• raw temptations and working lunches

    August 30, 2009

    I’m so used to working from home now that the idea of taking a “lunch hour” like regular folk fills me with both excitement and dread.  On the one hand it’s what I most look forward to; on the other I don’t have the luxury (and control) of my fridge and my Vita-Mix.  But I’ve been reporting to an office for the past two weeks, and it’s the first time since switching to a high-raw diet.

    Have I been high raw at the office?  Kinda sorta.  Here’s how it goes:

    -I start the day with a breakfast bowl packed with fruit (recipe to come).  That’s all raw.
    -I blend up a big green smoothie before I leave and put it into my Sigg bottle, then I down it the minute I settle into my desk and power up the PC (massive culture shock for a Mac user).

    So far, so raw.  This particular office has the added touch of fruit bowls in the kitchen, but the bananas are terribly unripe, and you know how I feel about that.  And crunching an apple in an open office space just doesn’t feel right.  So what do I do?  I’d love to tell you that I gamely scoop out the neglected tangerines in the bottom of the bowl.  Nope.  Not since I discovered that the vending machine stocks Green & Blacks 70% chocolate.  Someone in Human Resources is very smart.

    Yes, folks, that’s right, I’ve been having one of those 30g mini bars every day.  What’s this thing Natalia Rose says about having a square of dark chocolate?  Who the heck can have just a square?  Notice how she doesn’t specify what size such square should be.  The bar comes out of the vending machine cold, so I also got in the habit of setting it atop a mug of tea to warm it up.  Oh boy.

    But I’m getting ahead of myself, because between the green smoothie and the square(s) is lunch.  Except for when I have the chocolate in the morning, and that only happened once, when I had bought a large bar of dark chocolate from Marks & Spencer, ate half of it, and “hid” it under some papers for the following afternoon…

    Anyway, lunch.  Raw options in Farringdon where I’ve been working are not easy to come by, but I’ve found a few things that are pretty close:

    First up is Abokado, an airy little sushi place where, surprisingly, they had this salad box with falafel.  Nice and colorful, just how I like it.
    abokado

    Cute, eh?

    And then on Friday I headed over to Exmouth Market again to Spinach & Agushi, the Ghanaian stall.  I love, love this place.  Not only am I overcome by the smell of frying plantains – a frequent presence in my Cuban upbringing – but the staff are very warm, and the food is fantastic.  The menu is simple: pick a stew or two, and ask for it with the plantains or red rice.  I went for the rice with spinach  & agushi plus black-eyed bean stew. The agushi looks like ground beef but is actually made with crushed pomegranate seeds.  Everything is layered in a box and then topped with an optional “garnish” of shredded carrots:

    jollof

    Oh, wow, I could have this at any hour of the day.  Add “Ghanaian recipes” to my list of things to look up.

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  • a smart thing to do

    August 23, 2009

    Tickets are now on sale for the September 21st American launch of climate-change film The Age of Stupid.

    I saw this when it premiered in London earlier this year (sometimes we do get things first over here!) and thought it was about time this message came to the big screen (and I’m not talking PowerPoint).   I signed up for the mailing list right away, and I wish you could see the emails from filmmaker Franny Armstrong.  With no advertising budget, Franny and crew send out massive missives to get people to spread the word – and tell you to keep spreading.  So, if you’re stateside, buy your ticket and grab some non-GM popcorn (real of cauliflower!) on September 21st (a day before the UN’s climate change meeting in New York) to catch The Age of Stupid.

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  • that’s a lotta quinoa

    August 21, 2009

    You’ve gotta love London.

    I’m working on the east side of town this week and headed over to Exmouth Market in Farringdon during lunch.  Friday is stall day, and you can always find all sorts of ethnic cuisine, including Ghanaian, Jewish, Mexican, Spanish, Indian — you name it.  Today I happened upon this darling little stall called Keenwah, which is of course how you pronounce quinoa.

    keenwah1

    A pseudo-grain, quinoa is really a seed, and it has a high protein content.  You can cook quinoa like rice or sprout it.  You’ll find it packaged or in the bulk bins of your health-food store.

    I was overwhelmed by the choice at Keenwah.  All the options were veggie, and all but two were vegan.  I asked the vendor how much of it was raw, and he pointed out that he blanched some of the veggies to make them a bit more tender.

    I’m often stumped about what to do with quinoa, but this stall was bursting with colors and ideas.  It occured to me that the draw of this place wasn’t the quinoa at all but being able to have it in all sorts of guises at the same time.

    keenwah2

    I got a medium bowl packed with about five different kinds plus olives and sunflower seeds, and I ate ever last morsel.  I can’t imagine doing that with only one recipe.  This was like the Baskin Robbins of quinoa!  I’d love to duplicate this at home, but I honestly can’t imagine myself making mutliple kinds of quinoa salad.  Maybe I’d do it once.  So, to Keenwah it is.

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  • stunning salads and forever friends

    August 19, 2009

    On Sunday I went to my friend Sara Stoneham’s for lunch and couldn’t stop staring at the beautiful spread she had prepared for me, especially since she had insisted she was a terrible cook.  I met Sara when I moved to London in 2004 and showed up at the advertising agency she worked at looking for advice on how to break into the industry here.   I’ve always known Sara is a gifted copywriter, and now I also know she is a liar: she’s a stupendous hostess who served me one of the best salads I’ve ever had.  When I told her afterwards I wish I had taken a picture, she told me she already had.  Here it is, along with the email message that is so very her.  I only wish she had a website already so you could learn more about her.  Come on, Sara, let the world hear about you.  And thank you, dear friend, for always surprising me and teaching me.

    The recipe is stolen from Jamie Oliver and he got it from Das, who runs the The Rasa in Stoke Newington and who made it UK by the cress which is not an Indian thing. It is on p112 of Jamie’s Dinners.

    I like Jamie – he was cute when I was younger – and he swears almost as much as me.

    The Rasa is a great place for Kerelan food – I will take you to the restaurant one day – it is just round the corner from my house and is painted totally exotic pink which relieves the grey north London gloom.
    keralan-salad1
    Crunchy Kerelan Salad
    1 coconut
    2 red peppers
    4 punnets cress
    1 bunch spring onions
    2 ripe mangos

    dressing
    dressing thumb-size piece of ginger
    juice of 3/4 limes
    7/8 tablespoons good olive oil
    sea salt
    pepper

    Grate the coconut. Chop the rest.
    Shove on the dressing. Eat fresh.
    Goes nicely in flatbread.

    (Jamie describes how to do it a lot more.  But really how much does one need to be told about chopping salad?)
    I add some garlic.
    l love Kerelan salads as I did an Ayervedic course there and totally cleaned my system for the first time in my life. Even had hot oil up the bum!!!! Indians being obsessed with pooing and eating. When I was there I only ate stuff right for my ‘varta/kapha’ type – so I didn’t have this salad but I had many similar. You would totally love it there. All organic fresh salad type foods – and little ‘messes’ of fragrant thali curries – all veggie.  Some designed to purify and detox and purge your system and then later others to nourish and rebalance the varta /kapha/pitta in your body.

    All that bored me a bit – but I loved the yoga and 2 massages a day…maybe you could blag a way to go by writing some articles…
    I reckon that you are vata/pitta (air fire) constitution but I could easily be wrong…
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  • the cauliflower crusade

    August 16, 2009

    Here in Britain, cauliflower has been in the news quite a bit.  Apparently people aren’t paying much attention to the dimply vegetable that grows very well in these climes.  I have to admit that if it weren’t for the recipe I’m about to share, I wouldn’t think much of cauliflower, either.  Yet have a look around the net and you’ll find some interesting uses:

    How about some raw “popcorn”?

    Or maybe you’d like some mashed potatoes minus the potato.

    Hmm, I must admit I’ve never tried any of these recipes; and I can’t promise I will anytime soon.  Whenever I buy a head of cauliflower, I find it difficult to depart from my usual cauliflower recipe because it’s so darn good.

    Before you click on the recipe below, though, check out today’s edition of the Food Programme on Radio 4 all about…you guessed it:  cauliflower.  The BBC strikes again with a wonderful half hour devoted to the vegetable in question featuring chef Yotam Ottolenghi.  I was hooked the second he said that food should, first and foremost, be about joy.

    And with that, I’ll never tire of making, eating and sharing this:

    new recipe:  year-round cauliflower dahl

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  • diet & genes: take two

    August 12, 2009

    In June I wrote about the impact of evolution and migration patterns on diet.  The post came after I attended an event at the Science Museum called “Moving Genes,” and it featured Dr. Mark Thomas, professor of Evolutionary Genetics at University College London.

    Whenever I write about someone, I like to send them a link to the post; and I was delighted when Dr. Thomas replied right away.  He attached a couple of relevant scientific papers, which admittedly gave me a minor headache as it has been quite a while since university.  He also very kindly let me know that I had misquoted him!

    Now, I actually love it when I’m wrong; because it means I’ll learn something, and in this case it also meant I’d have another post for you.  We agreed to talk the following week to clear things up.

    I wish I had hours and hours to speak with Dr. Thomas; his subject matter is so interesting to me it almost makes me want to go back to school.  I’ll try to sum up our conversation:

    The human species

    In comparison to other species, our biological difference are mostly skin deep.  The operative word here is “mostly”, which I had left out of my previous post.

    We all share a common ancestor that lived around 2,500 years ago.  It’s possible that some or many of us do not carry any genes that were inherited from this common ancestor.

    If we go back 4,000 years, everybody that was alive was either a common ancestor of everybody alive today or not an ancestor of anybody alive today.  I had to read that one several times, and I’m still not sure what it means.  Dr. Thomas clarified that it’s these points that many geneticists found hard to understand – not the general information I had related earlier.

    Milk tolerance

    As I learned during out call, just one word can throw off an entire scientific conclusion.  Dr. Thomas corrected my previous assertion about the digestibility of milk amongst Europeans: some of them have only been able to digest milk for 7,000-8,000 years.

    During times of drought and famine, populations that had access to cow’s milk – and could digest the sugar in milk – could ride out crop failure by drinking this (relatively) uncontaminated fluid.  Therefore, these groups would survive and reproduce whereas others could not.

    Frugivorous origins?

    As I mentioned before, I’ve been reading Dr. Douglas Graham’s 80 10 10 Diet – an intriguing read that makes a good case for how humans are designed to obtain the majority of our calories from fruit.  Dr. Thomas said that the best evidence for a frugivorous past is the color receptors in our eyes.  The majority of mammals have two receptors, whereas we and many of our primate cousins have three – the better to identify fruit with.

    Meat heads

    Again, a clarification:  Populations who ate meat must have had a major advantage, and we can measure this by looking at their genes.

    Dr. Thomas says:  “Our brains could not have evolved to be so big unless we had a high-quality diet with a high meat component.  Big brains are just too energetically expensive to maintain without rich food.”  However, he adds that we would have started out as scavengers, not hunters, until we developed tools 2.5 – 1.5 million years ago.

    I was in error when I stated, “our brains would not have evolved had we remained at the hunter-gatherer stage.”  Actually, we’ve all been at this stage our entire history up to 10,000 years ago.

    I learned a great deal during our call and was of course curious about Dr. Thomas’ vegetarian origins.  He said he went veggie at two-and-a-half years old when he saw his mother plucking a chicken and made the connection between the bird and his dinner.  He says, quite candidly, that he simply finds the idea of eating poultry and seafood disgusting.

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  • the invisible festival

    August 7, 2009

    Hello all!  Love music festivals but not the mud?  Then you need to know about The Invisible Festival.  My friend Paul and his buddies have put together this very cool concept, and it’s taking place this weekend – right on your computer!  Paul asked me to write up some festive food ideas for it, and you can read what I came up with here.  Have fun and happy listening!

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