I have a warm place in my heart for mofongo. When we retreated to Nicaragua last December, Amy was suffering acutely. Among her symptoms was digestive distress. We were in full defensive crouch where diet was concerned. We had planned ahead, making sure to have our own kitchen so we could control our food and diminish exposure to the unknowns of restaurant fare.
Mofongo quickly emerged as an ideal staple. Traditional ingredients were at hand. It was easy to digest. It provided safe starch to nourish the gut flora Amy was busy repopulating. It was a tasty vehicle for delivering excellent local meats, as well as the chicken stock that had been my first kitchen priority on arriving. Once made, the first batch provided seemingly endless leftovers, increased every time we scraped in leftover meats.
Already making my Facebook newsfeed more pleasant, Amy has just started a facebook blog. It’s smart, succinct and, like its author, easy on the eyes. Everyday Clean Living offers helpful tidbits derived from Amy’s personal quest for safe, healthful food and toxin free products, including cosmetics. She includes ongoing experiments!
Googling “Paleo + [recipe of your choosing]” reveals a rapid recent increase in culinary sophistication among people using ancestral dietary strategies. Amazing cookbooks abound. However, having just returned to the comforts of home after extended travel, I’m once again inspired to honor the oppposite here, the sheer easy, simplicity available within the ancestral template. To demarcate this food from recent culinary and cultural gains, perhaps I can begin calling this class of foods, represented by the recipe below, Retro Paleo. Or is it Retro-neo Paleo…?
I should quickly acknowledge how important I think the aforementioned culinary advances are. Rich, complex, flavorful foods are welcome to anyone just for the pleasure of them. What cannot be emphasized enough, however, is that our increasing sophistication helps reveal old friends, Continue reading →
Before this slips into the ether of forgotten facebook posts, I thought I’d share it here. It’s an infographic essay from Pasture-Based Farming. The elements of their argument deserve essays elswhere, but here they make a simple, efficient economic case that is easy on the brain. As you were.
I have an essay to recommend. Please indulge my explanation first.
The overlapping communities of Paleo, Primal, WAF, or, more broadly, Ancestral Health, are making cultural gains. The momentum of these communities is such that a third annual Ancestral Health Symposium will convene in just a few days. From a broader cultural view, the term “gluten-free” is now common parlance among non-celiacs. The terms “grass-fed” or “pasture-raised” no longer meet with confusion in most casual conversations (though they might meet with disdain in some industry-dependent states). Popular familiarity with these terms represents a minor cultural manifestation of a major grass-roots reclamation of food sources, of personal health, and of the very practice and interpretation of sciencific research that would impact decsion-making.
This simple recipe for chicken soup will be useful to people on elimination protocols. It is gluten-free, lactose-free, casein-free, low-FODMAP, low-histamine, and also free of the nightshades avoided by auto-immune protocols. Dodging such foods for any extended period can be a little depressing, especially FODMAP- and histamine-containing foods. What remains in rotation tends toward the bland, from which blandness this recipe does provide some reprieve. The chicken stock included here will give positive support to people healing their guts while helping to maintain joints and muscles. Steamed broccoli is among the few veggies that FODMAP-sensitive people may tolerate and adds texture, color and nutrition. For the thrifty, soup like this is the final use of a whole bird, ensuring that all leftovers are used and nutrition extracted. Low-carbers will likely appreciate this recipe (though they may prefer more ghee than I use below). And, yes, this soup may help ease your cold, too.
We had in-laws stay with us over the weekend, a fantastic family of five, but one comprised both of picky eaters and sufferers of digestive issues. Whether to prepare food to satisfy picky palates on the one hand or to diminish digestive issues on the other—all while providing guests real nourishment and minimizing toxic or inflammatory foods—is a matter deserving the careful consideration of any thoughtful host. Perhaps in most situations, there is middle ground to satisfy both concerns. In this particular family, however, pickiness prevails by a long shot, so my initial plan for a gentle stew gave way a childhood favorite of mine: tacos.
The primary goal of the recipe below is to relieve the picky guest of the need to dash to McDonald’s or to order a pizza (mileage may vary) while still providing some basic Paleo or Primal protection. However, people with autoimmune issues, FODMAP malabsorption, or sensitivity to histamines will want to eliminate many of the ingredients I include here. (Tyramines may not be an issue.) I will suggest some modifications at the end of the post, but must point out before readers invest too much time: this is a difficult recipe to modify for people dodging such foods.
Amy and I have been fortunate enough to enjoy extensive travel for both business and pleasure. We have lived out of backpacks in impoversished countries and we have stayed in some the world’s finest resorts. Through mistakes and good fortune and everything between, we have accumulated some practical wisdom about travel in general and vacation travel in particular. What may make our experiences unique and hopefully useful to others is that in the last couple years we have also had to factor health concerns into our travel strategies.
Sometimes the purpose of a vacation is to embark on a rare adventure that may leave us depleted, tired, bloated, and possibly infected with exotic parasites—risks we may be willing to take for the thrill of the experience and the stories to savor later. Here, however, I have in mind a different, more common purpose. Normally, it is not adventure but our daily routine that has worn us down. In this case, the purpose of a vacation is to return from it rested, restored, and reconnected with both our individual selves and with one another. Vacation with this purpose is a health intervention.
In this multipart series, I will share some guidelines I wish Amy and I could always follow. It’s a set of rules I was inspired to outline on the return flight from a recent trip during which we made some rookie mistakes. It is a work in progress and I welcome ideas.
Amy and I once found ourselves in a trinket shop in Edinburgh cornered by a retired history professor in a kilt and German soccer jersey. He was instructing us that the history of the Americas is merely an eddy in the wake of Scotland. We were defenseless. In the 24 hours prior, we had endured an overnight flight on a hot airplane entirely populated by howling infants and operated with beauracratic indifference by the Ms. O’Briens of British Airways. No quantity nor combination of sleeping pills and alcohol could provide the refuge of sleep. Sweating, I had stripped to my undershirt within an hour of departure. The overhead fan was broken. A connection and a train ride later, Amy and I were now in Edinburgh endeavoring to secure alertness the following day by postponing the present day’s much needed sleep until the vague, illusive bedtime of Edinburgh on a Friday night in June. We had stumbled innocently into what we assumed would be the safety of a souvenir shop. The professor was bearing down. He was speaking in rhetorical questions. The answer was “Scotland”. We tried to engage. Our thoughts disintegrated before words could give them expression. We were reduced to acquiescence. Yes, we agreed, all US presidents owe their finer accomplishments to Scottish heritage and their failings to British.
I am excited to announce that in the coming months I am going to add a page for restaurant reviews. While I will add reviews on no particular schedule, Amy and I do share a lifestyle that often puts us (especially her) in well regarded restaurants. Assuming the best of the review model I am developing, hopefully that lifestyle can translate to an added dimension of usefulness for readers. Before writing any reviews, however, I wanted to share my thoughts on what ought to constitute a useful review.
It should not be difficult to find high quality food in a fine restaurant, but it is. Continue reading →
Spring having arrived to the DC area, I have been making cold, mayonnaise-based salads like sauerkraut slaw, egg salad and chicken salad. After a winter of braises and stews, cold salads like this are refreshing both in temperature and because they provide periodic relief from cooking. Cold salads can be time-saving leftovers for use in lunches during a work week—or even for lunch on a Saturday when the idea of cooking after golf or yard work just seems like a hassle. For the thrifty, these salads represent opportunities to ensure leftovers get used. Home-gardeners who are worried about eating their Spring lettuces as quickly as they are growing (like us) can benefit, too: mayonnaise-based salads more often than not are greatly improved when nestled on a cool bed of fresh lettuce.
Anyone who has ever had to tangle with mysterious food sensitivities might have stopped reading back at the first mention of mayonnaise. The only mayonnaise most of us know comes from grocery store shelves. Some of us have learned the hard way that grocery products like this are Trojan Horses for substances that lead to acute adverse affects if we’re lucky and only mild symptoms slowly accumulating disease over time if we are not. Fortunately, traditional mayonnaise, which grocery versions mimic, is simple to make with healthful, non-toxic, non-irritant ingredients. In fact, because mayonnaise is so simple to make, because it contains so few ingredients, it emerges as an object lesson in the differences between food and food-like substances. Continue reading →