Thursday, July 31, 2014

July Foodie Pen Pals Reveal

I was writing another post, but time just snuck up on me...

The Lean Green Bean

So it's time once again for free food in the mail!

I had taken a few months off of the food trade. There were many other obligations and lately the local post office hasn't been too up to snuff when it comes to packages, so a few got lost or way delayed in the mail. (And I'm not the only one in the neighborhood feeling that pain). 

But I figured I'd give it another shot. 

This month I was matched with Ilona from New Jersey. On the plus side, an "almost local" make for easier to deliver packages. On the not so plus side, Ilona's wasn't going to be so impressed with NYC local delicacies she can get with a short drive across the river. So I put together a few odds and ends from the neighborhood. And even though Ilona's all about recipes, I weighed my package more on the snack side. You can check out her site for details of what I sent.

But what did Ilona send me? 

It was another caffeinated delight of a package! There was coffee beans (called Americadoodle flavor - have yet to try that), Coffee Rio caramels (lasted about 2 days), J Morgan's vanilla sea salt caramels (lasted less than two days), Haribo juicy gummis (shared with many and gone fast), a Pamela's Whenever bar, and the piece de delices, Vintage Bee creamed honey with spiced apple.

You can't see my other hand is sticky with honey already...

This stuff was AWE-some! I tried to parse it out, but it did not last more than a week. It ended up in a few desserts, but mostly it was just eaten out of the jar. I'm thinking I will have to buy some of this in bulk and use it in my honey cookie recipe for upcoming Rosh Hashana.

So thank you, Ilona, for getting me back on the FPP track.

If you're interested in joining the free food in the mail brigade, find out more details here.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hitching a ride on names

For many years, I had heard about Marcella Hazan's famous tomato sauce recipe: an incredibly simple idea with what looks like not enough ingredients that somehow becomes something magical. Crushed tomatoes, butter and an onion, cooked for about 40 min. That's it.

I've talked before about not following recipes to the letter, but I do like to try them out correctly on the first go, before I decide what I can do to tweak them to my taste. So I made Marcella's recipe as it was written.

Oh. My. God.

There are some creations of masters with which you do not tamper! It was pretty amazing both in its simplicity and it's final complex taste. My only concession is that the end product does not always end up on pasta. I use it on veggies, meats and on occasion, just plain toast.

Heinz - Woman with tomato shap... Digital ID: 1675405. New York Public Library
Mmm...funny shaped tomatoes! via NYPL Digital Gallery

I don't see it as an everyday sauce. (that's a lotta butter for my everyday Streamlined lifestyle!) And sometimes I do want different flavors and textures, but then what I am making is not Marcella's sauce.

And doing a brief search around the internet, you see quite a few photoshopped versions of the sauce, but there's also a few where someone decides to "modernize it just a bit." Perhaps "veganizing" or "paleo-ing" it up. 

And a lot of those "modernizations" usually include substituting butter with olive oil and perhaps adding garlic, basil, hot peppers, etc.

Which means you're making ANOTHER SAUCE!  

There's nothing wrong with making other sauces. I myself love garlic and basil in tomatoes, or chilis, or fish sauce or assorted vinegars and curries, but I can't stretch that to say I'm making a"modified" Marcella sauce. The whole purpose of it is that it really is just those three ingedients. 

And all those other recipe bloggers're just using name recognition to try to get some more attention. I find this ironic as more and more folks are trying to find "food authenticity" and yet you're completely changing something while claiming this provenance. 

Harsh? Yeah, but we see that even more so in the fitness world. Yoga has been reiterated so many ways that it's become impossible to know what is considered that form of exercise. Pilates has gained so many "improvements" that I can only wonder that the canterkerous old boxer would probably smack all these modern practitioners. 

But the biggest shift I see is taking all these exercise regimens and making them more ... comfortable. Basically creating a spa environment for what should probably be just a sweaty time. 

Take this recent article about a new CrossFit studio in NYC. I'm not a huge fan of CrossFit; I have far too many leg and hip injuries and, as I've said before, I'm not too big on team exercise classes or events. So, not putting it down, but it's not for me. And what I do like about it is that it's about movement and exercise taken to a rather basic form. 

But here's a studio looking to "deliver the luxury-level amenities to the CrossFit community" by adding yoga, spa treatments and the like.

So is this still CrossFit? Isn't this really ... a spa & gym? It seems to me that they're just taking the name and using it as a marketing ploy. 

Or is it that people just don't like exercise to be basic and dirty? They need pampering along with a name exercise?

The spa, Central Park. Digital ID: 800960. New York Public Library
Do they have pull up bars at this spa? Or is just hot yoga? via NYPL Digital Gallery
I get that people need a push. This study shows that overweight subjects found exercise less pleasurable the more they had to exert during the exercise. And that, of course, led to less adherence to the exercise regime.

But is claiming a name making it more palatable? I don't think you'll get more intense exercise out of added facials and rubdowns. 

Exercise is still hard. And calling something that it's not is merely pasting glitter on the same idea. Trying to make yourself popular without actually BEING the thing in question is just bad form.

I'll just wait for butter to be included in my pilates workout, then.


Ekkekakis, P., and E. Lind. “Exercise Does Not Feel the Same When You Are Overweight: The Impact of Self-Selected and Imposed Intensity on Affect and Exertion.” International Journal of Obesity 30, no. 4 (2006): 652–60. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0803052.

“Is ‘CrossFit Chic’ Coming to New York City?” Well+Good NYC. Accessed July 16, 2014.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Illiteracy of Life

"Whaddaya mean 'illiterate'? My father and mother were married right here in the city hall!"- Dorothy McNulty (aka Penny Singleton) in After the Thin Man.

Ah, I love that movie.

There's a strong movement in many professions about literacy or one's knowledge about a certain subject. Certainly in my own profession of librarianship (or more often academic librarianship), there's a constant push for information literacy. Some professional library organizations like the Association of College and Research Libraries (or ACRL) spend an awful lot manpower on it. And virtually every academic library has to partake in this exercise.

To weigh over on the Librarian side of the Streamlined Ska persona, I have some serious issues with how information literacy is thrown en masse as THE answer to successful students navigating the ever changing resources in front of them. I'm more of a fan of developing critical thinking skills among library users and less of a specified learning objective. If I base technical proficiency for librarians based on when I was in Library School, well then, it probably hasn't changed much. I don't think being technically savvy is the answer to successful research. It's part of it, but just enabling one key phrase is not going to get youngsters to understand how to formulate a question in order to find an answer that might be more than just parroting their favorite website.

That's my very small nutshell. I would suggest reading Lane Wilkinson's take on ACRL's attempt to recast info lit in terms of threshold concepts to see a larger timeline and set of resources as to part of this argument.

"But what has this to do with food and weight maintenance," you ask? Well, we're now in the age of trying to teach food literacy. (I mean "we" in the sense of us all, although librarians did stick their nose in it, too.)

And it's very similar to info lit: If we teach the basic tenant of this subject to someone, they will better prepared to make an informed decision about their food intake. And a recent literature review of food literacy programs geared at adolescents shows ... that few of these initiatives show a positive impact on dietary choices. Even though the need is still there. Whomp-whomp.

And yet if you look at the 19 studies reviewed in this paper, they all had different learning outcomes. While they were all about getting a better understanding of healthy eating, there was not overriding method or exercise.

So we have librarians trying to agree on a set way of determining outcomes and we then have ... well, I was going to say "Dietitians and Nutritionists have many ways to determine outcomes," but that's not entirely true.

It seems a lot of people feel they can teach you to eat better and be more healthy, even without a professional accreditation. Information literacy still tends to stay in the Academic wheelhouse, and usually with the librarians. For food it's not always the professionals. Sort of in the same way as "Why do I need a library? It's all online." Anyone can write a cookbook.

Man, people are stupid.

Still, getting back to actual research in food literacy, I'm thinking the reason it's so difficult to tackle this in a uniform matter is that most people have very different concepts not only of food, but of themselves. It's one thing to say, "I prefer searching Lexis-Nexis to Westlaw." It's another to say, "I only eat vegetables that look and feel and taste this way," such as in this study from the Netherlands.  (Although as a long time former employee of a Dutch company, I rarely found any Dutch who liked their veggies raw or crunchy!)

Het spijt me, maar het is waar!

And let's look at this study about perceived body fat. While gender made a huge difference in results, it seems very few folks were correct in estimating their own body fat percentage nor were they satisfied with their current body fat.

So here we are studying ways to get folks to make better choices when they already cannot perceive themselves correctly nor do they prefer the taste and texture of healthier foods. How do you change that? How do you teach someone to make lifelong decisions that may often go against their internal make up? Is it the same as teaching a freshman how to better prepare a research question?

At this point, I suppose I could make a grand conclusion summarizing how once again the librarian and dietitian groups need to come together to create some universal moment of literacy. But I'm not, because I don't really think that'll work this time. Not that we shouldn't play together, but not like this.

Instead I really think we need to move into the idea of critical thinking. It's not if you're an expert on a subject. It's that you know enough to try to question WHY something might work for you, information or food-wise. And it opens up your mind to finding out more in order to make an informed decision that works for you.

I always say that's what makes a good librarian anyway. Perhaps that's also why the Streamlined Ska life has been manageable, as well!

ETA: I will say that most of my career OUTSIDE of academia, we never worried about this stuff. It was always just critical thinking.  


Bongoni, R., R. Verkerk, M. Dekker, and L. P. A. Steenbekkers. “Consumer Behaviour towards Vegetables: A Study on Domestic Processing of Broccoli and Carrots by Dutch Households.” Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, June 1, 2014, n/a–n/a. doi:10.1111/jhn.12245.

Brooks, Natalie, and Andrea Begley. “Adolescent Food Literacy Programmes: A Review of the Literature.” Nutrition & Dietetics, December 1, 2013, n/a–n/a. doi:10.1111/1747-0080.12096.

Campisi, J., K. E. Finn, Y. Bravo, J. Arnold, M. Benjamin, M. Sukiennik, S. Shakya, and D. Fontaine. “Sex and Age-Related Differences in Perceived, Desired and Measured Percentage Body Fat among Adults.” Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, June 2014, n/a–n/a. doi:10.1111/jhn.12252.

“Information Literacy Resources.” Accessed July 8, 2014.

“The Problem with Threshold Concepts.” Sense & Reference. Accessed July 8, 2014.

Yang, Sharon Q., and Min Chou. “Promoting and Teaching Information Literacy on the Internet: Surveying the Web Sites of 264 Academic Libraries in North America.” Journal of Web Librarianship 8, no. 1 (2014): 88–104. doi:10.1080/19322909.2014.855586.