Thoughts on Food/Food for Thought

In our most recent Creative Writing ZOOM class, sponsored by New Horizons Senior Center, the prompt was the topic “fun.” I wrote a jingle (below) and my writing friend Helen wrote about her experience of cooking with her daughter-in- law’s family. Here is an excerpt from Helen’s essay that could be called “Family Fun with Food” or “Fun in the Kitchen.” For Helen,  the kitchen is her sanctuary, as she notes below. I am posting this because many people dislike to cook, and I think one of the reasons is that it is generally a solitary activity, unlike what Helen describes.  Thanx, Helen!
(P.S. I put in bold my favorite part and the photo of a Vietnamese food buffet is from the internet.)

My Funs* by Helen Lu


* Helen also wrote about travel fun, so I left her Title: My Funs (Helen’s word), perfect for Helen’s complete essay!)

My older son Henry has a large house with a big back yard and an outdoor pool in West Chester County.  His wife Linda’s two sisters and their families live close by. When their parents visit Henry’s house, they have a family dinner gathering. They never do potluck dinner. They cook Cambodian or Vietnamese dishes on that day.

Linda’s mother does the cooking. Linda and her two sisters do the food preparation. When they have a family gathering, David and I are invited to join them. I am always pleased to go and jump to the work force as soon as I arrive there. I take my assignment to prepare food for their mother to cook.

I find the sound of chopping, cutting, sizzling, kettle’s hissing, pot’s clanking…amusing. It calms my mind. My mouth is watering from the aromatic stewing pot. My hands burn from the hot pepper. I swallow my saliva from the sour lemon juice. However, the kitchen is my sanctuary.

Indeed, I always learn something from their conversation among the siblings, children and grandchildren in the kitchen or at the dining table.


Joy vs Fun by ellensue

My having fun has been replaced
With finding JOY at a measured pace:

Taking walks
Reading books
Never minding
How something looks.


 Planting flowers
Breathing deep
Staying in touch
With no promises to keep.

 Doing a chore
That seems inane,
Like cleaning a closet
To keep me sane.

Having fun is very fleeting
Finding joy is worth repeating
If the world is new each morn
Then no need to be forlorn.

Celebrate each day with JOY!
Carry it with you….like precious toy!

P.S. My husband and I love plants and we have very large floor to ceiling windows with many, many plants plus plants on the patio of our apartment. But I still get joy from fresh flowers in a vase that I see as soon as I come into
our cozy kitchen.

The Brain & Mental Health: Food, Exercise & Mood, Part Two

 NOTE: Last month, Mental Health Month, I posted Part One of the topic drawing on Dr. Amen’s terrific book, The End of Mental Illness. Today I am completing this topic, using Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s book, Keep Sharp, which focuses more on a healthy brain, especially for dementia, rather than mental illness, per se, but covers the topics of food, mood, and exercise quite well. Here are some highlights and quotes that apply to the whole body, which includes the mind.

“…In order to best take care of your body, you have to first take care of your mind.” (Introduction)

“ No matter what your DNA says, a good diet, regular exercise, not smoking, limiting alcohol, and some other surprising lifestyle decisions, can change that destiny.” (Intro.)

In one of his “boxes” to highlight information, Dr. Gupta writes about statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noting that 80% of Americans don’t get enough regular exercise. Equally important is the analysis that involved adults from age fifty to age 71. If these people exercised between two and eight hours per week from their teen years until their sixties, they have a “29 to 36 percent lower chance of dying from any cause over the twenty-year period.” (p . 101)

The above stats are a great endorsement for staying active at any age. As 96 year old Dick Van Dyke said in a documentary about older actors, “Keep moving!”

96-year old Dick Van Dyke (aka The Energizing Bunny! es)

Dr. Gupta covers muscle mass, the importance of “white matter (bundles of nerve fibers trough which messages pass between different areas of gray matter),” how exercise should be a lifetime activity, and as he notes on page 112, “exercise is a daily nonnegotiable activity like brushing my teeth.”

Since I am a big believer in the relationship between food and general health, including mental health, I think Dr. Gupta’s “Guide to Good Eating,” starting on page 170-176 is extremely important. Here are his ideas using the acronym: S.H.A.R.P:

S: Slash Sugar and Stick to Your ABCs. (A foods are ones to consume regularly, like fresh fruits and veggies. B foods are additional foods to include, such as whole grains, and C foods are foods to limit, such as fried foods and red meat).

H: Hydrate Smartly. According to the author, our ability to identify we are thirsty diminishes and also we often mistake hunger for being thirsty. He notes that there is a link between how hydrated you are and your energy levels as well as brain rhythm.

A: Add More Omega-3 Fatty Acids from Dietary Sources. Because our Standard American Diet is heavy on Omega 6s and not Omega 3s, we need to eat more “brain-nourishing” gems from seafood, nuts, and seeds” and fewer “processed, friend and baked food.” The 1:1 ratio of early humans is not honored, and he notes that the ratio is more like 12: 1 to 25:1 omega -6 to omega-3.

R: Reduce Portions. The emphasis here is in cooking your own meals so you can control the portions you eat. He also writes about different ways of preparing food that are more healthful, such as avoiding frying foods and replacing that technique “ with boiling, poaching, steaming, or baking.”

P: Plan Ahead. Here the author recommends that by planning ahead, we won’t “get caught” to buying and eating simple carbs, low fiber, and saturated fats. By planning ahead (ex. I take an apple or banana with me when I shop in case I get hungry.)

At the end of this section he provides a list of ideas called “Feeding Your Brain,which draws upon S.H.A.R.P. with some additional practical tips, such as eating a wide variety of different colored veggies, reminiscent of what he recalls as “eating the rainbow,” read labels, etc.

I read some time ago in a book by a doctor that diet is 80% of your health and exercise is 20%. I am not sure I agree with that ratio, but I do agree that some people tend to eat junk and they can go to the gym to exercise and offset the junk food (I disagree with that).

To me, eating well may not be 80% of our health, but it certainly is very important, with exercise as also necessary to stay healthy, especially as we age. Find your own balance/ratio and see how you feel, changing your habits as needed to remain healthy with your family doctor’s input.

Dr. Gupta’s book is an excellent overall guide to attain what his subtitle says:
Build a Better Brain at Any Age.

KEEP SHARP  is published by Simon & Schuster and costs $28 hard copy.


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