Saturday, March 12, 2022

Have you lost your senses? Don't let anyone call you crazy!

Losing your sense of smell has been one of the tell-tale symptoms of COVID-19. 

When you lose your sense of smell, it will impact your sense of taste as well because the two are closely interconnected, Before and after you put food in your mouth to taste it, we smell a food to see if it is pleasing and safe to consume. When we put food in our mouth and it touches our tongue we have taste buds to recognize a food but also the food's chemical component can be volatile (that is droplets of vapor reach the back of the mouth connected to your nasal passages (so these components of the flavor are inhaled). Together - taste and aroma send signals to your brain. That is how we know and recognize flavors in our memory. 

Most of us will recognize the scent of a rose and the taste of our favorite food and our brain is happy to receive these common aromas and tastes. Scents and tastes we recognize from childhood associated with love or play often comfort and calm us. 

Other aromas and taste trigger warnings  - there is too much salt or that grapefruit too bitter. As your body works constantly to maintain internal balance for your survival if it gets too little or too much of what it needs it lets you know. Normally you just have to listen unless something either disrupts the systems or the body believes that it must acclimate as best as possible to survive with what it has to work within a given environment.  Sometimes we recognize that acclimation is something we should consider for our long-term health.

Back to COVID-19 which disrupts this system when it enters nasal passages. 

That is because our senses are designed to maintain our health sending signals to our brain about what will nourish us in the right amounts. If we are listening to our senses carefully, we will know what we need to survive and thrive at the most basic level of our existence. 

Viruses spread by interfering with our basic systems hopefully only in the short term disrupting our body intelligence long enough to spread to others. In the process, our interaction with a virus may result in some damage as our body tries to fight off the intruder - in a sense an internal war.  

We are all equal in nature over the long term. All life survives to procreate and be useful to its species.  With time we may be able to defend our bodies from the intruder or in the case of some viruses, learn to adapt and co-exist with them. That is until we are run down, stressed or, other infected. The virus needs us to live for it to survive and spread so its objective is not to kill us. Some viruses, such as Epstein Barr, live in our body for the long term and are quiet until they feel threatened and then viral symptoms appear. 

In most cases, our senses are not lost forever because once we recover from the virus, in the most recent case of COVID, our detection is no longer under attack and our sensory cues can be repaired naturally. We can assist or speed up this repair with sensory stimulation. 

If you need to get your senses back again, send an email with I WANT MY SENSES BACK in the subject to mindy@foodfitter.com to learn about my short program. 




Monday, January 17, 2022

The Anatomy of a Latte


I just wanted to make a wonderful latte at home without an espresso machine. I don't have a great deal of space on my kitchen counter it seemed like it would be simple enough. 

Yet, with a whisk in hand, and after several efforts based on instructions from the barista and internet searches, the resultant foam poured over the coffee didn't look or taste quite as I had hoped for. 

I tried 2% low-fat milk and 4% full-fat milk first and the foam was - well cold foam not frothy and rich.

Then I tried heating the milk before frothing with no better result and then making the whole drink and putting the finished drink in the microwave to heat.   Still not good at all. 

Trained as a food scientist, I thought now I need to use my knowledge to solve this dilemma. My mind recalled an interview I had at a leading food manufacturer. I was asked only one question - tell me everything you know about milk.  

Actually, there is quite a lot to know about milk, and yes, I was offered the job. But to be brief for this purpose I'll share only the pertinent highlights you need to know to create my perfect froth at home with or without fancy equipment. 

Milk contains the three major macronutrients - about 4% each for this example: 1) protein (casein or curds when heated and whey), 2) carbohydrates (lactose which is milk sugar - the lactose intolerant are far too aware of this) and, 3) fat, of which roughly 65% is saturated (solid at room temperature).  The remainder of the milk is simply water - 88%. 

All three macronutrients contribute to my perfect froth.

The process of creating the froth I love works best with whole milk containing the most fat and therefore the most saturated fat, the component of milk fat that is most solid at room temperature. The colder the milk the more solid the fat is. I am using homogenized milk which means the components of the milk are mixed under pressure to make smaller fat particles which help to strengthen the natural emulsion of the milk improving mouthfeel, taste and, shelflife of the milk. Most of us know that fat/oil and water do not naturally mix. That is where the protein casein comes in because it is a natural emulsifier. 

We start with cold milk when making froth because it is easier to whip air into a solid structure. We are trying to incorporate fine air bubbles into the milk and develop a stable structure to support the froth. The process of steaming while whisking results in vaporized air and water above the surface of the liquid incorporating air into the milk.   

To maintain the structure's stability, the protein in the milk needs to be heated slowly so that the casein protein component can separate from the whey protein component. The casein will coagulate as it is mixed with the milk fat while being aerated and heated. Froth containing the aerated saturated fat structure creates a more stable foam with a rich mouthfeel. 

The other key component for success is to note that the milk is whisked while it's being gradually heated to approximately 70 degrees. We want the foam to be warm, not only for enjoyment but also because the foam and the coffee that we drink at approximately 175 degrees are closer in temperature when combined. This is important because when the froth-containing fat in the foam hits the coffee the fat doesn't immediately turn to liquid fat due to the temperature differential and rather melts on your tongue at approximately 98.6 degrees - body temperature as the warmer coffee and the foam combine in your mouth. 

I am thrilled with the outcome of my froth and look forward to my morning lattes now. But why stop there? I enjoyed hot chocolate drinks with high-quality cocoa in the evenings over the holidays and with egg nog (eggs are high in protein and froth well with milk). I sprinkled a coffee latte with cinnamon or added a splash of schnapps or other alcohol as an after-dinner drink.  

If you don't want to use whole milk for one of many dietary reasons, based on individual preferences for taste, health, personal values, and/or lifestyle and you want to adapt your frothing method for ingredients you love, let me know in the comments below. 

Or contact me at mindy@foodfitter.com for more help to solve any sourcing, shopping, and kitchen challenges based on the science of food. Let's have fun with food, entertain yourself and others with new skills, and become more comfortable creating food that you design.


  


Friday, October 22, 2021

A food scientist walks into a grocery store. What does the food scientist know that you should know??

 A food scientist understands that all food is life. Food needs to reach you safely. The food's goal is to nourish you well so its life was meaningful. The life sacrificed is just as important as you are. Food doesn't want to be tossed away as if its life doesn't matter. 

The food scientist knows that the shorter the transportation time under the best possible conditions is what is best for the food and therefore for you. You want the food itself to have minimal transit time once harvested and enjoy a comfortable trip to you! In these times with food coming from all over the world, think about the food's journey to you. The better the journey, the more it remains intact with loving care. A quick and pleasant journey means you are honoring the food itself and its ability to nurture you. What goes around, comes around. 

The food scientist knows that for every request that you make for your personal convenience, there will be a tradeoff. Think of "no fat" products. If you take out the fat and want to keep the portion the same something needs to be added back. When a food scientist makes a decision about the product based on what you told them is important and you do not stay conscious and informed of tradeoffs, you may get what you asked for but not necessarily what is best for you. In the case of "no fat" products, products higher in added sugar were the consequence.  Be sure that the replacement is something you want to consume and it is worth the tradeoff. Food companies are in the business of giving you choices and you get to decide which choices to make. 

The food scientist knows that processing food isn't always a bad thing. Fermentation is a process that not only preserves food but creates a product for consumption that can provide added value for humans. It requires expertise and time as indigenous cultures have known for many years. Not only does fermentation aid digestion (by breaking down a nutrient such as gluten outside the human body first) to assist us in getting the nutrition that we as humans were not designed to digest without help from nature, but also provides probiotics that seed beneficial gut bacteria.  


Thursday, October 21, 2021

Don't panic. Three ways to address rising food costs and availability while saving time, money and your health.

Let's start with the bad news first.  Food prices will not be declining any time in the foreseeable future so planning well and trying new solutions is the best way forward.  

Now for the good news. Availability issues are temporary. In the meantime, there are so many options out there to keep your budget intact while exploring the wonderful variety of food available to you. With a little help have fun discovering some new favorites! 

1) Eat less meat. Guess what. We already are likely eating more meat than we need to. A serving of protein is the size of your fist - slightly larger for fish than other meat. A pound is 16 ounces and a serving is 3-4 ounces which means if you purchase a pound of the grass-fed organic protein at $12/pound, your cost is only $3-$4/serving. Adding other protein sources to your meal will also help. For example, bean-based sides reduce the amount of meat you need to serve. Or use meat in a meal as a condiment as opposed to the main feature of your dish. 

2) Stock up on canned foods and other shelf-stable items with clean labels. These are often the least expensive and great for items that you'd have to cook for a long time anyway. So you save time and money and you are not giving up nutrition. Faster, cheaper, and better in one solution. Cans are easy to store. Since canning is a means of preservation, preservatives are not needed and there are so many options. Just watch the label for sodium over 300 mg and buy foods with little or no added sugars. If you need to add salt or sugar in cooking, you are in control of how much is added. Chili anyone? 

3) Start freezing meals.  Buy in bulk and cook in bulk - then freeze. Freezing saves time and money and nutrition. Freezing preserves nutrient content and stops spoilage. It also reduces waste and you are always ready for dinner. Just heat and serve. 

A few favorite items? Share below in the comments. 

If you'd like to hear more on this topic, let me know in the comments or contact me at mindy@foodfitter.com.




Monday, July 26, 2021

We value what we grow

Everyone should try to grow food - fresh fruit or vegetables to stay top of mind about what it takes to raise our food. Growing food helps us learn or remind ourselves of how challenging it can be and the work it takes so we don't take food for granted. It helps us appreciate the value of all food we are so fortunate to have access to and the work and sacrifice of many who help to bring it to us. 

In our society, many of us are so unaware and detached from what it takes for food to get to our table. We see the grocery worker or the delivery person and focus on them because we see them. We are focused on convenience and price and likely do not realize the tradeoffs that are made to deliver those attributes to us. Often when we remain unaware, we blame others for not telling us as if they could make us care and listen. We blame others for not magically creating the impossible and for not getting through to us when we don't want to take the time to know the details. As if it's not important enough to us to know what we put in our own body because we say we don't have the time. Yet, we know the further away we are from knowing someone or something, the less basis we have for trust. We are blind to what is happening behind the scenes. 

Growing food is a laborious process. Yes, it's hard. It reminds us of life's fragility. It reminds us that what is happy and healthy grows expansively and brings joy. 

Even if it's not your hobby, try growing a plant or garden to experience the process as you might try other new things for a period of time during the summertime. Make a commitment to learning the process. You will have to spend your time, attention, with a supportive growth environment - soil, water, and nutrients. All life needs love and care to survive and thrive. 

Growing a plant or garden is analogous to how we grow as we go through life. We devote time, may not succeed but we will learn and that is the goal. We devote time to what we love and, also what is important to us. Those who at least try will value food more - its taste, texture - the wonder of growing life. Yes, food is life itself. 

Gardening is a favorite pastime for so many because it's nurturing. It has many benefits that you only experience by practicing it. It has a calming effect on our nervous system raising our oxytocin. Especially in this world of a pandemic, it helps us feel less isolated and provides a new daily sense of purpose. 

I hope you will savor the experience and have a reminder of the effort involved leading you to a greater appreciation and understanding of food in a new way - with new respect and admiration for life that we often only think about as serving us. Food is life as we are living. We need to remember to say our thanks for that life and all of those who make food available to us. We embody life every day by consuming food. Do what you can to embrace its journey and not take it for granted. 

Monday, June 15, 2020

Food is the message

Food is life itself. We honor that life by not wasting it and recognizing that food is not only for enjoyment and satiety but importantly, for information delivered to every cell of our being. When you choose what you eat in advance with mindfulness, you choose what messages you send to your body for your short term and long term health.

One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has slowed the pace of everyday life. Based on availability and perhaps eating more meals at home than before, we have the time and need (due to less food availability and rising prices) to plan our food choices more wisely. No longer can we say that we are bombarded with food all around us everywhere, anywhere at any time without some additional planning and preparation. Typically, I hear, "I don't have time so I just....") but really, we don't make time for an act that is so important to our personal nourishment and health. We want the convenience of someone else preparing and making our food because we can but the question is to what extent is to our benefit.

The consequences of not honoring other life and not knowing what we are putting in our bodies are steep. We are often trusting others we don't know so we don't need to think about it.

Think about it.

Why would you not want to know what you are putting in your body?
Why do we disconnect with the fact that we consume life for nourishment that sends messages to us for our health?
Why do we say we care about the environment but don't know more about the path of the packaging we toss into our oceans and easy solutions available to us?
Why do we say we respect life and nature and yet waste 40% of the food that is harvested?
Why do we stay away from refined and altered food ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, trans fat, resist GMO crops but are willing to eat biologically and chemically altered ingredients in plant-based meat?

Most often the answer is not far away. We want choices and they are available. We act like we have no control when we do. We are proud of our humanity yet more often than not feel compelled because we are hungry, stressed, tired, or simply need to treat ourselves yet don't take the time to break out of these damaging cycles.

Let's be real about our choices, have a conversation, and be open to solutions that are there for the asking. 



Monday, August 6, 2018

Imagine the fun of being a kid in the kitchen!

I felt like a kid again, remembering the excitement of cooking with my mom as a child. Under the expert instruction of Chef Gino (ginothechef on Instagram), making pasta with flour flying, and cracking eggs for dough so strong and thin that it stretched the length of the room, was only surpassed by the sounds of laughter and the taste of the meal that followed. In another room, I could smell the fresh-baked\ chocolate chip cookies waiting for us for dessert. The whiff of aroma triggered childhood memories of enjoying the cookie dough batter left on the mixing beaters.

I was invited to celebrate the grand opening of the new location of The Gourmandise School just a few steps away from their previous spot but now with more space and an even greater variety of classes.

In 2011, Chef Clemence opened the school just blocks away from the famous Santa Monica farmers market, recognized as one of the largest and most diverse farmers markets in the nation. With fresh, sustainable food from California farms, everyday chefs were ripe to hone their pastry and culinary skills. The school grew quickly. Watching the growth was as pleasurable as watching as a ball of dough rise as one would with the labor of love in breadmaking.

The expansion of the school enables more students and unique culinary classes taught by the finest instructors offering the best techniques and instruction for all skill levels.  The school offers cooking and baking classes, a professional series, kid’s classes, fascinating food workshops, and private events. 

Why is The Gourmandise School so special? Because it embodies the attributes I value in life. Love, fun, authenticity, and connection combined with the opportunities for knowledge, competency, and expertise.

If you are lucky enough to live near or plan to visit Santa Monica in the future, check out TheGoumandiseSchool.com to find a class. For inspiration anytime, follow
@GourmandiseLA on Instagram.






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About Me

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First trained as a food chemist and nutritionist, my career began enriching a Twinkie, comparing the nutrition of a Twinkie to an apple and studying the role of sugar in the diet. With an M.B.A. and years in food and pharma understanding consumers and manufacturers, I'm back to where I started - food should taste great and serve to keep us healthy. To do so, there needs to be consumer awareness. Consumers need to vote for what they want by buying what they really want. If they buy impulsively, that's what they will see more of. They need to practice balance and responsible choices. That's when change will come. Please engage me with your conversation so that I can help you make and stick to better food choices that you enjoy. You'll gain a deeper appreciation of food not only from farm to table but farm to health. My vision is to promote solutions for healthful food and food practices you can happily embody and embrace!