food recommended reading

A surprising new way to eat – no lectins!

I’ve recently begun cooking, shopping and eating in a new way.  It all came from a book, The Plant Paradox – the hidden dangers in healthy foods by Steven R. Gundry, MD which I learned about from Peter Diamandis.

All Roads Lead To The Gut

While I’ve been very much a conscious eater for the last 30 years of my life, I’ve begun discovering how much of our health is sourced back to the health of our gut.  The microbiome inside our stomachs are what keeps us healthy and when not, is responsible for something like 90% off disease!

Having battled skin issues like eczema, acne and dry skin patches for years with over the counter steroid creams, I knew I was only removing the symptoms and not the true root of the problem.

The Plant Paradox book goes into heavy detail, with scientific reasoning and anecdotal results, though from over 10,000 patients of Dr. Gundry.  The basic message is, we’ve been told all the wrong things about food.  It’s not about eating more protein, or eating only vegetables or only whole grains, in fact it’s all about lectins.

Lectins are a protein found in plants.  It’s what the plant produces to ward off bugs and predators as it gives anyone who eats them a bad stomach.  But over the hundreds of years, we’ve disconnected this cause and effect.  It’s the reason why peanuts cause so many issues, some immediately life-threatening.

So big surprises in my new shopping list and meal plans.

Good Fats are the Most Important

Olive oil, avocados, chocolate, walnuts, pistachios, almonds are my new favorite friends.

No nightshades!

This includes eggplants, peppers and tomatoes, all big favorites of my old diet!

No grains at all!

We humans are basically not meant to eat grains.  It’s the outer husk that is most problematic.  Brown rice is actually worse than the white rice, which is probably why the Chinese have been removing the shells from rice for thousands of years!    Whole grain bread – no way!

In my early reading of this book, I’ve found that the Yes list and No list of foods are pretty helpful and can be easy to follow.  It’s just the old habits and cravings that make it hard.

Bread?  Pizza?  Chips? Beer?

Well, it was nice to have known you once.

At least I can still have some wine and cheese, oh French cheese that is.  You’ll have read the book to get all the details.  I especially like the new food pyramid he offers.

food travel writing

Flying Morning Glory – A Journey Across Thailand

Flying Morning Glory

Back in the early 1990’s, I made a trip to Thailand to visit my father’s relatives.  It was the first time I was back since I was 6 years old when I came for a 2 week visit.  All I had remembered was the heat, the humidity and the rain as we were there in rainy season.  This time, I was there in the beautiful month of September and the air was much drier.   I had recently relocated to Hong Kong to join MTV-Asia as one of their first VJ’s for their new satellite channel on Star TV.  Being just 2 hours flying time away was too irresistible and within a month I was there.

My uncle Janjai, the third eldest, but clearly the leader of the family, decided that I must go see the north of the country and so we set off in a small beat up BMW with 2 of my other  my uncles on a week-long road trip to the northern city of Chiang Mai from busy, bustling Bangkok.  Not speaking any Thai, I had no idea where they were taking me, only that it was to see the country of my roots.

Our first day included stopping in and seeing the great temples and ruins along the way.  I especially remember Ayutthaya, with it’s many beautiful Buddhas and temple ruins.

Lunch was at a roadside restaurant beside a river under a canopy of trees.  Simple yet beautiful.  My Uncle said that this river ran through the entire country and on to Vietnam.   The rice server stood by us with a silver serving bowl and heaped serving after serving of lovely hot steaming jasmine rice to cool the flames of the red hot chili peppers.  I remember saying to myself, “I will never forget this moment as my senses are so alive.  My mouth as on fire!”  It’s no wonder Thailand is a Buddhist country.  I never felt so “in the present moment.”  You could say that chili peppers are a meditation device.

We reached the small town of Phitsanulouk by early evening.  The town is almost exactly halfway between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.   The skies were turning dark and we were hungry.  We checked into a reasonable hotel and ventured out looking for something to eat.

In the center of the town was a large open air restaurant.  It spanned across the street and on either side were tables with customer and waiters running back and forth.  All were ordering variations of the same thing:  Flying Morning Glory.  What the heck is that?  And just then a waiter took a tray and ran up a ramp to the top of a tractor trailer where large English words were emblazoned: “Flying Morning Glory.”

The waiter yelled out something like “Ready!”  The cook standing street-side with a roaring flame and huge wok, scooped up a bunch of green vegetables and flung them across the street above our heads to the waiter high on the top of the truck.  The waiter caught the goods and came running down the ramp to the serve another customer the specialty, hot, fresh and recently airborne.  Flying Morning Glory.

Recently, I went out to dinner with my Dad and my son in Queens, New York where there is a pocket of authentic Thai restaurants and groceries.  This is nowhere near as abundant as Los Angeles, but there are some tasty places.    We went to the now “discovered,” Sripraphai Restaurant, which even boasts Zagat ratings and a large crowd of mostly non-Thais.  My Dad spoke a few words in Thai and somehow we were whisked past the crowds and seated in a large spacious dining room.  When I first came to this restaurant back in the late 90’s, there was only one tiny storefront with plastic chairs and tablecloths.  Now, almost a decade and a half later, there’s 3 storefronts with modern decor, wine list and even a garden.  We quickly ordered and I asked for the “pad pak boong fai deng”  which is listed as “Thai Watercress” on the menu.

And suddenly…I was transported back to the roadside table in Phitsanulouk with the flying morning glory.

art film/video food joyful living

Empanadas – a film, a life, a recipe

My mother in law Beatriz passed away 3 days before Christmas 2010.  It was a long hard year when we heard the diagnosis of her late stage brain cancer.  She was such a well loved, vibrant, energetic and insatiably curious soul who could befriend someone in an instant.  So many of our friends who met Beatriz became instant friends.  One time at a beach in New Jersey, we met an acquantaince with a child adopted from Colombia.  She was excited to meet Beatriz who grew up in Medellin, in the state of Antioquia.  Within 20 minutes, it was like they had known each other for years.  When my wife and I lived in Hong Kong, Beatriz came for a weeklong visit.  Right away, a dear friend of ours made plans to visit her and to share recipes and shopping adventures.  The age difference of 30 years did not make any difference! They kept up writing letters to each other for years.

A few years ago, I had a sense that perhaps we should preserve and capture one of “Abuelita’s” signature recipes.  So armed with a basic point and shoot digital camera (a Fuji FinePix F20) I shot and edited this film Empanadas Antioquenas (in iMovie) and now it’s gone past tens of thousands of views on YouTube.  Beatriz has become everyone’s mother and Abuelita. I still need to add English subtitles, but you can pretty much follow along even without knowing Spanish.

In Loving Memory of Beatriz Valencia Agudelo

May 31, 1940 – December 22, 2010