Taking a Break

I’m planning on taking a break from blogging for a bit…hope you don’t mind.

I’m still low carbing – I just don’t plan on writing about it for a while.

Keep the faith, and see you on the other side.

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I Say Shrimp, You Say Prawn…We’ll Both Say I’ll Never Eat Another Again After Reading This

I love shrimp – known as prawns to a lot of the non-Americans out there. But those cute little buggers perched on the edge of your glass filled with cocktail sauce hold dark secrets that maybe you don’t want to know.

Avert your eyes if you don’t want to know – for those of us who can bear being sadder and wiser, take a read of this article from The Guardian – a newspaper out of the UK – here’s a quote:

The price of providing an everyday luxury for consumers in industrialised countries has been a catalogue of damaging consequences in developing nations. Serious environmental degradation, disease, pollution, debt and dispossession, illegal land seizures, abuse of child labour and violence have afflicted the dozen or so countries entering the market. Western diners, meanwhile, are eating a food dependent on the heavy use of antibiotics and growth hormones.

Don’t you want to rush out and buy a bag? Wait, it gets worse – here’s another quote from the article, describing a Vietnamese shrimp farmer in a sort of ‘day-in-the-life’ manner:

“…he is using a boom to try to scoop out algae – a sign of pollution and disease – when we arrive. His shrimp are ill. He pulls a few out to show us – they are curled up and deformed and telltale black marks are visible along the shell. He will apply more antibiotics with the feed tomorrow, he says. He had cleared the pond with chemicals, he is not sure what, before he filled it for this crop, but it wasn’t strong enough, he thinks. “

I usually have a big plate of shrimp when I go to the Lucky Happy Budget Chinese Buffet near my home – is this why I feel sick afterward? 

It’s not only my personal internal environment that’s violated here:

Most prawn farms are built in coastal areas where mangrove forests thrive. Mangroves are among the most productive ecosystems on the planet, and support a great variety of marine life. The world’s coral reefs and seagrass beds – upon which two thirds of all fish caught depend – need the mangroves. But mangroves across the globe are being cleared to make way for intensive prawn farms. Nearly 40% of world mangrove loss has been attributed to shrimp farming, according to EJF.

Now, if you could care less about environmental destruction in South-East Asia, that’s OK by me – but these shrimp you might be eating – what might these ‘chemicals’ the farmers use be, exactly?

Early last year, the European Commission banned all prawns from China because of fears over the use of cancer-causing chloramphenicol and nitrofuran antibiotics. When the UK food standards agency began testing other warm-water prawns it found problems with samples from Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan and Indonesia.

Chloramphenicol? Never heard of it. The Merck Manual says it is an antibiotic, but warns:

Because of bone marrow toxicity, the availability of alternative antibiotics, and the emergence of resistance, chloramphenicol is no longer a drug of choice for any infection

I found nothing about it being a cancer-causing agent – it only causes bone marrow toxicity…no big deal.

I did find that the nitrofuran was banned a while back by the FDA, which said:

use of topical nitrofuran drugs in food-producing animals may result in the presence of residues that are carcinogenic and have not been shown to be safe

Now…it’s reassuring that the FDA has banned this stuff, but the fact remains that it’s real tough to police a free market and guarantee that every darn shrimp that ends up on your plate hasn’t gotten a dose of banned antibiotic goodness.

And the  Lucky Happy Budget Chinese Buffet that offers shrimp at all you can eat prices – think they’re using the same sources of shrimp that Whole Foods uses?

OK – I’m being a real ‘Debbie Downer’ here – you know the type – they’re at a party, people are gobbling up shrimp and having a great time, and Debbie (dressed in black, unsmiling, and reeking of a combination of contempt and distain for her fellow humanity) drops a bomb about the carcinogenic antibiotics on their plates into the light party conversation.

This post is probably going to be bookmarked by all the ‘Debbie Downers’ out there – they always need fresh ammo for the next party.

What Debbie probably won’t mention is that it’s NOT hopeless. Again from the Guardian article:

Prawns – also called shrimps – divide into cold-water and warm-water types. There are far fewer problems with cold-water prawns – the type used in most sandwiches – than with warm-water prawns. A cold-water prawn will be small and pale pink when cooked.

Unintended “bycatches” – fish accidentally caught in nets – can be a problem with cold-water prawns that have been trawled, but if you look out for cold-water prawns from Iceland you can be sure the fisheries have been well managed. Cold-water prawns are in season all year.

When it comes to warm-water prawns, which are brown when raw, the Environmental Justice Foundation says that it can give consumers no reassurance about the vast majority of tiger prawns available in the UK.

The Marine Conservation Society also lists warm-water/tiger prawns in its 20 species of fish to avoid because of the high levels of bycatch of other species when they are caught in the wild, and because of extensive habitat destruction associated with farmed production.

If you do buy them, look out for organic or Madagascan tiger prawns. The only country from which you can currently buy certified organic tiger prawns is Ecuador. Madagascar is working towards making all its prawn fisheries sustainable and is a better choice than other countries.

The above will be mentioned by another type of party-goer: the Informed Pest. 

Debbie want you to be miserable. The informed pest is sincere in their intent to be helpful, but only succeeds in making you feel stupid.

Combined, they can really screw up a party.

So anyway, on choosing shrimp, like a lot of things in life, you have to be a bit selective. 

I’ll still eat shrimp, but unless I’m fairly certain as to their origin – I’ll pass.

Kitchen Experiment: Green Bean Dip

The name of this post is so after the fact – I didn’t know what the Hell I was creating when I started.

It was a Man, his food processor, and some aged frozen vegetables:

  • 1 large bag frozen green beans
  • 1/2 bag frozen broccoli
  • 6 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
  • 1 raw garlic clove
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/8 t. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 t. dried tarragon

Important note: you really have to like garlic to add it in the raw state – you might want to substitute garlic powder or leave it out completely if you are not a true garlic fan.

I nuked the frozen beans and broccoli in the microwave for 15 minutes. I then threw this in my food processor and blended all the ingredients above together until smooth – at least 5 minutes.

It turned out a bright green and looked as if it could have been made of lawn clippings. OK – maybe a guacamole is a better comparison. I gave it a taste – not bad, but I wasn’t sure I’d eat a pile of the stuff.

I had been munching on pork rinds, and tried dipping one in it – pretty good as a dip, but something was missing.

I checked on Google and it seems no one ever thought of a green bean dip before – at least Google doesn’t show a green bean dip recipe.

This scares me a bit – the thought of throwing green beans in a food processor doesn’t seem to be much of a reach. Maybe it’s a dumb idea?

As I said, the stuff doesn’t stand on it’s own – it has to be coupled with something…but what?

The next morning, I tried coupling it with a hard-boiled egg…nope, that’s not it.

Then I thought: what about as a replacement for the legume-type beans in a Mexican bean dip?

So I added some cheese and sour cream.

That worked. All I need is salsa, and I’d have a great 4-layer chip dip for pork rinds.

This was lunch yesterday – coupled with some chicken. 

Atkins-friendly, and induction friendly for any Atkins newbies out there.

Does the Low Carb Approach Lose Its Effect Over Time?

I was asked this by Dr Dan over at Darwin’s Table as a comment on one of my posts – here’s my response.

I think that low carb effectiveness will decrease over time because the body builds a tolerance to the approach. Heck, if you’ve been doing low carb for five years then try to go even lower carb, you are not going to get the same effect that you would if you went low carb coming from a diet of cookies, coke and pizza.

I am also beginning to think that hormonal balance has something to do with it, and as we age, some of these hormones decrease (thyroid and testosterone are 2 I’m considering more research on) and this will make low carb less effective over the long run.

I’ve learned a lot from the people posting on the Irvingia Field Reports – even if you are not interested in the supplement, there’s plenty of other interesting stuff surrounding the challenge of weight loss that might be of help.

Younger folks just starting out on low carb have the best chance of dramatic weight loss. This happened to me in my early 40s – it’s my mid-40s where I’m not seeing the same result. I think this means that – if you succeed in losing weight low carb, NEVER LET IT COME BACK! Don’t think that if you let your weight creep up, you’ll be able to lose it as easily next time – it will be incrementally harder the next time.

And you will probably find that as time goes on, even if you don’t let it creep back, and keep the same habits, the weight will begin to increase anyway as you age and your body becomes more finely tuned to low carb. Let’s face it – all of us here are swimming upstream – we’re meant to be fat – it is the state our bodies want to be in. When you disagree with your body, expect it to fight you all the way.

My hypothesis is that, once we’ve trashed our bodies on high-carb crap for 20 years, it is impossible to totally recover from this. Like smokers who quit, you can reverse a lot of the damage, but not all. So you can never be totally like a true paleo – he never ate a bag of Cheeze Doodles while watching Australian Rules Football.

(By the way – I don’t like sports – but I LOVE Australian Rules Football. They used to show it in the US years ago – I was addicted. American football players are wimps compared to these guys.)

So – is it hopeless? Of course not. What it might mean is that you have to change your tactics as time goes on, while you stick to the same strategy.