Sunday, January 10, 2016

What I eat: Personal freedom vs. Evangelism

“Evangelism is the preaching of the gospel or the practice of giving information about a particular doctrine or set of beliefs to others with the intention of converting others to the Christian faith.”

I am a passionate supporter of individual’s freedom. Freedom of speech, religion, lifestyle, sexual orientation etc. I put freedom very high on my list of important things in life. This includes freedom of what people eat.I don’t really care if you eat gluten free. You want to skip the dairy products? Fine with me.

This week I have been to a Birthday party. I met this lady who was to my judgement morbidly obese. While drinking her mixed cocktail obviously containing cola she told me she now eats gluten and dairy free. She was telling me she doesn’t feel too well at the moment and she was diagnosed with osteoporosis.”And if I lose a couple of kilos on the way it would be great, too”. Note: She didn’t say “I am overweight, I need to lose some kilos.” She then went on telling me how bad gluten and dairy is. Not that I heard it for the first time. As a baker I have – or to be more precise – tried to avoid many of these discussions.

Same party, skinny lady with a short skirt. More a long jumper, or something. She was there with a teenage girl and while hacking with a manicured nail enforced finger into her smart phone she informed everyone that this is her “daughter’'”. “Well not really my daughter. I adopted her when she was three. Well not really adopted her, but she is like a daughter. She comes from Germany”. That German “daughter” then went on – as Germans in New Zealand do – to complain about food and things. She especially mentioned the bad bread. “I so miss the good German bread”. Never missing an opportunity to get into a chat with a pretty girl I told her I am a baker. “Oh do you bake gluten free”"?” “No I am sorry.” She immediately turned away from me and ignored me for the remainder of the evening. How the heck someone can crave for good German bread but wants it gluten free is beyond me.

Believe System

What people believe defines their world. And we usually believe that our world and our view on life is the only true way. This often makes us to Evangelists. We can’t understand how others can not see that we are on the only true and right way. This includes our food. What we eat and what we see as healthy is our food world view. The issue is if this view is manipulated and coined by outside sources of information who most of the time follow their own interests – read: Profits.

Fructose Malabsorption

During some research I came across information related to fructose malabsorption. It is causing almost identical symptoms as coeliac disease and probably Non Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS). I say “probably” because as opposed to fructose malabsorption, NCGS is still not confirmed that it exists. About 0.1 – 0.2% of the population suffer from Coeliac, an estimated 2% of the population suffer from NCGS. 33% of the population suffer from fructose malabsorption and half of them show symptoms. Hereditary Fructose Malabsorption can be deadly. About 1 in 10,000 people suffer from this disease. Oh by the way, 1 in 10,000 is 0.1%. Yes the same percentage as there are coeliac sufferers.
Fructose is everywhere. Fruit, Honey, Sugar, And especially High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Now the question suggests itself why do we have a huge gluten free but no fructose free food industry? Is it possible that the sugar loaded food industry has no interest in initiating a fructose free believe system in consumers? Doesn’t this reveal the gluten free movement as purely driven by profit?

Isn’t it amazing how we as a consumer support this believe system and spread our world view – or is it the food industry’s world view? - onto everyone who is willing to listen – or not listen?

Public Health

Vegans believe eating meat is bad for our society. I believe soft drinks and fast food is bad for our world. Others believe alcohol is the demise of society as we know it. The health of the public is directly linked to our prosperity – financially and mentally. Do we need to put public health above freedom of choosing our food? How can we find out what is good for the public’s health and what isn’t? Is vegan the way? A sober lifestyle? No dairy? Fat free? Skip the eggs?

The big challenge is to define what makes the public healthy. The next step would be to promote this world view. If we can change people’s food believe system and then give them the freedom to chose eating based on this believe system we should achieve both: a healthy public and people who are free to chose what they want to eat. 
I don’t hold my breath because I suspect that these two goals are in opposition to the food industry’s goals. We would need leaders who would be willing to stand up for us and publicly state that the health of everybody on earth is more important than the profit of some companies.


Captain Nutritious
Fighting for our food.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Are you a lover or a hater?

Everybody who knows me knows I am a lover of food and cooking. If I wouldn’t be closer to the end of my professional life but rather at the beginning I would definitely chose a career in food. I still managed to start a food business and I am loving it.
Like many people who enjoy doing something,we struggle to understand why others can’t love it as much as we do. Or at least a little. I find it hard to understand and even accept when people say “I don’t cook”. To me that’s like saying “I don’t breathe”.
Most of the people I know would be capable to follow basic instructions. If I’d say to you “Fill that bucket with water and carry it over there and empty it into this hole” I am sure most people could do this. So why can’t people follow an instruction saying “Fill a pot with water, add a teaspoon of salt, put it onto the stove, switch it on and bring to the boil. Once it is boiling add 250 grams of spaghetti”. What could possibly go wrong? Well you could forget to add the water? Or you night not recognize boiling water? You confuse rice with spaghetti?
I think a lot of people don’t like to cook because they don’t do it right. Let me describe two approaches using yesterday’s dinner, Chickpea tagine with figs. A quite simple but very delicious and somewhat exotic recipe.

The hater

I put the pot on the stove and started chopping the onions. Then I got two gloves of garlic and peeled them. I switch on the pot and add some olive oil. I chopped the garlic and added the onions and garlic to the pot. Going back to the recipe I found I need to add spices. After rummaging around in the pantry until I found the spice mix on the back shelf I discovered that my onions and especially the garlic were quite dark. Ahh well. I added the spices and because everything was on the brink of getting burned. I added the vegetable stock. Reading through the recipe again I see I need to drain and rinse the chickpeas and add the tomatoes. The stock started boiling while I open the can of tomatoes. Where is that dreaded can opener. That drawer is far too full. Oh I found the nutmeg grater I looked for last time. Anyways, lets open the chickpea cans because they have a pull open lid. That stock is really boiling, I better turn that down. Ok drained the chickpeas and put them into the stock. Found the can opener and the tomatoes go in as well. Back to the recipe, oops forgot to rinse the chickpeas. Ahh well, doesn’t matter.
Ok, what’s next? Ahh yes, beans need to be cleaned and halved, zucchini chopped and figs chopped. Ok, get the beans out of the fridge and cut the ends off. Gosh that’s taken forever. That pot is cooking already quite some time now. Oh recipe says only 10 minutes. I get it off the stove. Ok back to the beans. They are finished now. Get the zucchini out and chop them. Same with the figs. No idea how big or small so I just chop. Added the beans already into the pot, followed by the zucchini. The figs go in and the pot back on the heat.
Back to the recipe. Ok two cups of couscous soaked in two cups of boiling water. That’s easy. Let’s get this out of the way. Done.
Why is that veggie stuff not boiling. That takes ages.
“Boil until vegetables are soft” – ok lets try a piece of zucchini. Nah still a bit tough. Keep boiling.
Ok zucchini are soft now. Gosh that took 10 minutes until it came up to the boil and another 10 minutes to soften the zucchini. What’s the couscous doing? Recipe says to fluff it with a fork after 5 minutes. Ahh well it was now 20 minutes. Man that stuff is tough now.And a bit cold. Break it up a bit, not really fluffy more like clumps.
Ok, put couscous on a plate, top with the vegetables and serve. Couscous is really cold, beans are half boiled. I don’t like the bitter taste of the burnt onions and garlic. Why can’t those recipes never work? How can anyone on this planet love doing this. I hate cooking.

The lover

Ok let’s read through this recipe. Cool, not that difficult. I have enough time to do the vegetables and need to time the couscous so that it is ready as soon as the vegetables are cooked.
01 - CookingGo through the list of ingredients and get everything onto the bench. Where is that spice mix? Ah here on the back shelf. Ok check I have everything. Yes all there.

Now again let’s look at the ingredients. Ok chop the onions and put in a bowl. Same with 02 - Cookingthe garlic. Prepare two cups of vegetable stock. The instant vegie stock can go back into the pantry. Open all the cans, rinse and drain the chickpeas. Chop zucchini,and figs, clean the beans and break in half. Back to the recipe. Ok the beans, zucchini and figs go into the pot at the same time so they can be put on a plate together.  Put two teaspoons of spices into a small bowl. Put a measuring cup for the two cups of boiling water onto the bench and pre-boil the water already. This will just be reheated when it is needed. Put the oil bottle, salt pot and peppermill onto the bench. Ok what all ingredients there and prepared.
Reading the instructions again. Get a pot on the stove and put in some oil. Once hot add onions and garlic,add the spices. Stir until they are soft. Done. Add in the chickpeas, tomatoes. Hmmm not quite sure if it might be a bit too much liquid. I better only add 2/3 of the stock.  Ok that needs to come up to the boil now. I better remove what I don’t need anymore. 04 - Cooking

Ok it needs a while to get to the boil. I’ll have a beer an see what I’ll cook tomorrow.
Now add the rest of the ingredients and boil until soft. After a couple of minutes try the beans. They might need another 3 or so minutes. Boil some water for the couscous, pour it over it and let soak. Check the beans after 4 minutes – perfect. Switch off the heat. Couscous needs another minute, fluff it up nicely, plate it and – bon appetite. Cooked to perfection, really delicious. I love cooking.

At least try it

While this approach might not work for everyone it is an organised way to take away most of the stressful situations. This is how the professionals cook. You will not see a professional cook rummaging around in the middle of cooking, trying to find the tarragon. Or chopping carrots while the onions are in the pan. It is sometimes a good approach looking at the professionals and what they do and try to apply this to our life. I am not saying you should wear chef’s whites at home. Give it a go, try a more organized approach. prepare as much as possible and who knows – you might enjoy cooking.
Share your experiences with us. I’d love to hear if it helped – or didn’t help.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Pull finger, kick your own bum and start!

Ridiculous! 4 weeks have passed and I have done – nothing! That’s a great start Captain – NOT! Leading by example, eh? Yeah right! As I said – ridiculous. Maybe I should rename myself to “Captain Ridiculous”?

But I have a plan. Ha ha ha, seriously, I have a plan for next week. I used to do this in the past. Sitting down and make a menu for the following week. I haven’t done it for a while. Not sure why because I think it is a great way to cook healthy food.

For next week I planned only Tuesday to Thursday. I will be at the Kerikeri Cooking Club on Monday, showing my fellow club members some recipes with Ricotta. Lilo will have to survive on her own which she is more than capable of. And Friday is my busiest day in the bakery and I don’t have time to cook. I also left the weekend out because – let’s be honest – you need some “What are we feeling like eating today” days in the week. That leaves Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

So here is the plan:

  • Tuesday
    • Herbed Mediterranean Frittata - The Medicinal Chef page 36
  • Wednesday
    • Calming Green Soup - The Medicinal Chef page 52
  • Thursday
    • Omega Pesto Pasta- The Medicinal Chef page 103

The good thing is that this gives me a very short shopping list. Most ingredients come from our pantry or even better out of the garden. Especially tomatoes. We are drowning on tomatoes. All I need to buy is some flaxseed oil and peas. Peas are another “Pull finger, kick bum” story in my life because I never got around to plant them. Now I have to pay the price – literally.

So if the anticipation was killing you, if you were chewing your finger nails and were waiting for me to start, here we go. I have the plan – nothing can stop me now.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Cook A Book–The Medicinal Chef

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Yay! My first Cook A Book Challenge. For the first book I chose “The Medicinal Chef” by Dale Pinnock. I love this book for several reasons. The recipes are straight forward, no exotic ingredients. Focus is on healthy food. The recipes use fresh ingredients and look crisp and healthy. I love the icons on each recipe which tells the reader what this recipe is good for. The icons tell you that a recipe is beneficial in one or more of these categories:

  • Skin
  • Joints & Bones
  • Respiratory System
  • Immune System
  • Metabolic System
  • Mental Health & Nervous System
  • Heart & Circulation
  • Digestive System
  • Reproductive & Urinary System

The basic concept of the book is “Food for medicine” without following the often experienced boring health food evangelism. The recipes are fresh and fun to cook and eat.

Challenge start 05 JAN 2014
Recipes done pre-challenge 3
Total number of recipes 79
Target number of recipes in Challenge 59 (75%)
Status 0/59 (0%)


Cook A Book–Introduction

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How many cooking books do you have?

My view on this is:

  • 0 – 5 – Some of your friends don’t really know you very well, do they? Otherwise they wouldn’t give you cooking books as a present. Or maybe they don’t cook themselves and needed to get rid of some cooking books they got as a present? I assume you see boiling an egg as cooking?
  • 6 – 10 – Your mother served home cooked meals. You see cooking as a necessary chore. Sometimes you enjoy cooking for others.
  • more than 10 – you are on the way to become a foodie. You watch cooking shows on TV. You might even own a proper chef knife.
  • More than 20 – I don’t believe you when you say you cook every night. I think you are addicted to colourful pictures of food. We call this Food Porn.

This is by far not scientific and probably not even realistic. I own over 40 cooking books. I stopped counting at 40 and I didn’t even count my bread making books.  I rest my case.

How much do you use your cooking books?

What’s your guess? How many recipes do you do out of a cooking book. Grab your favourite one or even the one you think you use most. Count all the recipes. Now go through it and count the ones you made at least once. I just got Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italy off the shelf. It has just over 100 recipes. How many did I ever make from them? Take guess….. Four! And I honestly can’t name a cooking book where I think I get a better result. I find that sad. What a waste of resources. Here I have thousands of great recipes on my shelf and I don’t use them. They must be great recipes because there is a reason why I bought every single book. What do you guess? How many books do we have on our shelves we never made even one recipe from them?

That has to change. Hence I set myself a challenge. The  ….

Cook-A-Book Challenge

So that’s the idea: I chose one cookbook from my vast collection. I count the recipes in them and I set myself a goal. First I thought I will do every single recipe in the book. But I have one factor in my life which is a bit a limitation: I live with a vegetarian. No meat, poultry or fish. Which doesn’t mean I won’t do any meat recipes. I have done so in the past. But I always make sure that the side dishes are good enough to make a meal for a vegetarian eater. Some recipes in some books will not provide this opportunity. I might have to skip those.

I will then write about my experiences and adventures. I will not post the recipes. If you want to cook the recipe, get the book. I think it would be unfair to post a big number of recipes from a cook book online. The author has to live from something. We have great public libraries which have a huge pile of cooking books. That’s where I got a lot of my cook books from. Then I bought the ones I liked. A great way to test before you buy.

I will not set myself a timeframe. This has several reasons. First of all I don’t want to put myself under pressure. Cooking is fun and should be enjoyed. I also fear I would fail if I say for example I do 80% of Jamie’s Italy in 3 months. No time pressure. The other reason is that I don’t want to cook anything which is out of season.  Some recipes will have to wait until i.e. asparagus is available.

I will put the statistics into the header of each report. When I started with the book, how many recipes I have done etc.

Recipes I have done already before the challenge will not count against the actual percentage. I will have to do them again.

So these are the rules I set myself.  Let’s see how I do.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sugar is bad, Fat, too and Salt - But is this really the problem?

A Facebook friend of mine posted a link to this new movie about sugar they currently make in Australia. About sugar and how bad it is. This coincides with me reading the book "Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us" by Michael Moss.

In general it is great that more and more people become aware of these issues. But is this really our problem?

Sugar = obesity, Fat = heart disease, salt, too. And then we have wheat, lactose and dairy products in general, meat vs. vegetarian or even vegan, alcohol destroys brain cells, caffeine causes osteoporosis - the list of nutrition horrors is endless. And it is all basically correct. Basically! But what happens with this increase in awareness? You get more and more people who either are so confused that they don't know what to eat and drink anymore or you get people who come up with arguments like "There is more sugar in an apple than in a glass of soda pop!"

What really is our problem? It isn't sugar, fat and salt. It isn't wheat and dairy. It is processed food. All the ingredients those movie makers and book authors concentrate on are not bad in general. Yes, sugar isn't bad for you! Butter isn't either! They are bad in refined form, in pasteurized and homogenized form. In saturated form. In extruded, extracted, ultra heated and ammonia disinfected form. The sugar in your coffee or tea is not a problem. Even your cup or three of coffee per day isn't the problem. The 3 litres per day of caffeinated fizzy drinks is. Your steak on the BBQ isn't your problem, the burger from the fast food chain is. The salt in your pasta or homemade bread isn't the problem, the salt on the french fries you buy from the take away and the bag of potato chips is. The wheat in your sourdough you bought from the small bakery isn't your problem, the highly processed wheat (plus all the other emulsifiers, preservatives and aromatics) in the supermarket loaf is.

Yes all the books and movies do carry this message in them. They still do some sort of scaremongering which leads to overreaction. A movie against sugar, a book against fat is sending out the wrong signal.

When do we look at the real problem? When will we see more movies and books and blogs which tell us that the real problem is our food industry? That the real problem is processed food.  That the real problem is profits and shareholder values?