Choose Your Success Carefully

If people are highly successful in the professions they lose their senses. Sight goes. They have no time to look at pictures. Sound goes. They have no time to listen to music. Speech goes. They have no time for conversation. They lose their sense of proportion – the relations between one thing and another. Humanity goes. Money making becomes so important that they must work by night as well as by day. Health goes.
— Virginia Woolf

Further reading

Secrets of Success
Life is What Happens When You’re Making Other Plans

Best Vegan Food – InSpiral Review

Brown paper packages are exciting and a little mysterious, redolent of old-fashioned gifts shipped by post. The neat, brown bags lining the shelves of InSpiral Café in Camden, with their tantalising labels and peek-a-boo windows, are especially reminiscent of presents because you can’t tell by looking quite what to expect of the contents. What on earth are “Reishi Crackits”? How do I approach “Raw Superfood Granola”? And isn’t “baobab” as in “Baobab and Onion raw dehydrated kale chips” a bulbous-looking tree?

Fortunately the best way to tackle these questions is to yield to my childlike urge to rip into the (biodegradable, sustainably produced) brown wrapping and devour the contents. Reishi is a mushroom, by the way, and such a potent immune-booster that hospitals give it to HIV and cancer patients. Crackits are InSpiral’s wholefood alternative to grain-based crackers. Made with almonds, a blend of seeds including sunflower, flax and chia, vegetables (carrot, courgette, onion) and seasonings they are dehydrated into satisfyingly nutty, crunchy sheets that are compulsively munchable. I crumble some over salad to add texture; they are equally delicious as the base for an open-faced Crackit sandwich of avocado and tomato slathered with tahini and a sprinkling of chilli flakes.

The kale chips are even more addictive. Neither baked nor fried, these dehydrated crisps are manna for anyone with a savoury tooth – and yummy enough to make me consider buying a food dehydrator and attempting a DIY version. They come in four flavours, each with a distinctive superfood twist. I try “Baobab and Onion” which is satisfyingly onion-y and provides a hit of calcium, iron and antioxidants; “Cheesie Purple Corn” offers all the umami deliciousness of cheese without having ever been near a cow.

Raw Superfood Granola is also a better-than-the-real-thing experience. I scoffed a bag of the “Chocolatey” flavour (there is also “Loveberry”, featuring raspberries, strawberries and gojiberries; and “Banana Greeny” which combines bananas with spirulina and wheatgrass) almost without pause. It is tasty with (non-dairy) milk but really, too delicious to be a mere cereal. I like it crumbled it over frozen smoothies or sprinkled on fruit salad. Straight out of the bag, it is a satisfying alternative to an afternoon dip in the biscuit tin.

One thing I note is the absence of “nutrition information” on the bags. With their abundance of seeds, nuts and protein-rich grains the granola and Crackits are not “low calorie”. But they remind me that calorie counting was invented after we started eating processed rubbish. When people ate simply and out of necessity, food was appreciated as a source of energy and vitality, not viewed as an enemy. The real gift in the brown paper wrappers is that InSpiral goodies make it easy and pleasurable to think of food in a more natural, wholesome way.

Browse and purchase a full range of InSpiral products – including superfoods, raw chocolate truffles and herbal elixirs – at their website.

InSpiral Café review

Guest Post: Cooking with Kids

Today I have a guest post from special education expert Denise Keene who kindly offered to share some thoughts on cooking and learning with kids. You can get more education info on her site Masters In Special Education.

Cooking with the Kids

If you like to cook then you probably understand the many skills that go into making a tasty meal or treat. Cooking as a means of hands-on learning is used by some parents and even by some schools through “home economics” courses, so the value of this form of education is understood. If you are looking for a fun way to teach basic life skills to your kids, cooking may be the way to do it.

When I cook with my children, I allow them to take part in as much as they want to, even if it makes a mess. Allowing them to take part in the whole process gives them the opportunity to learn as much as possible. For example, when making a dish that requires measuring out a liquid, allow your child to pour it into the measuring cup. You may need to guide them by holding their hands while they pour; otherwise you could have a major mess on your hands. Measuring out flour and sugar for baking is also very fun for children and is a great way to teach the importance of measuring precision in baking.

When I am baking something in the oven, I allow my children to help me prepare the food but stress the importance that I put it in the oven. I have an oven that does not get hot on the outside, so I turn the oven light on and allow my kids to take peeks to see how the heat transforms the food. This teaches them the importance of safety around kitchen appliances.

A great way to teach your children about the effects of cold temperatures on food is to make homemade popsicles. Also, show them how putting liquid over high heat changes it to a gas. Chemistry in the kitchen!
Occasionally, I will cook different ethnic dishes to teach my children about other cultures, as well. For example, I made Cuban chicken and rice a few days ago and talked to my children about where Cuba was, what language was spoken there, etc.

There are some parents who are leery about allowing their children to use certain kitchen tools, especially knives. I will say that I haven’t allowed my children to use the larger knives. However, I will allow them to spread icing on a cupcake with a butter knife and use a julienne peeler. I have also held my children’s hands and guided them in slicing different foods with a paring knife. As with all other items in our home, I have been explicit with my children about safety in the kitchen. They know that they should never use a sharp knife or any other possibly dangerous tool without my supervision or guidance. When children understand the possible danger, they will follow your requests.

Cooking in the kitchen is such a great, proactive way to teach and learn real-life skills, including fine motor skills and multi-tasking. My children have also learned about fractions and ratios and how to tell time and the importance of timing through cooking. Not to mention, they now understand the work that goes into preparing a meal, and they are more willing to help clean up!

Denise Keene has been a Special Education teacher for 15 years and likes to write articles about various related topics. She also owns the site Masters In Special Education.

Christmas Recipe – Roast Red Pepper Hummus

Mark Reinfeld

I’m delighted to have a guest post from award-winning vegan chef Mark Reinfeld, of Vegan Fusion. A culinary wizard, Mark picked up a love of food from his grandfather who was a chef and ice carver. He has co-authored more books than you can shake a carrot at, including the lauded, best-seller Vegan Fusion World Cuisine, and runs vegan cooking courses around the world. He doesn’t know that hummus is one of my favourite foods but, serendipitously, that’s the recipe he shared. Yum.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Serves 6-8

2 red bell peppers (1 cup roasted)
3 cups cooked and drained well chickpeas
3/4 cup tahini, roasted (creamy)
1/4 cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed
3 Tbl wheat-free tamari or soy sauce
1 Tbl olive oil
2 tsp cumin powder, toasted
1 1/2 tsp garlic, minced
3/4 tsp sea salt, or to taste
3/4 tsp black pepper, ground to taste
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp chipotle chile powder, optional

1. Preheat oven to 400°F/205C. Roast bell peppers
2. Place peppers in food processor with lemon juice, soy sauce, tamari and olive oil and process until well blended
3. Add garbanzo beans and remaining ingredients and process until smooth.

Replace red pepper with one of the following:
Garlic Lover’s – 1 1/2 cups roasted garlic, 1 1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic.
Sun-dried Tomato Basil – 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked & drained, 2 Tbl basil, minced.
Kalamata Rosemary – 1 1/2 Tbl fresh rosemary, minced, 3/4 cup Calamata olives, chopped.
Caramelized onions – add 1 cup caramelized onions before pureeing

Courtesy Vegan Fusion World Cuisine

Writing Out the Blues

Lists are the complementary bread rolls of journalism: stuff trotted out to sate the reader when there is nothing of nutrional value on offer. A list that ranks mental illness as if it were a competition sport, however, aspires to more. It seeks to interpret experience, to tell us what or who is “depressed” or “depressing”, to help us judge the world according to arbitrary standards of normalcy. According to this list writers are among the professionals most susceptible to “mood disorders” and “Depression is not uncommon to those who are drawn to work in the arts”.

Depression is, I feel, the wrong word. Acute sensitivity is probably more accurate, and certainly less pejorative. You can’t be much of a writer, or artist, with a two-octave emotional range. The whole point of writing well is to look hard and fearlessly at life as it is, not as you, or the government, the PTA, Jesus, or the media wish it to be. Writers who aspire to something meaningful have to wade through shit while other people hold their noses; they have to turn over the slimy rocks no one else will touch. They have to let go of the protective fallacy of dogma. Insofar as possible, they must experience without judging.

This is harder than it sounds. It means letting go of the kneejerk “me” reactions (“I’m mad”, “I’m hurt”, “It’s not fair”) and developing a new relationship to life’s vagaries. It means rejecting platitude and prejudice; means seeking the grace to absorb injury and injustice in order to reach a deeper understanding of humanity. There is no shortcut to this kind of wisdom, and no quarter given. A writer has to be infinitely alert, quick to chose the path of most resistance. This is exhausting, and can be alienating. Writers get tired, as a result, and lonely, and – yes – it can be “depressing”. But it is wrong to make blanket assertions about writers and depression. Writers see the world in different shades. One, inevitably, is blue.

Glasgow Not Quite Fighting Fit

Posted by Cila Warncke

Two Scottish food groups

Experts say “The Scottish population seems to be living dangerously”. Unfortunately, not in a Aston-driving, sky-diving, lady-killing kinda way, a la favourite son Sean Connery. Instead, risk-taking Scottish style involves scoffing burgers, downing “the equivalent of 46 bottles of vodka each in a year”, smoking furiously and not taking any exercise (apart from walking to the offie).

Glasgow seems a poor place for a vegetarian long-distance runner to set up house, but this isn’t the first time I’ve spent in a city awash in cheap booze, bad food and hard drugs. I lived in Philadelphia for three years. If anything, West Philly is far less salubrious than the west end of Glasgow. If you wanted fresh veg there you had to go to the over-priced salad joint on campus. The only local supermarket was a hot, crowded, piss-scented emporium surrounded by iron bars. Grocery shopping usually meant going to the 7-11 on the corner and buying bagels, Kraft Singles, and breakfast cereal. The native delicacy is the Philly cheesesteak: fried steak, smothered in cheese, served up on foot-long baguettes drenched in mayonnaise. Makes Irn Bru ice cream floats look like health food. Glasgow, in fact, has health food stores. Within metres of my flat is an array of shops including Roots & Fruits and Waitrose where I can merrily fill my basket with fresh veg, oat milk (really), quinoa bars, posh olive oil, dense rye bread and all the things dear to my health-geek foodie heart. And you can go for a run here without worrying about crossfire, which is something of a luxury.

The difference: the west end of Glasgow is relatively upper-crust, West Philadelphia isn’t. The Glasgow University study reporting 97.5% of the Scottish population has at least one of five “major risk factors to health” – cigarette smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, poor diet, physical inactivity, and overweight – tersely notes “The most important determinants for multiple risk factors were low educational attainment and residence in our most deprived communities”.

Education is even more important than economics. Eating nutritiously is cheaper than eating processed food. I’ve fed five a homemade feast of sweet potato & cashew curry with rice, salad and chapatti for less than the price of a Supersize Big Mac meal. Yet people persist in thinking that eating well means spending big. A basic problem is that deprived areas lack access to fresh fruit and veg, or reasonably priced basics like rice, flour and pulses. Why? Because retailers don’t see a market there.

This is where education comes in: shop owners need to be educated that being poor doesn’t automatically mean wanting to live on crisps and cola. They need encouraged to open shops in poor neighbourhoods, otherwise people have no choice but to eat badly. Consumers need education too. Part of the problem is the machismo in British food culture. Men eat meat, salad is for girls, etc. Perhaps there is an argument for letting troglodytes who buy into that crap eat themselves into an early grave. But it wouldn’t hurt to get into schools and persuade the younger generation there is no glory in being a fat, wheezing, heart-attack-waiting-to-happen. If we (the government, parents, the medical community, volunteers, whoever has the opportunity to pitch in) could make that happen perhaps future health statistics won’t be quite so dire.