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
... Read more

Sunday, 12 September 2010

In 50 Words or Less...

It's competition season again on Mark's Daily Apple, and, as ever, lots of decent prizes to be won.

One of them
caught my eye, so I entered. The challenge - for which the prize is a selection of books relating to Primal/Paleo - is to: 50 words or less... ...your best piece of advice for folks just starting out with the Primal lifestyle.

Here's my 47-word entry:

"Start out small. Don’t be overwhelmed by the many aspects. Any one of them can make a big difference to your life. Quit wheat. Start sprinting. Either alone is a triumph. It’s a journey, not a change. Assumed truths are not. Question everything, one at a time."... Read more

Thursday, 2 September 2010

"Why is there Crap in my Coconut Milk?" - Tropical Sun's Perplexing Reply

I have written open letters to a number of companies since I started blogging, primarily to complain about ingredients or deception. Nearly all of them failed to reply. I listed them in Roll Call of Shame: Companies Who Don't Listen.

When someone takes the time to reply, however absurd their rationale, I feel obliged to engage on a civilised level. Marks and Spencer particularly distinguished themselves by being willing to continue a debate about the sugar in their pre-cooked chicken (Why is there Sugar in my Chicken?) and Julian Graves briefly and clumsily corresponded about their sale of sugar-laden products (Julian Graves Responds to 'Sugar Pushers' Post.) Both deserve at least some credit for that.

So I must take my hat off to Tropical sun for yesterday's reply to my open letter a few weeks back (Dear Tropical Sun - "Why is there Crap in My Coconut Milk?"), complaining about the sudden appearance of sundry additives in their coconut milk.

A reminder of what I said:

Dear Tropical Sun,

I have been a big fan of your coconut milk for a long time now, and was dismayed when your ingredients changed from being pure, to being decidedly impure.

I eat coconut milk precisely because it does not contain things like starchy carbohydrate, so the idea that you have adulterated the product with corn starch seems like madness. Was it commercial pressures that led to your decision, or a genuine (albeit in my view, misguided) desire to create a better product for the consumer?

Perhaps I am in the minority in caring about these subtleties, but in a world where awareness of additives and a desire to eat real food is growing at a fast pace, your decision appears to be a retrograde step. My blog readers and I will be interested to read your response.


Here was their reply, yesterday:

Thank you for your feedback on our Coconut Milk. We take all comments about our products seriously and would like to reassure you that the content in our Coconut Milk has not changed.

The demand for the product in the last few years has increased globally, shipment times have increased so it has now been necessary to add regulators / stabilisers to keep the quality of the content consistent wherever it is sold in the world. Contrary to what you have suggested, these have not been added to alter the taste in any way nor is it for profit reasons. Also the ingredient list on the can was updated also due to regulatory requirement.

We at Tropical Sun value our customer feedback and hope that you are satisfied with this response and will continue to use our products.

For further information about Tropical Sun, please visit our website at


Kev, Customer Services

I won't insult your intelligence by pointing out the manifestly contradictory statements in this reply. Instead, I will skip straight to my response, which I will also email to Kev, along with a link to this post.

Dear Kev,

Many thanks for your reply. You would be surprised how many companies lack the courtesy to respond.

I have a few additional questions, which I hope you will be able to answer.

In the first paragraph, you reassure me that
"the content in our Coconut Milk has not changed" - yet in the following paragraph confirm that "it has now been necessary to add regulators / stabilisers." You can imagine how that might be confusing.

Later in the same paragraph, you say "
the ingredient list on the can was updated also due to regulatory requirement." This also suggests a change.

The burning questions are:

1. When did you start adding the regulators and stabilisers?
2. When did you change the label?

In other words, how long was I using your coconut milk, thinking it did not contain any additives?

I would also like to pick up the point about corn starch:

3. Is the corn starch added to improve the taste/texture - or is it related to global shipment demands?


4. Why do other manufacturers like Dunn's River not require the same additives?

I hope you will continue to correspond on this matter.



It's important companies understand the strength of feeling around issues like this. I think they just assume I am some crackpot, with entirely unrepresentative views.

So if you agree with me, please drop a comment, however small, onto the post. I will wait a couple of days before emailing Kev at Tropical Sun so that (I hope) we have a 'comment petition' to reinforce that there plenty of people who are concerned about this issue.

This will also serve another purpose: I have just installed a new comment system, which I hope will make it easier to comment - let me know how that works for you.

See Also:
Dear Tropical Sun - "Why is there Crap in My Coconut Milk?"
Tropical Sun Replies - "Our Additives are Okay"
After Much Searching... the Perfect Coconut Cream
... Read more