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Search tags: food-cooking-nutrition
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review 2017-12-05 18:32
The Great Starvation Experiment / Todd Tucker
The Great Starvation Experiment: The Heroic Men Who Starved so That Millions Could Live - Todd Tucker

Near the end of World War II, thirty-six conscientious objectors volunteered to be systematically starved for renowned scientist Ancel Keys’s study at the University of Minnesota in the basement of Memorial Stadium. Aimed to benefit relief efforts in war-ravaged Europe and Asia, the study sought the best way to rehabilitate starving citizens. Tucker captures a lost moment in American history—a time when stanch idealism and a deep willingness to sacrifice trumped even basic human needs.

 

This was a fascinating read in that can’t-look-away-from-the-car-accident kind of way.  If you’ve read any books about dieting, you’ve probably heard about this study.  Indeed, if you’ve ever been on a restrictive, low-calorie diet, you know how your world begins to revolve around food and you have a hard time giving a damn about anything else.  Now I know exactly how normal this is!

 

It was an especially interesting book when read shortly after Night by Elie Wiesel and Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.  Both men describe the centrality of food in their lives during their incarceration in the prison camps.  They talk about not having the energy or the brain power to spare to help others, even family members.

 

Ancel Keys’ experiment would certainly never be green-lighted today.  Despite the fact that his subjects were volunteers (conscientious objectors who chose the experiment rather than military service) and they knew the experience would be difficult, they had no idea how grueling it would be.  It didn’t take long for their sex drives to disappear (Frankl mentions this in the concentration camps, that it actually kept the experience from being worse because no prisoners had the drive to victimize anyone sexually).  Some of the Keys’ guinea pigs (as they were known) continued to go to classes and listen to lectures, but it rapidly became too hard to pay attention.  Keys advised guest lecturers to mention food, which would rivet the men’s attention, at least momentarily.  Meals became the focus of their days and they would become angry & abusive if service was the slightest bit late or if the food was not piping hot (they also felt cold all the time, as their bodies tried to save energy).  A group of men who started out happy, healthy, and social became touchy, angry, and prone to sudden outbursts.  They performed strange rituals with their food—sometimes stirring it all together into a pile for instance.

 

The supposed object of the experiment was to find the best way to get people back to normal after periods of extreme hunger.  It turns out that the conclusion was to feed them!  The guinea pigs ate at least 5000 calories per day when they were permitted to eat freely again and one man distinguished himself by eating over 11,000 calories in one day!  No supplements made any meaningful difference—just food.  That’s the saddest part really, that these men suffered through the experiment and so little was actually learned as a result.

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review 2017-07-04 18:09
How Not To Die / Michael Greger
How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease - Michael Greger,Gene Stone

The vast majority of premature deaths can be prevented through simple changes in diet and lifestyle. In How Not to Die, Dr. Michael Greger, the internationally-renowned nutrition expert, physician, and founder of NutritionFacts.org, examines the fifteen top causes of premature death in America -- heart disease, various cancers, diabetes, Parkinson's, high blood pressure, and more -- and explains how nutritional and lifestyle interventions can sometimes trump prescription pills and other pharmaceutical and surgical approaches, freeing us to live healthier lives.

 

Well this was a very interesting read! Since I have been contemplating changes to my diet, it arrived on hold for me at the public library at an opportune moment. I went shopping yesterday for esoteric items like hibiscus tea and ground flax seed and some less unusual items like more walnuts, fruit & vegetables.

I’m a believer in evidence and Dr. Greger provides boat-loads of that. Now my task is to test these ideas with myself as guinea pig and see if they actually work for me. I’ve been controlling my blood pressure with medication for many years now and just got the warning from my doc that my blood sugars are creeping upwards. The time for action is now!

However, there is a lot of repetition in this book. It got to the point where I wanted to skip entire chapters because I knew that I was just going to get more of the same. It gets almost to the point of being preachy, something that I detest. I also wish that he had dealt with the issue of the title at the beginning, rather than right at the end. Properly, the book should be called How Not To Die Prematurely and he admits this in the final paragraphs. It is not a prescription for immortality.

Meat-eaters (and I am one of them) will find this challenging. However, I keep my own notebook of recipes that I went through this weekend & I made notes. I certainly have enough vegetarian recipes that I enjoy to keep myself well fed while I try out this regime. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I will definitely be adding more fruits, vegetables, and nuts even while I try to wean myself off of too much meat. I don’t know whether I will ever be a vegan—I’m not sure I have enough self-righteousness for that—but a dietary improvement is in order.

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text 2016-12-14 18:08
Ancient grains
Grain Power: Over 100 Delicious Gluten-Free Ancient Grains & Superblend Recipes - Carolyn Hemming,Patricia Green

 

I'm always on the look-out for good gluten-free baking recipes.  I like the looks of some of the offerings in this cookbook and will have to source some of the flour that the authors use.  Sorghum, buckwheat, millet, etc.

 

I'm particularly excited to try the Cheese Biscuits and the pizza crust, things which I haven't been able to replicate in edible form since I gave up wheat flour.  So many cardboard-like options out there!

 

Has anyone tried any of these recipes?  Is it worth trying to find the various flours?

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review 2016-03-22 18:22
100 Million Years of Food / Stephen Le
100 Million Years of Food: What Our Ancestors Ate and Why It Matters Today - Stephen Le Fleming

There are few areas of modern life that are burdened by as much information and advice, often contradictory, as our diet and health: eat a lot of meat, eat no meat; whole-grains are healthy, whole-grains are a disaster; eat everything in moderation; eat only certain foods--and on and on. In One Hundred Million Years of Food biological anthropologist Stephen Le explains how cuisines of different cultures are a result of centuries of evolution, finely tuned to our biology and surroundings. Today many cultures have strayed from their ancestral diets, relying instead on mass-produced food often made with chemicals that may be contributing to a rise in so-called "Western diseases," such as cancer, heart disease, and obesity.

Travelling around the world to places as far-flung as Vietnam, Kenya, India, and the US, Stephen Le introduces us to people who are growing, cooking, and eating food using both traditional and modern methods, striving for a sustainable, healthy diet. In clear, compelling arguments based on scientific research, Le contends that our ancestral diets provide the best first line of defense in protecting our health and providing a balanced diet. Fast-food diets, as well as strict regimens like paleo or vegan, in effect highjack our biology and ignore the complex nature of our bodies. In One Hundred Million Years of Food Le takes us on a guided tour of evolution, demonstrating how our diets are the result of millions of years of history, and how we can return to a sustainable, healthier way of eating.

 

 

This author tackles a variety of interesting topics, each one feeling like it could be the basis for its own book.  He plunges right in, pointing out that many primates are insectivorous and that many traditional cuisines include insects on the menu.  Fortunately or unfortunately (whichever way you choose to look at it), most of us have lost our taste for the chitinous creatures and our prejudices have rubbed off on those who earlier in history did enjoy this high protein foodstuff.  (Just for the record, I will NOT be joining this movement!)

 

Wherever you look nowadays, there is someone who is willing to tell you what you should be eating and why.  Should we give up meat?  If so, should we eat dairy products or should we go vegan?  Should we be eating fish?  How about agricultural staples like wheat or legumes?  You can find opinions on all of these questions, just hunt around on the internet for a little while.

 

As Stephen Le points out, some of these issues are going to boil down to sustainability issues.  We are rapidly depleting the ocean’s fish and clearing the oxygen-generating forests to create grazing land for cattle, which are quite inefficient at converting vegetation into flesh. 

 

What I really liked was his sensible suggestion that we quit looking at food in terms of specific nutrients and instead consider it in whole cuisines.  So a person should consider their genetic heritage and try eating more foods consistent with what their own specific ancestors ate.  As a descendant of Danish immigrants, I am probably fine eating dairy products (while many Asian and Native Canadians lack the digestive enzymes to deal effectively with lactose).  I should also consider including more fish in my meal planning (pickled herring, anyone?) to mimic the ancestral condition.  However, I am a devoted maker of curries and stir fries, not very Scandinavian!

 

Lots to think about, but nothing startling.  Yes, we should exercise more (going walking this evening), eat more like our ancestors (without worrying about going all Paleo), worry less about vitamin pills (as my doctor says, they just produce expensive urine), and eat real food (shades of Michael Pollen).

 

A nice summary for those who aren’t sure about all the food wars raging in cyberspace.

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review 2016-03-17 18:40
Good and Cheap
Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day - Leanne Brown

This cookbook is beautifully illustrated, which is somewhat ironic for the recipes are extremely simple and sometimes not all that photogenic.

 

For example, there are several pages devoted to just "Put this on toast."  Many variations on popcorn. 

 

Still, there is a page on flavour combinations that may come in useful and I did photocopy several recipes that sounded good.  There are several iterations of rice pudding that I will try (Indian Style and Pumpkin Pie) and I'm also interested in Peanut Chicken and Broccoli with Coconut Rice.  But I am a coconut maniac, so of course that appealed.

 

For those of us who are more comfortable gluten-free, this is not the best book, as it features lots of toast, pasta, and homemade flatbreads.  For those of you who are not avoiding wheat, it may be worth a look.

 

Happy cooking!

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