Saturday, 27 November 2010

The Last Post

Just a short note to say this will be my final post.

There is no special reason - I just woke up one morning and decided to see what else I could do with the time. It's usually better to draw a line under something if you really want to find out what's next.

I've had a lot of pleasure from writing here, and have been very grateful to you for reading and participating. I will of course keep the blog available so people can continue to reference it. I will also continue to read and comment on blogs in the community, so I am sure I'll see you around. Over and out.... Read more

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Why I won't Read Robb Wolf's or Art Devany's New Books

It suddenly struck me today. I am not going to read Robb Wolf's book The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet. Nor am I going to read Art Devany's book The New Evolution Diet.

It had been on my mental to-do list to order / pre-order the books. I have a blog about Paleo living - so I should read these books when they come out, right? Maybe, but I'm not going to.

This is not the reason. Not this. But... I find the inclusion of the word DIET, either in big letters on the front, or as part of the title itself, to be a bit of a sell out. Mark Sisson did not do this with the Primal Blueprint, for which kudos. I bet his publisher wanted him to.

In fact there are two reasons I won't be reading them.

One - I don't think there's anything left to learn. That's not because I know lots of stuff - it's because there ain't that much you need to know. I have no doubt the same applies to many of you. And once you know it, you're set. Anything more is just material to bore dinner guests or upstage would-be experts.

Two - life's too short. I reckon Robb's book is actually quite funny, in the same way Mark's unique style made the PB an entertaining read; but there are a lot of things I don't know anything about and many great and funny books I want to read before I die. So if I read more about the same thing just so I can remain at the leading edge of smart arsery, it feels like edging into Star Trek convention territory. No offense, Trekkies.

That's it. Just needed to get it off my chest.... Read more

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

After Much Searching... the Perfect Coconut Cream

My recent exchanges with Tropical Sun ("Why is there Crap in My Coconut Milk?") threw up some interesting questions about what is important to the more discerning consumer.

Tropical Sun think it's consistency. I, and many of you who commented on those posts, think it's about purity. We just want the coconut, and don't care if it settles in the can or is not smooth like real cream.

Tropical Sun never did respond to my final question. I wanted to know how much corn starch they are adding - so I could decide for myself whether it mattered.

Since then I have been exploring different brands, many of which suggested by you in the comments. Yesterday I took delivery of a new one: Ayam Coconut Cream - thanks to Jess from Australia for recommending this.

What's the difference between coconut cream and coconut milk? People and manufacturers seem to use the terms interchangeably. In this case, Ayam make a point of saying that there is no added water - and when you open the tin, you can see the result. The contents are the consistency of a pudding. Take a spoonful and it retains its shape on the spoon.

The ingredients are 100% coconut extract. Okay, I know we've read that before and discovered it not to be true, but...

...reassuringly, there is also some liquid underneath, suggesting that the contents have - gasp! - settled in transit and, more importantly, that the manufacturers have not added homogenising agents to protect us poor consumers from the awful truth that food can separate into its component parts... or from the effort of shaking a can.

Also pleasing is the slightly off-white colour. Okay, coconut meat is normally brilliant white, but I am happy to assume that some part of the process or storage affects the colour - and that by not actively re-bleaching it they are confirming their commitment to a pure product.

Finally, because it's more concentrated than products with added water, the taste is sweeter. It's almost like a middle ground between solid creamed coconut and the more watery coconut milk/cream; and it tastes real - no hint of adulteration often detected in other brands.

This stuff could be dangerous - I ate half a tin last night in the name of 'research' and it was only Mrs M's needs that prevented me from nailing the lot.

See Also:

Dear Tropical Sun - "Why is there Crap in My Coconut Milk?"
Tropical Sun's Perplexing Reply
Tropical Sun Replies - "Our Additives are Okay"
... Read more

Friday, 5 November 2010

The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 5: The Collapse

Having narrowly escaped my dessert urges at Bellagio the night before (see part 4), this promised to be my greatest test: a wedding for which the reception dinner was, naturally, a buffet. This took place at the Paris Casino.

The rules of buffet mastery I had established were:

#1 eat good food, avoid the junk
#2 make your gluttony pay for itself
#3 skip dessert
#4 obtain strategic dessert substitutes
#5 don't drink too much booze
#6 don't drink fizzy drinks

Perhaps it was some innate rule-breaking instinct that led to what followed. Or perhaps I saw an interesting symmetry in spending the trip compiling a set of rules which I would then ceremoniously smash to pieces at the end.

The real reason, I think, was that I was already halfway down the vortex of greed. No amount of swimming could pull me out by this point.

At the wedding, my first mistake was making no attempt to moderate the seemingly endless flow of champagne that accompanied the wedding speeches. Toast after toast, refill after refill. Bam - #5 and #6 gone.

Nevertheless, I remained almost entirely Paleo for the initial 3-plate feast, enjoying some great duck dishes (a nice departure from the normal Vegas buffet fayre), as well as some pork, chicken and beef. I even tried some oysters. Not great.

I think I had already become unhinged from my resolve way before Mrs M slammed down her plate of custard-topped apple crumble, but this was the catalyst that sent we weaving back through the tables to the dessert section, fixed determinedly my destination.

Top row good, bottom row bad

On plate 1 of the desserts, a pretty big bowl of apple crumble with some kind of synthetic cream. Nailed in short order. Plate 2, a selection of cheesecakes and cupcakes. Midway through that I started to get the sugar shivers - but manfully pressed on. Plate 3 I loaded with toffee bananas, another cupcake and some chocolate sauce that was so sweet it literally altered my DNA as it went down my throat. At some point during that plate I hit my limit.

#1 and #3, shattered.

Epilogue - Picking up the Pieces

It's hard getting out of the greed vortex. It's possible to spend weeks in there if you're not careful. Three nights of our holiday remained, but, mercifully, we were leaving Vegas after one.

On our final night in Vegas, we agreed to dodge the buffets.

At the steakhouse I did some damage to the bread basket, and later found myself queuing at the cake stall in Bally's - but it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Just a couple of slices of cheesecake and then a chocolate bar from the shop at Mandalay Bay. A mere flesh wound.

Then, on our final night in New York, I was gripped by last-night fever. Two white Russians and some kind of orange marguerita before the meal pretty much wiped out my senses, so I pounced on the bread basket the minute we arrived at The Bridge Street Cafe.

When an an ill-advised and sizable portion of calamari arrived as a starter, I ate that with more bread. I was actually starting to feel full. Not a good time, then, to be presented with easily the largest steak I've had in a restaurant.

It was a also a very tasty steak, so there was no way I was leaving any of that baby; I made it a mission of the utmost priority to consume it along with most of the spinach and sweet potato side dishes.

Full as I was, there is no such thing as being too full for dessert, so I bullied Mrs M into sharing three. One was light (her choice), one was quite dense (mine) and the third was like a neutron star (again, mine.) Predictably, Mrs M ate only half of her light one.

Bravely I did battle, and bravely I did vanquish all three with specially-requested pouring cream.


The following morning, I was glad to be going home. I felt like Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, being saved at last from the misery of my own excess. I may have used that analogy before, but it always feels so apt.

I have since escaped the vortex, the power of its gravity diminished by the regularity and normality of routine. As ever, the transition was made easier by healthy Paleo feasts and one or two fasts per week.

See Also:

The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 1
The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 2: Boston and LA
The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 3: Vegas Begins
The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 4: The Weakening
... Read more

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 4: The Weakening

Planet Hollywood

When Mrs M arrived at the Spice Market buffet at Planet Hollywood, we were a little disappointed. Adding Mexican and Middle Eastern stations to the standard format did not, we felt, justify the name.

Nevertheless, the food was good and there was lots of it.

Determined to do justice to the international feel, I had a plate from each themed station except Chinese. Too much sugar in all those sauces. My five plates were: Italian, Middle Eastern, Mexican, American and Seafood.

The Spice Market at Planet Hollywood - Italian, Middle Eastern, Mexican, American, seafood

Putting Mrs M in charge of drinks was good, because she formed an excellent relationship with the waitress, who was therefore very attentive; but it was bad, because wine seemed to appear every time I left the table, stealthily ordered and introduced while I avariciously stalked the stations.

I escaped from the Spice Market with my buffet mastery rules unbroken, but only just. I could feel my resolve drowning in the warmth of the last glass of wine as we shuffled fatly out of the restaurant. In retrospect, I believe it was fortunate the dessert section was not located near the exit.

Buffet mastery rule #5: don't drink too much booze


It was ironic, therefore, that the following night, at the Wynn buffet, I let Mrs M talk me into the unlimited champagne option; and it was unfortunate that the waiters appeared to be under threat of death if anyone's glass was discovered empty.

As you would expect, the food was excellent - but the station selection conformed to what we were coming to recognise as the standard Vegas format. I guess it makes commercial sense to operate a kind of menu cartel. Do doubt a 747 filled entirely with crabs legs lands at Las Vegas each morning, ready to supply The Strip with its daily need.

Salad, seafood, venison, lamb, chicken, chicken, prime rib, more chicken and some curry

At Wynn, the meat sweats hit me after only 3 plates: the fizz of the champagne had made me feel fuller.

Buffet mastery rule #6: don't drink fizzy drinks

When Mrs M began bringing desserts back to the table. I could feel my strength ebbing. The champagne was making it hard to keep a grip. Damn those waiters.

In a desperate attempt to avert disaster, I compiled a 4th plate of questionable foods, such as chicken with sweet sauce. This I ate quickly, in the hope I would lose my urge for cake. It worked.

The Bellagio

The next day, the sumptuous Bellagio buffet, #1 on the top 10 Vegas buffets web site, was suitably impressive. Nice touches like seaweed salad made the difference and in fact all the seafood was of a high quality.

I kept the wine consumption low this time, but in spite of that, my willpower continued to ebb. Notice the addition of red sauce on plate 2, sweet potato mash on plate 2 and soft cheese on plates 3 and 4.

When Mrs M began taunting me with divinely sculpted portions of tiramisu and cheesecake I was forced once again to take a culinary cold shower with a swiftly built 4th plate which included soft cheese, salads with sweet dressings and other foods at the margins of my normal Paleo menu.

Initial fruit & veg plate, then starting to slip with sweet sauces, sweet potato and soft cheese

Only the avoidance of wine saved the day - but I knew what was coming. I just needed to hold out long enough so that the damage was limited. Once I started, I would not be able to stop. I did not want to get pulled into the cake binge vortex with several days left in Vegas. It was not safe.

See Also:

The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 1
The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 2: Boston and LA
The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 3: Vegas Begins
The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 5: The Collapse
... Read more

Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 3: Vegas Begins

The first time I visited Las Vegas nearly 10 years ago, I hit the buffets without any rules. I just hurled myself into it headlong, attacking every section with as much gusto as the previous one, until the tightening grip of intestinal overload started to bite.

I recall valiantly battling with the Chinese station, knowing it was the only thing left between me and dessert. I felt like Rocky in the final rounds of an epic fight, my speech slurred, my chewing increasingly laboured as, across the table, 'Adrian' (my buffet wing man), developed a light sweat on his brow.

Then, the schoolboy error, as I launched into the dessert section with scarcely a rest and went straight for the money shot, a huge bowl of apple crumble with custard. Only grim determination got me through the rest of the bowl. But then it was all over - the towel was in the ring and the belly factory had already blown the whistle. A difficult night ensued.

But that was then. On this trip, now a seasoned pro, I hit the Luxor buffet with confidence, with no intention of going anywhere near the desserts.

Buffet master rule #3: skip dessert

I'd done a gym session that morning and was hankering for a big protein hit, so my opening gambit was a trio of pork, chicken and prime rib. The Luxor buffet was light on seafood, but after the LA Hilton I was ready for a break from that. Next, some cod with an unnamed meat. Finally, muscles and shredded pork.

On the way out, I breezed nonchalantly past the substantial cake section.

Luxor - not the best quality, but as with any half-decent buffet, plenty of big meat

The next morning, I decide to be more targeted about buffet selection. Mrs M was flying in to meet me that day, and I wanted to make sure we picked a good buffet that night. I found a list of the top 10 Vegas buffets.

I know what you're thinking, and you're right - she's a very lucky lady. While other men would be hunting round for some dimly lit, small-portion-serving Italian restaurant where the waiter presents a rose to women diners... I was instead doing the decent thing and finding somewhere serving plenty of food with efficient, business-like staff and lighting good enough to do justice to the 3D glory of a plate loaded with food.

While I waited for Mrs M, I busied myself with a trip to Wholefoods. Say what you like about their vegetarian agenda and curious belief that using raw organic cane sugar somehow makes any product healthy, they do stock an impressive array of nuts.

Another weapon of the master buffet tactician is the dessert substitute. I often use unsweetened cocoa powder at home to quench chocolate cravings, but it's not always that easy to consume as a powder. At Wholefoods I founds bars of solid cocoa. Perfect. These, and a wide selection of raw, unsalted nuts formed the basis of my dessert shield.

Buffet mastery rule #4: obtain strategic dessert substitutes

Wholefoods: strange ideas, but a great nut selection...

When Mrs M arrived, she opted for the Planet Hollywood spice market buffet, where a new challenge emerged. In part 3 - alcohol control, a crucial component of buffet mastery.

See Also:
The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 1
The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 2: Boston and LA
The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 4: The Weakening
The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 5: The Collapse
... Read more

Friday, 29 October 2010

The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 2: Boston and LA

The trip started in Boston, where, at the hotel breakfast buffet, I made my first play.

I was having a late breakfast instead of lunch because jet lag had driven me to eat early the previous night. Having paid for the all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast, a closer inspection revealed that smoked salmon, eggs and fruit were the only things I could eat.

So I ate salmon and eggs until no more remained, methodically working through the neatly rolled salmon rolls, one plate at a time, while the manager eyed me with a mixture of suspicion and concern from behind the bar. He could see I was a pro.

Smoked salmon, eggs and fruit - again, again and again

Next stop, LA, where I hit the jackpot.

Whilst my own hotel did not have a buffet (I was outraged), the nearby Universal City Hilton had an impressive seafood buffet, I was told.

This turned out to be no exaggeration. There was top quality sushi and sashimi, lobster thermidor, perfectly grilled salmon in several different sauces, crab claws, oysters and of course the obligatory prime rib. There were also many other stations: when you get lost during your first visit, you know it's a serious buffet.

I hit the Hilton twice in two days. Unfortunately, on day two, I was in such a hurry to launch an attack on the stations I'd not done justice to the night before, that I forgot my camera. So I had to use my inadequate Blackberry to capture the meals.

Day 1 at the Universal City Hilton - not taking full advantage of the seafood options

Day 2 - crab claws, sashimi, lobster thermidor and various other meats

In part 3, Vegas - the buffet mecca. Buffets so large, they provide motorised vehicles for diners. Vast, underground facilities into which, over the years, people have disappeared never to return...

See Also:

The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 1

The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 3: Vegas Begins
The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 4: The Weakening
The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 5: The Collapse
... Read more

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 1

Buffets. You've got to love them. Yet I have to travel all the way to the US to get any decent action. The UK should be ashamed.

For Paleo folk, buffets are great. For an incomparably greedy Paleo person like me, they are beyond compare.

The timing of my recent trip to the US seemed especially good. I was in the final few weeks of a training experiment ('Leangains') that involves daily fasting and the consumption of a large number of calories during an eating window. This was destiny.

Previously, my posts about gluttony have typically been in the context of shame, documenting falls from grace after too much booze. In those cases I had eaten too much of the wrong kind of food - a very different proposition.

Could I play the buffets buffets of Vegas like a professional, or, as with gambling, did the house always win?

As I prepared for the trip, I decided that the Paleo buffet master does two things differently. First, he or she sticks to the foods they would normally eat, instead of being sucked into a vortex of indulgence.

Paleo buffet mastery rule #1: eat good food, avoid the junk

Second, he or she makes their gluttony pay for itself, becoming warrior-like in their meal frequency and timing - one large meal a day.

Paleo buffet mastery rule #2: make your gluttony pay for itself

My plan was to apply the principle of daily fasting to holiday gluttony. It should be possible, I reasoned, to enjoy unconstrained dining without returning home at the end of the holiday with a ruined gut and 3 lbs of extra fat. I would eat bucket loads of Paleo buffet food and regularly fast in between.

This would be effort and reward in perfect harmony - instead of (as on previous occasions) reward, reward, reward, and that creeping feeling of wanting it all to stop.

It didn't quite go according to plan, but I learned a few things along the way. In part 2, Boston, where my opening gambit was unfeasible amounts of smoked salmon at the breakfast buffet.

See Also:

The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 2: Boston and LA
The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 3: Vegas Begins
The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 4: The Weakening
The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 5: The Collapse
... Read more

Friday, 1 October 2010

Tropical Sun Replies - "Our Additives are Okay"

If you have been following my dialogue with Tropical Sun about the additives in their coconut milk, you'll be pleased to know I have had a response to my most recent email. Here is what they said:

Thank you for your further email and we hope to dispel some of the concerns you raised. First of all, sorry for the contradiction in the previous reply. It was actually meant to read the “quality” has not changed, not the “content”.

Often people tend to misinterpret the natural separation of coconut milk in the can as spoilage, thus we took the decision to change our manufacturer of coconut milk and after a number of trials we selected the coconut milk that you now currently have.

So let’s get some understanding instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. We respect the fact that you are trying to ensure people have great tasting food, and in that regard we share the same passion.

Coconut milk is not the liquid inside a coconut (this is ‘coconut water’), although this liquid does make a satisfying drink. Rather, it is made by squeezing the grated flesh of a coconut with some hot water resulting in a rich white liquid that looks very much like cow's milk. This would normally last around 1-2 days if refrigerated immediately.

You also have to understand that due to the nature of our modern diets, various ingredients/foods have been processed and in order to enjoy them in a way that we are now accustomed to various manufacturing techniques are used.

Without passing judgement on these, we, the British public, demand for example strawberries and grapes out of season etc. So whilst I appreciate your sentiment for “food without crap” in it, I also would advise that to label all additives as universally BAD is a little over zealous [and perhaps unrealistic].

An “E” label signifies that something has been added to the product: it doesn’t make it bad in and of itself. In the UK an "E number" has, unfortunately, become something of a pejorative term for artificial food additives. It may surprise some of your readers to learn, however, that there are undoubtedly many products promoting themselves as "free of E numbers" even though most of the natural ingredients contain components that also have an E number such as vitamin C (E300).

If a food additive has an E number this shows it has passed safety tests and been approved for use throughout the European Union. This approval is monitored, reviewed and amended in the light of new scientific data. It is also possible that some labels do not use the dreaded “E” prefix, and instead provide a customary common name (e.g. Citric acid, instead of E330). You decide which you prefer.

I would also like to mention that our coconut milk has one of the highest percentages of real coconut extract inside the can available. This is the amount of pure coconut that is used to make the end product. This determines its richness and flavour and the reason why we believe ours is a PREMIUM coconut milk. Please compare it with some of the other brands you have mentioned previously.

So now our coconut milk contains thickener, stabilisers and acidity regulators. Let’s examine each:

Thickeners help give body to food in the same way as adding flour thickens a sauce, they improve consistency and stabilise emulsions (such as coconut milk). Corn starch imparts no additional flavour to food.

We use cornstarch which is just what it sounds like: starch derived from corn. As with anything, there are pros and cons to its use. Cornstarch is used as a natural thickening agent and does not contain any gluten in contrast to other common alternatives.

Stabilisers and emulsifiers help give food a consistent texture and help mix ingredients together that would normally separate, such as [coconut] oil and water. Stabilisers prevent them from separating again. Without stabilisers you would end up with cream on top and lighter watery milk on the bottom.

We use Carrageenan, Guar gum and Carboxy methyl cellulose. The first two are naturally occurring and extracted from seaweed and shrubs and the latter from cellulose.

Acidity regulators change or maintain the acidity of foods and include buffers, acids, alkalis, and neutralising agents. We use citric acid which is found naturally in citrus fruits.

So, in summary, our product does contain ‘additives’, albeit ones which have been taken from natural sources. Their purpose is to enable us to deliver a stable product of appealing quality: none of the additives is there to introduce or enhance flavour. As far as other similar products are concerned, you must take your enquiries direct to the relevant manufacturers.

We hope this has gone some way to answering your questions. We thank you for concern and hope you will continue to use our products. We would suggest, if it helps, that our creamed coconut is additive free and can be used for many similar purposes to the milk.

We hope this has been helpful and whilst we can’t proclaim to be experts on all things scientific, we can try to help your readers understand what is, I think you’ll agree, an issue which is not quite as clear cut as it might first appear.

Kind regards
Customer Services

Here is my reply:

Hi Kev,

Once again, many thanks for continuing to engage with us. By replying a second time, you have catapulted yourselves into second place in the customer service rankings for Pay Now Live Later. Your honest approach is also refreshing.

The first thing I'd like to make clear is that I appreciate the commercial realities under which you operate, and am aware of the preferences of modern consumers. So of course I don't expect to change your mind about how you make your coconut milk.

However, I would like to help you understand a different position, held by a minority. This is important for you because it's a growing minority. We are the people who scrutinise ingredients on foods and question the motives of companies and those who regulate them. We operate on the assumption that the best form of a food is in it's pure form, and will always choose unadulterated products over the alternatives.

You do make the valid point that not all additives are all unhealthy. I agree that there is a tendency to demonise all ingredients, when some of them are okay.

But why is this? Let me offer you an explanation:

First, consumers don't always understand what the additives are. Often they have complex-sounding names. Even when the names seem familiar, we are not sure what the health implications might be. Familiarity is no guarantee that an ingredient is okay.

Second, there is an issue of trust. Many consumers simply don't trust companies to use only healthy additives - even when it is with the best of intentions (as in your case, perhaps.)

Misinformation is rife in the food industry, and many of us would simply rather be safe than sorry. Your use of the N-word ('natural') is a good example, I am afraid. Without wishing to appear facetious, digitalis can be extracted from fox glove plants, a small amount of which will kill you. There are plenty of natural ingredients that are anything but good.

What this means is that a subset of consumers will avoid your product, regardless of the realities of the reasons for the additives, whether they are 'natural' and whether or not there is evidence they cause harm.

As it happens, this same subset of consumers are probably also trying NOT to eat fruit and vegetables out of season, contrary to the trend you mentioned in your email; for us, finding separated coconut milk that is not creamy is a good sign... because we know that real coconut milk does get separated like this.

So where does this leave us? I guess it leaves me having respect for you as a company because of your honesty and communicativeness, but still no longer a customer; but I hope this exchange has at least helped you to see that whilst your coconut milk may be homogeneous thanks to the stabilisers, your target market is not (sorry, bad joke I couldn't resist) ...and that there may be opportunities for you to exploit the growing trend towards real food.

In the meantime, I am trying my luck with this product. It claims not to need preservatives because of the UHT process and was reassuringly separated. It also seems to have a high coconut percentage because there is a lot of thick cream in there. And yet there is no list of ingredients on the carton - just the claim about being preservative free. As you say in your email, this is something I need to take up with them, not you.

I have one final question I hope you are willing to answer. Reader Matt recently commented:

I'm on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (similar to Paleo) for medical reasons (Ulcerative Colitis), and I'm allowed no starches or sugars. When I read the company's response, my first thought was, They were putting starches in there before, but new labeling requirements made them tell us. This is disconcerting for me because even micrograms of starch or sugar can send me to the toilet for days. When a company says it's PURE, we need to be able to believe that it's pure. They can cause great harm to someone like me who is sick, when they don't label honestly.

This got me wondering how many grams of corn starch are actually added to each tin. Can you tell us?

Clearly, for Matt, no amount is acceptable. But for me, I think knowing the scale of the additive would have the potential to influence how I feel about eating it.

Best Regards,


See Also:
Dear Tropical Sun - "Why is there Crap in My Coconut Milk?"
"Why is there Crap in my Coconut Milk?" - Tropical Sun's Perplexing Reply
After Much Searching... the Perfect Coconut Cream
... Read more

Monday, 27 September 2010

Paleo in a Nutshell Video Spoof

Someone has created a spoof (or as they more grandly put it, satire) of Paleo in a Nutshell Part 1. Here it is:

It's actually quite witty in places - exactly the sort of thing I would do myself about something I consider misguided. Indeed, the video maker actually makes one or two good points.

For example, I agree that the Paleo movement is at times cultish; and I concede that the use of a supermarket photo to illustrate our ready access to food is not ideal, as it might imply an endorsement.

Does it matter if the Paleo movement is sometimes a little cultish? I'm not sure that it does. It has no bearing on whether its premises are valid. If ideas that are garbage can attract a following, then it would be odd if those with genuine validity did not.

In any case, I think it lacks some important elements of a cult. At one point the video used the (rather amusing) "kneel before Zod" reference; but who is Zod in the Paleo movement? A few people writing books and running seminars on the subject isn't really enough, however charismatic they may be.

Likewise, it doesn't necessarily matter that people are making money out of it and some of its books say 'as seen on TV' on the front. It would also be strange if no one tried to make money from spreading a message that turned out to be correct. Or does the spoofer think that when something is genuinely true, the human desires to spread the word and make money suddenly melt away?

I also think the video maker has missed the point (deliberately or otherwise) that the original consciously simplifies a complex area in order to deliver an easily understood message. Yes, "Genetically the same" is not strictly true, but the long version (that the number of generations since we have started farming is roughly 300, which is not long enough to effect the necessary changes to digestive mechanisms etc etc) really can't be explored with the 'Nutshell' approach.

To some extent the spoof video sabotages its own effectiveness by trying to satire or rebut absolutely everything in the original, creating a peculiar mix of crude, childish humour and attempts at reasoned, factual argument. Say what you like about the original, it does at least know what it's trying to achieve, and does so relatively elegantly. The spoof is twice as long, wordy and fails to strike a consistent tone.

I am not in the business of making line-by-line rebuttals, and even if I were, I am not sure this piece of work, funny though it was, justifies the effort.

So I'm not going to accept it as a video response on You Tube because I am not prepared to counter the points with a more detailed video. I didn't make the original so that I could bicker with those who disagree, but to spread a message I believe to be worthy.... Read more

Saturday, 25 September 2010

My Recipe Video Contest Entry - Coconut & Choc Cake

Mark Sisson is still running competitions over on Mark's Daily Apple. The recipe video contest caught my eye because it's been a while since I've done some bakery tinkering.

Don't watch the video if you are serious about baking. You will almost certainly be offended. In fact this is an abject lesson in how not to bake.

If you do watch it, look out for the moment when the blender turns itself on. Spooky.

Neverthless, the cake did taste quite nice. Maybe I just got lucky. The video is here.... Read more

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Ditching the Bathroom Chemicals - Update

Since I posted about this last month, I've made some changes and discoveries, so here is an update.

First and foremost, I am still 'with the program'.

My medicine cabinet still contains just a handful of items, none of which have lists of ingredients I don't understand.

I don't smell or look a mess; and I continue to gain satisfaction from knowing I am dodging another of modern life's bullets.

The Miswak Toothbrush

I am now mostly using Miswak (also known as Peelu), after it was mentioned by a number of commenters. This is the traditional method of cleaning teeth used in parts of Asia and the Middle East. The process, is as follows:

1. Take a piece of miswak and remove the bark.
2. Chew the remaining stick until it's soft and brush-like
3. Use it to brush your teeth
4. When you are done, clean it and store hygienically
5. When needed, snip off the old brush part with scissors and repeat the process
6. When the stick is too small, start a fresh one

I first bought some very rough 'red miswak' (aka Dandasa) from a local Asian store, but it was quite difficult to use.

As you can see from the photos, the red miswak is not always uniform. I've imagined this is used by older guys who've been doing this for years, and are expert. Perhaps when they were young this was all you could get. Perhaps they have also grown accustomed to the quite bitter taste.

I then found some miswak sticks online that seemed more specially geared for the purpose of teeth cleaning. These are much easier to use.

Miswak leaves your teeth feeling clean. The packed sticks taste different, less bitter; but I am undecided as to whether, and if so, how, they have been treated. Could there be nasty ingredients involved? I don't know. I chose 'natural' flavour, but they were also available in peppermint.

For now I am enjoying this. I tend to do it in front of the television when I am relaxing rather than in the bathroom. Every now and again I brush with my electric toothbrush using water or sodium bicarbonate, as described in the first post. This is usually when I am in a rush.

Vodka as Mouthwash

In the last post, James commented that I should try vodka and cinnamon as a mouthwash. Some mouthwash has alcohol as an ingredient, so this would make sense.

I don't normally use mouthwash, but in the interest of science, and since we have a bottle in the house, I tried it. Unfortunately, I had no cinnamon.

Yowser. This was not a pleasant experience. My mouth did not feel refreshed, but violated. It's difficult to imagine how some cinnamon could mitigate all of that. However, a load of additives like sorbitol could perhaps sweeten the pill, which is, I guess, what they do with the stuff you buy.

I will continue to pass on the mouthwash for now.

Upgrading to Dr Bronner's Soap

In the first post Bob Garon commented that the olive oil soap I was using might contain aluminium, under the ingredients item 'mineral salts'.

Why is aluminium bad? This (more or less randomly selected) article summarises the supposed dangers. Ideally, I would seek evidence and studies; but since I lack the time, and since there is an alternative that does not inconvenience me, I am happy to exercise avoidance.

Thus, I bought some Dr Bronner soap, which had been mentioned by a few people. The ingredients were more numerous, but none are as vague as 'mineral salts.' Just oils, citric acid, vitamin E and salt. It's not cheap, but the bar is twice the size of the olive oil soap, and it smells nicer, which makes getting buy-in from Mrs M easier!

Aluminium-Free Sodium Bicarbonate

There was also some debate in the comments of the first post about whether sodium bicarbonate contains aluminium.

Yes, according to Bob. No, according to Mudbeard, who was able to supply the molecular definition to illustrate his point. Anya pointed out that aluminium is added to baking powder. Mudbeard then explained that baking powder can be a mixture of things, and is not the same as sodium bicarbonate.

Interestingly, you can buy 'aluminium-free' bicarbonate of soda. Is this a marketing gimmick? Surely bicarbonate of soda is, by definition, aluminium-free because as Mudbeard says, it describes a single-molecule substance.

Either way, since you can buy a kilo of the aluminium-free bicarbonate of soda for a few pounds (less than $5) and this will last me for months, I care not. So I bought some.

Deodorant Itchiness

Naturally, I am now using the aluminium-free sodium bicarbonate.

The article I mentioned in the first post talked about itching from using sodium bicarbonate under the arms. The author added corn starch to make it less abrasive.

I must admit, I have since noticed a little irritation myself, but only mild. I think it depends on how you apply it. I have been trying to get the job done with one or two 'pats', rather than trying to force it into every nook and cranny under my arm. So far the effectiveness does not seem to have been affected this.

Coconut Oil vs. Almond Oil as Moisturiser

I am still using almond oil, but did try coconut oil a few times, as recommended by a few commenters on the first post. It was also good - and indeed slightly less greasy, as people said it would be.

I may make the switch at some point. Coconut oil might also be easier to use, since at room temperature, most of the time in the UK, it is butter-like. Almond oil is always a runny liquid and it's easy to over-dispense and end up using toilet tissue to de-grease.

Shampoo and Conditioner - Frequency Adjustment

I am still using the bicarbs and vinegar solutions, but less frequently than before - I have realised I only need to occasionally clean off the dirt that washing with water cannot remove.

I think this dirt builds up more slowly than the oiliness regular shampoo users irritate their hair into producing.

Dream_Puppy asked in the comments of the first post whether I knew any 'chicks' who use this approach and I suggested Mrs M, who has long-ish hair, was threatening to give it a whirl. So far, she has not.

See also:

How I Ditched the Chemicals in my Bathroom Cabinet
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