The Good Fat Cookbook- Fran McCullough

This week for some reason is turning into macronutrient week. I’ve been reading up on proteins and fats. The Good Fat Cookbook is half a pop-sci recap of science research on fats and the second half are recipes.

FYI, the answer is that the good (vegetarian) fats are coconut, nuts, butter, olive oil, avacado, eggs and dairy fat. The bad (vegetarian fats) are margarine, soy, canola, mostly on grounds of hydrogenation and transfats. The book is generally pro-animal fats, but I skipped most of the text on those. I’m a vegetarian on grounds other than health, so I’m not interested in parsing the arguments. In any case, the book has warnings against saturated animal fats on page 26-27.

Macronutrients are agricultural commodities and the popular science press is an avenue for agribusiness to promote or smear products to their own best interests, so I’m sceptical of a lot of this research. There has been a smear campaign against tropical oils such as coconuts and palm oil. All commodities fund research and promote their products and being healthy, heck even cigarettes did at one point. In any case, the epidimilogical research I’ve seen on consumption of animal products points towards disease.

There are some seeming noncontroversial facts. Transfats are bad. Transfats are created by hydrogenating oil or overheating oils. [Update: merely heating oils will not create enough transfats to be interesting, after if it was possible to hydrogenate oil with 10 minutes of stove top cooking, manufacturers would do so, but instead they have to bubble hydrogen through oil for an hour to hydrogenate it.]

There are only a few vegetarian solid non-transfat fats, namely palm kernel oil and coconut oil. The fact that SE Asians eat up to 100 coconuts a year and have better heart health outcomes than Americans is reassuring.

Olive oil appears to be a non-controversial good oil, but it goes rancid easily. Same for nut oils. In any case, all my gourmet cook books recommend using it and in general, I think olive oil works well in gourmet cooking, especially in recipes where you are likely to notice the oil, for example in a salad.

Soy and canola oil appear to be controversial. A key issue with, canola, plus many other oils, is the chemicals used to process them (which may be an environmental bad, even if not a single molecule of a nasty processing chemical remains in the final product), and the heat required to refine a vegetable oil. Plus, once a vegetable oil is refined, it has hardly any oder, even when rancid, so you don’t get a signal to avoid a stale oil. Some of these issues are addressed by using expeller pressed oils, which keep the temperatures low and use physical extraction methods instead of chemical methods. Also, like any oil, a chef needs to keep a keen eye on the freshness and expiration dates of an oil, since rancid oils don’t taste any good, and could be harmful to the health to boot.

Transfats and Canola. It seems refining the oils creates transfats. Exactly how that squares with my bottle of Whole Foods Canola oil that says 0 transfats, I’m not sure. Maybe the refiners have fixed their process to stop putting tranfats into the bottle. I skipped over to the Canadian Canola oil website (did you know Canola is short of Canadian Oil? Canola was first developed in Canada), where they claim canola is the lowest in saturated fat, has no transfats and no cholesterol. So I’m not entirely sure why Canola got a bad review in this book.

Omega-3 Fatty acids appear to be good at some optimal level. For vegetarians, you can get some from flax-seed, walnuts and less from soy and canola oil. (Although in the Good Fat Cookbook, both of these oils are deprecated) Remember though, that both walnut and flax oil spoil very easily. Also, flax seed will pass right through you if it isn’t ground up.
As for the percent of calories you should get from fat, The Good Fat Cookbook is on the higher range of recommendations. Personally, I think the optimal ratio has a lot to do with your specific genetics. I’ve eaten a fairly high carb diet most of my life (especially after becoming vegetarian) and in general, I have a hard time gaining weight. If you’re ancestors ate tonnes of saturated fat, then you will be able to as well, but if you ancestors got by on mostly oatmeal then saturated fat might just give you an early coronary heart attack.

Anyhow, while I don’t think this book changed my opinion much, I think I did learn more about ranking the subtypes of fats, after you have chosen which one you are brave enough to add to your diet.

Products of my aching brain

Dad duty is over. Today’s events include bicycling and trivia night at Rhodeside Grill and some work, just to keep things moving forward at the office.

And lunch. Must eat lots to deal with the upcoming staving times when there isn’t enough time to cook.

Just about finished reading Painfully Shy. This book, much more than another book I’ve read on social anxiety really reminded me of myself–painfully so.

So now I have a couple more labels for myself: occasional depressive, social anxiety sufferer, avoidant. The depression part sometimes gets triggered by the social anxiety part–when I’m down to just myself, the world is gut wrenchingly depressing. On the other hand, talking to strangers is as joyful as pounding nails into my hands. To the extent I’m better than I ever was, it is because I’ve increased my tolerance for the pain of pounding nails into my hands.

Now, lest I be too hard on myself, I should point out that I do manage to get out and socialize at least once a week, and about twice year I manage to go into a socializing frenzy and get out to place where I can meet people nearly every other day. (Believe me, not as fun as it sounds. Not as scary as a trip to the movie “Saw”, but as gruesomely painful as pounding a lot of nails into my hands.)

I’m just so ineffective at it. To use a life insurance salesman analogy, I’m a bit like a life insurance salesman who, much disliking his job still knocks on lots of doors, yet gets only token sales each month.

Well anyhow, I guess I should review the book.

Painfully Shy suggests that people who are shy should use a variety of methods to do what needs to be done, including powder milk biscuits.

Change & Goal Theory. Doing anything about being shy is a project of personal self transformation. It’s a goal and goals are more likely to be followed through if they are publicized, have suitable motivation, etc.

Cognitive Therapy. Watch your thoughts, make sure they aren’t sabotaging your mood and your efforts to reach out to others. Tools include thought diaries, expectation-actual results worksheets, internal debates with unuseful automatic thoughts, and so on.

Habituation to the Fear. A big part of being shy is the physiological reaction that happens when reaching out to others– progressively habituation either by planning more and more aggressive social stunts or by imagining them (when scheduling a progressively more involved social event isn’t possible, like habituating oneself to how to connect to others at a funeral.)

Drugs. Personally, I only use SSRI’s in the most extreme cases, I can’t stand the side effects.

Tension treatment. Being in good health, especially with respect to being able to stay calm can have good side effects. Social anxiety gets worse when there are valid causes for other real life anxiety going on.

Religion. Religion is a bunch of ideas that everyone has opinions on, but aren’t answerable, like the idea that everything will work out in the end. Its very applicable in socializing, because before heading out the door, picking up the phone, there isn’t any particular evidence that it will end well, or that even the next twenty parties will end well. All there is a faith that the universe is not cruel and capricious.

What would the Buddha have to say about social anxiety? He’d probably advise compassion for the people you are reaching out to, detachment from the final results, equanimity towards oneself and he’d probably advise a bit of irrational faith in the possibility of happiness.

News, Part of a Book Review

I went to the Austrian Embassy and saw the nice lady play toy pianos. Mostly avant garde stuff and even the stuff that wasn’t sounded avant guarde because it was a toy piano. There was some waltzy music and a song about a trippy trip to the Freudian psychologist, so it all had a very Austrian feel.

The day before that was Battlefield 2 practice. I think in another few hours I’ll be competent to shoot the zombies in the game.

I’ve finish reading “Halo–The Flood” Halo the game is a bit like Pac Man, except you slay 3-D aliens instead of dots. Halo–The Flood made me think what Pac Man–The Novel would be like.

Pac man races down a corridor, eating dots left and right. Oh no! It’s a ghost! Pac man turns around and flees down the now empty corridor. Ah! Another corridor with white dots. Pac man eats one, and another, and another, and another, and another….

In Halo, you interact with the world mostly by shooting and the only things that respond to being shot are the aliens. So other novel worth interactions, like dialog tend to be left out or relegated to mini-movie scenes in between levels. “Halo–The Flood” was strongest as a novel when it was being less true to the game and describing the events of the secondary characters. In “Halo–The Flood” Master Chief was relegated to being, well, Pac Man.

The prequel to Halo, Fall of Reach was a better novel, but it was a different author, too. And some of the better themes and plot mechanics in the Fall of Reach were stolen from the authors own previous novel.

Today my knee hurts like hell and somehow I’m still going to go to the gym. I’m thinking maybe a upper body only work out. I might risk hurting my back, but it beats not exercising and it beats further aggravating my knee.

Recording an Audio Book

I used my holiday to do some programming (I hope to put together a movie club website) which moved forward, some.  I found out about LibriVox, which is the audiobook version of Project Gutenberg.  Long before I found this site, I thought it would be cool to record my own audiobooks–I always wished there were more technical audiobooks.  So now I’m motivated to record Princess of Mars.  Someone else may already be doing it, but if I’m going to spend 5 hours reading a book aloud and probably another 15 hours redoing it until it sound reasonable, I’m going to pick the book regardless to if someone else has read it already.  So far I’ve installed Audacity, I recorded 8 minutes and rerecorded it. 

I found out that Princess of Mars will take up 3GB in audacity format, I read about 200 words per minute and I really need to start reading the punctuation–I don’t give nearly long enough pauses for commas and periods.  Also, E. R. Burroughs liked really long sentences, so sometimes it is hard to guess how to read a sentence until it is already over.

If and when I finish this project, at least I will really have a good understanding of the structure of a novel.  (Makes me want to try recording something cool, like Neuromancer, but that would guarantee I couldn’t easily distribute it)

Baen and Bittorrent

All SF readers with cell phones or pocket computer, immediately start downloading these disks:

Baen CDs

The publishing company has taken some of its authors serial books and published the first volumes to disk and then let anyone down load or copy them!

Very devious. It means they have given up on making money on the old books (probably had sales in the low single digits) and now that a series has 15 books, getting a new reader to follow the series might be hard, since you have to track down 15 books, many of them will be out of print, and a new reader of a series has to know that they are embarking on reading essentially a 15,000 page story, which is intimidating. But after a reader has read all 15 books for free on his ebook reader, he has invested so much into the series that he will want to buy a copy when the 16th book comes out.
Now if only a similar business model could be invented for other media.

Book Club

I was crazy enough to volunteer to host a book club. I’ve been cleaning for the past day and a half. I passed out from exhaustion well before bed time yesterday, something that hasn’t happened for a long time.

I put together the sound track for the book (Time Traveler’s Wife). There were many songs and bands mentioned. Some were mentioned just for flavor (the beatles, silent night)– for time reference, seasonal appropriateness, not because the music was all that appropriate. Henry’s favorite bands followed a pattern– a lot of punk, post punk and alternative rock. Claire liked more popular music. The songs that Niffenegger mentioned by name showed Niffeneggers appreciate for deep, cryptic lyrics, not unlike the poetry she quoted in the book.

I made a playlist for my iPod, which I will post as soon as I figure out a clever way to do it. The pop music was easy, except for the bands mentioned only by name–for those I had to pick out a good song from the ‘best of’ albums. Some bands just didn’t have songs that fit with the themes and sounded good. I couldn’t find a love song from the Ramones that I liked. It was just as well, since by the time I stopped, I had 1.3 hours of music, which barely fits on a standard music CD. The mix of Clair and Henry’s music is interesting, because while Henry claimed to be annoyed by Clair’s favorites, they all seem to live together okay on the same playlist.
The classical music was fairly hard to find, and was really long peices, like entire operas and entire symphonies. Some of the classical musicians were only menioned by name, and the complete works of most composers is huge. Including even a couple of movements from a symphony or a few scenes from an opera would overwhelm a pop playlist. I might create a Time Traveler’s Wife classical play list someday.
My playlist definately could use some tuning. There are a bunch of identifiable themes in the Time Traveler’s wife, fate, things-not-making-sense, love, inevitability, waiting. I’m sure there are some songs that have lyrics fit better. There are also some bands and songs that I know Henry would have liked, had he survived the final chapters.

Book Review: Carpe Demon, Julie Kenner

I read this book for a book club I joined. I finished two hours before the meeting.

Memorable quote:

Normally, that is, except for the fact that I’d had only three hours of sleep, and my entire body felt like it had been pounded by a footbal team–and not in a good way.

This conjured up some mental imagery that was a bit…je ne sais quois. Let’s just say that it was suprising for a Buffy the Vampire Slayer grows up novel.
I bought it at a brick and mortar book store for $12.95, sold on half.com for $2.00.

Moral of the story: buy books online when you can and gee, you can find pr0n in the strangest of places.