Friday, January 31, 2014

January Foodie Pen Pals Reveal

And it's that time again! Time for ...

The Lean Green Bean

It's been a few months' hiatus, but thankfully, the return engagement of free food in the mail went yummily well.

This month, I was paired up with Andrea, a fellow academic administrator who lives in Pennsylvania. She knows the joys of endless committee meetings AND she like ska music! It's like looking in the mirror!

I sent her some sumac rub, local NYC chocolate bars (one with quinoa and the other with chardonnay), Polish candies (chocolate prunes!) and some other local treats.(And once again, I forgot to take a photo before it was boxed. Mea culpa!)

And what did Andrea send me? A localized extravaganza:

There's a nice blend from Nicholas Coffee, Sea Salt Vanilla Caramels from Valos Chocolates, tapenade and hot pepper tomato paste from Delallo and Ciciarelli Bros. Italian dressing.

Andrea said she uses the dressing as a marinade. I'm not usually a big dressing guy, but this one was very simple with no sugars or odd gum extracts. It made a great topping for arugula and mandarin segments. With enough left for future marinades.

The coffee made it to my office coffee maker and it was quite lovely. The tapenade makes for a nice toast topping at breakfast (yeah, I'm a savory morning guy) and the spicy paste is earmarked for an upcoming sauce.

And the caramels?

So thank you, Andrea for the great package! It's what Foodie Pen Pals should be all about!

If you're interested in joining the great food exchange, check out the site.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Catalog of Cooking, or Streamlined eating in the Library

A page from Teen Cuisine, illustrated by Peter Max.

Yes, that's a page from one of the hundreds of cookbooks in my personal collection (although I did not take this photo). I can't say I find a late 60's teen party cookbook too Streamlined inspiring but man, the overall design makes it a great addition to any dinner party, room or rap session.

Yes, I've mentioned before about collecting cookbooks, some for their historic entertainment and others for actual cooking. And I do scour the web for inspiration. But I would be remiss in both my Retro and Streamlined Ska Librarian physiques to not talk about some great resources for recipes and menu planning available from libraries. 

Some resources are a little more esoteric, such as New York Public Library's great menu collection, for which you can help add metadata. (Crowdsource Delmonicos!)

But there's also a new beta site that I'd like to share: The OCLC Worldcat Cookbook Finder

Worldcat is a website that links up to thousands of library catalogs all over the world. It's a nice way to find out if a book is available in your area or if you can get it through inter-library loan.

The Cookbook Finder can be  searched by the usual terms, but also by ingredient, method and (be still my heart) Dewey Decimal Number. 

[I find those librarians that poo-poo DDC in favor of some more "popular" classification systems to be just missing out.But that another post for another time.]

And let's be honest; much as I love owning cookbooks, price and space does not always allow that personal library to grow. Thankfully, cookbooks are a big part of library collections. What if I really wanted to try some new eating plan and perusing the web just wasn't doing it, as it was too disparate and not easily self-contained? This, my friends, is the way to go.

So, I'm going to recommend a few items that have inspired me in my Streamlined Ska Librarian lifestyle. And by "inspired" I mean I enjoyed these ideas for recipes and promptly saw how I could fit them to my own style, technique and need. These are all from my own collection, but are also available in libraries. The following links are to the Worldcat pages.

The Gefilte Variations by Jayne Cohen.

This has some really nice variations of traditional Jewish foods (and the author's a librarian!) but oy gevalt! These recipes take time and equipment! Certainly not something always easy in a small NYC kitchen. The ingredients are simple (for example, the amazing potato-onion kugel is just potatoes, onions, oil, eggs, rosemary and salt) but they often require several pots, multiple preps stages and a LOT of space! Still, these are easily tweakable to inspire your own variations, with or without gefilte. 

Het grote kookboek : een culinaire ontdekkingsreis door meer dan 800 recepten

I know we often make fun of British food, but having worked with the Dutch for so long, those Brits ain't got nothing on bad food reps! Still, in order to better appreciate "echte Nederlandse keuken" (and help me get a better grip on the Dutch language), this book has come in handy. And while not all the ingredients are the same across the pond, it's nice to know it's not all bitterballen and stoempf. In fact, some of it is downright healthy! (gestoomde zalm met asperges, anyone?)

Crumbles & Tatins by Aude de Galard and Leslie Gogois.

I picked this book up in a Paris bookshop some years back. This is a perfect example of French food that is not overly fancy or very difficult to make. In fact, the recipes are remarkably simple. And they run the gamut of taste from those of us who like boudin noir to the more healthy variations of vegetables. However, it does use butter because, well, it is France. But you can still tweak it to make it to your liking and needs. 

Floyd on Britain & Ireland by Keith Floyd. 

What was I saying about the Brits? Well, there's also Keith Floyd. Before all the new, hip cuisine of Great Britain, there was this fabulous rather inebriated fellow who would appear on television and who knew how to cook. Again, the ingredients may not always match up to US products, but you can easily Americanize your groats and potted shrimp. What I do like about it is that these are recipes to really "get your hands dirty" using all partsof plants and animals. 

So, go browse, borrow and cook!



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Resolutions will not be Televised

Not even a full month later and my gym is back to it's quiet atmosphere at 5 AM. Of all the new crowd squeezing into that space, only one person remains. That's not a very high percentage.

There could be a lot of reasons for this. For one, my current gym is not exactly high end and the equipment isn't always in great shape. I cannot imagine myself being a regular there had I not had gym experience and training beforehand. It's not very welcoming to a new person eager to get in shape.

But also making a New Year's Resolution for health isn't really something that always sticks. Two recent studies address intention-behavior relationship to physical activity.  Both of them are reviews and analysis of previous studies, and the results show that there are often too many variables for a solid response. However, there does seem to be an almost 50% gap between intent and activity. And a lot of that has to do with exactly what is the specific intent of physical activity. In other words, people had unreasonable expectations.

And when it comes to resolutions, our intent is usually beyond the scope of reasonable action and activity. "This year, I'm going to the gym every day and I'll be ripped by the summer!" is a recipe for failure. "This year I'm going to walk 30 minutes 3x a week." or "This year, I will replace all lunch desserts with a piece of fruit." is a more attainable goal.

So, jumping into a gym because you are "going to have a six pack" or "be buff" or "lose 100 lbs." while nice, probably ain't gonna work. And that's why I know my previous attempts at healthiness failed. 

My own "clickable" moment certainly wasn't on Jan 1st and it certainly wasn't a huge goal. I wanted to lose 20 lbs. No time limit, no special diet, just "I want to lose 20 lbs." As that happened, I realized how I did it and what i could then set as my next goal. THEN it became something with larger intent that could match my own process. I knew I could go the gym daily and I knew that I could eat healthier. And because I lost that 20, I knew another 20 could happen. And another, And another. Reachable goals make it easier to get to the next level.

It's not too hard to figure that out, but it's hard for us to make it happen.

So what was my resolution this year? I'm continuing my attendance in MOOCs, and I'm starting one on food chemistry. Nutrition and geekiness! It's definitely behavior in which I know I can stay active. 


Rhodes, R. E., & de Bruijn, G.-J. (2013). How big is the physical activity intention-behaviour gap? A meta-analysis using the action control framework. British Journal of Health Psychology, 18(2), 296–309. doi:10.1111/bjhp.12032

Rhodes, R. E., & Dickau, L. (2013). Moderators of the intention-behaviour relationship in the physical activity domain: a systematic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 47(4), 215–225. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2011-090411

Saturday, January 11, 2014

2014: Polar kicks and stolen squats

The Retro Ska Librarian (i.e. me before 2011) started running while living in Tokyo.  And Tokyo is like San Francisco in that it never really gets snowed in or extremely cold. The rest of Japan gets covered in blizzards, but not where I was running. Sure, there were other weather issues, like typhoons, killer humidity and earthquakes, but I never had to worry about running in freezing weather.

Running back in NYC was a bit of a wake up call, weather-wise. But as I got more into the exercise, very little stopped me on any fitness endeavor. I couldn't let weather stop my progress.  That being said, I also quickly realized that there were some limits in regards to certain temperatures for outdoor activities:

  • Lowest temperature in which I could run outside in a t-shirt: 50F
  • Lowest temperature in which I could run outside in shorts: 40F
  • Lowest temperature in which I could walk/jog to the gym in shorts: 30F (it was never a long run)
  • Lowest temperature in which I could run outside period: 19F

I realized anything lower, even when in thermals and properly covered, did not go well, leg-wise, lung-wise or head-wise. Not to mention watching the steam from your mouth freeze your glasses onto your nose.

So, during this Polar Vortex, with single digit days and minus temp windchill hitting the city, I shivered my layered self to the gym to try to get in some hearty workouts. But of course with a new year comes the new crowd to the gym. 2014 freeze out!

My earliest attempts at working out always happened after 10 PM. Gyms were usually uncrowded and seemed less intimidating when there's only fellow, chunky, middle aged guys. After getting into training more heavily, I began going early in the morning. Still usually uncrowded and bonus! I had evenings free! I also had dropped the anxiety of working out in front of people.

Both my previous fancy gym and my current ... not-as-fancy ... one usually have that small handful of people each morning, say 5 or 6 people. That's enough in a small gym to evenly share equipment and work around others' regimens. 

The past few days have been packed at 5 AM. 25 people all with that determination to get in shape for 2014. Now, I naturally support any initiative at getting healthy, whether it involves weight loss, stamina building or what have you. But already that number has slightly decreased as the week has gone on.

And I catch myself giving attitude. There's half of me that wants to grab these folks in their new gym clothes and give them that push of support. The other half wants to them to clear the hell out so I can get to the one level squat rack.

I'm glad the former half is winning at least figuratively. Noting says "creep" more than bugging someone when they're working out, but I am totally supporting this push. I've been there. A recent post on Buzzfeed from one of their regulars hits a lot of the same issues most of us have felt about body issues and determination. Will there be a follow up to his one post? Who knows? But at least one has to take it in the spirit in which it was given.

And to be honest, I'd rather see these folks trying to get their gym on than falling back on a fad diet. Which is why the best 2014 news I've seen so far is this article that some of the bigger weight loss companies are being charged with fraud.

Does this mean more people will stop hoping that sprinkling stuff on their food will make them lose weight? A scan through a lot of weight loss forums does not give me hope. I have not seen one discussion thread on this FTC ruling. Rather it's about more supplements, more miracle foods, and not a lot about exercise or eating better.

It's been a year of blogging about my Streamlined lifestyle. It hasn't really gotten any easier to maintain. But I'm still here doing it. 

So during the next freezing day when a 10 mi. run is sidetracked into a weight training session, I hope to see all you new folks still there. Keep at it. Just remember to share the equipment.


Tanzer, Myles. “Yes, My New Year’s Goal Is To Get In Shape.” BuzzFeed. Accessed January 11, 2014.

Wyatt, Edward. “4 Weight-Loss Companies Charged With Fraud.” The New York Times, January 7, 2014, sec. Business Day.