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Updated: 2018-03-20T19:14:52.812+00:00


The Last Post


(image) Just a short note to say this will be my final post.

There is no special reason - I just woke up one morning and decided to see what else I could do with the time. It's usually better to draw a line under something if you really want to find out what's next.

I've had a lot of pleasure from writing here, and have been very grateful to you for reading and participating. I will of course keep the blog available so people can continue to reference it. I will also continue to read and comment on blogs in the community, so I am sure I'll see you around. Over and out.(image)

Why I won't Read Robb Wolf's or Art Devany's New Books


(image) It suddenly struck me today. I am not going to read Robb Wolf's book The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet. Nor am I going to read Art Devany's book The New Evolution Diet.

It had been on my mental to-do list to order / pre-order the books. I have a blog about Paleo living - so I should read these books when they come out, right? Maybe, but I'm not going to.

This is not the reason. Not this. But... I find the inclusion of the word DIET, either in big letters on the front, or as part of the title itself, to be a bit of a sell out. Mark Sisson did not do this with the Primal Blueprint, for which kudos. I bet his publisher wanted him to.

In fact there are two reasons I won't be reading them.

One - I don't think there's anything left to learn. That's not because I know lots of stuff - it's because there ain't that much you need to know. I have no doubt the same applies to many of you. And once you know it, you're set. Anything more is just material to bore dinner guests or upstage would-be experts.

(image) Two - life's too short. I reckon Robb's book is actually quite funny, in the same way Mark's unique style made the PB an entertaining read; but there are a lot of things I don't know anything about and many great and funny books I want to read before I die. So if I read more about the same thing just so I can remain at the leading edge of smart arsery, it feels like edging into Star Trek convention territory. No offense, Trekkies.

That's it. Just needed to get it off my chest.(image)

After Much Searching... the Perfect Coconut Cream


My recent exchanges with Tropical Sun ("Why is there Crap in My Coconut Milk?") threw up some interesting questions about what is important to the more discerning consumer.Tropical Sun think it's consistency. I, and many of you who commented on those posts, think it's about purity. We just want the coconut, and don't care if it settles in the can or is not smooth like real cream.Tropical Sun never did respond to my final question. I wanted to know how much corn starch they are adding - so I could decide for myself whether it mattered.Since then I have been exploring different brands, many of which suggested by you in the comments. Yesterday I took delivery of a new one: Ayam Coconut Cream - thanks to Jess from Australia for recommending this.What's the difference between coconut cream and coconut milk? People and manufacturers seem to use the terms interchangeably. In this case, Ayam make a point of saying that there is no added water - and when you open the tin, you can see the result. The contents are the consistency of a pudding. Take a spoonful and it retains its shape on the spoon.The ingredients are 100% coconut extract. Okay, I know we've read that before and discovered it not to be true, but......reassuringly, there is also some liquid underneath, suggesting that the contents have - gasp! - settled in transit and, more importantly, that the manufacturers have not added homogenising agents to protect us poor consumers from the awful truth that food can separate into its component parts... or from the effort of shaking a can.Also pleasing is the slightly off-white colour. Okay, coconut meat is normally brilliant white, but I am happy to assume that some part of the process or storage affects the colour - and that by not actively re-bleaching it they are confirming their commitment to a pure product.Finally, because it's more concentrated than products with added water, the taste is sweeter. It's almost like a middle ground between solid creamed coconut and the more watery coconut milk/cream; and it tastes real - no hint of adulteration often detected in other brands.This stuff could be dangerous - I ate half a tin last night in the name of 'research' and it was only Mrs M's needs that prevented me from nailing the lot.See Also:Dear Tropical Sun - "Why is there Crap in My Coconut Milk?" Tropical Sun's Perplexing ReplyTropical Sun Replies - "Our Additives are Okay"Campaigns[...]

The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 5: The Collapse


Having narrowly escaped my dessert urges at Bellagio the night before (see part 4), this promised to be my greatest test: a wedding for which the reception dinner was, naturally, a buffet. This took place at the Paris Casino.The rules of buffet mastery I had established were:#1 eat good food, avoid the junk#2 make your gluttony pay for itself#3 skip dessert#4 obtain strategic dessert substitutes#5 don't drink too much booze#6 don't drink fizzy drinksPerhaps it was some innate rule-breaking instinct that led to what followed. Or perhaps I saw an interesting symmetry in spending the trip compiling a set of rules which I would then ceremoniously smash to pieces at the end.The real reason, I think, was that I was already halfway down the vortex of greed. No amount of swimming could pull me out by this point.At the wedding, my first mistake was making no attempt to moderate the seemingly endless flow of champagne that accompanied the wedding speeches. Toast after toast, refill after refill. Bam - #5 and #6 gone.Nevertheless, I remained almost entirely Paleo for the initial 3-plate feast, enjoying some great duck dishes (a nice departure from the normal Vegas buffet fayre), as well as some pork, chicken and beef. I even tried some oysters. Not great.I think I had already become unhinged from my resolve way before Mrs M slammed down her plate of custard-topped apple crumble, but this was the catalyst that sent we weaving back through the tables to the dessert section, fixed determinedly my destination.Top row good, bottom row badOn plate 1 of the desserts, a pretty big bowl of apple crumble with some kind of synthetic cream. Nailed in short order. Plate 2, a selection of cheesecakes and cupcakes. Midway through that I started to get the sugar shivers - but manfully pressed on. Plate 3 I loaded with toffee bananas, another cupcake and some chocolate sauce that was so sweet it literally altered my DNA as it went down my throat. At some point during that plate I hit my limit.#1 and #3, shattered.Epilogue - Picking up the PiecesIt's hard getting out of the greed vortex. It's possible to spend weeks in there if you're not careful. Three nights of our holiday remained, but, mercifully, we were leaving Vegas after one.On our final night in Vegas, we agreed to dodge the buffets.At the steakhouse I did some damage to the bread basket, and later found myself queuing at the cake stall in Bally's - but it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Just a couple of slices of cheesecake and then a chocolate bar from the shop at Mandalay Bay. A mere flesh wound.Then, on our final night in New York, I was gripped by last-night fever. Two white Russians and some kind of orange marguerita before the meal pretty much wiped out my senses, so I pounced on the bread basket the minute we arrived at The Bridge Street Cafe.When an an ill-advised and sizable portion of calamari arrived as a starter, I ate that with more bread. I was actually starting to feel full. Not a good time, then, to be presented with easily the largest steak I've had in a restaurant.It was a also a very tasty steak, so there was no way I was leaving any of that baby; I made it a mission of the utmost priority to consume it along with most of the spinach and sweet potato side dishes.Full as I was, there is no such thing as being too full for dessert, so I bullied Mrs M into sharing three. One was light (her choice), one was quite dense (mine) and the third was like a neutron star (again, mine.) Predictably, Mrs M ate only half of her light one.Bravely I did battle, and bravely I did vanquish all three with specially-requested pouring cream.---The following morning, I was glad to be going home. I felt like Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, being saved at last from the misery of my own excess. I may have used that analogy before, but it always feels so apt.I have since escaped the vortex, the power of its gravity diminished by the regularity and normality of routine. As ever, the transition was made e[...]

The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 4: The Weakening


Planet HollywoodWhen Mrs M arrived at the Spice Market buffet at Planet Hollywood, we were a little disappointed. Adding Mexican and Middle Eastern stations to the standard format did not, we felt, justify the name.Nevertheless, the food was good and there was lots of it.Determined to do justice to the international feel, I had a plate from each themed station except Chinese. Too much sugar in all those sauces. My five plates were: Italian, Middle Eastern, Mexican, American and Seafood.The Spice Market at Planet Hollywood - Italian, Middle Eastern, Mexican, American, seafoodPutting Mrs M in charge of drinks was good, because she formed an excellent relationship with the waitress, who was therefore very attentive; but it was bad, because wine seemed to appear every time I left the table, stealthily ordered and introduced while I avariciously stalked the stations.I escaped from the Spice Market with my buffet mastery rules unbroken, but only just. I could feel my resolve drowning in the warmth of the last glass of wine as we shuffled fatly out of the restaurant. In retrospect, I believe it was fortunate the dessert section was not located near the exit.Buffet mastery rule #5: don't drink too much boozeWynnIt was ironic, therefore, that the following night, at the Wynn buffet, I let Mrs M talk me into the unlimited champagne option; and it was unfortunate that the waiters appeared to be under threat of death if anyone's glass was discovered empty.As you would expect, the food was excellent - but the station selection conformed to what we were coming to recognise as the standard Vegas format. I guess it makes commercial sense to operate a kind of menu cartel. Do doubt a 747 filled entirely with crabs legs lands at Las Vegas each morning, ready to supply The Strip with its daily need.Salad, seafood, venison, lamb, chicken, chicken, prime rib, more chicken and some curryAt Wynn, the meat sweats hit me after only 3 plates: the fizz of the champagne had made me feel fuller.Buffet mastery rule #6: don't drink fizzy drinksWhen Mrs M began bringing desserts back to the table. I could feel my strength ebbing. The champagne was making it hard to keep a grip. Damn those waiters.In a desperate attempt to avert disaster, I compiled a 4th plate of questionable foods, such as chicken with sweet sauce. This I ate quickly, in the hope I would lose my urge for cake. It worked.The BellagioThe next day, the sumptuous Bellagio buffet, #1 on the top 10 Vegas buffets web site, was suitably impressive. Nice touches like seaweed salad made the difference and in fact all the seafood was of a high quality.I kept the wine consumption low this time, but in spite of that, my willpower continued to ebb. Notice the addition of red sauce on plate 2, sweet potato mash on plate 2 and soft cheese on plates 3 and 4.When Mrs M began taunting me with divinely sculpted portions of tiramisu and cheesecake I was forced once again to take a culinary cold shower with a swiftly built 4th plate which included soft cheese, salads with sweet dressings and other foods at the margins of my normal Paleo menu.Initial fruit & veg plate, then starting to slip with sweet sauces, sweet potato and soft cheeseOnly the avoidance of wine saved the day - but I knew what was coming. I just needed to hold out long enough so that the damage was limited. Once I started, I would not be able to stop. I did not want to get pulled into the cake binge vortex with several days left in Vegas. It was not safe.See Also:The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 1The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 2: Boston and LAThe Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 3: Vegas BeginsThe Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 5: The Collapse[...]

The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 3: Vegas Begins


The first time I visited Las Vegas nearly 10 years ago, I hit the buffets without any rules. I just hurled myself into it headlong, attacking every section with as much gusto as the previous one, until the tightening grip of intestinal overload started to bite.I recall valiantly battling with the Chinese station, knowing it was the only thing left between me and dessert. I felt like Rocky in the final rounds of an epic fight, my speech slurred, my chewing increasingly laboured as, across the table, 'Adrian' (my buffet wing man), developed a light sweat on his brow.Then, the schoolboy error, as I launched into the dessert section with scarcely a rest and went straight for the money shot, a huge bowl of apple crumble with custard. Only grim determination got me through the rest of the bowl. But then it was all over - the towel was in the ring and the belly factory had already blown the whistle. A difficult night ensued.But that was then. On this trip, now a seasoned pro, I hit the Luxor buffet with confidence, with no intention of going anywhere near the desserts.Buffet master rule #3: skip dessertI'd done a gym session that morning and was hankering for a big protein hit, so my opening gambit was a trio of pork, chicken and prime rib. The Luxor buffet was light on seafood, but after the LA Hilton I was ready for a break from that. Next, some cod with an unnamed meat. Finally, muscles and shredded pork.On the way out, I breezed nonchalantly past the substantial cake section.Luxor - not the best quality, but as with any half-decent buffet, plenty of big meatThe next morning, I decide to be more targeted about buffet selection. Mrs M was flying in to meet me that day, and I wanted to make sure we picked a good buffet that night. I found a list of the top 10 Vegas buffets.I know what you're thinking, and you're right - she's a very lucky lady. While other men would be hunting round for some dimly lit, small-portion-serving Italian restaurant where the waiter presents a rose to women diners... I was instead doing the decent thing and finding somewhere serving plenty of food with efficient, business-like staff and lighting good enough to do justice to the 3D glory of a plate loaded with food.While I waited for Mrs M, I busied myself with a trip to Wholefoods. Say what you like about their vegetarian agenda and curious belief that using raw organic cane sugar somehow makes any product healthy, they do stock an impressive array of nuts.Another weapon of the master buffet tactician is the dessert substitute. I often use unsweetened cocoa powder at home to quench chocolate cravings, but it's not always that easy to consume as a powder. At Wholefoods I founds bars of solid cocoa. Perfect. These, and a wide selection of raw, unsalted nuts formed the basis of my dessert shield.Buffet mastery rule #4: obtain strategic dessert substitutesWholefoods: strange ideas, but a great nut selection...When Mrs M arrived, she opted for the Planet Hollywood spice market buffet, where a new challenge emerged. In part 3 - alcohol control, a crucial component of buffet mastery.See Also:The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 1The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 2: Boston and LAThe Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 4: The WeakeningThe Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 5: The Collapse[...]

The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 2: Boston and LA


The trip started in Boston, where, at the hotel breakfast buffet, I made my first play.I was having a late breakfast instead of lunch because jet lag had driven me to eat early the previous night. Having paid for the all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast, a closer inspection revealed that smoked salmon, eggs and fruit were the only things I could eat.So I ate salmon and eggs until no more remained, methodically working through the neatly rolled salmon rolls, one plate at a time, while the manager eyed me with a mixture of suspicion and concern from behind the bar. He could see I was a pro.Smoked salmon, eggs and fruit - again, again and againNext stop, LA, where I hit the jackpot.Whilst my own hotel did not have a buffet (I was outraged), the nearby Universal City Hilton had an impressive seafood buffet, I was told.This turned out to be no exaggeration. There was top quality sushi and sashimi, lobster thermidor, perfectly grilled salmon in several different sauces, crab claws, oysters and of course the obligatory prime rib. There were also many other stations: when you get lost during your first visit, you know it's a serious buffet.I hit the Hilton twice in two days. Unfortunately, on day two, I was in such a hurry to launch an attack on the stations I'd not done justice to the night before, that I forgot my camera. So I had to use my inadequate Blackberry to capture the meals.Day 1 at the Universal City Hilton - not taking full advantage of the seafood optionsDay 2 - crab claws, sashimi, lobster thermidor and various other meatsIn part 3, Vegas - the buffet mecca. Buffets so large, they provide motorised vehicles for diners. Vast, underground facilities into which, over the years, people have disappeared never to return...See Also:The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 1The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 3: Vegas BeginsThe Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 4: The WeakeningThe Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 5: The Collapse[...]

The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 1



Buffets. You've got to love them. Yet I have to travel all the way to the US to get any decent action. The UK should be ashamed.

For Paleo folk, buffets are great. For an incomparably greedy Paleo person like me, they are beyond compare.

The timing of my recent trip to the US seemed especially good. I was in the final few weeks of a training experiment ('Leangains') that involves daily fasting and the consumption of a large number of calories during an eating window. This was destiny.

Previously, my posts about gluttony have typically been in the context of shame, documenting falls from grace after too much booze. In those cases I had eaten too much of the wrong kind of food - a very different proposition.

Could I play the buffets buffets of Vegas like a professional, or, as with gambling, did the house always win?

As I prepared for the trip, I decided that the Paleo buffet master does two things differently. First, he or she sticks to the foods they would normally eat, instead of being sucked into a vortex of indulgence.

Paleo buffet mastery rule #1: eat good food, avoid the junk

Second, he or she makes their gluttony pay for itself, becoming warrior-like in their meal frequency and timing - one large meal a day.

Paleo buffet mastery rule #2: make your gluttony pay for itself

My plan was to apply the principle of daily fasting to holiday gluttony. It should be possible, I reasoned, to enjoy unconstrained dining without returning home at the end of the holiday with a ruined gut and 3 lbs of extra fat. I would eat bucket loads of Paleo buffet food and regularly fast in between.

This would be effort and reward in perfect harmony - instead of (as on previous occasions) reward, reward, reward, and that creeping feeling of wanting it all to stop.

It didn't quite go according to plan, but I learned a few things along the way. In part 2, Boston, where my opening gambit was unfeasible amounts of smoked salmon at the breakfast buffet.

See Also:

The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 2: Boston and LA
The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 3: Vegas Begins
The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 4: The Weakening
The Great Buffet Abuse Tour - Part 5: The Collapse

Tropical Sun Replies - "Our Additives are Okay"


If you have been following my dialogue with Tropical Sun about the additives in their coconut milk, you'll be pleased to know I have had a response to my most recent email. Here is what they said:Thank you for your further email and we hope to dispel some of the concerns you raised. First of all, sorry for the contradiction in the previous reply. It was actually meant to read the “quality” has not changed, not the “content”.Often people tend to misinterpret the natural separation of coconut milk in the can as spoilage, thus we took the decision to change our manufacturer of coconut milk and after a number of trials we selected the coconut milk that you now currently have.So let’s get some understanding instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. We respect the fact that you are trying to ensure people have great tasting food, and in that regard we share the same passion.Coconut milk is not the liquid inside a coconut (this is ‘coconut water’), although this liquid does make a satisfying drink. Rather, it is made by squeezing the grated flesh of a coconut with some hot water resulting in a rich white liquid that looks very much like cow's milk. This would normally last around 1-2 days if refrigerated immediately.You also have to understand that due to the nature of our modern diets, various ingredients/foods have been processed and in order to enjoy them in a way that we are now accustomed to various manufacturing techniques are used.Without passing judgement on these, we, the British public, demand for example strawberries and grapes out of season etc. So whilst I appreciate your sentiment for “food without crap” in it, I also would advise that to label all additives as universally BAD is a little over zealous [and perhaps unrealistic].An “E” label signifies that something has been added to the product: it doesn’t make it bad in and of itself. In the UK an "E number" has, unfortunately, become something of a pejorative term for artificial food additives. It may surprise some of your readers to learn, however, that there are undoubtedly many products promoting themselves as "free of E numbers" even though most of the natural ingredients contain components that also have an E number such as vitamin C (E300).If a food additive has an E number this shows it has passed safety tests and been approved for use throughout the European Union. This approval is monitored, reviewed and amended in the light of new scientific data. It is also possible that some labels do not use the dreaded “E” prefix, and instead provide a customary common name (e.g. Citric acid, instead of E330). You decide which you prefer.I would also like to mention that our coconut milk has one of the highest percentages of real coconut extract inside the can available. This is the amount of pure coconut that is used to make the end product. This determines its richness and flavour and the reason why we believe ours is a PREMIUM coconut milk. Please compare it with some of the other brands you have mentioned previously.So now our coconut milk contains thickener, stabilisers and acidity regulators. Let’s examine each:Thickeners help give body to food in the same way as adding flour thickens a sauce, they improve consistency and stabilise emulsions (such as coconut milk). Corn starch imparts no additional flavour to food.We use cornstarch which is just what it sounds like: starch derived from corn. As with anything, there are pros and cons to its use. Cornstarch is used as a natural thickening agent and does not contain any gluten in contrast to other common alternatives.Stabilisers and emulsifiers help give food a consistent texture and help mix ingredients together that would normally separate, such as [coconut] oil and water. Stabilisers prevent them from separating again. Without stabilisers you would en[...]

Paleo in a Nutshell Video Spoof


Someone has created a spoof (or as they more grandly put it, satire) of Paleo in a Nutshell Part 1. Here it is:

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It's actually quite witty in places - exactly the sort of thing I would do myself about something I consider misguided. Indeed, the video maker actually makes one or two good points.

For example, I agree that the Paleo movement is at times cultish; and I concede that the use of a supermarket photo to illustrate our ready access to food is not ideal, as it might imply an endorsement.

Does it matter if the Paleo movement is sometimes a little cultish? I'm not sure that it does. It has no bearing on whether its premises are valid. If ideas that are garbage can attract a following, then it would be odd if those with genuine validity did not.

In any case, I think it lacks some important elements of a cult. At one point the video used the (rather amusing) "kneel before Zod" reference; but who is Zod in the Paleo movement? A few people writing books and running seminars on the subject isn't really enough, however charismatic they may be.

Likewise, it doesn't necessarily matter that people are making money out of it and some of its books say 'as seen on TV' on the front. It would also be strange if no one tried to make money from spreading a message that turned out to be correct. Or does the spoofer think that when something is genuinely true, the human desires to spread the word and make money suddenly melt away?

I also think the video maker has missed the point (deliberately or otherwise) that the original consciously simplifies a complex area in order to deliver an easily understood message. Yes, "Genetically the same" is not strictly true, but the long version (that the number of generations since we have started farming is roughly 300, which is not long enough to effect the necessary changes to digestive mechanisms etc etc) really can't be explored with the 'Nutshell' approach.

To some extent the spoof video sabotages its own effectiveness by trying to satire or rebut absolutely everything in the original, creating a peculiar mix of crude, childish humour and attempts at reasoned, factual argument. Say what you like about the original, it does at least know what it's trying to achieve, and does so relatively elegantly. The spoof is twice as long, wordy and fails to strike a consistent tone.

I am not in the business of making line-by-line rebuttals, and even if I were, I am not sure this piece of work, funny though it was, justifies the effort.

So I'm not going to accept it as a video response on You Tube because I am not prepared to counter the points with a more detailed video. I didn't make the original so that I could bicker with those who disagree, but to spread a message I believe to be worthy.(image)

My Recipe Video Contest Entry - Coconut & Choc Cake


(image) Mark Sisson is still running competitions over on Mark's Daily Apple. The recipe video contest caught my eye because it's been a while since I've done some bakery tinkering.

Don't watch the video if you are serious about baking. You will almost certainly be offended. In fact this is an abject lesson in how not to bake.

If you do watch it, look out for the moment when the blender turns itself on. Spooky.

Neverthless, the cake did taste quite nice. Maybe I just got lucky. The video is here.(image)

Ditching the Bathroom Chemicals - Update


Since I posted about this last month, I've made some changes and discoveries, so here is an update.First and foremost, I am still 'with the program'.My medicine cabinet still contains just a handful of items, none of which have lists of ingredients I don't understand.I don't smell or look a mess; and I continue to gain satisfaction from knowing I am dodging another of modern life's bullets.The Miswak ToothbrushI am now mostly using Miswak (also known as Peelu), after it was mentioned by a number of commenters. This is the traditional method of cleaning teeth used in parts of Asia and the Middle East. The process, is as follows:1. Take a piece of miswak and remove the bark.2. Chew the remaining stick until it's soft and brush-like3. Use it to brush your teeth4. When you are done, clean it and store hygienically5. When needed, snip off the old brush part with scissors and repeat the process6. When the stick is too small, start a fresh oneI first bought some very rough 'red miswak' (aka Dandasa) from a local Asian store, but it was quite difficult to use.As you can see from the photos, the red miswak is not always uniform. I've imagined this is used by older guys who've been doing this for years, and are expert. Perhaps when they were young this was all you could get. Perhaps they have also grown accustomed to the quite bitter taste.I then found some miswak sticks online that seemed more specially geared for the purpose of teeth cleaning. These are much easier to use.Miswak leaves your teeth feeling clean. The packed sticks taste different, less bitter; but I am undecided as to whether, and if so, how, they have been treated. Could there be nasty ingredients involved? I don't know. I chose 'natural' flavour, but they were also available in peppermint.For now I am enjoying this. I tend to do it in front of the television when I am relaxing rather than in the bathroom. Every now and again I brush with my electric toothbrush using water or sodium bicarbonate, as described in the first post. This is usually when I am in a rush.Vodka as MouthwashIn the last post, James commented that I should try vodka and cinnamon as a mouthwash. Some mouthwash has alcohol as an ingredient, so this would make sense.I don't normally use mouthwash, but in the interest of science, and since we have a bottle in the house, I tried it. Unfortunately, I had no cinnamon.Yowser. This was not a pleasant experience. My mouth did not feel refreshed, but violated. It's difficult to imagine how some cinnamon could mitigate all of that. However, a load of additives like sorbitol could perhaps sweeten the pill, which is, I guess, what they do with the stuff you buy.I will continue to pass on the mouthwash for now.Upgrading to Dr Bronner's SoapIn the first post Bob Garon commented that the olive oil soap I was using might contain aluminium, under the ingredients item 'mineral salts'.Why is aluminium bad? This (more or less randomly selected) article summarises the supposed dangers. Ideally, I would seek evidence and studies; but since I lack the time, and since there is an alternative that does not inconvenience me, I am happy to exercise avoidance.Thus, I bought some Dr Bronner soap, which had been mentioned by a few people. The ingredients were more numerous, but none are as vague as 'mineral salts.' Just oils, citric acid, vitamin E and salt. It's not cheap, but the bar is twice the size of the olive oil soap, and it smells nicer, which makes getting buy-in from Mrs M easier!Aluminium-Free Sodium BicarbonateThere was also some debate in the comments of the first post about whether sodium bicarbonate contains aluminium.Yes, according to Bob. No, according to Mudbeard, who was able to supply the molecular definition to illustrate his point. Anya pointed out that al[...]

In 50 Words or Less...


It's competition season again on Mark's Daily Apple, and, as ever, lots of decent prizes to be won.

One of them
caught my eye, so I entered. The challenge - for which the prize is a selection of books relating to Primal/Paleo - is to: 50 words or less... ...your best piece of advice for folks just starting out with the Primal lifestyle.

Here's my 47-word entry:

"Start out small. Don’t be overwhelmed by the many aspects. Any one of them can make a big difference to your life. Quit wheat. Start sprinting. Either alone is a triumph. It’s a journey, not a change. Assumed truths are not. Question everything, one at a time."(image)

"Why is there Crap in my Coconut Milk?" - Tropical Sun's Perplexing Reply


I have written open letters to a number of companies since I started blogging, primarily to complain about ingredients or deception. Nearly all of them failed to reply. I listed them in Roll Call of Shame: Companies Who Don't Listen.When someone takes the time to reply, however absurd their rationale, I feel obliged to engage on a civilised level. Marks and Spencer particularly distinguished themselves by being willing to continue a debate about the sugar in their pre-cooked chicken (Why is there Sugar in my Chicken?) and Julian Graves briefly and clumsily corresponded about their sale of sugar-laden products (Julian Graves Responds to 'Sugar Pushers' Post.) Both deserve at least some credit for that.So I must take my hat off to Tropical sun for yesterday's reply to my open letter a few weeks back (Dear Tropical Sun - "Why is there Crap in My Coconut Milk?"), complaining about the sudden appearance of sundry additives in their coconut milk.A reminder of what I said:Dear Tropical Sun,I have been a big fan of your coconut milk for a long time now, and was dismayed when your ingredients changed from being pure, to being decidedly impure.I eat coconut milk precisely because it does not contain things like starchy carbohydrate, so the idea that you have adulterated the product with corn starch seems like madness. Was it commercial pressures that led to your decision, or a genuine (albeit in my view, misguided) desire to create a better product for the consumer?Perhaps I am in the minority in caring about these subtleties, but in a world where awareness of additives and a desire to eat real food is growing at a fast pace, your decision appears to be a retrograde step. My blog readers and I will be interested to read your response.Regards,MethuselahHere was their reply, yesterday:Thank you for your feedback on our Coconut Milk. We take all comments about our products seriously and would like to reassure you that the content in our Coconut Milk has not changed.The demand for the product in the last few years has increased globally, shipment times have increased so it has now been necessary to add regulators / stabilisers to keep the quality of the content consistent wherever it is sold in the world. Contrary to what you have suggested, these have not been added to alter the taste in any way nor is it for profit reasons. Also the ingredient list on the can was updated also due to regulatory requirement.We at Tropical Sun value our customer feedback and hope that you are satisfied with this response and will continue to use our products.For further information about Tropical Sun, please visit our website at www.tropicalsunfoods.comRegardsKev, Customer ServicesI won't insult your intelligence by pointing out the manifestly contradictory statements in this reply. Instead, I will skip straight to my response, which I will also email to Kev, along with a link to this post.Dear Kev,Many thanks for your reply. You would be surprised how many companies lack the courtesy to respond.I have a few additional questions, which I hope you will be able to answer.In the first paragraph, you reassure me that "the content in our Coconut Milk has not changed" - yet in the following paragraph confirm that "it has now been necessary to add regulators / stabilisers." You can imagine how that might be confusing.Later in the same paragraph, you say "the ingredient list on the can was updated also due to regulatory requirement." This also suggests a change.The burning questions are:1. When did you start adding the regulators and stabilisers?2. When did you change the label?In other words, how long was I using your coconut milk, thinking it did not contain any additives?I would also like to pick up the po[...]

How I Ditched the Chemicals in my Bathroom Cabinet


This was no walk in the park - I am an office-based professional so I need to appear presentable and not smell bad. Yet I also do a lot of sport, do an hour of walking per day (to and from work) and live in a climate that can get fairly warm for half of the year.Yet at the same time, I do not want to continue using chemical-laced, ill-tested products.I have found alternatives for: toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, soap and moisturiser. In each case I tell you why I wanted to ditch it and my experiences finding an effective alternative.Articles on websites Mark's Daily Apple (for example, this one) have repeatedly highlighted that it's not just what goes into our bodies that matters. The pharmaceutical and other companies are just as reckless with the chemicals they ask us apply externally as those they expect us to swallow.I was also inspired by this widely read post by Richard at Free the Animal, in which he described his ditching of soap and shampoo.Before and After PhotosShampoo and ConditionerSoapToothpasteDeodorant / Anti-PerspirantMoisturiserNew PortabilityOther Things I have DitchedMy Bathroom Cabinet Before and AfterThese are the photos before after I removed from my bathroom cabinet the things I would no longer be using... and a photo of the pile of crap I threw away.Bathroom cabinet BEFORE.Bathroom cabinet AFTER.The things I threw away.Okay, so I also took the opportunity to tidy it up, which it look better too! But I did ditch a whole load of soaps, creams, shampoos, toothpaste and other sundry crap I would no longer need.Shampoo & ConditionerThis was where my journey started. Last month I once again stopped washing my hair with conventional shampoo, which was stripping it of its natural oils. I knew that after 2-6 weeks my hair would 'clean' itself naturally and stop looking greasy.So I chose a holiday period to start the process. After 4 weeks, it had recovered from the initial greasiness and looked okay. Then, it started to get dirty again. I live in the city, so perhaps it was pollution. Whatever the reason, this was a familiar problem, because this had happened on previous attempts to go shampoo free.Mrs M quickly began to warn me about my appearance, so I did some reading. There had to be a better way. I found this article. Baking soda and apple cider vinegar are all you need, said the author. You simply create diluted solutions of each to use as shampoo and conditioner. They don't strip your hair of its oils, and it looks and feels good.Without telling Mrs M (or my Mother, her co-conspirator in the pro-shampoo lobby), I tried it out."How is my hair looking?" I casually asked them one day, having used the new solution."Good, actually" they both replied - "you've started using shampoo again, right?"When I explained what I was doing, Mrs M was intrigued and my Mother was not surprised. Apparently it's what her mother used to do. They are both considering trying it, especially Mrs M, who currently spends big dollar on supposedly safe alternatives. To my untrained eye, the ingredients of these knee-tremblingly expensive products appear every bit as suspect as those in regular products.Below are the photos of my set up - one bottle of vinegar and one tub of baking soda - cost: negligible. For each, two smaller bottles which I periodically fill with a dilute solution of each.In the shower, I splash them on in the usual order, rinsing and massaging in between, and hey presto, good feeling, good looking hair. The bottles go in the shower with my olive oil soap - more on that in a moment.Conditioner from apple vinegar.Shampoo from baking soda.The full shower kit!SoapI have been using soap made by Simple for years. [...]

Barefoot in the Hills, Sun & Paleo/Primal Spread


(image) I had such a textbook paleo/primal morning today that I felt it had to be posted here as well as on the training blog.

I ran the hills glorious sunshine, barefoot (practically naked in fact), and enjoyed the pleasures (and suffered the irritations) of nature, before coming home to a primal/paleo spread, having not eaten since the night before.

The write-up on Train Now Live Later, is here.(image)

Recipe: Coconut and Nut Energy Bar


This is a simple recipe - only a few ingredients and easy to make, but a really neat way to package up an energy-rich, nutrient dense meal for consumption on the move. I made it for the first time to take on a long mountain race recently, and it was so good I had to share the recipe. Enjoy.

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Dear Tropical Sun: "Why is there Crap in my Coconut Milk?"


For a few years I have been using Tropical Sun coconut milk.Coconut milk is the result of squeezing the coconut flesh to create a creamy liquid. It's sometimes also called coconut cream. It typically comes in a tin.It's quite hard to find a brand that does not have crap in the ingredients. Usually it's things like xanthan gum or corn starch, designed to thicken the liquid and make it more creamy. Often, preservatives and other chemicals are added to prolong shelf-life.Tropical Sun's ingredients were simply "Coconut, Water". Great. Here is a screenshot from an online store selling the product.When you opened the tin, the product would have settled, so there was a thick plug of thick cream at the top, with watery mixture at the bottom. You could scoop out the thick stuff and refrigerate for use as a dessert cream, and use the more liquid stuff for cooking. Or you could mix it all together and use as a double cream consistency for all things.Every so often, a tin would taste a little tangy - perhaps because it was past its shelf life - but we were happy to take that hit for a pure product. When we were forced to use the more adulterated versions you could tell the difference. It did not feel authentic.Coconut milk/cream is key ingredient in my Paleo/Primal breakfast of champions, and I even included a photo of the brand in the recipe post.A few weeks ago, Mrs M and I commented that the coconut milk tasted different. It was creamier, and somehow nicer. We thought nothing more about it. Perhaps they had changed their processes to grind the flesh more finely, I thought to myself.Last week, I decided to buy in bulk. My normal source was hard to get to, so it would save time. I found I could buy crates of 12 from the AffriCarr online store. They were very efficient and within two days, two crates arrived.We noticed that this batch too, tasted especially creamy. Imagine our horror when we checked the ingredients and saw this:Coconut Extract (60%), Water, Thickener Corn Starch, Stabilisers E446, E407, and E412, Acidity Regulator E330.It is all about profit, of course - if you can thicken the product with cheap corn starch then you need less coconut in there. You can also make it taste 'nicer'. It certainly fooled us. And with all those preservatives you can keep tins in the supply chain and on the shelves for longer.Thus, the consumer starts thinking that proper coconut milk is homogeneous and creamy and never goes off. This forces the other manufacturers of coconut milk to consider adulterating their own product so they can complete with the price, taste and shelf life.Here is an open letter to Tropical Sun to find out why they did it. I will copy the AfriCarr website, just so they also hear the voice of the consumer.------------------------------------------Dear Tropical Sun,I have been a big fan of your coconut milk for a long time now, and was dismayed when your ingredients changed from being pure, to being decidedly impure.I eat coconut milk precisely because it does not contain things like starchy carbohydrate, so the idea that you have adulterated the product with corn starch seems like madness. Was it commercial pressures that led to your decision, or a genuine (albeit in my view, misguided) desire to create a better product for the consumer?Perhaps I am in the minority in caring about these subtleties, but in a world where awareness of additives and a desire to eat real food is growing at a fast pace, your decision appears to be a retrograde step. My blog readers and I will be interested to read your response.Regards,Methuselah--------------------------------------[...]

Diet and Exercise Not the Most Important Weight Loss Factors


For a while they told us losing weight was all about exercise. Then we learned through the Paleo/Primal and low-carb communities that in fact it is all about diet, but exercise can help - perhaps 80% diet, 20% exercise.Over the years I have, in a modest way, spent a lot of time gaining and losing weight (you can see this by scrolling my body composition graph to the left.) And finally I have realised what might have been obvious to others. In fact it's 10% diet, 5% exercise and 85% desire.You could lose weight on a diet of Skittles and a pogo-stick exercise regime. You would almost certainly need more desire for the Skittles and Pogo plan than for a Paleo/Primal and Interval plan... but for anyone with plenty of desire, that doesn't matter.I touched on the idea that really wanting it is the important thing in a post last year about exercise and weight loss.Paleo and Interval Training FailureWhat triggered my epiphany was coming home a stone heavier from an epic two weeks of bad living on a business trip, whereupon I decided it was time to lose weight. So I ate Paleo/Primal and did regular interval training.And nothing happened.Sometimes I would do well during the week, then overeat at restaurants when out with friends. At other times, I would gorge on Paleo/Primal treats after meals. Then there were full-blown lapses, usually alcohol triggered, in which I would blow a week of effort in one night.Too many internal conversations resulted in victory for the little red guy with horns. In short, I didn't care enough about losing to make the sacrifices. I lacked the desire.How Terrible Wisdom...Alas, Johnny...After a time, this became frustrating. I knew exactly what to do but apparently lacked the ability to do it. I was reminded of De Niro's line in Angel Heart, paraphrasing Sophocles - " terrible is wisdom when it brings no profit to the wise..."Then something changed about 7 weeks ago. A clear and compelling set of reasons for getting my act together emerged.Until then, my reasons had been 1) health and 2) weight. Apparently not enough.Then, two new reasons emerged, and everything changed.Mountain RunningFirst, mountain running. This has been a hobby for a number of years and I have always been able to run up mountains easily enough to make it fun. This year I have entered some challenging races. One of them is 17 miles and involves going up and down several of England's highest peaks.My new layer of fat and reduced fitness were becoming a problem. It was no longer easy.Proving the Doctors WrongThe second reason came after a visit to the hospital.I have been seeing a haematologist since 2005. It's a long story you can pick up here if you are interested. To summarise, my blood readings are low. They think I have a condition called aplastic anemia, which implies immune problems. I think their normal ranges are wrong because they are based on a population who've overstimulated their own immune systems with the wrong food. They keep asking me whether I've had any infections recently and I keep telling them I've had one, three-day cold since 1996.At the end of May, my blood readings were 'better' than they have been in years; but the smile of approval on the specialist's face did not fill me with hope. The previous few months had been the most unhealthy of my life since going Paleo/Primal in 2007.I realised this was my opportunity to prove (to myself, at least) that my hypothesis holds water. If I could go perfectly Paleo/Primal for the 4 months until my next tests, and my bloods went back to their usual 'worrying' levels, it would be comp[...]

Two Weeks of Paleo/Primal Workouts and Food


I have discovered I can create YouTube videos from Picasa slide shows. I recently created a slide show to illustrate my last two weeks of workouts for Train Now Live Later (here), and realised that since it includes meals and hiking too, it may interest Pay Now readers. It's also a thinly veiled way to buy time between blog posts because I have been too busy to write any ;-)

Thanks to Lightning for the tip on using YouTube with Picasa.

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The Tapeworm Diet


Guest Post by A.HackOnce again, a new diet craze is sweeping through the rich and famous.In a gory reversal of medical best practice, a huge parasitical worm normally removed when found in humans, is being deliberately introduced into the bodies of desperate dieters as a way to reduce the number of digested calories.It seems the lengths to which people will go for the perfect figure knows no limit.The man behind the new technique is Dr Gustaf Glockenspiel, Head of Dieting Technologies at the University of Diet Science in Latvia, Europe.In his new book, Beat the Tape Measure with the Tape Worm, he describes how he has been introducing tapeworms into the intestines of clients from his Latvian clinic for nearly 2 years, with a 100% success rate."Not one of my clients has ever come back," he proudly claims.Fully grown tapeworms can reach 10 metres in length, and once ensconced in the human intestine can consume thousands of calories per day."It's the perfect solution," gushed Ami Stardust, a 23-year-old glamour actress from Estonia, who intends to have the treatment as soon as she has raised the money. "With this, I would be able to eat one extra slice of cheesecake each day without affecting my figure. I might even have two worms so I can have two slices."Indeed, introducing more than one tape worm is not something Dr Glockenspiel rules out."Our bodies are full of parasites," he explains. "In years gone by, we'd all have one or more tape worms as a natural part of our internal ecosystem. I firmly believe that the obesity epidemic is a result of the elimination of tape worms from our bodies. Bringing back the tapeworm could be the answer we have been looking for."Crowe - jerkyApparently, stars are paying Dr Glockenspiel up to $10,000 to introduce tapeworms into their bodies. When challenged about the price tag, Dr Glockenspiel points out how much work goes into training the tape worms."These are not just any tape worms," he says. "It takes many months of training to ensure they eat the right foods.""A regular tapeworm would eat anything that came into your stomach - or worse, it might eat the wrong things. If your tapeworm liked fruit and veg, you'd end up vitamin deficient.""We train our tapeworms to eat only the things that are bad for humans, like chocolate and cake. This way, you are actually making your diet more balanced by having the tapeworm, as well as cutting calories.""We use electric shock treatment to punish the trainee worms when they eat the wrong things, and when they eat the right things, they get extra helpings."As Dr Glockenspiel's book rocketed to 13,456 on Amazon's bestseller list, experts were falling over themselves to criticise his work.Jobs - at home"This is a breathtaking abuse of just about every ethical principle I can think of, said Harry Peters from some government agency in the US. "Off the record, it might be best if we just send the CIA in and torch this guy's clinic."In the UK, Mr Peters' counterpart said "He doesn't sound like a very nice man - I would suggest his practices might be less than cricket."A Hollywood rumour has it that actor Russell Crow is paying Dr Glockenspiel a seven-figure sum to train a tapeworm to eat only beef jerky, after the star developed a 25 packet-a-day habit on the set of the new Robin Hood movie.Steve Jobs, who has nothing whatsoever to do with this story, was reputedly at his home in Palo Alto yesterday.--------Post ScriptAfter writing this spoof post, I read this article, which suggests there may be people who re[...]

Fordhall Farm - the Future of Farming?


As oil prices increase and the cost of flying food around the world increases, local farming will almost certainly become more important; and increasing relocation of services and manufacturing overseas will make the production of tangible, local goods the best way to guarantee a wage.Add to this the growing movement away from industrialised farming and farms like Fordhall Farm in Shropshire, England, look set to go from strength to strength and increase in numbers in the coming years.Those of you who follow me on Twitter or check in on my meals page from time to time will have noticed I eat a lot of animal products, some of which are a little unusual. Heart, liver and kidney are menu regulars. Sometimes I make a meal of chicken bones. Whatever I am eating, the fat always gets consumed, even if this means great forks full of pork rind.And if you've read the Making the Most of Animals articles you'll know why Mrs M and I feel able to eat like this - because the meat we get from Fordhall is naturally reared, full of good fat and free of antibiotics and other nasties.(Well, okay, Mrs M doesn't eat what she considers the really weird stuff, but she'll certainly eat most of the fat that's put in front of her. God help anyone who tries to take some crackling from her plate. )As I mentioned in the first Animals post, much of the offal we get from the farm is free, because otherwise it would get thrown away. I was curious to know more about this and to understand why other people buy their meat from Fordhall farm, so I sent Ben Hollins, Fordhall Farm Manager, some questions a few months back.I was recently inspired to finally put metaphorical pen to paper by a trip to a great summer fair at Fordhall (more about this below) and by Girl Gone Primal's article last month about Farmer Dan, from whom she has now started ordering meat, also including some free offal.Why do People Buy Meat at Fordhall?First of all, I wondered why other customers bought their meat from Fordhall farm - was it because, like me, they wanted to give their bodies better nutrition, or was it because of the smaller scale, environmentally and community-friendly approach to farming they take? Or was it because, by rearing the animals properly, they created better-tasting meat?A recent customer survey provides some insight:According to Ben,The flavour contained in Fordhall meat is often described as 'As it used to be' or 'like real meat'. All the cattle and sheep at Fordhall are reared purely on grass and this in its self has lots of benefits apart from the flavour. Grass fed cattle are known to have greater tasting meat, better marbling, higher levels of omega 3 and many other nutritional benefits.Dr Mercola in USA has done lots of research into this and we find we have a lot of new customers come to us after reading his work.It was interesting to see Ben reference Dr Mercola (his site is here for those not familiar with him), who of course is often linked to from Paleo blogs. If customers are mentioning him, then they must certainly be interested in more than just the taste and the ethos.Is Offal Becoming More Popular?In the first Animals post I was unsure whether I wanted people to wake up and see the value of offal. After all, it is thanks to widespread ignorance about its benefits and squeamishness about eating it that I am getting it free myself.According to Ben, there is a slight trend towards more offal eating, but they still "...throw away the occasional heart and tongue," which as far as I a[...]

GNC Peddles Sugar-Laden Supplement Chews


(image) I was in GNC in Boston this afternoon, seeking nuts.

At the counter was a bowl of chews, obviously available as samples. The lady in front of me was offered one.

They're good for you - they contain omega 3, stated the GNC employee with confidence.

The bags of 'Omega 3 Soft Chews' were on sale in a bucket nearby, so I had a look at the ingredients. Main ingredient - sugar, second largest ingredient, corn syrup (see image below.)

Holy crap. I mean holy crap.

It's been a while since I moaned about the various double standards practised by so-called health food stores, with their aspartame-packed muscle formulas and 'yogurt'-coated raisins - so perhaps I have just lost my ability to shrug off this kind of cynical product development and marketing.

In case you are interested, in 2008, on The Great Cake Porn Tour, I identified GNC in New York as a peddler of nonsense health food. I also wrote in this post to the CEO of a UK health food store, Holland and Barrett, who I discovered owned GNC, raising my concerns.

(image) So today, standing in line, I was getting ready to quiz the GNC guy when he offered me a chew.

What are the ingredients? I was going to ask.

Since sugar is bad for you and omega 3 is good, but there's more sugar than omega 3 in the chews, doesn't that mean they are NOT good for you?

...was going to be my slightly flawed, but in his world, probably watertight reply.

Alas, he never offered me a chew. He must have sensed the latent awkwardness in my face.

Air Travel, Swollen Feet and Bad Food: New Evidence


On a recent visit to Asia I managed to acquire the feet and ankles of an old lady. Not by making some sinister purchase, you understand, but as a result of water retention caused by the plane cabin pressure.In the comments for the blog post I wrote when I returned, someone with medical knowledge offered an explanation for something I already suspected: that eating bad food and drinking alcohol made the condition worse. As a reminder, here are the photos from the Asia trip:During the Asia trip3 days after Asia trip, after detoxingToday, I am coming to the end of another business trip, this time to Boston. Earlier in the week, when I arrived after an 8-hour transatlantic flight and 90-minute connecting flight, I took this photo of my feet:Immediately after the transatlantic and connecting flightsNo swelling at all. The flight had been almost as long as the ones I had been taking in Asia, yet my feet were fine. The difference? This time I had one coffee, lots of water and no food.So for this n=1 study, the evidence supports the hypothesis that eating and drinking crap makes flight-induced swollen feet worse.[...]

Paleo/Primal in a Nutshell Part 3: Sunshine


After a long wait, here is the third installment in the Paleo/Primal in a Nutshell video series. To see the first two (Food and Exercise) in various languages click here.

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Also of interest:

My Vitamin D Deficiency - a Salutary Lesson
How I got My Vitamin D into the Sweet Spot
Supplements - What I Take and Why(image)