Fluid talk

“Feed a cold, starve a fever”?  Or is it “starve a cold, feed a fever”?

When you get a cold, as I have, what is it you want to eat or drink? teapot

You would think I’d remember, after all these years.  Seems like I may have ‘looked it up’ somewhere, sometime and that the message was:  meaningless old adage; eat healthy food that appeals to you in either case.

But always drink.

I drink tea and water.  Get’s boring, but I have long lost my desire for anything with effervescence (bubbles) or sugary sweetness (an occasional summertime drink of southern sweet iced tea is the only exception), alcohol, chocolate or fruit flavoring.
Herbal teas for now, while ailing.

Strong Irish black tea with a hit of soy creamer is divine, but not to be wasted.  I beg my goddaughters to bring me a box of Lyons tea when they visit family in Ireland, so I am cautious about using up my precious stash. It requires a large mug and T I M E to sit and quietly enjoy the entire cuppa, while it is hot, uninterrupted.  A rare event.

There are two types of green tea that I especially enjoy, Genmaicha and Kukicha.  The first is a mild green tea made with toasted brown rice.  Warm and cozy, like a gentle hug.  Kukicha, made with stems, stalks and twigs is a bit more ‘in your face’, or a gentle kick in the butt:  ‘Wake up!’.

And then there is chai.  I think of chai as a food tea.  The spices remind me of savory dishes and also some baked goods.  With a little dairy or soy and a touch of sweetness, it fills the belly like a meal.


Scanned Image Scanned Image_2

I think it’s time to bring a little color back into this blog space.


Here is my artichoke drawing from the Eating Art Work series.  I’ve always loved artichokes and that made doing the drawing especially fun.  They were the most exotic food that we had when I was growing up.  The only vegetable, except salad items like lettuce, carrots and celery, that wasn’t from a can or the freezer.

It felt so adventurous to use our fingers to pluck off a leaf, (eating with our hands!) And then using our front teeth to scrape off just a bit of the meaty part from the softer end of the leaf.  Teeth and fingers, eating like animals?

In between the pluck and the scrape, there was the dip.  A little dish of melted butter sat on the table between my sister and myself, glistening, rich and inviting.  Pluck, dip, scrape and then toss the leaf into the trash bowl in the center of the table.  Our dad would collect our discards, which he claimed still had a lot of good eating on them.

And then there was the challenge of cutting out the spiny, feathery choke, to reveal the glorious heart.  The heart we could cut in pieces and actually soak in the melted butter.  Decadent!  I think that the luscious melted butter on those artichokes was my first experience of food being a vehicle for salt, sugar and/or fat.  Popcorn was another.

If you were a reader of this blog early on you may recall (or if you want to scroll back to a post from May of last year ‘Little Pistachio’, you will see) that as I ‘talked’ to the various chips I drew, I realized they were primarily vehicles for salt and fat.  Later my research revealed that the food chemists had also slipped some sugar into many of those chips, to bring the ‘user’ to a perfect bliss point.

Tell me, are you aware of any foods you eat that are vehicles for salt, sugar and/or fat?


That quote about parental fat bias and it’s effects on children (from a Rudd Center report ) has haunted me all night. Over the years I’ve written a number of personal pieces, none of which have seen the light of day or the glow of the internet, attempting to exorcize tormenting memories from my youth.

This morning I dug out an old clipping from the Boston Globe (September 2012).  There’s a photo whose caption reads:  “Nike’s ‘Find Your Greatness‘ ad features an obese boy jogging down a country road.”  I had forgotten the controversy about whether Nike did a good thing, inspiring people (even fat people?!) to greatness or whether they had exploited this fat boy.

Honestly, that doesn’t really matter to me.  What I remembered were the headline and first paragraph.  Under the heading ‘America’s deepest shame…The fatter we get, the more we fear and loathe fat people’, author Jennifer Graham wrote:

“When I was 12, my mother sent me into a convenience store to buy a bottle of Coca-Cola for a party.  Taking the money, the cashier looked at me critically and said ‘Do you know how many calories are in that?’”

In my opinion, what that cashier essentially did was to assault an innocent child.  This individual was a stranger who felt justified in shaming a child; it was emotional abuse.  That may seem like a dramatic overstatement, but if you have experienced such moments, you know it is not hyperbole or exaggeration.  The intensity of the shaming is directly correlated to the extreme fear and loathing many Americans feel toward fat people.

I’m angry.  Maybe that’s obvious.

I’m mad that so many children grow up experiencing this stigma, internalizing the belief that they are to blame, that they are a disgrace.  In the shame, blame and disgrace game, it is the food industrial complex that deserves much of the blame, for making disgraceful choices which value financial profit over the emotional and physical well-being of children.  They are the ones who ought to be ashamed.

Fat shaming/Weight bias

Interesting and timely show yesterday on Radio Boston (produced by WBUR/NPR) on the topic of Fat Shaming and Obesity.  The pod cast hasn’t been posted as of this morning, but will be soon, I imagine.  In any event, I recommend taking a look at the Common Health blog post by Carey Goldberg that initiated the broadcast.  Lots of ‘food for thought‘ there.

But what really got to me were the comments from Dr. Rebecca Puhl, Deputy Director at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale.  She is responsible for identifying and coordinating research and policy efforts aimed at reducing weight bias.  I did not know there was a growing body (my lord, the number of body size and food references in our everyday speech is staggering!)…a growing body of research regarding the stigma, prejudice and discrimination against people of size, especially women.

I took a look at some of the Rudd Center reports and there was one entitled “Clinical Implications of Obesity Stigma” that has a section concerning Parental Weight Bias… “Overweight children feel stigmatized by parents; report negative parental comments about their weight.  Parents communicate weight stereotypes to their children.  Parental teasing is predictive of sibling teasing.”

Well, I’ll be…  Apparently research confirms that the stigma (defined as:  a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person) I experienced in my family as a child was real and a real source of my shame.  Am I glad to know this?  Do I feel validated?  Or just saddened by the memories and the thought of the millions of children still experiencing this bullying abuse?

I keep losing my way in this flood of information and emotions. It’s about time that weight stigma/shaming are being discussed more openly; that research is being done and publicized.  I was glad to hear multiple references in the discussion to the fact that ‘unhealthy food choices’ are often not really choices at all, due to socio-economic factors.

However, I noticed that talk about unhealthy food products stops short of addressing the fact that profit-hungry food industrialists knowingly produce and promote food products that are designed to make people become physically & psychologically addicted to SSF.

If it Quacks…

Well, I wrote it and somehow hit the wrong key and lost it.  Not happy about that.  Since the ‘draft saved’ message has been flashing at the bottom of the screen the entire time, I know that the darn draft is in there somewhere, but I can’t find it.  Curse my extremely low-tech skills.

The title of this post refers to the quaint old adage, known as the Duck Test.  “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.”  May be true about ducks and other things, but not about processed food products.  Those food industry scientists spend years experimenting, testing combinations of ingredients & chemical additives to achieve a product that looks and maybe even swims and quacks, but is not the real deal…food.

The dust jacket of Warner’s Pandora’s Lunchbox features the image of a shrink wrapped package of orange American cheese slices.  On the inside flap is this line that caused my eyebrows to shoot up:  “If a piece of individually wrapped cheese can retain its shape, color, and texture for years, what does it say about the food we eat and feed to our children?”

Think about it…


Pushers sell drugs, with the goal of getting users ‘hooked’; so that the user will become a steady customer; customers spend money and pushers make money.  One could call them drug dealers, but the implications of the verb ‘to push’ being made into a noun, is, I think quite descriptively telling.

The commercial food industry makes food products in factories; products designed in laboratories.  Actual food is plants, animals and things that have been minimally, humanly prepared from plant and animal products:  harvest wheat, thresh, grind to flour, bake bread; milk cow, separate cream, make butter or cheese.  Food prepared by humans (even on a large scale) has as it’s primary purpose the feeding of people, the delivery of nutrients for health and growth.

Food products prepared in factories may start with the same ingredients, but they lose a few essentials along the way.  One needs heavy machinery to grind a lot of flour really quickly and to refine it so that it no longer has the pesky parts that could cause it to spoil.  These mammoth milling machines overheat the wheat, which is a factor in the loss of both nutrients and flavor.  The flour is then usually bleached and treated with ‘stabilizing’ chemicals, to extend the shelf life of the final product. Chemically produced nutrients will be added ‘back’ later.

You see, the ingredients don’t need to be handled with care and they don’t need to taste good on their own. Depending on whether it is destined to become sandwich bread, snack crackers, breakfast cereal, cookies or any one of a thousand products, a wheat-based product will receive flavor enhancers, sometimes known as ‘natural flavoring’, along with a precisely calculated mix of the big three:  sugar, salt and fat (SS&F).

Huge, multi-million-dollar research labs, some of them nominally independent of the processed food industry and many of them in-house labs, employ thousands of food scientists, working feverishly (because this is about competition, after all) to design food products that taste good, have an extremely stable shelf-life and can be made as cheaply as possible.

The goal is simple: profit.  Marketing personnel handle the outreach part of the pushing; researchers and food chemists find the precise mixture of chemical additives and SS&F that achieve the ‘bliss point’ (yes, they call it that) for the consumer.  It is a stated goal of the processed food industry to turn consumers into ‘heavy users’.  Users grow dependent (addicted?) and spend money.  Pushers make money.

There are so many threads to follow here.  I’ll do my best.  If you want a more precise rendering of the facts or verification of my comments, the place to start is with Michael Moss’s superbly researched volume Salt, Sugar & Fat.

Oreos and Politics

If you are a regular reader of the Boston Globe, that is, someone who reads the editorial page of the Globe, perhaps you were surprised, as I was, to see an editorial  entitled OREOS, one day last week.  I was struck by the title and then by the placement of the short item.  The Globe editors often comment on three separate topics, running down the left side of the page.  The OREO piece was in the middle spot.  Get it?  (If not, let me know…)

Headline:  OREOS:  Lab rats get hooked…   “… A new Connecticut College study shows that Oreos are as addictive as cocaine, at least for lab rats…compared with similar studies in which rats could get a shot of cocaine or morphine, the Oreos activated more neurons in the pleasure centers of the rat brain… than either drug.  … suggesting Oreo’s combination of sugar and fat may be even more irresistible to one’s brain than drugs… [and] may be as hard to kick as drug addiction, and must be treated similarly.”

Key words:  addictive, sugar, fat, drugs.  Strong words to find linked in a main stream newspaper editorial.

Words I have chosen to describe the role of the rapaciously hungry-for-profits processed food industry (makers of convenience food products and diet foods):

Pusher and Pimp.       More on that tomorrow

Eating Art Work

I’ve been thinking about the title of this website and blog.  And moreover, the explanation that I have on the first page of the site, entitled ‘The Beginning’.  Hardly.  So I’m contemplating a subtitle that more accurately describes all the pieces that have come together here.  All the branches and limbs that have sprouted from the original idea.  Which was?

I started a consulting business, helping people who are stressed about daily cooking and as soon as I started the work, it became clear that entwined with, underneath any cooking “issues” – or non-issues – everyone has a Food Life Story.  We have been fed and have eaten all our lives and the story of that journey is unique & fascinating. So I began interviewing people about their Food Life Stories, thinking to write a book.

That’s the main branch. Then it forked.  One limb led me to examining my own FLS and the Eating Art Work drawings were/are smaller branches, still growing from that limb.

The other limb was research, initially driven by the patterns I found in some of the interviewee’s FLSs.  If you were born & raised any time after 1945, post WWII, regardless of ethnicity, socio-economic class or geographic location, with very few exceptions, there was a mammoth cultural influence in play:  the hungry-for-profits food industry.

I began reading about the shift from small shops (bakery, butcher, greengrocer, etc) to supermarkets, about the political shenanigans involved in promoting the industry (that goes back to FDR & WWII), about the all-out marketing effort to convince homemakers (women) that they wanted & needed processed “convenience foods”, about the manipulation and undermining of the home economics curriculum in public schools… all startling and relevant insights into how we became the Fast Food Nation.  I read biographies of cooks and chefs.  It was fascinating and one thing led to another.

But when I read Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss, Cooked by Michael Pollan and Pandora’s Lunchbox by Melanie Warner, pieces began to fall into place and things got darker.  That’s where I am today, day two of NaBloPoMo.


NaBloPoMo has begun.  That’s National Blog Post Month, a spin-off from NaNoWriMo,  National Book Writing Month.  Why November?  Don’t know.  What does it mean?  Blogging every day.  Since I haven’t even blogged weekly for more than a year – and what a year – that’s a challenge.

But I want to get back to the blog here; use this as a way to move forward with this piece of writing (essay or book?) about the personal, political and social roots of shame re: body size.  Working title has been “De-constructing Shame:  It is Not Too Late”.  Musings (to borrow a word from my blogging friend Em-i-lis) of a 60+ woman of size who believes that shedding shame is essential to enjoying the remainder of my life.

Don’t even know if I have a word count goal for these daily posts; just being sure to do them is challenge enough.  So, when I click ‘Publish’, I shall have made a public commitment, not just to blog, but to move forward with this writing, processing, de-constructing and re-constructing project.  Here goes…

PS:  Backyard maple tree is vibrating-ly aglow with late afternoon sun on the golden leaves.  Against a crisp blue evening sky.  Omen-esque.

Back To Eating Art Work

I’ve been ‘away’ for a while, trying to get the word out about the EAW project.  I have been drawing though…in fact, here’s a recent drawing of a Clemetine peel:

Clem peel

And now I’m picking up the blog again.   I will return to the chronological story line, interspersed with more immediate news and reflections.  Next week, on March 14th, I’ll be presenting a one hour workshop at the Manchester-by-the-Sea Library, entitled Food and Memory.  If you happen to live up that way, please drop in at 6:30 PM.


If you haven’t visited the Eating Art Work shop at etsy recently, please take a look.  You will find some new drawings appearing on kitchen towels and note cards.  I would love to hear what you think of the designs and any comments or suggestions.  Thanks.