Obsession: Poop

I am obsessed with poop. Number 2 is my number 1 concern. Why? Because it’s an excellent barometer of health. – physical, mental & emotional. Although I’ve always had more than a passing interest in poo, it wasn’t a full-blown fixation until my 4 month old son started eating food. Watching his body try to jump-start the complicated process of digestion is fascinating. And today we had a true scatological milestone…baby’s first turd! I took a picture of it, emailed it to close friends and family and barely resisted posting it on Facebook. (If you’d like to see it , just ask…although it may turn up at the end of this post…I’m still debating.)PEE AND POO PLUSH DOLLS

Lately, the subject of excreta has come up a lot. Tonight I was teaching a seminar, “Deciphering Food Labels”, at my local natural foods store. At the end of  class a woman volunteered the information that she has been steadily losing weight by incorporating dairy into her diet. I’m thinking she’s eating low-fat yogurt or drinking skim milk, and I was right but also so very, very wrong. She is drinking milk, knowing that she’s lactose intolerant! The milk makes her sick, flushing out her system. Or as she put it, “The milk comes out, along with everything else”. No need for fancy laxatives when plain old moo juice will do the trick. Honey, that is not a great plan for long-term weight loss!

Last week, my very sensitive social worker friend was crying (yes – real tears) because she was working with constipated homeless children. In her mind, these kids “couldn’t move their bowels” because they were so emotionally distraught. Living under the train trestle with their crackhead mom would have many devastating consequences, but I’m not sure that an inability to make is the result of being upset by their tragic situation. I’m more inclined to chalk it up to poor diet and dehydration. And of all the horrible things happening to these kids daily, my friend was completely focused on the fact they couldn’t take a crap. If I had to live like that I would be scared sh*tless too. (I don’t mean to make light of their terrible circumstances, I just don’t believe the most pressing issue is a lack of poop).

Even I had my own issues this week. Normally I’m as regular as an atomic clock.

But I was traveling, off my regular schedule and eating vast quantities of BBQ ribs. I always know when I’ve been eating too much animal protein – it’s the one thing that backs up my plumbing. Perhaps BP’s “junk shot” should have contained hot dogs and hamburgers, rather than golf balls and tires – maybe that would have gotten the job done? Anyway, I spent a lot of my vacation wondering when I might unclench enough to go. (And the answer was…when I got home! Nothing beats familiar porcelain)

A little parting advice:



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I Have a Crush on Adam Richman

Oh Adam! He’s a self-proclaimed food fanatic with a serious appetite for life always looking for the “ultimate food challenge”.  In case you don’t know who I’m talking about, Adam Richman is the host of a TV show “Man V. Food” on the Travel Channel. The show is all about everything that is wrong with our pop food culture, and yet I’m completely charmed. Each episode is set in a different city, but follows the same basic format. Two or three stops at local faves that typify food of the region, then a short “inter-mezzo” skit or dream sequence leading into the final segment, which is a “food challenge” that falls into one of two categories: Hotter than Hell or Consume Mass Quantities.

Thanks to Adam, I now know what a ghost chili is, and that it’s 100x hotter than a jalapeno. I get a kick out of watching him cry and sweat and plead for milk. The fact that I love watching him suffer only proves how much I care. I like my food well seasoned, but never so spicy that all I taste is burning This man has scorched his taste buds for my viewing pleasure and manages to maintain his witty banter through his tears.

But it’s the sheer quantity of food that he can consume in a single sitting that is truly awe-inspiring and completely frightening. Food is measured by the pound and in comparison to the size of Adam’s head. My favorite episode by far has him sitting at Katz’s deli (been there, ate that) with his MOTHER eating a pound of pastrami. His mom asks him if he really need to eat all that, to which he replies “I have to Ma, it’s my job”. Her response? “Yeah…but is it healthy?” Ummm…last week he drank a 6 pound milkshake served in a two foot tall glass vase – he lost sight of healthy a long time ago.

And yet…I want him. He’s adorable! It’s because I like him just the way he is, and yet I want to completely change him. I want to be his side-kick on this pig-out mission and I want to be his nutritionist and save him from himself. But the obvious pleasure he takes in eating is…well…sexy. It’s the lust in his lust for life that turns me on. I know food is not entertainment, but watching Adam eat is my guilty pleasure…when he speaks of food being “softened by hot butter” I feel myself melt a little. Just love me half as much as you love bacon, and I’ll be satisfied.

Hey Adam! The next time you’re in Philly (the first time he did Reading Terminal, Franklin Fountain and a 5 pound cheese steak at Tony Luke’s) and you want a dining companion..call me, please?!

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And I want to be a paperback writer…

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a book for a while. I have absolutely no experience and no idea where to start. So I went to Amazon and bought “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing a Novel” by Tom Monteleone and “The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing”  by Meg Leder, Jack Heffron and the Editors of Writer’s Digest. Yup – well on my way to being a professional author.

I’ve started by writing, just writing for the sake of putting words on paper. I’m trying not to self-censor (not that hard for me, I tend to walk around reasonably filter-less) and I’m also thinking about some sort of loose organizing structure.I guess that would be called a…plot?

I’ve been thinking about how my relationship with food mirrors my relationships with people. About how many of the pivotal events in my life have taken place around food and over meals. The role that food plays in my personal and cultural identity and all the different reasons I eat.

Here are some of the reasons I eat:

Hunger, entertainment, loneliness, boredom, excitement, ennui, anger, joy, regret, sleepiness, crankiness, hurt, rejection, sadness, happiness, isolation, control, apathy, because it’s Tuesday…countless reasons…but where did it start? How did it start?

“Emotional Food Forensics” – I’ve started to journal a series of non-sequitor memories and stories. My own and others. Every food story I can remember, throw away one-liners (A quick nosh – My grandmother once told me I wasn’t a “good Jew” because I don’t like lox, or any of the smoked fishes) and long intricate tales (Food for thought – The first things my mother asked for the last week of her life were a chocolate shake from McDonald’s and a snickers bar from the hospital gift shop. Oh, and sub-lingual liquid morphine…but I don’t think that counts as food)

It’s definitely a quest for personal redemption thru diet. I’m  excited to start a new project that has meaning – it’s been a while since I thought about a creative outlet (I think I remember making Art, once upon a time) Painful at times, but if it starts to get overwhelming, I just go down to the kitchen and get a snack. OH! Gotcha…

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Healthy Tweets & Treats

OK – I’m tweeting…just like Oprah, I’m now a part of the 21st century! I spend so much time “connected” – email, Facebook, my blog – that this seems like the logical next step. As I buckle up for the journey  a visual loop playing in my mind – David Lynch’s “Lost Highway”. Inky black night, headlights illuminating the endless road before me. Foreboding yellow lines stretching into the abyss…

What if my tweets get lost along the way?

If life is about the journey, and not the destination, then Twitter is the perfect vehicle for speeding down the information super-highway.

What will I tweet about? Only one way to know for sure…FOLLOW ME!


{Turn on your GPS: I’ll be tweeting fun food facts, quick health tips, recipes, and great links.}

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Baby Peas & Poops

I called my pediatrician on her cell phone this morning, and when she answered “Hello Maura, how’s MJ…?”  I thought ‘holy crap! Do I call her that often?’ It turns out if you call once, she stores the number {pheew}. I had called 3 days ago, because my son has a recurring problem. Well, actually it’s the lack of reoccurrence that’s the problem. My poor baby is constipated! One poop in four days…

I understand that digestion is a complicated process, and we’ve just started with baby’s first solid foods. Rice cereal to begin with, then avocados, after I was planing to introduce carrots, peas, zucchini…whatever looked fresh and inviting at the farmer’s market. I believe in feeding children FOOD – real food, not sugar-coated over-processed crap masquerading as food. And I was looking forward to choosing his food, and cooking it myself. Imagine my disappointment when everything (literally) came to a grinding halt!

I know constipation is completely normal during the introduction of food. Breast milk is easily digestible, and food is new. Baby’s bodies need time to adjust. So I stopped with the rice cereal and looked for foods higher in fiber. My pediatrician recommended barley cereal, but I’m hesitant to give my baby foods that I’m allergic to (wheat, rye, barley = gluten).

I decided to skip the cereal all together and concentrate on fruits and vegetables. And more breast milk. I’m going to stuff my son with liquids and fiber! First up: Prunes. Old wives tales often contain a kernel of truth and this one is no exception. Prunes are incredibly high in fiber and sweet enough to please a baby’s palate. Next up: Peas. They have an equal amount of fiber and a different set of nutrients. I really want MJ to get used to lots of green veggies.

I also tried the warm bath, tummy massage, and “bicycle legs”. Is there any problem that the trifecta of good nutrition, exercise and rest can’t fix? As it happens…Yes. Yes, there is.

24 hours later and still no poop. I know these things take time, but this morning MJ was obviously uncomfortable; straining, crying and turning an odd shade of purple. Hence the call to Dr. Lieberman. The last resort: Glycerin Suppositories.

MJ and I made the trip to Target and they only had adult size suppositories (as if I wasn’t worried enough about sticking something up my baby’s tiny bottom) It seems that you can cut an adult sized glycerin suppository in 1/2. Mommyhood is a constant learning experience!

Once home, I got the scissors, the suppository and try to psych myself up. I took off MJ’s diaper…and he had pooped! Thick (and stinky) and looking like grown-up poop…another milestone! And I totally dodged the bullet-shaped laxative.

Happy Day!

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Monthly Weigh-In (drum roll, please…)

So today was my son’s 4 month check-up, which also means it was my monthly weigh-in (and 1 month since I started this blog – time’s flying!) And… I lost 4 pounds!  I hit my very modest goal of 1 pound/week. Slow & Steady. So why am I just ever-so-slightly disappointed? Is it my over-acheiving type A personality that meeting goals isn’t enough and I should exceed my goals at every opportunity? Where’s my weight loss miracle? The skinny fairy godmother who will bippitty-boppitty-boo my pumpkin rump into a pair of skinny jeans (which my broke ass can’t afford to buy anyway). My fairy godmother needs to be waving a liposuction wand and have the ability to turn tattered tank-tops (stained with breast milk) into sassy fashion statements (probably still stained with breast milk) Even in my fantasies I’m still doing too much laundry…sigh.

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Mushrooms – My Favorite Meat Alternative

I like to eat meat.

I just needed to make that clear. I’m not currently a vegetarian, although I have been in the past. A couple of years in Seattle, a few months here or there…but I always cave in to my carnivorous cravings. That purely carnal pleasure, the mouth-feel of meat…there’s no substitute for a great steak. Or bacon. Bacon is good. Bacon was my friend when many others were not. Bacon knows how to keep a secret.

As much as I love bacon (and many other fine pork products) I know that eating meat at every meal, every day is not OK. I don’t even need to eat meat once a day to feel my best. But it’s so versatile and delicious that I am constantly tempted by it.

I’m always looking for a healthier alternative that still satisfies. Sometimes beans work (I don’t miss the meat in a spicy bean chili during the winter & I have a couple of good “lentil loaf” recipes that are hearty comfort food) but I’m less thrilled with beans in the summer. I get bored. I want variety.

In the summer I turn to the Mighty Magical Mushroom {no, not that kind of magic – silly rabbit}

The texture of a grilled portobello is surprisingly beef-like…dare I say “fleshy”? And there are so many different types of mushrooms, exotic mushrooms with deep woodsy flavors. Mushrooms are my summer “go-to” when I know I shouldn’t eat one more burger, even if it’s turkey this time, instead of beef. Oh – I love animal protein!

So I was super excited when I stumbled upon this recipe for Veggie Burgers that are a combination of mushrooms, lentils & walnuts – YUMMY!! They even have spinach in them (I love the hidden green veggies) My only complaint is that they don’t hold up well to BBQ grilling. Broiling works ok, but honestly, they taste best pan fried.
3/4 cup dry lentils
1 1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon peanut oil or olive oil
1 cup onion, finely minced
4 large cloves garlic, minced
10 large mushrooms, minced
1/2 cup walnuts, very finely minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound fresh spinach, finely minced
1 teaspoon dry mustard
fresh black pepper, to taste

Place lentils and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are soft and the liquid is gone.
Transfer to a medium-sized bowl, add vinegar, and mash well. Heat oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add onions and saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients and saute 5 to 10 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender. Add the saute to the lentils and mix well. Chill for about an hour before forming patties. Form 4-inch-diameter burgers. Fry in a small amount of hot oil on both sides until heated through and crispy on the outside, or broil for 5 to 8 minutes on each side.

FYI : You can saute the vegetables while the lentils cook. The burgers can be made up to several days in advance and stored in the refrigerator until just before cooking. Uncooked burgers can be individually wrapped and frozen. Defrost before cooking.

I love all different kinds of veggie burgers. You can use so many different ingredient combinations, it’s hard to become bored with them. The only ones I don’t eat anymore are the frozen “fake meat” products (like Boca Burgers) that are made with soy isolates like SPI [soy protein isolate] or TVP [textured vegetable protein] SPI & TVP are called “soy isolates” because the soy protein has been isolated from the rest of the soybean. I’m not anti-soy, but I am anti-over processing that takes place in industrial factories.  First, a slurry of soy beans is mixed with an alkaline solution to remove fiber, then precipitated and separated using an acid wash and, finally, neutralized in an alkaline solution. Acid washing in aluminum tanks leaches high levels of aluminum into the final product. The resultant curds are spray-dried at high temperatures to produce a high-protein powder. A final indignity to the original soybean is high-temperature, high-pressure extrusion processing of soy protein isolate to produce textured vegetable protein (TVP). Nitrites, which are potent carcinogens, are formed during spray-drying, and a toxin called lysinoalanine is formed during alkaline processing.
Numerous artificial flavorings, particularly MSG, are added to soy protein isolate and textured vegetable protein products to mask their strong “beany” taste and to impart the flavor of meat.

I’d much rather eat veggie burgers made from, say…VEGETABLES, that taste like vegetables, than eat that fake crap. When I want to eat something that tastes like beef, I eat {gasp} BEEF. Real grass-fed, grass-finished, free-range pastured beef. “Beef..It’s Whats For Dinner…Every Once In A While”

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