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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Braque Shocks Picasso

"Fruit Dish and Glass", Braque's first papier collé (1912)

"I felt a great shock and it was an even greater shock to Picasso when I showed it to him."

~Braque, on his first papier collé, "Fruit Dish and Glass", possibly the first ever collage

Source: The New Yorker: "Cubist Masterworks at the Met."

Thursday, October 30, 2014

How to Eat--and Enjoy--Sugar

I was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes nearly ten years ago, on my honeymoon in Barcelona. If you Google the phrase “Honeymoon Horror Story”, my essay about the prelude to this diagnosis (I was hit by a car) appears on the first page results. I’m perversely proud of this fact. But really, I do not remember my honeymoon as a “horror story." My diagnosis saved my life and set my path. With daily insulin injections, I recovered my health and transformed my lifestyle.

Since my diagnosis, I’ve performed a rigorous daily experiment upon myself: each day, I’ve tested my body’s response to the sugars in foods (up to 12 times a day), and I’ve calibrated my insulin needs and lifestyle to best suit optimal health. I believe my experience might prove instructive for others--especially as we enter the holiday season with its promise of cookies and candy and cakes.

1. Sugar (in most forms) is not necessarily unhealthy. We all need sugar to thrive. Glucose, specifically, is the optimal form of energy for the human body. Every cell, every bacterium uses glucose for energy. The trouble begins when we consume more sugar than our bodies need. If you received your sugar (fructose) only from vegetables and fruits, you’d consume about 15 grams per day—a far cry from most diets.

2. So how much sugar do you need? The answer to this question is specific to each individual, depending on your relative body type and activity level, but most estimates say that the human brain needs about 120 grams of sugar per day. If you're of the scientific persuasion, peruse this handy PDF from Dr. Brandt of the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Dr. Brandt says:

"The brain uses about 120 grams of glucose daily: 60-70% of the total body glucose metabolism. The brain has little stored glucose, and no other energy stores. Brain function begins to become seriously affected when glucose levels fall below ~40 mg/dL."

There is much debate about this requirement, but for our purposes, using 120 grams as a baseline for 70% of the body’s needs, we see an estimate of 174 grams of sugar per day. This can come in the form of carbohydrates, which are converted to sugar (my favorite bread recommendation provides 17 grams of sugar per slice) or the pure sugar found in juice or soda (a 12 oz. Coke Class provides 39 grams of sugar).

3. Sugars exist in apparently healthy foods: Apples. Brown rice. Sweet potatoes. All carbohydrate foods are eventually metabolized as sugar. From a limited perspective, the sugar you receive from a bowl of grapes might be more than the sugar you receive from a Coke Classic. Of course, in vegetables and fruits, sugar is mixed with fiber and beneficial phytonutrients, which can potentially moderate any negative metabolic effects. The best way to consume sugar, of course, is to eat vegetables--like the winter squash dish below.  In any case, it isn’t that sugar itself is bad -- it’s excessive sugar that harms health.

4. Sugar that is not used is stored for later use. Any meal or snack with carbohydrates generates a rise in blood glucose. To adjust for this rise, the pancreas secretes the hormone insulin into the bloodstream, which lowers blood glucose levels. Insulin is essentially a storage hormone, evolved over millions of years, to store the excess calories from carbohydrates in the form of fat.

5. If you don’t use it you gain it: The upshot? Not matter what type of carbohydrate or sugar you eat, if you do not match your sugar requirements with your sugar consumption, you will likely gain weight.

With this in mind, I think it’s important to remember that sugar can exert a powerful and potentially positive emotional effect. So how can we modulate our holiday sugar consumption so that we can enjoy our favorites while still enjoying our health?

1. Exercise, Exercise, Exercise: To my point of view, there is no better way to truly enjoy a potentially sugar-heavy dish (like"perfect" mashed potatoes) than to truly earn it through exercise. When you exercise (especially intensely) your muscles become more efficient at absorbing sugar for a period of 24 hours or more.

2. Enjoy every bite! If you’re eating sugar this holiday season, make sure you enjoy each and every bite. Try to be conscientious about what and how you’re eating. All cookies are not created equal. And all eating experiences are not created equal. Save yourself for the best cookie and enjoy it with the appreciation and gusto it deserves.

3. Eat the real deal: More and more evidence now reveals that sugar is actually less harmful than sugar alternatives.

***

Perfect Mashed Potatoes

This recipe is adapted from the Cook's Illustrated mashed potatoes in The New Best Recipe. The recipe calls for peeling the potatoes by hand, but a ricer works wonderfully, producing the most light, airy potatoes imaginable.

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
4 tablespoons grassfed butter, like Kerrygold Butter
1/2 cup coconut milk (full-fat is best)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Fresh ground black pepper

Place the potatoes whole in a large saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 35-45 minutes. Drain. Reserve pot for mashing. Meanwhile, warm the coconut milk in a medium saucepan over low heat. Season the coconut milk with sea salt, and black pepper to taste.

While still warm, cut each potato in half, then peel the skin with fingers or a small paring knife. (Alternately, and much better, place the potatoes, skin-on, into a ricer or food mill.) Drop the peeled potatoes back into the pot you used for boiling. Gently mash the potatoes with a potato masher. Add butter and mix. Add the warmed coconut milk, and gently season with additional salt and pepper, adjusting seasonings to taste. Serve.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Squash Risotto

I always get depressed in December because squash season is almost over. So I grasp at the last of season and try to make something immaculate. I originally developed this recipe for Whole Foods Market. It's published here.

4 acorn squash
3 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
6 cups water or gluten-free vegetable broth
1 cup finely chopped leeks
2 1/2 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped sage, divided
2/3 cup pine nuts
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped thyme 

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut each acorn squash lengthwise in half (from tip to stem) then scoop out and discard any seeds and stringy flesh. Brush insides of acorn squash with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt. Place acorn squash, cut side down, in a baking pan and roast until tender but still firm, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, start the risotto by bringing the broth just to a simmer in a small pot over medium high heat. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy 3-quart pot over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add butternut squash and cook for 3 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until grains are fragrant. Add wine and stir constantly until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the hot broth to rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is almost completely absorbed. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, making sure that most of the liquid is absorbed before adding more. Continue until rice is almost tender, but still firm to the bite, about 20 to 25 minutes total. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the sage and season with salt.

Meanwhile, put pine nuts into a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Stir in thyme, remaining 1/2 teaspoon sage and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside.

When acorn squash is cooked, remove from oven. Reduce heat to 300°F. Carefully turn squash over and fill each cavity with about 1/2 cup of the risotto. Gently press about 2 tablespoons of the pine nut mixture on top of the risotto in each squash half. Return squash to oven and bake until topping begins to brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer to plates and serve.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Squash Risotto [Source: Whole Foods Market]

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Recent Obsessions: Gustin's Fabrics

I learned about Gustin from Put This On, the most literate and thoughtful style website this side of the Pacific Ocean. Gustin employs a zero-waste, direct-to-consumer business model (much like Everlane) that cuts out the middle man. What makes Gustin unique (or relatively unique) is its crowdsourcing business model: they don't make any product without appropriate funding.

In Gustin's own words:

So how does it work? We design boutique-quality handmade menswear. We create a campaign for an item, you back it. Once the number of items backed reaches the campaign goal, the item is successfully funded and we start production.

When do I pay? When you hit “Back it!”, you’re not paying immediately. We’ll validate your credit card number initially, and charge you when the item reaches its funding goal. If the item reaches its funding deadline without reaching its goal, you will not be charged.

***

Gustin is known for their raw, selvedge denim jeans, but they make plenty of other products, including chinos, jackets, and bags. I have yet to back a project (honestly, I've been discouraged by the complaints on Style Forum), but I've followed the brand for a year, and I've really enjoyed looking at their unique fabrics.

I would've backed the Japan Azure (below), but it was funded within an hour! In any case, I've posted a few of my favorite fabrics below. If you're looking a unique variety of colors and
textures, Gustin is your place.

Postal Herringbone: an Italian raw selvedge denim

An indigo plant dye chambray shirt fabric from Japan
A Japanese double indigo fabric for a dobby shirt. The swaths reveal how the shirt wears. 

A peach blue plaid cotton poplin shirt fabric from Japan
The Japan Azure: For me, this color evokes the vintage blues of JAWS (below). I love it.

At least five blues here

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Dictatorship of Likes

"Culture appears more monolithic than ever, with a few gigantic corporations—Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon—presiding over unprecedented monopolies. Internet discourse has become tighter, more coercive. Search engines guide you away from peculiar words. (“Did you mean . . . ?”) Headlines have an authoritarian bark (“This Map of Planes in the Air Right Now Will Blow Your Mind”). “Most Read” lists at the top of Web sites imply that you should read the same stories everyone else is reading. Technology conspires with populism to create an ideologically vacant dictatorship of likes."

~Alex Ross, writing in The New Yorker, on "Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and the critique of pop culture"

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cassandro El Exótico: "Your Ego is Not Your Amigo"

“You know who I fight in the ring? Cassandro. The guy who needs to be famous. Your ego is not your amigo. It’s Saúl against Cassandro up there. I had to become humble.”

~The Mexican luchador, Saul Armendáriz, on his famed exótico persona, Cassandro.

Source: The New Yorker: "The Man Without a Mask."

Lucha Libre Poster [Source]

Cassandro [Source]

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I Suppose I Won't Deactivate my Facebook Account

We've all experienced that moment when, fed up with our Facebook experience, we think, "That's it, I'm deactivating!" Some of us actually do this. Others, like me, stick around for the next awesome post--like this photo from my friend, the writer, Rachel Pollon.


More Facebook:

"The Facebook Lists"

"Jamaal May's Facebook Status Updates" 

"First Grade Summer Journal"

& some Stonehenge:

"Stonehenge and the Promise of Spring"



Monday, September 8, 2014

The Warming Foods of Autumn

For some, the end of summer is a depressing time. If you’re like me, you associate summer with youth, that unbearably exciting season of limitless play.

Even as an adult, the return of school in September inspires within me a strange, sad mopiness. If I’m not careful, a mere errant wind, hauling the smell of scorched leaves, might crush me.

And yet, there is always that day, that inevitably gorgeous day on the nib of summer and fall, when, browsing the local market, I come upon the season’s first butternut squash; when, holding the squash in my hand, I recall the soulful thrill of butternut squash soup.

And so, after days of thinking, “I can’t go on,” I look at this simple gourd as nothing less than a total cure, and I say to myself, “I’ll go on. Soup will save me.”

A variation of my butternut squash soup for Whole Foods Market

To me, a seasonal soup is the absolute best way to eat the season. A light Gazpacho or Carrot & Almond soup is well-suited for the spring and summer months, but the cooler months compel opulent, humble soups: Butternut Squash Soup (recipe below), Chickpea Soup with Saffron and Mushroom-Almond Garnish, or Sweet Potato and Fennel Soup with Saffron.

Soup also offers a template for combining ingredients tailored for certain health conditions or body constitutions. A light miso soup offers refreshment to a sluggish constitution. Butternut squash soup, on the other hand, soothes a cool constitution like my own.

Most soup recipes are easily adaptable. With practice, you can tailor your soup to you and your family’s distinct emotional and nutritional needs. I add turmeric to my butternut squash soup, for example, because it lends an emotionally uplifting, vibrant color to the dish; but turmeric is also autoimmune supportive. Additionally, instead of olive oil, I add extra virgin coconut oil to my soup—not only for its fragrance, which reminds me of a certain surf shop in Stone Harbor, but because it is rich in antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral lauric acid.