Cluster of wheat image Grapes and vines image Cluster of wheat image
March 18th, 2014


I was talking with my son about sensitivity to gluten which seems to be a malady that flesh is heir to in recent days. He is of the opinion that people are eating much more in the way of gluten-containing foodstuffs than ever before in the form of breads, muffins, cookies, cakes, pizza, and the like which explains why our bodies can’t handle it. Apparently in the “olden days,” before cross-country trucking and railroads, and refrigeration, wheat products were more of a seasonal thing and the ordinary joe ate more fruits, vegetables, and meats, and less starches.
On the other hand it was my thought that bread has been a staple for millennia and at least since the time of Jesus people have been breaking bread, the kid had loaves for Jesus to multiply, and his disciples were reprimanded for eating a few kernels as they passed through a wheat field. It could be we were both right. We eat more wheat but bread has always been with us.

Speaking of refrigeration I mentioned in the course of the conversation that when I was about 7 or 8 my family had a icebox in the kitchen, with a drip tray at the bottom, and a sign to put in the window telling the iceman how big a block of ice we wanted. The iceman would drive his horse-drawn cart through the back alley every day and we kids would follow along behind, hoping to get some chips of ice on a hot day. It seems I had never before mentioned to my son that I dated back to the time when the iceman actually came.

All of which caused wonderment as to how, without refrigeration, the iceman was able to deliver ice to us on a hot summer day. The next day it was explained to me that they cut huge blocks of ice from the frozen pond in the wintertime which was stored in a big warehouse where it was surrounded by sawdust for insulation until needed.

Which left two more questions: Ons, how did they cut and lift those big ice blocks, and.two, where did they get all that sawdust? Obviously I should have asked more questions when I was around.

February 9th, 2013


Connecticut. Major, major winter snowstorm. Can’t go anyplace. Not allowed to go any place! Home alone. And then, at the back door, son Dan with a container of what he calls “winter storm soup.”

He made it himself. It’s hot. And, so help me, it’s pink! With lots of green things floating in it. He tells me what its made of — broccoli, kale, asparagus, something called chorizo, a couple of kinds of beans, I don’t know what else. I taste it and it’s really good with a zip to it which I attribute to the chorizo. Never met a chorizo in my life but google tells me that chorizo is a spicy sausage containing pork and paprika. Aha! Paprika explains why the soup is pink! I think the asparagus gives it a rather unusual taste.

They tell me there are close to two feet of snow outside but it seems to have stopped snowing. Quite a bit of wind, blowing the snow around. Lots of drifts and I can’t get the back door open. Sooner or later Dan will plow the driveway and the mayor will allow us out on the streets. In the meantime, I am snug and warm, with electricity and hot water, and there is still a lot of winter storm soup waiting in my refrigerator.

To me, the words “winter storm soup” spell love.

April 5th, 2012



I guess my mother must have seen this ad long ago – I’m thinking  the 1940’s – because she bought some Ovaltine back then as a pick-me-up. I liked it then though we kids were not supposed to drink it — it was for Mom’s health.  (Mom and Dad had five kids and weren’t into frivolous purchases.)   I’ve liked Ovaltine  ever since – the flavor, the handiness of it when you need a quick snack or a soothing hot drink.

The Ovaltine that is currently on the grocery shelves some 80 years later boasts a new recipe with no artificial sweeteners, no artificial colors,  and 16 vitamins and minerals. I’m sure that over the years the recipe has changed many times, in keeping with the thinking of the day. Probably a multivitamin and a glass of milk would make more nutritional and economic sense, but I cling to the old comfort food that is Ovaltine.

I don’t think I’ve ever done a tribute to a product before.   Who doesn’t want to wake up GAY and radiantly “alive”  in the morning?  I just wish they still had the classic chocolate favored Ovaltine WITH malt at my grocery store.

December 5th, 2011


The 7 billionth baby was born last month. I posted this  ‘factoid’ on Facebook a few days ago in view of the ever-ongoing push to limit births by promoting abortion and contraception, especially in Third World countries, a disdain for large families, and an almost palpable fear of “too many people”  on our itty-bitty Earth.

Too many people? Not enough room? “… the world’s population could fit in the State of Texas. Texas encompasses 268,581 square miles. Based on world population figures from July 2011, the world’s population is approximately 6,973,570,000. This means that one person would have nearly 1,074 square feet to live in the State of Texas, or live in a density somewhat similar to New York.” — Human Life International


The following article was published in 1994.   I thought it was already on my blog but I can’t find it anywhere!  So, because it is still just as relevant, I post it now.


Several years ago I came across something I found hard to believe. I read that you could put all the people in the whole world in the state of Texas and each person would have 1500 square feet all to himself! I got out my World Almanac and my encylopedia and set to work. It took awhile. I had to remember how to turn square miles into square feet and how many zeroes in a billion. But, in the end, it was true. Everyone could live in Texas and we could use the rest of the world as a playground and a breadbasket.

Writer James Sedlak recently had some fun with the everybody-in-Texas idea. He recalled his family homestead, a four bedroom house on a 4500 square foot lot. There are now 5.5 billion people in the world and there are 262,840 square miles of dry land in Texas. If everyone were in a family of four and lived in a simlar home, the parents could share a bedroom, each child could have his own room, and there would be a nice guest room remaining in each home. His conclusion: “We could fit the entire population [of the world] in the state of Texas and have up to 1,375,000,000 spare bedrooms!”

One might get the impression from the media hype that there are so many people on earth that they are about to fall off the planet. If you’ve ever flown over our great country, however, and seen the vast emptiness, it is obvious there is room for many, many more Americans. But surely, one might say, they must be elbow-to-elbow in China where families are forcibly limited to one child.    Actually, although China is the most populous nation in the world, the population density in China is about the same as that in Pennsylvania. My own state of Connecticut, as well as Massachusetts and New Jersey,  are each three times as densely populated as China.

Well, one could argue, if there is plenty of room it must be that there is not enough food. In 1968 Paul Ehrlich’s book, The Population Bomb predicted that in the 1970s hundreds of millions of people were going to starve to death. World population has increased but even in the Third World the average person is better fed than in 1968. Never in all of history have so many lived so high on the hog. Never have so many complained of obesity as their major health problem.

Since 1977 world food production has surpassed population growth. Colin Clark, former director of the Agricultural Economic Institute estimated that using modern agricultural methods an “American-type diet” could be provided to 35 billion people, or a Japanese-type diet to three times that many people. Contrary to Ehrlich’s prediction, life expectancy in developed as well as undeveloped countries has continued to increase, and China and India are now among the leading exporters of food.

The doomsayers claim that we already have too many people. However, it has long been noted as a demographic truth that when national prosperity increases, national fertility decreases. Procreation has been called the poor man’s recreation. Perhaps prosperity permits other diversions. Perhaps it results in better education,  more women in careers, later marriages and postponement of childbearing. Perhaps with economic security parents do not feel they need the security of many children. Whatever the mechanisms, history shows that as per-capita income increases, per-family birth rate decreases.

There are, surely,  terrible areas of squalor and hunger. There are greedy people who rape the land, pollute the water, exploit the poor, and hug their plenitude to themselves. The problem is not one of lack of space, or food, or resources, or a need for better contraception and more abortions. The problem is one of unmitigated selfishness on the one hand and the lack of love on the other. Greed sacrifices people, love sacrifices for people. The problem is not what too many people are doing to society, but what society is doing to too many people.

G. K. Chesterton said that Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; rather, it has not been tried. Gandhi said that if Christians practiced Christianity there would be no Hindus in India. And, I might add, no poverty, no homelessness, no starvation. Christians with more than they need would aid their neighbors in distress.

The world powers, all of which have birth rates below replacement level, are pouring millions into programs to decrease the fertility of Third World countries. Often they will only provide aid to undeveloped countries on the condition that they accept programs urging contraception, sterilization, and abortion.

Imagine, as has happened in India, requiring villagers to accept family planning, primarily in the form of vasectomies, in exchange for a village well! Some feminists have criticized population control programs which use economic coercion to limit women’s reproductive choices. According to Pope John Paul II such programs can easily become “a substitute for justice and development” in undeveloped countries.

Since we do not know what tomorrow holds, who can say that less is better? We are seeing unprecedented hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes. We have conquered some diseases  that used to be killers, but they have been replaced by new ones. AIDS is certainly not contained. Our old bacteria are developing new strains which are resistant to antibiotics. An epidemic of infertility has become evident, largely attributable to contraceptives, abortion, and sexually transmitted diseases which no one ever heard of until recently. We still might, God forbid, endure a nuclear holocaust. We are not likely to have seen the last of war.

God knows what is to come, we don’t. How do we come to the decision that ideally population growth should stop, right now, by whatever method, even if it means killing the unborn, even if it requires permission from the government to bear a child (as has been suggested).

In closing, I will let Malcolm Muggeridge make my point. Consider, he says, “the amazingly ludicrous spectacle ot twenty-three million Canadians in an enormous country full ot unexploited wealth, boasting with great satisfaction that they’ve achieved a zero birthrate. Even more hilariously funny, so funny that one wonders if it isn’t God’s special blackboard to hold up to us the infinite follies of mankind, are those nine million Australians who cling tenaciously to a tiny bit of the coastline of a huge continent and praise the Lord for having achieved a zero birthrate.” (Eighty percent of Australians live within 50 miles of the ocean!)

Yes, even as I write, my local newspaper features an AP release in which ecologist David Pimentel says we should slash the world population to 2 billion and limit familes worldwide to an average of 1.5 children. Well, as I said, this article is presented as another perspective. If we are indeed on the eve of destruction it is not from too many peiple but from too little love.

October 21st, 2011


In the 1950’s and ‘60’s the fluoridation of the public water supply was a hotly debated subject in the public forum. Fluoridated water was supposed to prevent dental caries and I was in favor of it until I learned that a doctor friend of mine who was both a health commissioner and Professor of Preventive Medicine at Loyola University was against it. I proceeded to study the matter and learned that most people who opposed fluoridation knew a good deal more about it than those who favored it. I learned that among those who opposed it were Dr. James Sumner and Dr. Hugo Thiorel, both Nobel prize winners in the field of enzyme biochemistry.

As is my wont, when I get fired up I write,  and here is my subsequent letter to the editor:

There is at least one town in this country that boasts of the fluoride content of its water with a sign reading, “Water Fluoridated by God.” It is to towns like this that fluoridationists point when they maintain that people have been drinking naturally fluoridated water for years without harm–and with decreased dental decay. There are three things I would like to say about naturally fluoridated water.

First, the fact that a thing occurs naturally does not mean that it is desirable. There are areas, as in India, where people are hopelessly crippled with endemic fluorosis because of the high content of fluorides in their water and they are seeking ways to lessen the fluoride content of drinking water to below one part per million.  Perhaps they might appropriately put up a sign saying, “God Goofed.”

Secondly, fluorine is present in naturally fluoridated water as the relatively harmless salt, calcium fluoride, and, moreover, is accompanied by the minerals that are invariably presesnt in naturally fluoridated water which may affect the activity of the fluoridation. Sodium fluoride, which is used in artificial fluoridation, is a highly toxic chemical, a few grains constituting a lethal dose, and is 400 times more soluble and 400 times more easily picked up by body tissues. There are no lifetime studies of the effect of sodium fluoride added to soft water on the people who drink it.

Thirdly, whether fluoridation occurs naturally or artificially, even at the recommended optimum of 1 ppm, about one-sixth of the children examined show mottling of the teeth. This is a dental defect, and such mottling, according to the AMA, is “the first delicate criterion of excessive intake of fluorine.” When this occurs, the intake of fluorine should be decreased. How? By buying bottled water? The dosage of fluorides would be more satisfactorily controlled by administering them to individuals, not a whole city.

It should be clearly understood by everyone that fluoridation of a community’s water supply is a new frontier in compulsory mass medication. It is not in the same category as the addition of chlorine in the water to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases such as typhoid. Dental caries is not a water-borne disease. Nor is it in the same category as compulsory immunization to prevent the spread of contagious diseases. Caries is not a contagious disease. Neither of these comparisons can be used to justify the forced medication of 100 percent of the population for the possible benefit of 1 percent, especially when one man’s medication may be another man’s poison.

A recent issue of GP (quite a respectable medical journal for the general practitioner) contains an article on “The Prescription Use of Fluoride to Control Tooth Decay,” which quotes a study of Feltman showing “fluorine sensitivity caused a 1 percent incidence of eczema, urticaria, epigastric pain, vomiting and headaches. These symptoms disappear when a placebo was given.” To me, this alone is sufficient reason for vetoing the fluoridation of our water.     D. Vining

Later I also learned that in 1956 Dr. Ionel Rapaport of the Psychiatric Institute of the University of Wisconsin, upon observing that Mongoloid children (nowadays called Downs Syndrome) had less tooth decay than normal children, made statistical studies to determine whether there was any relationship between the amount of fluorine in the water and Mongoloid births. He compiled figures from the Boards of Health of Illinois, Wisconsin, North and South Dakota which seemed to indicate an increase of Mongolism with the amount of fluorine in the drinking water.

Mongolism (Down’s syndrome) is known to be associated with trisomy of the 21st chromosome, a genetic mutation. Fluorides have been proven to be enzyme inhibitors and to interfere with normal metabolism. It has been postulated that the increased number of Down’s births in women over 35 is due to impaired maternal metabolism with advancing age. As a sidelight, in tea-drinking England one child in 700 was Mongoloid as compared with one in 2925 in fluorine-free areas of Illinois. Tea is high in fluorine (over 161 mg/kg) and a chronic tea-drinker (like the English?) can ingest as much fluorine as is present in artificial fluoridation

All these data piqued my interest in the subject and I corresponded with the Editor of Prevention magazine (against fluoridation) and A.L. Russell, Chief, Epidemiology and Biometry Branch, National Institute of Dental Research (for fluoridation), as well as others.

I also bought two batches of mice, some of which I gave tap water to drink and the others got tea to drink, hoping to learn if they gave birth to defective babies. I soon concluded that my casual approach to this experiment was not scientific enough and I had other things to attend to (like seven children and a part-time job) so I abandoned the project. To this day, I wonder what such a study would reveal.


I had thought that after fifty years of paying no attention to the subject of fluoridation (all the while merrily drinking my fluoridated, chlorinated tap water), we would have learned a thing or two.   My first stop was Wikepedia where I learned that “In 2006, a 12-person U.S. National Research Council (NRC) committee reviewed the health risks associated with fluoride in the water[16] and unanimously concluded that the maximum contaminant level of 4 mg/L should be lowered. Although it did not comment on water fluoridation’s safety, three of the panel members, namely Robert Isaacson, Kathleen Thiessen and Hardy Limeback, expressed[citation needed] their opposition to water fluoridation after the study[17][18] and the chair, John Doull, suggested that the issue should be reexamined.[19]

Wikipedia also provided me with a list of countries which had begun water fluoridation and discontinued it (the latter date being the date of discontinuation.)

  • Federal Republic of Germany (1952–1971)
  • Sweden (1952–1971)
  • Netherlands (1953–1976)
  • Czechoslovakia (1955–1990)
  • German Democratic Republic (1959–1990)
  • Soviet Union (1960–1990)
  • Finland (1959–1993)
  • Japan (1952–1972)

I then came across Why I Changed My Mind about Water Fluoridation by John Colquhoun* © 1997 University of Chicago Press.

Most of the world has rejected fluoridation. Only America where it originated, and countries under strong American influence persist in the practice. Denmark banned fluoridation when its National Agency for Environmental Protection, after consulting the widest possible range of scientific sources, pointed out that the long-term effects of low fluoride intakes on certain groups in the population (for example, persons with reduced kidney function), were insufficiently known [70]. Sweden also rejected fluoridation on the recommendation of a special Fluoride Commission, which included among its reasons that: “The combined and long-term environmental effects of fluoride are insufficiently known” [71]. Holland banned fluoridation after a group of medical practitioners presented evidence that it caused reversible neuromuscular and gastrointestinal harm to some individuals in the population [72].

Environmental scientists, as well as many others, tend to doubt fluoridation. In the United States, scientists employed by the Environmental Protection Agency have publicly disavowed support for their employer’s pro-fluoridation policies [73]. The orthodox medical establishment, rather weak or even ignorant on environmental issues, persist in their support, as do most dentists, who tend to be almost fanatical about the subject. In English- speaking countries, unfortunately, the medical profession and its allied pharmaceutical lobby (the people who sell fluoride) seem to have more political influence than environmentalists.

It seems clear to me with just this very casual follow-up that the issue of safety of fluorides in the public water supply has not been settled.

As for the question of whether there is a relationship between the ingestion of fluorides by the mother and Down’s Syndrome in her children, I found this link, on Super Down Syndrome.

The presence of fluorides in tea is discussed here.

On mature reflection, I guess it was a good idea to discontinue my study of the tea-drinking mice vs. the water-drinking mice. If any of the tea drinkers had produced mice with Down’s syndrome, I don’t know how I would have recognized any of the markers of that disease in a mouse!

Are floridation and/or tea-drinking related to Down’s syndrome?  I pass the torch.

June 25th, 2011


A few days ago my son commented that he had been watching me grazing in the back yard.  Well, when you think about it, I guess that is what I do do.  I think it’s hereditary.

Way back when I had a Mommy one of the rites of spring was to dig up young dandelion plants before they bloomed, or even budded, clean up the leaves and boil them to prepare what Mom called “a mess of dandelions.”  They were quite tasty with butter on them, not yet bitter as older dandelion leaves tend to be.  Back in the day, after a long winter, people somehow knew they needed something green inside of them.  There were, of course, no supermarkets laden with salad greens of many sorts in cello bags.   Dandelions were right  there in the yard,  edible, and, of course, free.

Just last week coming out of church I noticed that purslane had started to grow where the daffodils had died down.  I picked a little piece and said to friend, Jim, “This stuff has lots of Omega-3’s.”  “It’s fresh,” he said.  “Are you going to eat it?”  And I did.   At this time of year, mid-June, purslane starts growing all over the place.  Many consider it a weed but I welcome it and I expect that I was nibbling on purslane when my son caught me.  You have to get your Omega-3’s when and where you can.  It has a bland taste, interesting texture, and makes a fine addition to any salad.


Health benefits of Purslane

This wonderful green leafy vegetable is very low in calories (just 16 kcal/100g) and fats; but is rich in dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Fresh leaves contain surprisingly more Omega-3 fatty acids (?-linolenic acid) than any other leafy vegetable plant. 100 grams of fresh purslane leaves provides about 350 mg of ?-linolenic acid. Research studies shows that consumption of foods rich in ?-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and also help prevent development of ADHD, autism, and other developmental differences in children.

It is an excellent source of Vitamin A, (1320 IU/100 g, provides 44% of RDA) one of the highest among green leafy vegetables. Vitamin A is a known powerful natural antioxidant and is essential for vision. This vitamin is also required to maintain healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in vitamin A known to help to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.

Purslane is also a rich source of vitamin C, and some B-complex vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine and carotenoids, as well as dietary minerals, such as iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and manganese.   Read more

As kids somehow we had all learned that “sourgrass” was edible. It, too, is everywhere, with its clover-like leaves and little yellow flowers. On looking it up, I find other people know much more about plants than I do but it is described as pleasantly sour and “palatable.”


We kids used to pull at the tall grasses and nibble at their tender white insides. Purple clover, too, would provide a sweet nectar when you pulled the flower apart and sucked at it. (I wonder what happened to purple clover — haven’t seen it around lately.) Back in the day,  children would  spend time out in the fields investigating “things”.   Fields? What are those?

When my great-granddaughter was here a month ago she informed me that you can eat violets – the flowers, that is, not the leaves. Her Daddy told her that.  He takes her out exploring.

Another thing I tend to “graze” on when available is milkweed, especially the tenderest little tips. On investigating, I find that milkweed is much more edible than I knew.   Chickweed and lamb’s quarter are also free and nutritious in most back yards.  Here is a link to edible “weeds.”

Do something different today.   Go outdoors.   Graze.


December 28th, 2009


Jack LaLanne, born in 1914,  is world famous for body building, strength feats, and, at 95 is “extremely flexible, and has a mind and a wit as sharp as a tack.”  His wife says she has known him for 60 years and has never known him to be sick.   Why wouldn’t I want to read his new book, Live Young Forever: 12 Steps to Optimum Health, Fitness and Longevity?  He says, “We can refuse to let age run its plan of plummeting decline.”

Perhaps I can’t, by taking thought, add to my stature one cubit, but possibly – just possibly – I can make my remaining years healthier.

So I ordered this handsome  slick paper book with gorgeous photos of Jack’s perfect body.    His last famous feat was at the age of 65 when he swam Lake Oshinoko in Japan, shackled and cuffed, pulling 65 boats loaded with 6500 pounds of wood pulp. “At the age of 80 I could still perform hundreds of non-stop push-ups.  I felt no different than I had at 25.”  His waistline at 80 was 27-1/2 inches.

I looked forward to reading Jack LaLanne’s 12 steps to optimum health, hoping for some little nugget I didn’t know about, some word of wisdom to change my life for the better.  Briefly, here are his 12 steps:

1.  Motivation.  Figure out if you really want a healthy body — then go for it.  ”Seeing your own progress is the greatest motivator of all.”

2.  Keep away from killer habits – smoking, drugs, coffee and alcohol abuse, how to reduce stress.

3.  Personal care.  Hair care, skin care, dental care, eye care.

4.  Eating clean. Jack writes that  what you eat today is walking and talking tomorrow.  He says all the usual things about choosing foods that are  fresh and natural and gives sample meals.  Then came the surprise:   Jack eats out with his wife every night of the week except Monday.   And how do you get what you want when you eat out?  “Explain with gentleness that you want your fish without sauce, the vegetables have to be steamed, no butter added.  Take your baked potato without butter or sour cream.  No dressing on the salad…When you have soup it has to be broth-based as opposed to cream-based…Gravy is a no-no.  Want a dessert?  How about berries or a fresh fruit salad?”

It is clear this man is serious and disciplined!  He says he has always taken vitamins on a daily basis but makes no attempt to tell you what vitamins and/or supplements to take.   Jack  is well known for promoting juices for better health and selling his brand of juicer.  Fruit and vegetable juices are undoubtedly sources of many needed and vital nutrients.   My only question, is why not liquidize the whole item (except for peach pits, banana peels and the like) and drink the whole thing, getting all the fiber and other nutrients hiding out in the matrix surrounding the juice?  Need I add that I have written about my own Homemade V8 and kefir fruit smoothies previously.

5.  Maintain perfect posture.

6.  Do’s and Don’t of Water Drinking.  Drink lots of filtered water.

7.  The importance of stretching. LaLanne writes:  “I enjoy my stretching because I love the rewards of feeling flexible.  I’m as loose as a goose.”  He illustrates 12 stretches.   Stretch cautiously, don’t bounce, work on the more stubborn areas

8.  Find some energy.   How?   “I will take a mid-day nap of 30 minutes if I feel like it. ”

9.  Be in a steady relationship.  “My greatest joy has been loving, laughing and working alongside my beautiful Elaine for some 60 wonderful years.”  Dr. Laura Schlessinger  always says:   “Choose wisely; treat kindly.”    Jack LaLanne says the same thing: “Be kind to one another…..Choose your mate wisely…”  “If you have second thoughts about whether you could be loyal to your future spouse, then don’t get married.”

10. Work out. Jack says:  “If you are on my side of 50 you should probably start with a weight that allows you 20 reps.”  “There has to be a degree of gentleness with your first few workouts.”

11.  Never retire.

12.  Consume plenty of fruits and vegetables.  He talks in detail about various fruits and vegetables and their benefits.

The book closes  with a picture story of Jack’s life accomplishments.  I have decided this is the perfect Christmas gift for my grandson who shows some interest in body-building.   If Jack can’t inspire him, nobody can.

And what nugget have I gleaned from Jack for myself?  Only that I should do what I know I should do.    Eat what is good for me, not what appeals to my sweet tooth.  Exercise even when I don’t feel like it.  It is all so simple — and so hard.

This Jack LaLanne video is dated March, 1997:

Jack LaLanne is discipline personified.  Discipline is where we are all slackers.  Jack inspired me to do 10 minutes of gentle stretching.   Try it – you’ll be amazed at the difference in the way you feel.   Just think what could happen if you went for the whole enchilada and followed all of his 12 steps!  It is never too late to improve.





They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall still be full of sap, still green.   – Psalm 92:14

September 6th, 2009


Long ago, actually just about a year ago, I wrote about my dental problems and the Homemade V8 that I made to help keep me nourished when I was unable to chew vegetables.  At the time I planned a post on kefir which I hoped I could get my daughter to write since she is both better informed and more experienced.  In fact, she gave me my first kefir grains way back then.  That has not come to pass and the time has come for the kefir post.

Like yogurt, kefir is a cultured milk product but contains several strains of friendly bacteria not found in yogurt.  It originated in the Caucasus mountain region, was reputedly first made from camel or goat milk,  and is said to be the reason for the long, healthy lives of the inhabitants.
Nowadays it is usually made with cow’s milk  with kefir grains which have been handed down through the ages, either purchased or donated.



Kefir grains are gelatinous bio-masses which contain many yeasts and friendly bacteria which ferment milk (making kefir) and reproduce themselves by making more grains.  “Kefir when consumed regularly can help control (and with time decimate)  ‘bad’ intestinal flora and fauna, can sooth and assist in the repair of damaged or inflamed sections of the intestines and also readjusts the ever decreasing balance of bacteria in your intestines helping build your immune system.”  Doesn’t that sound beneficial?

Kefir is rich in B1, B12, and biotin.  It also contains tryptophan which has a relaxing effect on the nervous system and tones the digestive system.  For those who are lactose-intolerant, it makes milk easier to digest. It has antibiotic properties.   Kefir has  everything  you hope to get when you purchase probiotics, but you can make it at home and it goes on forever.

Another good thing about making kefir (unlike yogurt)  is that it doesn’t need a special temperature to grow!  The warmer the weather, the faster it ferments.  It will thrive in the ambient temperature and it will not die in the refrigerator.

This is what I do.   Add a couple of tablespoons of kefir grains to milk (pasteurized or raw, whole or 2%, cow or goat) in a clear quart jar.  Let it sit.  The grains will rise to the top and the milk will thicken, resembling a thin yogurt.  The longer it sits, the tangier the taste.  I let mine sit until I see a little clear whey becoming apparent at the bottom.  Strain it using a plastic strainer (they say metal is not good for the kefir) and there you have it!  The grains will go into a clean jar with more milk and make more kefir.

To the strained kefir I usually add a banana, a handful of frozen blueberries (or mixed berries), an apple (with skin, without core), and another fruit (peaches, pears, pineapple, cantaloupe, etc.)  Blend into a smoothie and drink.   This will make 2 or 3 glasses of a smoothie drink and I enjoy  the taste of it. Sometimes I add some vitamin C, or a “greens” tablet,  if I remember.

A blender is truly a blessing when it comes to getting fruits and vegetables into dentally-challenged seniors.   And fruits and vegetables and kefir do wonders for sluggish colons!

There are oodles of sites with information about kefir on the internet.    One of my favorite sites is Dom’s Kefir in-site from Australia.

April 18th, 2009


Easter-time was coming up.  My tenant, Jon,  is Chinese so I am not very surprised when he comes back from the Assi Plaza in Flushing, NY,  with some unusual purchase.   This year is was a soccerball-sized fruit covered with spines that looked like this.

He called it a durian.   It has the reputation of smelling awful.

Naturally I looked it up on Google.  Durian is described as the King of Fruits.  I followed a link that described it as “having a succulent creamy filling but smelling like stinky socks.”  One person wrote that “some of us who held it on our tongues for a while tasted something sweetly strange, otherworldly, and inviting.”   Another link described it as being banned in public places such as subways, malls and hotels.   Hotels in Singapore actually post signs in the rooms forbidding bringing in durian.

As Good Friday approached I planned to attend the morning prayer service  and watch (again) The Passion of the Christ in the afternoon.   It was on Good Friday morning (after morning prayer) that Jon decided we needed to show our strange fruit to his friend, John, who runs a farmer’s market.  In the presence of his bemused friends Jon proceeded to separate the husk of the durian along its natural lines of cleavage.  A durian has five compartments, each containing the creamy flesh surrounding a large brown seed.  In a strange way the contents of each compartment were reminiscent of a fetus and delivering all five sections reminded me of delivering quintuplets.

We tasted the creamy flesh, of course.  Though it has been described as somewhat akin to vanilla pudding, it was oniony.  We had read that they make durian ice cream, but didn’t think  that a good idea.   However, we also read that Malaysians cook it with coconut milk and sweet rice, and we decided that was the route to go.  On the way home we stopped at the Asian market for the required rice and coconut milk.

On Good Friday afternoon Jon cooked it up – with lots of sweet rice, some honey, vanilla, nutmeg and the best coconut milk.   It turned out so-so, a custardy rice pudding.  With well over twelve dollars invested so far, it couldn’t go to waste.  He added sugar and lots of lemon zest. He took it home to his family for Easter.  It was still so-so and was eaten on tortilla chips — interesting but still not a big hit.

I must add that Jon has worked as a baker in the past.  He took a batch of his durian mix, added whole wheat flour, yeast, and fish sauce.  After much kneading,  he baked a bunch of little round rolls which smell like bread and with butter (Smart Balance) were actually quite good. The insides were moist (because of the rice) and they had a nice lemony taste.   Then came more rolls and a loaf of bread.  Also nice and quickly eaten.  Over the next two days he  produced another five loaves of bread, sliced them up and put them in the freezer.  What a comeback!  The durian had risen to new life!  It was like a miracle!

It is said that the durian seeds can be sliced and fried.   We have yet to try that.


Things I thought I’d never do but did:  I ate a handful of dried guppies, also courtesy of friend Jon.

December 4th, 2008


Well, sometimes it’s only V5 or V6 or V7, but it works for me.

Many people as they age find they have fewer and fewer teeth.  Many end up, as I did, quite dentally challenged.  I was even more dentally challenged when I lost my denture and spent some weeks without it while a new one was being made.   Chewing was difficult and slow; salads were about impossible.  Something needed to be done; I was not getting the recommended quota of fruits and vegetables.

I liked V8 but thought it rather expensive.  Why not make my own?  Studying the “real thing” I noted V8 contains tomato juice (from concentrate), and vegetable juice blend (from concentrated juices of carrots, celery, beets, parsley, lettuce, watercress, and spinach).  Vitamin C and citric acid added.  A number of those things are always in my refrigerator: carrots, celery, onion, and cabbage.  And I have quantities of frozen tomatoes in the freezer as a result of my summer garden.

The procedure is simple.   Cut up one carrot, peel off a cabbage leaf, cut off a half-inch from the tops of the Read the rest of this entry »