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What You Eat Can Make You Smarter

I was catching up on my foodie reading today and I came across an interesting theme… research that studies the correlation between what foods are in our diet and how that affects not only our physical health but our brain capacity as well. Can what we eat really make us smarter?

As a small child, I was a big fan of fruit. I didn’t eat a lot of meat early on, but fruit was always popular with me, and still is. So of course I was interested to read more about an article that said primates who ate fruit had bigger brains.  If monkeys of similar social groups developed larger brains just because they ate fruit instead of leaves, I should go to the head of the class.

In case you don’t want to read the entire article, the gist is this: searching for hard-to-find fruit over leaves that were abundant and closer to ground level meant fruit eaters were more innovative and critical thinking than their lazier leaf eating neighbours. It made perfect sense when I thought about it.

The bad news is that eating more fruit doesn’t do you or I much good as this kind of development takes evolutionary time to realize the effects. Generations of fruit-eating progeny are required before we would see results. Maybe your great great great great grandchildren would be smarter, but you’re just not getting scurvy.

There is good news, though. The other research article I read was about healthy snacks versus nibbles that had less nutritional value. Did you know that if we have to wait for our food we choose to eat more healthy? Perhaps that is the real reason fast food is mostly junk – if it took longer we would be eating a salad. The researchers called it a time tax on less healthy food choices. They used vending machines at a university, with a 25 second delay on less healthy items and no delay on healthy ones.

Since the experiment did show a positive result, there is talk of extrapolating the concept for more food activities. One suggestion was that grocery store shoppers who chose more healthy options could be streamlined to a faster checkout than those with less healthy items in their cart.

Is this discrimination? Should we be allowed to be unhealthy if we choose? We know people don’t like taxes on “undesirable behaviour” (such as the taxes on alcohol and tobacco). Perhaps positive reinforcement is a less offensive option to encourage our society to “do the right thing”. I guess the catch is, who decides what the right thing is? Today we’re talking about being healthy. Tomorrow what will be the encouraged choice?

March Madness Leads to April Calm

We are basketball fans in this house, but I’m afraid we can’t keep up with March Madness the way we used to. We do, however, like to catch up on the final run and appreciate the mastery of the final four teams. Today we sat back and watched the recorded game between the Oregon Ducks and the North Carolina Tarheels.

We are cheering for the Ducks, with their Canadian contigent. Of course we can appreciate the other team, both of us remembering the golden age when Michael Jordan played for North Carolina.

James Naismith

Ultimately, it’s about spending an afternoon relaxing together and enjoying a great North American pastime. (I don’t have to say “American”, since it was a Canadian who invented basketball.)

Thankfully, I didn’t even have to feel bad spending a spring afternoon inside. I had already spent part of the morning selling Girl Guide cookies with some of our Sparks, and the rest of  it trimming our lilac hedge in the front yard. The weather turned ugly after that, with the wind kicking up and the clouds darkening.


So, we hunkered down with an afternoon cocktail and some pretzels with dip. (One part thick yogurt, one part sour cream, a spoonful of your favourite hot sauce and about half a part of a flavoured mustard – I used a chili garlic mustard I had in the pantry.)

The score went back and forth, and back and forth again. We debated plays and cheered great shots. We groaned when the other team broke away and took the lead.

The game clock played on. We nibbled our pretzels in anticipation, with excitement, and then in hope that our team would pull off a win.

It went down to the final seconds. North Carolina 77 – Oregon 74. North Carolina missed 3 foul shots in a row, and when the ball bounced off the back board into play, the Ducks took it down the court, They scored, for 2 points, with 5 seconds left in the game.

Unfortunately, Oregon didn’t manage to get that last point. North Carolina will play against Gonzaga on Monday night for the national championship.

But there were some fantastic plays on the court. And the pretzels and dip were really tasty. It was a wonderfully relaxing afternoon.

Sticky candy, melting chocolate or popcorn kernels in your teeth?

I love going to the movies. There is something about sitting in the dark with strangers all being immersed in the same experience. The big screen and surround sound are fun, but they are just part of the ambience. The last part is crucial – movie snacks.

For me, popcorn at a movie is a required component. My hubbie is more of a chocolate and licorice kind of guy, munching only the occasional handful of popcorn. Despite our disparity on choice of snack, we have managed to attend movies happily together on enough Tuesdays to fill a large bucket.

Regardless of the snack you choose, its enjoyment can provide the final step in immersing oneself in the movie. Munching M & M’s or gnawing on a bite of licorice can help manage the stress of a horror movie monster’s massacre; nibbling popcorn can aid in maintaining one’s heartbeat at a reasonable level during fast-paced action scenes. The smell of the treats, the movie soundtrack music that leads us in, the darkness that envelops us and the smoke and mirrors of a story on the screen all blend together to take you away from the regular world.

There are consequences to every action. Just like a good movie will also make you think, the snacks leave a lasting impression as well. Tonight on the way home from the theatre it occurred to me – I was busy fussing with popcorn kernels in my teeth and my hubbie was sucking on bits of licorice stuck in his teeth. (He had already licked his fingers of the melting chocolate as we walked to the car.) Was this a marketing ploy, I wondered? Perhaps the movie production companies are in cahoots with Nestlé or Cadbury’s to ensure we are sucked into a lasting experience. Does the popcorn machine company Cretors & Co. put something in with the kernels? After all they have had five generations of their family sustaining movie goers all over North America. (You can read my article on the history of popcorn if you’re keen to know more on this story.)

I suppose I’m just getting sentimental as I age. Much about movies and the movie-going experience has changed in my lifetime. “Extreme” theatres and reclining seats, movies about video game characters – all things that didn’t exist twenty years ago when hubbie and I started our movie date night.

Part of me likes that the popcorn kernels still stick in my teeth the same way they always have. I smile when I hear the outrageously loud sound of my hubbie opening his bag of licorice. Some things don’t need to change.

 

Peanuts or pretzels?

The glory days of air travel are gone; it seems all that is left of the in-flight service from a foodie perspective is the insipid cry of “peanuts, pretzels!” As the flight attendants wander down the aisle. 

Granted, airline food (at least in economy class where I’ve been eating it) has not been any great shakes for a long while. But nowadays you might as well bring your own, since it’s all our packaged snack items anyway. 

Travelling by air used to be a grand experience in itself, with cocktails and full meals on platters with silverware. It was a full service, but now you purchase the service in pieces – buy a snack, buy a drink, buy your space for your luggage… 

Don’t get me wrong, I know air crews still work hard. I am just the kind of person who enjoys a smooth ride as opposed to feeling the speed bumps created by breaking things up into little pieces. Isn’t the journey supposed to be as much fun as the destination?


We are on our way to the Mayan Riviera so I look forward to posting some more worthy edibles in the next two weeks. 

You will also see a few guest posts from my worldly mom, Nancy, who is wintering in San Carlos, Mexico and has spent the last few summers “on the continent”, touring Europe. She has graciously offered to fill in since my ability to post might be hampered on vacation (whether by intermittent wifi or too many margaritas!)

Here’s to enjoying whatever you find on your plate and in your glass! 

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