Category Archives: Health

This is why you’re fat

42% of Americans eat three or more snacks every day.  That seems crazy to me.  Am I alone on this one, or do most people snack between every single meal they eat?  Revelation courtesy of the NYTimes.

– Anna

Christmas lessons – Don’t drink descaler

Surviving Christmas season is a tricky at the best of times. I decided I needed a challenge at mine and, by pure accident, I assure you, drank a cup of descaler.

Now, you will ask yourself, how, well, I tried out new herbal tea at my brother’s, that said spicy on the box and looked all christmassy. Which undoubtedly it would have been if I hadn’t made it with water from the kettle. I thought it was a bit acidy but well-mannered to the end I drank it up. Until my sister-in-law realised that the kettle was full of descaler.

Anyways, here are a few lessons (thanks to the good people at the emergency poison hotline in Germany). Do NOT throw up as you’re full of acid, drink a minimum of 3 litres of water, take anti-acid medication, as much of it as possible and only once you convinced the pharmacists that yes, you really did drink descaler. Then lie down for a few hours and ponder you own stupidity. There, another Christmas lesson, right there.

Stress and food

I’ve always thought that stress leads to comfort eating, but my experience of the last couple of months has been exactly the opposite.  I’m stressed out for numerous reasons (trying to finish my PhD thesis, handling building works, a looming job hunt, etc, etc), and my appetite has all but disappeared.  My habitual early lunch has transformed into a late afternoon affair, and I’m eating just because I know I need to.  I’m wondering whether this is common and the stereotype of comfort eating is misleading.

– Anna

Quick, easy, cheap, healthy weeknight dinner

Oh, and it uses barely any dishes.  What more do you people want from me?

I had a friend in town last week, and that involved a lot of eating (and drinking) out, so I felt the need for a healthy and non-spendy week.  So I’m reacquainting myself with the sofa and kitties, and went to the supermarket yesterday.  For a grand total of four quid, I picked up two salmon fillets and a head of broccoli, which has served me for two nights supper.  Not bad.

Here’s how I do it to minimize effort and time… Continue reading

A Jungle for a new generation?

Loooong article in the NYTimes today about food safety in the meat industry. Or check out the crib sheet from Henry Blodget if you’re short on time.

I don’t quite know where to start with this one. The short short version: The Times tells one slice of the story of woefully inadequate food safety in the US through the prism of one woman who was paralyzed from E. coli-contaminated frozen hamburgers from Sam’s Club.

In its early paragraphs, the article relies on the rather gross nature of industrial meat production — and E. coli poisoning in particular — to get its point across. It details how the frozen hamburgers at the heart of this E. coli outbreak were assembled from basically left over bits of cow from processing plants on two continents. It’s not very nice, though frankly if you’re paying 70 cents for a pound of “beef” I’m not sure your standards can really be that high.

Then there’s the E. coli contamination angle. E. coli comes from shit – feces if we must – so the idea of ingesting it in your burger is bound to alarm people. However, the process by which beef comes to be contaminated with a bit of shit just seems like the cost of meat production on an industrial scale. It’s gross to think about, but you can see how it happens. The problem comes when no one then tests for E. coli in the meat before it’s sent to markets and restaurants around the country.

I understand why the writer opened with shock tactics. But the heart of the article, and where the real problem for food safety lies, is the later sections on testing and regulation. Not as sexy, but more important.

I won’t bore you with the numbers, but testing for E coli and other bacteria is so rare as to be basically non-existent. The USDA doesn’t require it, slaughterhouses rarely do it, or do it badly, and often refuse to sell to processors who perform their own tests. Costco comes out looking good: they test all meat before processing and selling to their customers. But other processors, like Cargill, won’t allow for their meat to be tested until its been ground up and combined with meat from slaughterhouses around the country, making any attempt to trace an outbreak impossible.

This is what you get when your food safety regime is also your corporate caretaker.

The article is full of great sections like:

The food safety officer at American Foodservice, which grinds 365 million pounds of hamburger a year, said it stopped testing trimmings a decade ago because of resistance from slaughterhouses. “They would not sell to us,” said Timothy P. Biela, the officer. “If I test and it’s positive, I put them in a regulatory situation. One, I have to tell the government, and two, the government will trace it back to them. So we don’t do that.”

and

Continue reading

No-cheese pizza

Last Friday, I found myself in a familiar quandary: working from home, unshowered, wearing jimjams, and with an empty fridge.  Lunch was inspired by a conversation I’d had with Eve a few days earlier about cheese-free pizza in Naples, and assembled from the depths of the freezer.  I had pizza dough, caramelised onions, and frozen spinach in there, and the fridge contributed the dregs of a jar of passata.  bagels and lamb 016Hey, I guess it’s healthier than normal pizza (though I did do a Jamie Oliver and drizzle olive oil over it once it came out of the oven).

– Anna

Yoghurt self-made

DSC02751

Yep, you read that right, I have discovered self-made yoghurt. And when I say self-made I don’t mean that I do magical things to milk, that would be a step to far for city girl-buy-everything-prepacked-in-plastic that I am.

When I mean self-made I mean that thanks to the kind people from EasiYo (ok, I admit, not best title but you can’t get everything right) I get a magical powder that only has healthy bacteria in it, mix it with a litre of cold water, keep it in my thermos-like white container for up to 12hours and voila, the perfect yoghurt achieved at last. Not too gloopy, not too watery. No additives and it still keeps for a week at least – and one pack makes 1kg of yoghurt.

Thanks you kind Kiwi-folk for thinking that one up!

Stef

Sampling Sourced’s wares: a photo essay

My friend Ben is opening a branch of Sourced market in St Pancras station this week (they’ve been doing festivals to date).  There was an absurd amount of food left over from a promotional photo shoot, so Ben and Morgan had people over last night to help eat it all up.  Sadly, I can’t claim credit for any of the cooking you see below.

Nor can I claim credit for the photos, as Tim did a far superior job with his professional camera than my amateur attempts would have yielded.

For more info on my talented friends, see http://www.sourcedmarket.com for details on the market and http://www.fluidimages.co.uk for Tim’s photography portfolio.

– Anna

Fresh mackerel awaiting the grill

Fresh mackerel awaiting the grill

Smoking away on the barbeque

Smoking away on the barbeque

Grilled to perfection

Grilled to perfection

Butternut squash

Butternut squash

Fennel salad

Fennel salad

A small fraction of the amazing spread

A small fraction of the amazing spread

The piece de resistance - rib of beef

The piece de resistance - rib of beef

In praise of lard

Yes, that’s right, lard.  As Regina Schrambling at Slate explains, lard isn’t quite as terrible health-wise as we’ve been led to believe.  She even makes an environmental case for it.

I hadn’t realised until reading this article that shortening is to lard as margarine is to butter (I feel like an SAT test question with that), and I found it very interesting because my mother only uses margarine, even when she’s baking…but always uses lard.

As someone who always has lard in the fridge (which frequently gets disgusted reactions from friends), I feel vindicated.

– Anna

Proving my point

Last week the New York Times ran an article about ConAgra marketing itself as a local producer, which a spokesperson said would appeal to customers concerned about food safety.

Two days later, they ran an article about how ConAgra failed to identify why its potpies made 15,000 people ill.  Their solution?  To shift the onus to the customer instead.

– Anna