Some Tasty Items: Gluten Free, Cottage Cheese, Fruits, and Cheap Eats

userpic=cookingIn the last day or two, I’ve been talking heavily about chum and stew. Hungry yet? Perhaps these food related items will whet your appetite:

  • Gluten Free Fads. As you know, I’m interested in the gluten free diet craze because my wife is celiac and has to each gluten free for medical reason. Over the last two weeks, a few articles caught my eye related to this. The first is an article from the BBC talking about the fad. The title is horrible, but the points are good: you should really only go gluten-free if you medically have to.  Gluten-free food isn’t necessarily healthier; sometimes it is worse. Further, those who don’t really have sensitivities can muck up a restaurant’s idea of what is GF for those that will get really sick when they slip up. The second is an article about a pill that will supposedly make it safe for celiacs to eat gluten. My attitude on this is: let someone other than my wife test it (translated as: the risk that it won’t work is just too great). In many ways, I’m not sure this is a problem that needs pharmacological solution:  the GF diet works, and those that follow it don’t miss much. The benefits of eating gluten aren’t that great, and the cost of the pill will surely outweigh any costs of special food. Lastly is a link to a purported gluten-free B&B in the area.
  • You Gotta Have Culture. Let’s move from what my wife eats to what I eat. Cottage cheese. Every day on my salad at lunch. You used to see cottage cheese everywhere. Today, it’s yogurt, yogurt, yogurt. But cottage cheese is wonderful — and not only with fruit. I like it mixed into almost anything — it adds a wonderful sweet cheesy flavor. NPR explores how that upstart yogurt got ahead of cottage cheese.
  • Fruit News You Can Use. Earlier in July, I had a news chum that talked about what fruits you should refrigerate, and which ones you shouldn’t. Here’s some more useful fruit news: how to know when the fruit you are getting at the market is ripe. This is always useful information, especially for melons and such.
  • Dining in the Valley. One last food related item: a list of 10 San Fernando Valley cheap eats.  We’ve eaten at some of these (and some are favorites), such as Lum Ka-Naad (near our house), Bun Me, and Les Sisters. Others we’ll need to try.



Independence Weekend News Chum Stew

Observation StewIt’s been stewing on the stove for two weeks because I’ve been so busy. Let’s hope it is still tasty and flavor-right. Here’s your news chum stew for the last two weeks:



Saturday News Chum: Lastpass, Food Waste, Celiacs, Music, and Sons

userpic=lougrantIt’s Saturday, and that means it is time to clear out the links. These are articles I found interesting during the week, but either didn’t have the time or the inclination to write about then:

  • The Lastpass Hack. One of the big security items last week was the hack of Password Manager “Lastpass” (which happens to be the password manager I use and recommend). There was word about how hashed Master Passwords may have been leaked, as well as password reminders. But as usual, Lastpass provided the best explanation on why and whether you should worry, and showed why people still don’t understand risk — In response to the question “Was my master password exposed?”, their response was:
    “No, LastPass never has access to your master password. We use encryption and hashing algorithms of the highest standard to protect user data. We hash both the username and master password on the user’s computer with 5,000 rounds of PBKDF2-SHA256, a password strengthening algorithm. That creates a key, on which we perform another round of hashing, to generate the master password authentication hash. That is sent to the LastPass server so that we can perform an authentication check as the user is logging in. We then take that value, and use a salt (a random string per user) and do another 100,000 rounds of hashing, and compare that to what is in our database. In layman’s terms: Cracking our algorithms is extremely difficult, even for the strongest of computers.” In other words, what may have been exposed was a deep one-way hash of an already deeply one-way hashed password. You’re really only at risk if they could guess your password, and that comes from a dumb password reminder. Still, they recommended changing your master password. I did so, and I changed it in the few other places I use it (none of which are web accessble; it is for similar non-web application vaults).
  • Going to Waste. We are an incredibly wasteful country. Two articles from NPR on that subject. The first deals with a grocery chain in Northern California, that has decided to sell “ugly produce” that would otherwise go to waste at deeply discounted prices. The second deals with a landfill of lettuce — salad tossed because it might not make it to market in time. In this time of drought, and considering the amount of water that goes into growing and raising food, we should work hard to make sure that all food, ugly or not, is put to good use. We have loads of families in need that could benefit from just-in-time delivery of fresh, but ugly, vegetables and similar food products.
  • The Celiac Cry. I’ve been pressing this point for a while, but this article expresses it really well: why the gluten free fad dieters are a bad thing for Celiacs. People think they know GF, but don’t do complete checking and poison those for home it really makes a difference.
  • Buying Music Is For Old People. This article really saddened me. It posited the notion that only old people buy music these days. The “younger generation” wants more and more variety, and they can get that by streaming their music from music services anywhere anytime. Of course, this is like AM radio of old, but we won’t tell them. The problem is that streaming doesn’t work everywhere, doesn’t cover all audiences, and tends to cost money (both subscriptions and data). It also puts what you listen to in the hands of the streaming services. No thank you. I’ll keep owning my music, making copies of my digital music as backups, and listening to it whenever and whereever I can.
  • Architecture in the West. Two architectural articles. The first deals with interesting undiscovered architecture in Tucson. The second deals with another product of the 50s to go away: first it was drive-ins, not it is bowling alleys. There aren’t many left in the valley; Mission Hills Bowl is now gone. Bowlers will miss it.
  • Sons!. My first live theatre that I saw on stage was the LACLO’s production of The Rothschilds, which I still love to this day. This week news came out that a revamped version is in the works.



You Are What You Eat

userpic=gluten-freeHere are a few posts from the last few weeks related to what you eat, and its effects. This is timely, as the CDF Food Fair and Convention is this weekend.



Chum: It Makes A Tasty Dinner Treat!

userpic=fastfoodNot that many themes have emerged from this week’s news, but there are a few. One has to do with food (unlike my previous post on FUD). So, without further delay, let’s sit down and start chewing. Don’t forget to say “Grace” first.

  • Manufactured Food. When we think about manufactured food, our mind quickly thinks genetic modification by scientists in laboratories. That’s because our society today has led us to always think the worst is happening. Here’s an interesting article about manufactured food — the old fashioned way. The article is about a fruit breeder who is developing all sorts of specialized fruit, like super-sweet grapes, or grapes with odd shapes. He does this the Mendelian way — slow and careful cross-pollination and plant breeding, with plenty of trial and error. You may see some of these in your market … if you can afford them.
  • Why Does Food Taste Good… or Bad. Two articles related to how we perceive how food tastes. The first looks at airplane food — or more properly, food you buy and bring on an airplane. It never tastes as good in the air — and it turns out there are scientific reasons for that based on the environment in the aircraft cabin. The second looks at beer and blue cheese. Some people love the taste; others can do without (I’m in the without category — can’t stand the taste of either). This time, it turns out that genetics are behind the different perceptions — there are particular genes that govern how we like these foods. I guess it is like the cilantro gene: some love it, to others it tastes like soap.
  • Gluten Free. The other day I cited an article about people to go gluten free because of a fad. On the heels of that article comes a decision from the FDA to regular the term “gluten free” (and similar expressions). There is now a specific legal definition for “Gluten Free”. Of course, it will take a year or so for that definition to go into effect.



Saturday Miscellany: GF Foods, Plantar Fasciitis, West LA Markets, and Bag Closures

userpic=observationsThe “clearin’ of the links” post seems to be increasingly moving from Friday to Saturday, so let’s just go with it. There is some slight connection between these stories, but not enough to make a full themed article:

  • Gluten Free Waste. My wife is gluten-free, for a reason. She’s dealing with Celiac, and there’s a medical basis. But for many people, going GF is the latest food fad. A recent Time article posits that we are wasting billions of dollars on GF food unnecessarily. They cite a new survey from market research firm the NPD Group that found America is cutting gluten out of its diet in a big way, with just under one-third of 1,000 respondents agreeing with the statement: “I’m trying to cut back/avoid Gluten in my diet.” Time notes that is the highest level since the company added gluten consumption to the surveys it does about Americans’ eating habits in 2009. TIME labeled the gluten-free movement #2 on its top 10 list of food trends for 2012. Time’s contention is that many of those paying a premium to avoid gluten are doing so without any legitimate medical reason. From what I’ve seen of fad diets, I’d tend to agree. As always, we’re heading towards a GF bubble here.
  • Foot Pain. Another article that hits close to home deals with Plantar Fasciitis. This is something I dealt with recently — it impacted my ability to exercise tremendously, and it took me almost a year to get rid of it. They recommend shoe fixes, but I haven’t seen that my fancy insoles made a big difference. More important, to me, was a “boot” I wore at night that prevented the Plantar from relaxing, so it didn’t get re-inflamed when I stood up in the morning. That, combined with anti-inflammatory medicine, seemed to make the biggest difference.
  • Remember Market Basket. Curbed LA had an article this week about a sad Pavillions at Wilshire and Stoner being closed, and talking about redevelopment that might occur at the even sadder (but open) Santa Monica and Barrington Vons. This caught my eye because of the location. You see, many many years ago (back in the 1970s and 1980s) the Wilshire and Stoner location housed the Market Basket where we did most of our shopping. My parent’s accounting office was in the Barrington Plaza next door, and I was always picking up stuff there for them (either there or Westward Ho on San Vicente). Wilshire and Stoner was also the location of the Crocker Bank where I got my first credit card (which I still have). In the 1990s, they “redeveloped” the parcel putting in an office building, but with a covenant that they retain a market there for the Seniors living in the Barrington Plaza. They put in a fancy Ralphs… which died. Then came the Pavillions, which died. Meanwhile, the really old Marina style Vons on Santa Monica stays busy.
  • There’s Profit in Everything. We often think about the big parts of business, not the little parts. For example, when we talk GF bread, we think about the bread itself not the bag… or how they close the bag. Well, Businessweek did that thinking. They have a really interesting article on a big battle between the clip-on bag closer and the twist-tie closer manufacturers to gain market share. As I said, big business… and not something you commonly think about.

Music: The Legendary Josh White (Josh White): “Trouble in Mind”


Food In The News

userpic=pastramiThis is an offshoot of the previous news chum post that is specifically focused on food news:

  • Packaging and Its Influence. Our first item, from Bon Appetit, is from a food psychologist and explores why we eat the way we do. It posits the notion that we would eat a lot less if our plates were smaller, among other things (e.g., package size influences what we eat). I blame our mothers who taught us to clean our plates before we could leave the table.
  • Bound in Chains. Our second article, from Slate, explores what it takes to open a chain restaurant. I tend to discount chains in deference to local shops, but each chain is really a local shop, hiring from the community and serving the community. The real questions should be: (a) is the menu what you want; (b) is the food prepared on premesis; (c) does the food have the quality and price you want?
  • What’s The Bowl Without Beer? Our third article, from NPR, explores the world of Gluten-Free Beers and performs a taste test. Now, I’m not a beer drinking, but I know those who are. My wife (who used to be one before going GF) has tried some of these, and says they are pretty good.

Friday News Chum: Autos, Subways, Buses, Hotels, Secession, GF Wheat, and Hats

Well, it’s Friday at lunch, and you know what that means–it is time to clear out the bookmarked links that didn’t quite form into themes (although, as I type in the times, there does seem to be a general transportation/travel theme). So here we go… (and as a reminder, I’m still looking for thoughts regarding use of iTunes 11 with the iPod Classic):

  • Three-Cylinder Power. This article from the LA auto show caught my eye. Evidently, Ford has a new 3-cyl. Fiesta, and the engine is designed in such a way as to give more power than a conventional 4-cyl. engine. The trick is to turbocharge the engine, combined with patented engine mounts and with weights installed outside the engine, on the pulley and flywheel to address the inherent unbalance of 3 cyl. If this approach works, I’m guessing we’ll see some revolutionary strides in small car efficiency.
  • Subway Problems. We all know how Super-Storm Sandy knocked out the NYC Subway system. What you probably don’t know is the work involved in getting it running again. Here’s an interesting article on why it is going to take a long time to restore the R train tunnel between Brooklyn and Manhattan. One of the longest tunnels, it saw all of its electrical equipment coated in salt water. Not good.
  • Busing It. Megabus is returning to California, with low-price tickets between Vegas, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Oakland to Union Station. This is of particular interest to me, as it provides an easy way for my daughter to get from Berkeley to Los Angeles (and then Red Line or Metro-Link to the valley). However, as the service is run by Coach USA, I’m unsure it will last (given Coach USA’s problems — they used to run the Flyaway). Still, I hope it succeeds.
  • The Cost of Hotels. LA Observed has an interesting discussion on why hotels cost so much, working off an article from Slate. There are a number of basic reasons: travellers tend not to bargain (especially when on expense accounts), and hotels don’t need to discount all rooms (they can discount the unsold few at the last minute). [By the way, this may be similar to the demand pricing Megabus uses to discount tickets — a few tickets purchased really early may be cheap, and tickets purchased at the very last minute may be cheap.] The Slate article itself talks about the excessive taxes, location costs, and high level of services, but concludes “Hotel customers tolerate these marked-up amenities because they generally aren’t very interested in driving a hard bargain. The business traveler is likely to feel that he “needs” appropriately located accommodations and isn’t going to be interested in exhaustive research about the costs and benefits of staying someplace cheaper and more remote. What’s more, he’s generally not paying out of pocket. A responsible employee will of course try to be reasonably frugal, but even so frugality is benchmarked to local costs. “
  • Costs of Secession. We’ve all be reading about the secession petitions, and even humorists have addressed the subject. But here’s a more interesting question: Suppose you have a DOD Security Clearance and sign a secession petition. Does that affect your security clearance? This article explores the question. When you think about it, it is a real issue: you have an individual who has just publically advocated working against the US government. Is that adverse information, and does it bring into question their loyalty to the US. As Ben Franklin once said, “Oh sure, harmless. I know how these things happen. You go to a couple of harmless parties, sign a harmless petition, and forget all about it. Ten years later, you get hauled up before a committee. No, thank you, I’m not going to spend the rest of my life writing in Europe.”
  • Gluten-Free Wheat? An intriguing article in the LA Times about some scientists who believe it is possible to engineer a wheat variety that goes not contain gluten. It might be possible, but I’m not sure I’d trust it… for a number of reasons. First, I would be far too afraid the processing would contaminate it with other wheat; secondly, I’m still unsure about engineered food.
  • Finishing With the Hat. And lastly, an interesting story about a woman who lost her hat while traveling. It was a hat her mother wore during her last days of chemo. How is she solving the problem… she’s putting the request on social networks.

P.S.: Received my first challenge coin today. Cool.

Music: Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me (Martin Short): “Glass Half Full”