Galley: 1) the kitchen of a boat. Sally: 1) a venture off the beaten path, 2) a military action in which besieged troops burst forth from their position, 3) a witty remark.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

And... My Food! (Part 4, last installment)

You can find the other Parts here: Excitotoxins, BPA and Money

I have never added brown sugar to my kid's hot cereal, and we eat a lot of hot cereal.

Ever since she was a wee little one, I have mushed banana into her cereal (potassium!), sprinkled cinnamon (great health benefits!), and drizzled blackstrap molasses (manganese and iron!). With all this, how could she not love it? And she does!

Now don't get me wrong, I grew up loving brown sugar on my oatmeal and my ten grain, but I haven't sprinkled it on in over four years. At first, when I switched to cinnamon and molasses I definitely missed the lovely brown sugar sweetness. But that soon faded, and more and more I appreciated the rich flavor of the molasses, and the knowledge that I was getting much more nutritional bang for my buck. And I loved knowing that my kid wasn't overloading on refined sugar.

What I don't understand is how I could have been so smart about this (yep, I'm going to pat my back a little), and so clueless about food additives? There I am at home, being so careful about what I'm adding to my family's food, and then I march into the grocery store and fill the cart with a bunch of junk.

And I've been a pretty careful label reader. Just not careful, and knowledgeable, enough.

So I'm changing that, but it isn't exactly simple. If you're looking for me in the grocery store, I'm the one vaguely wandering around with a confused expression on my face, retracing my steps around and around the produce and dairy section. I'm actually a bit concerned I might appear as though I'm under the influence of something... but I haven't been asked to leave yet. The problem is this:

I cook us a hot breakfast every morning (the exception being when we have fruit and yogurt), and I cook us dinner every night. What I hadn't quite clued into was how many recipes call for cans of this, or a jar of that, or bouillon, etc. All those recipes are no good to me now, until I rework them to account for extra prep time for cooking my own beans, making my own hummus, chopping tomatoes, seasoning my own rice, making my own broth, sauce, etc.

I'm not complaining. None of these things are very hard, but they are a game changer, and I'm feeling the distinct need for some time spent browsing recipe books in the library. In the meantime, I've spent way too long in the grocery store, but have managed to feed my family Sauteed Veggies & Chicken over Rice with homemade Peanut Sauce, Chicken soup with Rice and Quinoa (made with leftovers from first dinner), Mushroom & Barley Soup with Spinach, and Radish Soup (my daughter's creation, and surprisingly good! I'll get it posted eventually).

A lot of soup! There have got to be some other whole food recipes I can handle, free of BPA and potential excitotoxins... this week I'm going to find them.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Excitotoxins, BPA, Money and My Food (Part 3)

You can follow the links to Part One and Part Two. A brief summary:

Excitotoxins are really bad for your brain.

BPA is really bad for your entire body.

And yet, these things are in our food. All the extra junk and additives and dyes and hormones and blech that are filling our food are there for a reason. Why? Why are we consuming them, both via our pocketbook and our mouths? Answer:


BPA alone is a $10 BILLION-a-year product. Never mind if they're selling the Grim Reaper, companies don't want to give up that kind of cash. The only way we can stop it is to stop buying it. For myself, I'm proud to say that I haven't used the can opener for a week! Now check this out:

"The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) Wednesday released "Apples to Twinkies," a review of agricultural subsidies that shows that since 1995, approximately 16.9 BILLION dollars in taxpayer money have gone toward supplementing four of the country's most common food additives - corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch and soy oils." Food Safety News, September 2011

Did you know your tax dollars were subsidizing Twinkies and prepackaged donuts?

In contrast, healthy foods like oranges and spinach receive no regular federal funding, with the exception of apples. For apples,  the government spent about .01 percent of its agricultural subsidy money between 1995 and 2010. 

If you run the numbers, and Food Safety News did, this means that if all the taxpayer money spent on agricultural products were distributed back to the consumers, you would get about $7 to spend on junk food, and about 11 cents to spend on an apple. Since organic apples are running well over a dollar each at our grocery store, this wouldn't get one very far...

This means junk food is subsidized at a rate of  nearly sixty four times that of... just apples. Not produce in general. Just apples. Apparently all we need is a tenth of an apple a year, and all those beet and radish and kale and chard and spinach farmers better pull themselves up by their bootstraps, 'cause giant agribusinesses need money for corn syrup.

Weird, huh?

I read those numbers, and then I read these interesting food bits:

1) "Currently there are approximately 3,794 different additives used in or on food, 3,640 of those are used purely for cosmetic purposes, 63 are used as preservatives and 91 as processing aids. It has been estimated that some 200,000 TONS of food additives are used annually, that 75% of the western diet consists of processed food and, that each person consumes an average of 8 to 10 pounds of food additives per year."   Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities 2007

(I also found this list of Food Additives. Long!) 

2) "U.S. Department of Agriculture data show that today we’re eating more of everything. By far the largest increase has been in the consumption of fats and oils, with a 63 percent jump over a 33-year period, from per capita annual consumption of about 53 pounds to about 86 pounds." Mother Earth News

3) "In 2000, the per capita consumption of high fructose corn syrup was 63.8 pounds." USDA Profiling Food Consumption in America

So, it isn't too tough to follow:

1) Our government gives huge subsidies to the manufacturers of "junk food ingredients."
2) This makes junk food cheap, cheaper than apples and much cheaper than vegetables.
3) Then, those junk foods are actually engineered to leave you wanting more and feeling unsatisfied.
4) We have a myriad of health epidemics linked to crappy food habits.

Remember Cuba Gooding Junior's "Show me the money" rant? (You know you want to watch it again). Well, we have to stop showing agribusiness the money. We need to do the work to get our tax dollars out of their hands, and we have to stop paying for their products at our stores. It is the only language they understand. It isn't enough that they contribute to the obesity, heart disease, and diabetes epidemics (to name a few). They will only stop if the money stops flowing.

Last thing! And maybe a little off subject... I have a friend who went to culinary school, and he gave me the heads-up on this one. There is something called Flak-Mor that is rolled into a lot of commercial pastry and bakery products. I have searched and searched for images but am not turning anything up... I wonder if the company manages to delete them all? According to my friend, who got to hold it and roll it and squeeze it, it feels and looks like grey modeling clay, but it rolls out really well, nice and smooth, and makes your baked goods really flaky! And yummy! And leaves you... wanting more!

I'll stick with butter please.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

36' Sailboat for Sale

Two years ago we sold Adios, our wonderful, kindly, proud 36' boat. This is her:

We sold her to a truly great guy, but with the economic conditions as they are, he hasn't been able to spend time with her, nor even travel to visit. And so she waits.

After idling on the dock for two years she isn't without problems, but she is a great liveaboard and cruiser. We lived aboard her with two big dogs, one small cat, a baby on into toddlerhood, and two adults. If you are single or a couple, you'll be styling! (Note: All signs of dog/cat are gone. Even got new cushions!)

In 2009 we sailed Adios from the San Juan Islands up the Inside Passage to Ketchikan, AK. She would have taken us much further, but we ran out of money and time, so she sailed us home again.

Adios is a 36’ Doug Peterson design (Peterson is a famous yacht/ocean racer designer and key member of design team for Black Magic, winner of 1995 America's Cup). She has a beautifully hand-laid fiberglass hull, a wooden mast and wheel. She has six bunks and could sleep seven, but more reasonably sleeps four (if you’re planning on carrying extra sails). We redesigned one salon bunk to pull out into a small double bunk. The V-berth sleeps two, there is a second salon bunk, and then two bunks aft below the cockpit. Adios also has solar power, a composting head with sink+cupboards, and a great little galley. The V-berth cushions are in good shape and the salon has new cushions and covers. (She has a new spice shelf above the sink, not in picture).

Galley with Propane Oven/Stove Top
Sink in Head
She is a strong, kindly boat, sails and handles well, and took care of us over many, many miles of sailing. Her main is new-ish and her headsails will take some more wear. She also has new anchor and chain, and a manual windlass. She has a Leyland diesel engine (nickname Lisl), and a Dickinson diesel heater.

Her biggest problems are due to sitting at the dock for two years. Her bottom paint still looks good, but is slimy. Her prop is sure to have some barnacles on it. A haul-out, pressure wash, new zincs, and coat of bottom paint would set her straight. While hauled out, she should have her aft shaft couple replaced. It isn't broken yet, but you would want a new one before you headed out. Also, the shaft linkage cable is broken-- an inexpensive part and an easy fix. Beyond that, she has a small laundry list of relatively simple projects that have arisen from neglect but won't stop you from going sailing.

Example: There are some soft spots in the decks that will require epoxy injection -- a nice summer project -- and her bright work isn't so bright anymore.

Here are some more pics (I am trying to find a salon shot. Will post if I can. I also have an engine shot somewhere):

Chart Table
V-berth. Note... we painted after this pic was taken, in colors for our daughter... quite lovely!
Port aft berth (we used for sail storage and dog bed)
Just a great cruising to AK galley shot
At anchor in George Inlet, AK
So! Asking $20,000. She is not ours (remember we already sold her), but we love her and will help her current owner find her a good home. Let me know if you are interested!! She needs to go sailing!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Excitotoxins, BPA, Money and My Food (Part 2)

If you missed Part 1, follow this link.

At the end of my last post, I promised to shrink your grocery store... Here goes. Check out this picture:

There are three significant things in the photo above, none of which are immediately apparent. The first is that these were the last three cans and boxed mix I had in my cupboards. The second is that I made a complete meal using just these four items plus spices (recipe to follow). The third is that--surprisingly enough--the Jiffy Mix, while not perfect, may just be the safest food in the bunch.

The other three canned items all likely contain BPA, something that was hot in the press several years ago as consumers demanded that it be removed from baby bottles and water bottles. But it is still in the linings of canned goods. I have known this for awhile, which may be true for you too, but I only recently learned just how damaging to our health BPA can be. So! I made our last canned meal from these items, and thought it somewhat odd that I was able to do so, as I certainly didn't plan ahead of time that these would be the last three. The recipe is quick, easy, and can contribute to cancer, obesity, heart disease, and immune dysfunction (to name just a few).

Here is what you do:

1) Gently warm the coconut milk and pumpkin in a cook-pot over low heat, stirring to mix well.
2) Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans, then puree them + 1/4 cup water in a Cuisinart, if you can.  Yes! We received a tiny Cuisinart for Christmas. Look how cute it is:

3) If you pureed the beans, then mix them into the coconut/pumpkin until smooth and warmed through. You may add more milk (coconut or cow's) to thin if desired. Season to taste with garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. Then serve! The bonus here is that my kid ate the soup with the beans pureed. Last time I made it I put the beans in whole, and she wouldn't eat it.
4) If you cannot puree the beans, just stir them in whole and continue warming gently until heated through. Season as above in step three, then serve.

Note: I also made the jiffy biscuits to serve with this meal, but will detail the no oven "how to" in my next post.

There you have it! An easy recipe made with healthy foods that can wreck havoc with your health! Will you still make it? You could of course buy organic whole pumpkin and cook it then puree it, and buy organic garbanzo beans and cook them and puree them... but I'm not so sure what you can do about the coconut milk... let me know if you have ideas (I checked out the boxed coconut milk but it has... carageenan! Note: I am still struggling with the carageenan question. I am finding very conflicting information about it, and have yet to uncover what I think is a "solid source." Tips are appreciated.)

But all this begs the question: 

What's up with BPA? Why is it in my canned foods and Why is it so bad?

I read a great interview with Frederick vom Saal in Mother Earth News. Vom Saal is a BPA researcher at the University of Missouri's Endocrine Disruptor Group. The following is excerpted/restated from the interview, with my comments.

BPA is derived from petroleum. It is present in the epxoy resins used to line aluminum soda cans and the steel cans that contain your soups, beans and vegetables. BPA was approved by the EPA for use as a food contact material in 1963, but has been around in other products since 1910. Why is this bad? Citing research dating from the late 1990s to present, vom Saal believes BPA contributes to multiple health empidemics, including:

heart disease
immune dysfunctions including allergies and asthma
early puberty
damage to every part of the reproductive system
uterine fibroids
ovarian cancer
breast cancer
low sperm counts
prostate cancer
abnormalities of the urethra
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
learning disabilities
social behavior disruption
"It causes the brain of a young animal to look like a senile, aged adult, and it's a cause of impaired memory" (This sounds like the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but without any hope for a little time of joy in a younger future)

Alright. That's a lot of big bad stuff. So tell me again why BPA is in our food containers? Well, it helps create great-looking, versatile products. Further, when it is in a chain-linked polymer form it isn't a problem. The problem occurs when the chains are exposed to high temperatures or a bit of an alkaline environment. Then, they break apart, and when the molecules break away they become a hormone.

So... I have never been inside a huge, industrial, canning establishment, but I know canning at home requires high temperatures. I'm assuming the same is true on an industrial scale. This means all those cans are exposed to heat, and then begin leaking BPA into your food.

The rationalization for using BPA was, "Even if it is an estrogen (a hormone), it's so weak you don't need to worry about it." But vom Saal and researchers used breast cancer cells to study estrogen chemicals for their potency, and BPA "lit up like a Christmas tree." Vom Saal states: "We said, 'Holy Makeral! What is it that would ever make anybody think this is weak?"

What the Research Shows... very interesting...

There are now more than 1,000 studies of BPA from both independent and industry-funded sources. ONE HUNDRED percent of INDUSTRY funded studies conclude that BPA is perfectly safe. Vom Saal reviewed the entire body of BPA literature seven years ago, and found that greater than NINETY percent of independent studies  reported BPA harms our endocrine system. Since then, the ratio of studies demonstrating harm to those "not showing harm" has increased dramatically.

Unfortunately for us, BPA is one of 62,000 chemicals grandfathered in through the Toxic Substances Control Act. This means there is no regulation of BPA, even though the FDA has stated that it agrees there is reason for concern that BPA causes prostate cancer, early puberty and other health problems. And because BPA is a grandfathered chemical, the FDA cannot ban it or regulate it. They cannot even require companies to disclose its use.

There is a great deal more of excellent information in the article, but my goal here is not to re-type it, just to alert you and make you curious enough to learn more. The entire article may be read at Mother Earth News.

One immediate concern I have (other than damage to every part of my reproductive system) is for simple boat provisioning... but I guess this is just one more strike against cans. Already they are:

1) Heavy
2) Consume much recycling space when empty, and now
3) Poisonous too.

Thoughts? Comments? Ideas for coconut milk?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Excitotoxins, BPA, Money and My Food (Part I)

I've been mulling over this post for days. On Friday, I was in some strange state of denial mixed with outrage. On Saturday I was incredulous paired with disgust. By Sunday, I was convinced that the contents of my food was somehow connected to the instability of the Euro, the teeter-totter of Greece defaulting, and American unemployment.

A part of me thinks this could still be the case, but I don't have a good working hypothesis yet.

What set me on this path? Canadian radio of course. (On a side note, has anyone else noticed that Canada never seems to pop up in all the "global economy collapse news"? What is going on up there?). Anyway, Canadian radio! The station I was listening to was interviewing a nutritionist about "Excitotoxins." Excitotoxins are a class of substances that damage neurons through paroxysmal activity. The laymen terms the nutritionist used described cells as "basically getting so excited and overstimulated that they commit suicide." Wikipedia defines Excitotoxicity as:

"The pathological process by which nerve cells are damaged and killed by glutamate and similar substances. This occurs when receptors for the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate (glutamate receptors) such as the NMDA receptor and AMPA receptor are overactivated."

Anyone have a problem with that? You should:

"There are a growing number of Clinicians and Scientists who are convinced that excitotoxins play a critical role in the development of several neurological disorders, including migraines, seizures, infections, abnormal neural development, certain endocrine disorders, specific types of obesity, and especially the neurodegenerative diseases; a group of diseases which includes: ALS, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease, and olivopontocerebellar degeneration." -- Dr. Richard Blaylock, MD, Author of "Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills"

So what over-activates (i.e. overexcites) your neurons to the point that they just freak out and kill themselves? (We're talking your brain here, brain cells running like lemmings off the cliff.) The easy answer is MSG, mono-sodium glutamate. But wait! Stay with me, 'cause you're probably thinking, "Duuuhhh, I know MSG is bad. Old news." I thought so too, but the delicious stew you're making just got thicker...

Apparently, unbeknown to me, food manufacturers have engaged in a sort of "secret arms race" with the consumers of their products. More and more, consumers are reading labels and examining the ingredient lists on the foods they buy. But an informed consumer is a dangerous consumer, and the food manufacturers escalated their deception accordingly. They took MSG off their ingredient lists, and moved the three big bad letters to the front of the product, declaring it "MSG free!" And we believed... At least I believed.

I believed, and didn't think to look for the loop holes. And unfortunately, there are a lot of them. There are all kinds of substances that affect your glutamate receptors just like MSG, or that contain MSG. Food manufacturers even use other languages to hide the true identities of ingredients! How many of us in the U.S. are going to know German for sodium? And who knew that was even allowed? It's crazy! Are you starting to see the connection to the European Debt Crisis here??

So what do we do? The hard answer is to memorize the following lists, or carry them with you every time you shop. The easy answer is to just change the way you shop, because you'll have to anyway once you realize that all those yummy, natural, boxed/canned/wrapped products you've been buying all have excitotoxins in them. This is a hard conclusion to come to, hence my "Friday of Outraged Denial." After all, I had just bought ten bucks worth of nutritional yeast. Now that I know each delicious flake is hungrily eying my precious neurons, it has obviously got to go (and leave me wondering how many cells are no longer with me after four years of consumption).

Another important point to remember: By FDA definition, all MSG is "naturally occurring." This means the words "All Natural" on your food mean... well, nothing really. At least in terms of your health.

So!! These ALWAYS contain MSG
Glutamic acid
Monosodium glutamate
Calcium caseinate
Textured protein
Monopotassium glutamate
Sodium caseinate
Yeast nutrient
Yeast extract
Yeast food
Autolyzed yeast
Hydrolyzed protein (any protein that is hydrolyzed)
Hydrolyzed corn gluten
Natrium glutamate (natrium is Latin/German for sodium)

These OFTEN contain MSG or create MSG during processing
Carrageenan --This is in all chocolate milk I looked at, including organic. I used to think it was okay because it comes from seaweed.. NOT SO.
Malt extract
Natural pork flavoring
Citric acid
Malt flavoring
Bouillon and Broth -- I thought I was smart buying "Better than Boullion," but Yeast Extract is right there in it!
Natural chicken flavoring
Soy protein isolate
Natural beef flavoring
Soy sauce
Barley malt
Soy sauce extract
Whey protein concentrate
Soy protein
Whey protein
Soy protein concentrate
Whey protein isolate
Protease enzymes
Anything protein fortified -- Power/Nutritional bars anyone??
Flavors(s) & Flavoring(s)
Anything enzyme modified
Anything fermented
Natural flavor(s) --- I couldn't find a single yogurt at the store that didn't list this one. AND the nutritionist said Natural Flavorings are often worse for you than the Artificial Flavorings. Sigh.
Enzymes anything
Seasonings (the word “seasonings”)

Aaaaaaahhhh!!!!!!! What do we do? It is only the Wednesday after that first Friday for me, so I'm not very far into this, but I'm doing two things:
1) Singing praises to my husband who got me started only buying whole milk (low-fat and no-fat milk products often contain milk solids which contain MSG)
2) Basically not buying things that have ingredient lists, unless the ingredient list only includes basic food items that I know I could store and keep in my own cupboards.

I tell you, on Sunday the grocery store looked like an entirely different place to me. But I took solace in the fact that there are plenty of foods with no real ingredient list. Really yummy foods like eggs, cheese, whole fruits and vegetables, organic meats, grains, legumes. When I packed my husband's lunch this morning, I sent him off with a banana, an avocado, a small green salad, and leftovers from last night's dinner of lentils, yellow split peas and rice spiced with cumin.

My next post will move onto BPA... and will shrink the grocery store even more...

Here are some links where you can learn more about Excitotoxins. I would love to hear feedback and comments about this. The information has been out there for awhile. More people need to know.

*Thank you to The Very Essence Blog" for the MSG lists. Additional information about the lists is available at: The Little Surprises in Our Food