A weekend of vomit

I cleaned up lots of vomit on the weekend. On Friday night I was woken by the sound of Elizabeth wailing from the bathroom. I found her sitting on the toilet surrounded by a pool of vomit. Why couldn’t she have vomited in the toilet rather than on the floor next to it? I suppose I should be thankful that it was in the bathroom and not on the bedroom carpet.

On Saturday morning Daniel woke up to find he had vomited in his bed through the night. He’s the only person I know who can vomit without waking up. He also slept through a magnitude 7.1 earthquake so I suppose it goes with the territory. Unfortunately his vomit ended up on the carpet and blankets.

Why does vomit always contain diced carrots even when diced carrots have not been eaten? Ben has also been sick but thankfully he has avoided puking so far. I’m the only well one which means I’m either about to catch it or they’ve got food poisoning from some animal product which I don’t eat. I’m hoping it’s the latter.

Sainsbury’s vegan mac and cheese

Sainsbury’s vegan mac and cheese

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Sainsbury’s reported earlier this year that sales of their newly launched vegan cheese exceeded expectations by 300%. This is not bad at all considering the vegan market has always been viewed as small and somewhat niche. I decided to give their vegan macaroni cheese a try.

It’s a ready-made meal for one which you heat for five minutes in the microwave. It’s also gluten-free and wheat-free which is a disappointment for me since I’m not in the 1% of the population that has coeliac disease. Why does it matter, you ask? Gluten-free foods tend to have a higher glycemic index (GI) than foods made with wheat. Wheat is often replaced with rice or potato and both are very starchy and have a high GI. Wheat has more protein in it than rice and therefore a lower GI. I will always choose wheat over rice and potato for this reason. I also prefer the taste of wheat. Pasta made with rice is often sticky and doesn’t have the same flavour. It annoys me when vegan food is made gluten-free. I guess they are trying to boost sales by capturing two different markets but when I see gluten-free I usually put my wallet away. I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with Daniel and people who follow a gluten-free diet are at a slightly higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

I purchased Sainsbury’s mac and cheese without realising it was pasta made with rice but I ate it nevertheless and it was very tasty. If I hadn’t known it was made with rice I probably wouldn’t have realised. The texture was good and suitably cheesy. If I was a coeliac I’d definitely buy it but given that I’d prefer pasta made with wheat for health and taste reasons, I will not buy it again. Now to go and do 300 star jumps to combat the sugar rush…

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Doors that don’t open and preservatives in food

At my work meetup in Madrid this past week I embarrassed myself one night just before dinner. There were eleven of us and we arrived at the restaurant at 8:29pm. The restaurant opened at 8:30pm and when I tried to open the door it was locked. We figured they would open it at any moment and waited outside. Minutes went by and other people joined our queue at the front of the restaurant waiting to go in. After about 10 minutes we started to get worried and Ceri asked me whether I’d tried pushing the door as well as pulling it. I was a bit indignant – as if I wouldn’t have tried that already? I replied, “Of course!” and then demonstrated this to her : I pushed and pulled the door with force and it opened. Evidently it had been unlocked the whole time. Either that or there was a time freeze during which aliens appeared and unlocked the door before vanishing into space.

When we visited the three wineries I was very irritating and asked each of them whether they put sulphur dioxide (a preservative) in their wines. All three wineries did and so I didn’t taste any of the half-dozen or so wines we were presented with except for two – one of which was 30 years old and I wanted to try it. I drank less than half a glass all day but still got a headache. The wineries all told me they have to put sulphur dioxide in the wines or they turn to vinegar. If that’s the case then how do all these other wine producers manage to produce wines without it?

Sulphur dioxide is a known allergen; however there’s no evidence that it causes headaches. I think part of the problem is that alcohol often causes headaches and it’s hard to isolate the cause and identify sulphur dioxide as the source of the problem. Correlation is not causation. But since this happens to me when I eat other foods that contain preservatives I prefer just to avoid them. Headaches are awful and I would prefer to avoid them if I can.

The best dietary advice I ever heard came from an anthropologist – Christina Warinna and this is what I try to live by:

Eat wholefoods, eat fresh foods, eat lots of species.

She talks a little bit about preservatives in her TED talk. She says preservatives all work in the same way: by inhibiting bacterial growth. What’s wrong with this? She says, “We have to keep in mind that our gastrointestinal system is also full of bacteria: good bacteria that do many good things for you. They digest your food, they regulate your immune system, they promote mucosal function. If you’re eating foods full of preservatives how does that affect your micro-biome, your good bacteria within you? The answer is we really don’t know and it’s something we’re only starting to investigate.” 

 

The Haemorrhoid bike seat

The Haemorrhoid bike seat

First there was the condom poncho. Now I bring you the Haemorrhoid bike seat.

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I just got this new seat for my bike. The fantastic bike shop let me try three different seats for comfort. This one was the best. I haven’t ridden any great distance on it yet so I can’t give a full review but on my short trips to and from school it has been great.

PS: I don’t have haemorrhoids. I’m vegan and eat a lot of fiber 🙂

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Is pearl barley the perfect food?

I love pearl barley. It’s one of the oldest cultivated cereals and was an important source of food for Europeans up until the end of the 19th century. It has a very low glycaemic index and is high in soluble fibre making it excellent at regulating blood sugar. It’s also higher in protein than rice and corn and can apparently help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and reduce the risk of colorectal cancers.

Pearl barley is very nutritious and one serving contains calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, zinc, selenium, folate, niacin, thiamin and riboflavin. It’s also very cheap with a 500g packet costing just 55p and producing 20 servings. The Whole Grains Council has a list of research studies on the health benefits of barley here:
http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/health-benefits-of-barley

Pearl barley could be the perfect food and yet most of what we grow gets fed to farm animals. According to this article in Nature, 75% of global barley production is used as animal feed, 20% is malted into things like beer and whiskey and only 5% is used by humans in cooking. Humans eat it in soup but not much else. But barley makes a tasty replacement for rice and pasta and this evening I adapted one of my pasta recipes to include pearl barley instead and it turned out really well so I thought I’d share it:

Pearl barley with cashews and vegetables

* 1 cup of pearl barley
* 1 vegetable stock cube
* 1 leek
* 3 tomatoes
* 2 stalks of celery
* 2 tblsp soy sauce
* 1 tblsp balsamic vinegar
* juice of 1 lemon
* 2 carrots
* 1 cup cashew nuts finely ground
* about 1 cup of water

Bring some water to the boil and cook the pearl barley until soft. This will take about 40 minutes. Once the barley is soft, drain it and put aside.

Fry the leek in olive oil until soft then add the other vegetables and fry for a couple of minutes. Then add all the other ingredients. If it’s too dry add some more water. Simmer for 5 minutes. Eat!

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All or nothing?

Some people have expressed concern to me that I’m punishing my kids by banning sweets. But the thing is, when I say I’m banning something, it does not mean I’ve literally banned something. I never take anything to extremes. I’m flexible with practically everything I do in my life.

So what does banning sweets mean? My kids still get sweets when they go to birthday parties (if the host provides them) and I still do home baking. I almost always have home-made muffins in the pantry (although not at the moment as we’re between homes right now) and when we eat out they sometimes get dessert. They also get treats from time to time like a slice of cake if we go out to a cafe or if it’s someone’s birthday. But we don’t have orange juice or ice-cream or lollies or chocolate in our house.

I also align myself with veganism but I’m not strict. If I go to someone’s house and they offer me a cup of tea with milk and a piece of cake with egg, then I’ll usually accept it. If someone cooks me dinner and it has cheese, then I’m not going to turn it down. Veganism, to me, is not about being militant about every little thing that passes my lips. It’s more about elevating the status of animals and then making choices, when we have them, that respect the rights of other animals. And I would say that almost all of the time, I get the choice to choose plants over animals.

I’m also a teetotaller but again, I’m not strict. Occasionally I will drink a beer. Or make my vegan ice-cream with cointreau recipe. Or try mead for the first time. I enjoy drinking alcohol but I don’t like the headaches that come with drinking too much and there’s also a strong link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer, even in moderate amounts. On the whole, I think the stuff is best avoided if you’re a woman, but again, I don’t adopt a militant approach to this.

I think having a flexible outlook for all these things and others makes them easier to maintain. I realise it doesn’t work for everyone and some people need to take a hard line or they fail. But I firmly feel that where veganism is concerned, it’s much easier to try your best and not get hung up on the small amounts of animal products that we might unintentionally ingest. I think many people are put off by what seems like an impossible task. But if you take a relaxed approach to it, then it really isn’t impossible at all.