogues. When someone goes on about how fat or out of shape they are, I can only want to change the subject. Especially when it comes to clothes and fashion. Because then you never win.

After several years of ostensibly wearing muu-muus as shirts and ill fitting suits, I finally went to a real clothing store and had myself measured. What did I find out? Even in Retro Ska Librarian mode, my torso was taller than the "average" suit size and my arms were about 1 inch shorter then "average." Meaning I was a fat yet gangly, tyrannosaurus freak!

Actually, it was a very good eye opener for me. Because as I worked into my new Streamlined Ska Librarian body, I KNEW that clothes still wouldn't fit me properly, no matter how "perfect" I became.

So, yes, my suit size has decreased 5 sizes, but I still need to have the arms fixed and I can only wear "tall sizes". I can find nice shirts, but they still don't fall below my waist. It's not me. It's whoever decided what fashion is.  

It's one of the reasons I now order my dress shirts through this site. Their sales are actually cheaper than buying shirts here in the US, and they fit so much better than any dress shirts I've ever owned. It turns out my body is euro-centric!

And that's why I don't engage in body talk. I'm happy to discuss workouts and diet, injuries, even hair loss. But we can't all be competing to see who hates their body most. I think we'd do better just ignoring what fashion tells us.

Now, I'm gonna take my freakishly sized arms and pull up my sadly shaped pants over my long eurotrash torso and sweat it out!


Engeln, R., Sladek, M. R., & Waldron, H. (n.d.). Body talk among college men: Content, correlates, and effects. Body Image. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2013.02.001

Monday, May 27, 2013

Bloatation intervals

The tape measurements are in and this month I have gained:
  • 1/4 inch in arms
  • 1.5 inches in shoulders
  • 1/2 inch in chest
  • 1 inch in quads
(My waist remains the same.....well, better than going up! Huzzah again!)

My trainer has moved me into giant sets and I am lifting beyond and looking unlike anything I ever imagined:

Welcome to the Librarian Gun Show!

I asked my trainer to up to "sweat factor" of my workouts. I am enjoying the weight training more than I ever expected and with recurring foot issues, my intense running/cardio has decreased, so I needed to kick it up a bit. Because with the increase in muscle mass, I'm feeling an increase in other factors.

Much to my trainer's delight, I cannot fit into much of any of my clothes anymore. After a wonder-filled few years of going from above an XL to an M and being able to shop in regular stores, I'm now busting out of all my shirts, pants (in the thighs) and jackets, all because of muscle. (There's only so many times you can hear my colleagues say, "Now Dan angry! Now Dan smash!!" when I'm about to split open one of my suits along the chest and back.) I'm not looking forward to the cost of a new wardrobe...again...but I'm also more vigilant that my waist size doesn't increase along with the rest of me, because this increase in muscle has been making me crave a lot of food.

And it's also hit me that these mega weight work outs leave me not only looking pumped, but bloated. We're talking like a 5 lb. weight increase after a workout, that then doesn't drop for a few days. A simple search on muscle bloat after working out draws up countless websites, all with a variety of responses, ranging from common sense to, naturally, some bizarre "special" supplement that is the "only solution" to counter these effects.

I couldn't find any good scholarly reports on this issue, but suffice to say that micro-tears in your muscles create a fluid build up while those tears are healing. And you do need to let it heal, so extended weeks of mega-weight work, like mine, does lead to quite excessive bloat build-up. My "donut" surrounding the six pack even looks more .... "donuty." And having a tighter pants waist is not a goal!

So, what to do? Well, aside from spacing out which muscles to use each workout, there's also other ways to get some good cardio in to balance out the exercise, even if I can't do my beloved running or less than beloved elliptical.

A recent article published in the American College of Sports Medicine Journal, shows that a 7 minute High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) can deliver similar benefits to a full weight training and cardio workout. 

It sounds at first like one of those "fad" answers to exercise. Only 7 minutes! Eat what you want! Wear an evening gown while you do it!

But looking at the sets does make sense, at least now that I've been seriously exercising for a few years now. You don't need to hurt yourself in Crossfit or run ultra marathon distances every week, provided you do these correctly AND (most importantly) you only rest the small amount of time between exercises. It's not just about strength and balance, it's about increased heart rate and being sweaty. I see a lot of folks doing these HIIT sessions with long rests in between. So while that does help build some muscle tone, it's not an equivalent workout.

Interestingly enough, my previous workout regimens with my trainer included this sort of HIIT piece a few times a week, although with more reps. With him, I did 11 min sets before the weight training, and on my own I did about 20 minutes of various HIIT before cardio. Was it enough on its own to do the trick? I can't say, and to be honest, I didn't see it as such, However, it definitely helped build some muscle groups and helped to stabilize my balance and overall track towards weight loss. And I sweat a LOT!

I see it now as a good thing to do on off days to help trigger the end of the bloat.

At least that would help it. Yet I've also realized that my cravings for more protein as my muscles grow can sadly make me slip in less than healthy choices, namely sugar-dosed foods. Nothing wrong with good carbs, but we're talking the dessert-y end of the spectrum, which usually triggers the binge responses. 

I talk about this a lot on this site. Even a small amount of a treat can trigger the desire for more, so if I do eat it, I can't be anywhere around more of that sweet, delectable sugary bomb.

Sweetness is something virtually all animals see as an attractant. We are not unique in our powerlessness. But here's a new study showing that some cockroaches in Germany have adapted a behavioral aversion to glucose and fructose, so as to avoid sweet-tasting poison traps. Those wiley insects have actually changed their internal body chemistry so that sweet stuff tastes bad to them.

Why can't we do that? We sort of do, although not in an evolutionary sense. The less sweet stuff I eat, the less I crave it. Sadly, it doens't take a big slip to get back into it, but I know if I can do without cookes and ice cream for a week, there's less of a chance I'll grab it the next week. 

Now, if only cockroaches suffered from bloat...


Klika, Brett, Chris Jorndan. “High-Intensity Circuit Training Using Body Weight: Maximum Results with Minimal Investment.” ACSM'S Health & Fitness Journal 17, no. 3 (May/June 2013): 8-13 doi: 10.1249/FIT.0b013e31828cb1e8

Wada-Katsumata, Ayako, Jules Silverman, and Coby Schal. “Changes in Taste Neurons Support the Emergence of an Adaptive Behavior in Cockroaches.” Science 340, no. 6135 (May 24, 2013): 972–975. doi:10.1126/science.1234854.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Sweet, Forbidden Hidden Agendas

Ah, the fun of work travel and trying to negotiate accompanying food choices. And the lack of blogging time. Well, I've addressed those all previously, so let's just move along...

Literally just thrown together after this mornings gym-time.

This is a combo of:
Corn Meal
Chickpea Flour
Cream of Rice
Chia seeds
Egg white
Agave syrup
Baking powder
Cider vinegar
Olive Oil
Cart load o' pepper.

Bake at 350 for about 25min.

Now, since time was limited, I had already eaten breakfast (banana and oatmeal) while this was cooking, but a slice of this is at work with me for a mid afternoon snack. It's a nice break from the fruit I usually eat. I figured since I have been craving something cakey or muffin-like as of late, I better take care of it from my end instead of running to the store and buying a few too many crap-laden treats. (And no, that wasn't a spell correct for "carb.")

I know when I'm hungry and inappropriately craving something, it's hard not to buy an unhealthy spades. Even if I'm being extra mindful about my food intake, I know I can be easily swayed when low blood sugar is upon me, even worse than just emotional binge cravings. And the latest research shows what we all knew but I guess wanted proof of: shopping while you're hungry means you make worse food decisions. (What I call "head slap" research.)

But even if we do shop when mindful (and full), we're not always getting away with a clean palate. In fact, one such study from the CDC shows that added sugar consumption between 2005 and 2010 was way above the recommended daily allowance. And the majority of that sugar was in the processed food and drinks we eat at home. 

*Gasp* "Hidden sugars!" Those beasts! Teasing us with our their empty promises!

Actually, it's not much of a tease if it's listed right there on the ingredients. When the top ingredients include, sugar, corn syrup and evaporated cane juice, then you can imagine that's a heckuva lot of sugar you're ingesting. Just because somethings made from organic sugar cane doesn't make it any less...sugary. 

So it's actually is refreshing to see that Dannon/Danone is trying to develop a yogurt, specifically marketed to children, that has less sugar but the same sweet taste.  What's amazing is that they successfully cut the sugar by 25%, and when you go back to that CDC report, you can see that 16% of total caloric intake was from added sugars. So, this one bit of food science could help those who eat this stuff.

I say that because not everybody does eat this stuff. In fact, the CDC study showed it was lower income groups that have higher levels of processed food/sugar intake. But before we snort back with the "Well, proper fruits and vegetables are easy to buy and prepare", we know that's BS for a lot of people. Not even going into the availability and affordability of fruit and vegetables, there's also the fact that most people consider things like juice to be a fruit. A recently published study from Swedish nutritionists had some interesting comparisons of participants who were positive or indifferent to fruits & vegetables. But here's one takeaway:

"In the present study, Indifferent cluster, typically described as younger respondents with lower F&V consumption, experienced more practical and lifestyle-related difficulties, which essentially could be controlled and changed by the individuals themselves. On the other hand, some perceived problems (i.e. F&V price and selection in food store) are beyond the power of individual consumers to change."

Which means that, while we all do need to take accountability in our food intake, there's not always a whole heck of lot that we can do. We can try to read labels and realize that sugar comes in many names. But we also can't pretend that the better foods are available to all. And for all their "natural" claims, how many fruit juices and the like have that "cane sugar" listed?

I commend Dannon for at least trying to make it better for their consumers. Now, if only all those "natural producers"  might take the same cue.

And yeah, learn to like veggies, too.


Evaporated Cane Juice: Sugar In Disguise? : NPR. (n.d.). Retrieved May 20, 2013, from

Products - Data Briefs - Number 122 - May 2013:Consumption of Added Sugars Among U.S. Adults, 2005–2010. (n.d.). Retrieved May 13, 2013, from

Really? Never Go Grocery Shopping on an Empty Stomach. (n.d.). Well. Retrieved May 17, 2013, from

Simunaniemi, A.-M., Nydahl, M., & Andersson, A. (2013). Cluster analysis of fruit and vegetable-related perceptions: an alternative approach of consumer segmentation. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 26(1), 38–47. doi:10.1111/j.1365-277X.2012.01272.x

Strom, S. (2013, May 10). Dannon Cuts Sugar, Carefully, in Children’s Yogurt. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Twisting yourself into an authentic food knot

Restaurants - Group using chop... Digital ID: 1681381. New York Public Library
Group using chopsticks at New York Worlds Fair, 1939-1940 - via the NYPL Digital Collection

When my friend David recently visited my exotic homeland of Staten Island, he told me that he was taken out for Pizza at Denino's and was told it was one of the best in town. Yes, Denino's and my old neighborhood joint of Joe & Pat's both get listed in many sources as the Best Pizza in NYC, if not the country. 

There are times that I miss some of those amazing pizzas of my homeland: white pies with garlic and clams, real fennel seed-laced sausage bits mixed with the onions and peppers or even sliced broccoli, slices of just-charred meatballs on top of that fresh mozzarella, semi-sweet red sauce made with just enough chili flakes and a jar of oregano on the side to sprinkle on top, the trail of grease running down the side of your hand as you pick up one slice and fold it in two down the middle using your finger....I could go on for a while. I know I'm only a ferry ride away, but I guess Streamlined Ska Librarians shouldn't be traveling just for that.

I think we all taste food of our childhood as "authentic." I know that being raised in NYC has made me pretty snobbish about pizza and bagels, even though you are never likely to find two people in one room who can agree which pizza and bagel are the best or "only" ones to eat.

[Note: I do admit that Montreal bagels are pretty darn good, too. Not only do they prepare them properly (adding malt, boiling before cooking, not making them the size of a plate), I think their similarity to NYC bagels must be the Hudson River water. It definitely adds something.]

But is my own authenticity in regards to food really what makes something real? Was my mother's attempts at stuffed cabbage (embedding the stuffing into one big circle of cabbage) less authentic than my grandmother's (individual leafs rolled about small bits of stuffing, then boiled in broth until dead)? Are disco fries in NYC more real than poutine in Canada? Is Joe & Pat's a more authentic pizza than Lombardi's in Manhattan?

My time living in Japan was eye-opening, food-wise, as well. My NYC neighborhood is surrounded by Japanese restaurants and sushi is about ubiquitous in America as hamburgers. But sushi is Japan was a surprise: it's so very simple. No mega mix rolls, no insane combinations...just one piece of fish, one oblong of rice and a hint of wasabi underneath. And that was ALL they served at sushi places. The Japanese restauranteurs coming to NYC were being "authentic" to Americans wanting sushi, not Japanese people. 

And yet, people swore that THIS NYC sushi was more real than sushi gotten someone in the Midwest. Why? Had no Japanese people ventured anywhere between the coasts?

And then my acquaintances in Japan were shocked...SHOCKED...when I mixed traditional flavors in non-traditional ways. Wasabi with peanut butter? Dan-san! No! (Yes, they called me "Dan-san.")

I won't even go into Japan's idea of pizza. With corn and mayo.

Obviously, there is no authentic solution. So why do the foodies crave to find those places that reek of "authenticity," especially when it's not indigenous to our particular region and or culture? Why do so many food bloggers and Yelpers and localvores seem intent on changing the idea of how we view good food solely based on authenticity? 

I find it quite annoying nowadays. Especially as I'm cooking a lot on my own and people continue to ask what special kind of diet I might be using. It's "Dan-thentic!" The best weight maintenance plan out there....for Dans!

So I was happy to come across a blog post by one of my new favorite reads, Emily Sarah at Tangerine & Cinnamon. Her recent post, The Cult of Authenticity, takes on just this topic. I strongly suggest you read the entire piece which addresses the ideas of authentic food and class structure.

But she nails it pretty well with this statement:

"There is, really, no such thing as ‘authentic’ Mexican – or Italian, or Spanish, or Greek, or Indian, or Thai, or Norwegian – cuisine. These, and other countries, have a range of cuisines, which differ from region to region, and which have also changed over time."

And then rounds it off with: 

"The mania for ‘authenticity’ helps, inadvertently, to force our attention to how people cooked and ate in the past – to look at methods, ingredients, and cultivars which we may have forgotten. We shouldn’t try to return to the past, but we can certainly learn from it."


And you think that would be the simple answer. But some people just have to take that a little too far. The other week, the NY Times had an article about Michael Pollan and Michael Moss putting together a lunch to show how simple it really is to create a healthy alternative to the pre-processed food we usually see. Now I'm a fan of both of these authors, I appreciate the overall message they are trying to spread and I understand that this article was probably more along the lines of promotion for their latest works. And I will not discount that perhaps the reporter set up this tone...but cripes! Could they have sounded any more pretentious and unaware?

With quotes like:

“By the way, what are we engaged in now?” Mr. Pollan deadpanned, as he tended to the pot. “This supposedly impossible drudgery that is just soul-crushing?”

Ho ho! Those poor unaware working stiffs too unevolved to think that cooking and it's preparation can be unexciting! Household chores are not drudgery! Take that, you Betty Friedan reading suffragettes!

And then this ditty:

Mr. Pollan said. “I’m cast in this role of dietary superego, and I really don’t feel that way at all.” He has even begun to receive confessions, as if he had ascended to a sort of food priesthood. “You don’t have to tell me if you like your Cheetos,” he said. “That’s between you and your cardiologist.” 

Wow. Judgmentally Passive-Aggressive much?

There are many days when even I, who find cooking to be the most therapeutic and enjoyable activity there is, can also have days where I do NOT have the energy and inclination to make dinner, let alone spend an hour cooking lunch. How many of us have this time to leasurely shop to ensure we can find organic, local, GMO-free food at a reasonable price? Should I only be buying NYC area shellfish and salt? Mmm...smoggy.

A search on weekly food prep shows so many websites out there of how, dare I say, real people (or as real as you can get blogging) use one day a week to prep a variety of things for dinners, their kids' school lunches, etc. And they don't treat it as some anthropological expedition to lord over the poor unfortunates. They do it to save time and money and to, yes, try to be more aware and healthy in their food intake.

In other words, THESE people are bring more authentic in their approach to food than the biggest Yelp reviewers or Pollan and Moss. This is, I beleive, the message these authors are trying to get across in their books. But it didn't seem that way in the article.

I'd love it if there were cheaper, more accessible, less processed food that was easy for everyone to acquire. But instead of snickering at or snarkily condemning those people who are trying to make the best of our current situation or dismissing them because they (like me) put dashi in yogurt to create a veggie topping (Dan-san! No!), they might actually be more aware of what actually exists for people and that authentic living situations call for realistic solutions.

Be as authentic as you can be when it comes to eating better. THAT'S the Dan-thentic way.

But I do draw the line at localism. I'm NOT a localvore! Can't get behind it. The Streamlined Ska Librarian needs coffee and that ain't being grown in downtown Manhattan!


“The Cult of Authenticity.” Tangerine and Cinnamon. Accessed May 2, 2013.
Weinstein, Emily. “Making Lunch With Michael Pollan and Michael Moss.” The New York Times, April 30, 2013, sec. Dining & Wine.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Happy International No Diet Day

So, this past weekend was my birthday. Aside from a great potluck picnic in Prospect Park with a variety of friends, I also indulged with another old friend, David, at The Second Avenue Deli, including scarfing down a "appetizer" plate of gribenes:

Mmmm....heart-stopping deliciousness....

(Photo courtesy of

This was a rare treat now that this place is now no longer just up the street from me (But I guess "33rd and 3rd Deli" doesn't quite have then same ring to it), and heaping, greasy, yummy plates of pastrami, potato kugel and gribenes is not something I now want to eat on a regular basis. But it was great to do it on my birthday weekend and not feel like it was a shameful, guilt-ridden experience. More so because I know it will be a long time before I pull up do it again. I actually hadn't been to that restaurant in about 4 years, even before my Streamlined days.

But you can't worry about one birthday blowout. If I was eating gribenes every week, especially a plate that big, that would be an issue. But I don't do that, even if chicken skin and onions is not forbidden from my "diet."

And ironically today is officially International No Diet Day! Woo-hoo! Time to go crazy!! Chow down! Forget that diet!

...oh wait, I'm not on a diet. I just try to eat better.

I understand the meaning behind this holiday and I certainly support the idea that we need to accept our own body image and not what we are told we must look like, size-wise. Also, that we should not try to do anything on a restrictive meal plan that promises "results." I certainly know that the "donut" around my middle will never be a taut six pack (age and gravity are concepts with which I am all too aware). And I know that  limiting caloric intake and trying to stay away from binge triggers (mmm...frosting tubs) is just a healthier way of eating for me as opposed to a diet.

And once again, I realize that this holiday is not really geared towards me. A simple search shows the hundreds of scholarly publications alone that deal with the issues of women's body image, eating disorders and/or food intake, let alone almost every trade magazine and blog out there. But as I've said before, we men get it bad, too.

So, it's good to see so many taking up International No Diet Day as a cause to promote. My usual idols, the dietitians, have some good ones. For example, Vanessa Perrone RD has a simple list of "5 signs your diet is a fad."

1) Your diet comes witha promise
2) Your diet comes with a product
3) Your diet promotes a miracle food
4) Your diet displays a picture of "perfection"
5) Your diet comes with a prescriptive plan

Interestingly enough, I look at this list and think it can be just as applicable to "new" exercise devices and regimens. We are a nation of quick-fix lemmings, sad to say.

And I think some of the media might be losing that message put out by the founders of this holiday and the dietitians: You shouldn't restrict yourself onto a "special diet", but I have to draw the line about "eating what you want whenever you want." Sadly enough, I know that if I crave dessert, it's a big fight inside to see if I really want it. If I go with that initial "gut feeling", I'd be eating cake every night. A lot of it. And I can't do that.

Being on "a diet" does NOT make you healthy or happy. But being healthy means you do have to be more aware of what you are eating. 

Maybe we should just call it "International No Quick Fixes to Your Health Day."

Time for kale!