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Yesterday, thanks to Twitter, I discovered an article in The Daily titled, Paula’s big fat secret.   The article claims the following:

  • Paula Deen, US Southern-style cook and cooking show host, has Type 2 diabetes.
  • Paula Deen hasn’t exactly shared that information with the public.  And she can’t eat her own meals anymore.
  • She is going to make millions as a spokesperson for a diabetes medication, probably for drugmaker Novartis. Novo Nordisk, according to the LATimes.

Here’s the thing that kills me:  Paula Deen’s cooking has always seemed, to me anyway, to be a lesson in how to give yourself diabetes! Or coronary disease.  Or other obesity-related illnesses, like colon cancer.

So she wins by teaching us to eat irresponsibly, and profits from it through her cookbooks and restaurant and Food Network show.  Now she’s going to profit by telling us to take a pill that treats the resulting illness.  Win-win for Paula.  And frankly, a smart move on Novartis’ part too.  Because most people aren’t going to care.  They think she’s nice.  They’re fans.  She makes food they enjoy eating.  And the poor woman was unfortunate enough to get diabetes, which really nobody can blame her for.  It’s an illness.

WRONG.

Paula Deen has long been criticized for irresponsibility when it comes to food.  Here are a few examples:

Normally, I wouldn’t criticize the woman so much myself.  Maybe she’s just ignorant about healthy diets and the implications of unhealthy ones.  But she responded to Mr. Bourdain’s criticism last year by saying,

“You know, not everybody can afford to pay $58 for prime rib or $650 for a bottle of wine. My friends and I cook for regular families who worry about feeding their kids and paying the bills … It wasn’t that long ago that I was struggling to feed my family, too.”

I’m calling bullshit here.  I grew up in the South, and I know how fond they are of their diets.  Fried mac and cheese, fried green beans, fried donuts, fried Twinkies, chicken fried steak, etc.  At no time have I ever thought that I couldn’t eat healthy because I couldn’t afford a $58 prime rib or a $650 bottle of wine.  This is a false argument, and she’s catering to those Southerners who don’t like the prissy, elitist, crunchy granola vegan intellectuals who criticize the Southern diet.

Ever heard of quinoa?  Or cous cous and grilled asparagus?  Black beans and brown rice with a little sour cream & salsa?   Or fish?  There are some fantastic ways to make fish yummy. Here are some of my favorite healthy recipes:

I’ll stop here.  You get the point.  Most of these meals can feed four folks for $20 or less.

I’m not saying you should never ever ever eat a pepperoni pizzza or a bacon cheeseburger.  I love both of those things, and had pizza just last night.  But I can minimize their negative health impacts by choosing slightly healthier options (grass feed beef, or less cheese, or turkey burger etc).  Or, you can go ahead and eat that really terrible-for-you comfort food… but rarely, instead of regularly.

It’s not that hard to eat better.   Last year, I started making a few substitutions, stopped eating out as much, limited table salt, and added fresh fruits and veggies as sides or “dessert” to most meals.  That, and a little time at the gym, and I’m 35 pounds lighter.  My cholesterol is finally good.  I’m no longer “obese” and I’m about to fall out of the “overweight” category too.  My blood sugar and metabolism and blood pressure are “optimal”… and I feel great.

I hope Paula Deen can, too.

And I hope all of us can begin to support a new health care paradigm, one that focuses on creating wellness rather than treating disease.  But that’s another blog post for another time.

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Most of us were using pots in the kichen long before we knew the utility of using pot in the kitchen. 

Recently, though, the New York Times’ Kim Severson published one of the more enjoyable NY Times articles I’ve seen in a long time, “Marijuana Fuels A New Kitchen Culture.”  While the article talks up a new pot-fueled kitchen culture, I’m not convinced there’s much “new” here beyond the fact that the NYTimes is willing to write about it.

True, Anthony Bourdain allows himself to be quoted saying “Everybody smokes dope after work.”  And some chefs openly discuss mary jane’s influence on their kitchens & restaurants.  Some people are using water pipes to add smoky flavors to delicate fare.  And even though we’re now talking about eating healthier more (see Michelle Obama or Jamie Oliver), cooks are continuing to put together menu items rich in both flavor and texture. 

But do we really need a poutine of foie gras, or a breakfast burrito pizza, or a bowl of cereal-milk flavored ice cream, to suddenly realize that there’s some really good food out there for your munchies?  Let’s review what we’ve already got, much of it on the cheap:

… you get the idea.  So while I totally support hemp-inspired cooking, I don’t think Anthony Bourdain’s got a corner on the munchies market.  Just a little more pricey, and a little more hip.

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GFDL photo by Larry D. Moore

Unless you’re planning on throwing one across the room, your snow globe can’t fly. 

At least, that’s what the Seattle Times says, quoting the Transportation Security Administration:

The liquid sloshing around inside a snow globe might be less than 3.4 ounces, but it can’t be accurately measured.

So don’t try to get one through a security checkpoint.  You’ll probably lose. 

As for other holiday treats, you can carry a pie with you on the plane ride home, but not most other holiday foods. 

…other holiday food items — such as salsas, cranberry sauce, jams, jellies, vinegars — need to go in checked luggage or be shipped ahead unless they’re packed in containers of 3.4 ounces or less and fit into one quart-sized plastic bag.

I can totally understand not allowing gravy in carry-on bags.  And I sorta understand the ban on jellies and jams.  But snow globes?  Sounds pretty Grinchish to me!

Travel safe, everybody!

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Photo by Sigismund von Dobschütz

If the past year has taught us nothing else, we’ve learned the relative value of spending time with loves ones rather than spending money we don’t yet have. 

My parents used to save up all year in order to give us a good Christmas without having to use credit cards — and I’m happy to say my Christmas’ are now credit card free as well.  Some years we just decide not to shop.  Others, we make lists of things we would normally buy anyway (i.e. crossword puzzles for bus trips across town).  And some years, we just enjoy spending a few bucks on a nice meal. 

My favorite year, when we were short on both time and money, we each got a small amount of cash & we gave ourselves just 1 hour to shop for each other in the shopping center by our house.  “Ready, set, go!”  It was crazy fun.  Like a game. And we had to get creative to really pull it off — which we did!

So what’s your plan for 2009?   

Ours isn’t well-defined yet, but I suspect we’ll be doing some of the following:

  • Buy someone an annual membership to the zoo, museum, etc.  In 2004, I gave Laura an annual membership to the Experience Music Project/Sci-Fi Museum in Seattle.  It didn’t cost a lot, was recyclable AND reusable… and it served as a promise that we would actually move here.  It was a fantastic gift, and well-appreciated.
  • Adopt an animal!   There are so many in need right now.  But if you’re not in the market for another family member, you can always sponsor a dolphin or adopt a guerilla from a zoo (i.e. San Diego Zoo has a green adoption program) or donate to the World Wildlife Federation in someone’s name.
  • Concert tickets or theater tickets.  Some can be very affordable, depending on what you’re looking for.  Check out smaller venues near you, take a peek at the calendar.  You never know when someone cool is doing a small set nearby, or when the orchestra is playing a reduced-ticket holiday show, etc.
  • Food has always been a staple of inexpensive gift giving.  People used to bake cookies and wrap them up in colored tissue paper.  Nice.  Not up for cooking, though?  No worries. Wine is usually a good bet.  Or something else your friends could really use — but higher end than they would normally buy for themselves. Good dipping oil & fresh foccacia bread.  Yum!   Kona coffee.  The Salt Lick’s barbecue sauces. Snoqualmie Falls Pancake mix & Vermont maple syrup.  
  • Make your own coupons or activity box.  One year, we decorated a shoe box & we each entered little strips of paper with various activities written on them.  Later, we drew an idea from the box & went with it!  “Go to zoo” or “Enjoy a small town carnival” or “Have a picnic!”
  • Gift certificates:  massages, farmer’s market shopping, movie tickets, restaurants… there are all sorts of gift certificates out there.  (Love that pre-paid iTunes card!).
  • Books are great.  You can change someone’s life with a good book.  And travel guides are really awesome if you know someone who is planning or dreaming about a specific trip. I got a “Let’s Go Europe” the year before I went backpacking, and it was one of my favorite gifts ever.
  • Magazine subscriptions.  I know, sounds boring.  But a subscription to The Atlantic will keep me happy all year!
  • Make DVDs of your own photo albums to share with others. 
  • Set up a blog for someone who doesn’t know how to get started yet.
  • Artwork.  Your own, of course!  Knitting, poetry, framed personal photography, etc. 
  • Get someone you love a webcam so you can see each other while you chat!
  • Make a scrapbook or personalized recipe book for someone who would appreciate it.
  • Scratch-off lottery tickets make great stocking stuffers.  And what could be more fun than gambling in your jammies while enjoying the smells of Christmas dinner wafting through your house? 
  • Go visit somebody.  Few things are more appreciated than face time.

Okay, I hope these ideas can get you started!  Happy shopping (or not!)  What have I missed?  Do Tell!

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