A couple years ago I scraped all of the pressure cooking time tables from Hip Pressure Cooking into CSV files for storage in my exocortex. For things I cook regularly, I keep my own notes on preferred times, water ratios, etc. But when cooking something new, I find that having an easily greppable, offline database of guidelines is invaluable. Today I moved the CSV files out of my private notes annex and published them as their own git repository.
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One of the things I learned from reading How Not to Die is that there are two different types of cinnamon. This seems like a thing I should have been aware of, but I was not. What is commonly sold simply as “cinnamon” is more properly called cassia cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon lowers blood sugar levels, and is also toxic in large amounts. The second variant is ceylon cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon probably has no effect on blood sugar, but is also not toxic, so that’s a win. From the book:
There are two main types of cinnamon: Ceylon cinnamon and cassia cinnamon (also known as Chinese cinnamon). In the United States, anything simply labeled “cinnamon” is probably cassia, since it’s cheaper. This is unfortunate, because cassia contains a compound called coumarin, which may be toxic to the liver at high doses. Unless it’s specifically labeled Ceylon cinnamon, a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon even a few times a week may be too much for small children, and a daily teaspoon would exceed the tolerable upper safety limit for adults. Can’t you just switch to Ceylon cinnamon and get the benefits without the risks? Without the risks, yes, but we’re no longer so sure about the benefits.
Nearly all the studies showing blood sugar benefits of cinnamon have been performed with cassia. We’ve just assumed that the same would apply for the safer Ceylon cinnamon, but it was only recently put to the test. The nice blunting of blood sugars you see in response to cassia cinnamon disappeared when the researchers tried using Ceylon cinnamon instead. In fact, all along it may actually have been the toxic coumarin itself that was the active blood-sugar-lowering ingredient in the cassia cinnamon. Thus, sidestepping the toxin by switching to Ceylon cinnamon may sidestep the benefit. So, in a nutshell, when it comes to lowering blood sugars, cinnamon may not be safe (cassia), or it may be safe, but apparently not effective in reducing blood sugar (Ceylon).
I still encourage Ceylon cinnamon consumption, given that it is one of the cheapest common food sources of antioxidants, second only to purple cabbage.
I consume some cinnamon daily in my Standard Issue Oatmeal. After running out of cassia cinnamon a few months ago, I switched to ceylon cinnamon. It tastes different-but-similar. I am not concerned about my blood sugar levels – I’m in it purely for the flavor – so cassia cinnamon does not seem to have a place in my life.
The book also advocates strongly for the regular consumption of ground flaxseed. The author cites studies that show flaxseed to have anti-cancer properties and to be more effective than both drugs and aerobic exercise at lowering systolic and diastolic blood pressure. After reading the book I began to add a teaspoon of ground flaxseed to each of my oatmeal capsules. It does tend to make the oatmeal a bit more runny, but its impact on the taste is barely noticeable.
Also discussed in the book are goji berries. These are small dried fruits, sort of similar to raisins, that have unusually high levels of melatonin and antioxidants. I use goji berries to supplement my raisin consumption. Occasionally I substitute them into my oatmeal capsules, and I like to keep some on hand (in one of my preferred Sistema Klip It 1520 capsules) for an easy candy-like snack.
The book is divided into two parts. The first part addresses common killers and how they can be mitigated, prevented or reversed through nutrition. The second part of the book covers specific food groups and gives guidelines for their regular consumption.
The book is meticulously researched, with every claim backed up by real, peer-reviewed science. When reading it, it felt like every other sentence had a citation. It’s unlikely that the average reader could actually go through each of the cited studies to confirm that the conclusions presented in the book are an accurate representation of the paper, or if they’ve been skewed to better fit Dr. Greger’s message.
The book grew out of NutritionFacts.org, a non-profit organization started by Dr. Greger with the goal of reading and understanding as much of the published science on nutrition and health as possible, and presenting the results as dietary guidelines actionable for normal people. (Unfortunately the website focuses primarily on video dissemination, which for me is an ineffective means of information transmission. I prefer plain text. Hence the book.)
Dr. Greger is largely opposed to consuming meat. He eschews terms like “vegetarianism”, instead preferring to advocate for what he calls an evidence-based diet centered on whole-food, plant based nutrition. I like to consume flesh, do not intend to stop, and think the consumption of it does provide important nutritional value (a point on which the doctor does acquiesce). Many of his warnings about flesh eating are less about the nutritional value of the meat itself and more about the cleanliness of the production and preparation environment. However, if you can look past the anti-meat tendencies and the possible biases in which type of research is reported on, there is still a lot of very good data in the book. It’s one of the best owner’s manuals for the body that I have read.
The Guardian reports on the end of food and the cowllapse:
We are on the cusp of the biggest economic transformation, of any kind, for 200 years. While arguments rage about plant- versus meat-based diets, new technologies will soon make them irrelevant. Before long, most of our food will come neither from animals nor plants, but from unicellular life. After 12,000 years of feeding humankind, all farming except fruit and veg production is likely to be replaced by ferming: brewing microbes through precision fermentation. This means multiplying particular micro-organisms, to produce particular products, in factories.
RethinkX envisages an extremely rapid “death spiral” in the livestock industry. Only a few components, such as the milk proteins casein and whey, need to be produced through fermentation for profit margins across an entire sector to collapse. Dairy farming in the United States, it claims, will be “all but bankrupt by 2030”. It believes that the American beef industry’s revenues will fall by 90% by 2035.
If kept in a paper bag, bread will become dry and stale after a couple of days. If placed into a plastic bag, all the moisture is retained, the crust looses its crunch, and the bread is as disappointing as if it was stale. By keeping the bread in the paper bag it is purchased in, and inserting that into one of my linen pillowcases, moisture is retained but the bread can still breathe. I find it stays fresh for about 5 days when I do this. I don’t know that linen is superior to plain cotton for this use case (but I do know that linen is superior to plain cotton for sleeping on).
Apparently you can buy linen bread bags made explicitly for this purpose, but I prefer things that are multifunctional, and I already have a good set of pillowcases taking up space in my bedding box. The small size of my pillow means that I can just squeeze two normal sized loafs of bread into a single pillowcase. To store a baguette I first cut it in half.
Bags intended for produce are often made of a mesh too coarse to contain granules of rice. Others have a weak drawstring closure that fails to resist a couple pounds of rice pressing against it when the bag gets tossed around. My solution to this problem is to use roll-top dry bags when I’m buying rice from the bulk bins. I’m partial to Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sacks. At home I store these with my other grocery bags, so that I don’t have to remember to dig them out of my backpacking gear before heading to the market.
The cashiers are always impressed with my bags.
My go to recipe is from Derek on Cast Iron. The only requirements are fish, olive oil, salt, pepper, and cast iron. Sometimes I substitute butter for the olive oil. If I have bacon grease available I’ll use that instead. The whole procedure takes about 10 minutes.
I consider a good piece of salmon and a sourdough baguette to be a complete meal. If the fish is less good, I’ll peel the skin off, dump it on top of a bowl of Single Shot Rice, mash it all together, and sprinkle furikake on top.
Instant miso is appropriate for wilderness travel, where weight is a primary concern and there is a multi-day absence of refrigeration. Outside of activities with those restrictions, I prefer to avoid it. One of the key advantages to miso is that it is a probiotic, containing living cultures. With dry, instant miso that advantage is lost.
When I want miso on the go, I’ll prepare a serving using the same ingredients I’d use to make miso at home. This seems like an obvious solution, but it hadn’t occurred to me until I saw it on Just One Cookbook. The author of that recipe stores the mixture in the container that she plans to eat the soup out of. I didn’t want to carry around a container that large, and I already keep a mug at work for my daily Standard Issue Oatmeal and kukicha. Instead, I store the ingredients in a Sistema Klip It 1520 – the same container I use for my oatmeal capsules.
My Mobile Miso Capsule contains:
- 1 tablespoon of miso paste
- 1/2 teaspoon of dashi powder
- 6 to 12 pieces of wakame
- Around 1/4 teaspoon of umeboshi furikake
- Half a scallion, chopped
I keep things interesting by pedaling over to Nijiya in Japantown and purchasing random tubs of miso paste with labels that I usually cannot read, so I have no particular recommendation there.
The measurements are rough. As a general rule of thumb, a single serving of miso is considered to be 200 milliliters of water and 1 tablespoon of miso paste, but I use a little more water and the amount of miso paste needs to be adjusted based on your tastes and the strength of the particular tub of paste you’re using.
When refrigerated, this preparation will last for a week. It can keep at room temperature for a day. I can make 5 capsules over the weekend, and each weekday morning grab one out of the fridge to throw in my pack before heading out. I do this most weekdays, and end up fueling with the miso mid-afternoon, at around 15:00. None of these ingredients need to be cooked, so the final preparation is simple. It requires only hot water:
- Open the capsule and dump the contents into a mug.
- Pour about 300 milliliters of hot-but-not-boiling water over the top.
- Stir the contents for about 30 seconds.
- Let sit for a couple minutes.
The end result is predominantly drunk. A utensil (spork, spoon, chopsticks) is useful for transferring the ingredients to the mug, stirring, and for getting the last bits of wakame and scallion into your mouth.
As with my Standard Issue Oatmeal, this recipe makes a good base to which other items can be added. Sliced mushrooms – dried or fresh – are a good addition. The original recipe from Just One Cookbook included aburaage. Thinly sliced and diced carrots are another idea. Between these types of additions and the variety of miso pastes available, it is easy to keep this soup interesting, which is a characteristic I value in a daily fuel.
The instant dashi powder used in this recipe is my deference to the mobile nature of the meal. Miso without dashi is blasphemous. I don’t want to carry around a liquid, so fresh dashi is out. Apparently miso paste with premixed dashi is a thing, but I’ve never tried it. I have experimented with a handful of different dashi powders.
Ajinomoto Hondashi is the first powdered dashi I tried. It comes in a jar and is simple to use. It does contain monosodium glutamate (which should go without saying as Ajinomoto is the company Dr. Ikeda created to market his discovery of MSG). This partially explains its deliciousness, but of course the only reason to include monosodium glutamate is because they aren’t using actual kombu and so need to get their glutamate from some other source. The ingredients are: salt, monosodium glutamate, lactose, sugar, dried bonito tuna powder, disodium inosinate, bonito extract, yeast extract, and disodium succinate.
Kayanoya Original Dashi Stock Powder comes in packets that are intended to be placed into 400 milliliters of water, boiled for a couple of minutes, and then discarded. I like the flavor of these packets, but the preparation method isn’t compatible with my capsules: I want to mix all the ingredients beforehand, I’m pouring less-than-boiling water over everything, and I’m only making a single serving with about 300 milliliters of water. I’ve tried opening the packet and adding half of the powder to one of my capsules. The resulting flavor is smooth, but very weak, and the powder does not disolve completely. I think this dashi powder really does need to be boiled briefly to extract its flavor. The ingredients are: raw flavor materials (dried bonito flakes, dried sardine extract powder, roasted flying fish, dried round herring flakes, kelp), starch hydrolysate, yeast extract, salt, soy sauce powder, and fermented seasoning (soy, wheat, vegetable starch, brewer’s yeast).
Nijiya Wafu Dashi is one of the good ones. Like the Kayanoya, it comes in individual packets, but the packets are not intended to be steeped. You rip open the packet and dump out the contents. One packet holds about one teaspoon, which to me is appropriate for two miso servings. I split the packet between two capsules. The ingredients are: sugar, salt, glucose, dried bonito powder, yeast extract powder, bonito extract powder (bonito extract, tuna extract), shiitake mushroom extract powder, and kelp powder.