Wednesday, April 16, 2014

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

I am realizing that my readership is growing beyond the 5 people I am hermetically connected to by marriage, blood, or friendship when I initially started.  I've started receiving questions or inquiries via email & Facebook so I thought it'd be handy to collect the responses (anonymizing the asker of course) here in a convenient FAQs page.


Why do you write this blog?

Why not?  Read my womanifesto, my declaration of real food and my talk on Ancestral Foodways.

Is this your job?
I make Life.  I nourish Life.  I am PRICELESS.
In so much as I cook for myself and my family almost everyday, yes, this is my job.  In so much as do I receive monetary compensation for such labor, then no.  I am a self-employed work-at-home/stay-at-home mom.  Like most of womanity the world over, my labor on behalf of my family (and the internets) is unremunerated.  Not that I am idealistic about that.  I have expenses and would be open to being compensated.  It can take anywhere between 2-5 hours for me to write a blog; and then as a wordcrafter, I continually revise and then there is backtracking links when I update.  I do some freelance writing that has been mostly unpaid (new economy, fie!).  If that status should ever change, I would be principled and transparent about it.   
If you see a product mentioned on my blog, it's because I have tried it.  I am not paid or sponsored to mention it. 

Did you really heal yourself with only food?
I allude to healing myself with food (my womanifestomy declaration of real food and my talk on Ancestral Foodways).  I am planning to write a longer blog post about healing from autoimmune issues.  Meanwhile, food was/is a major aspect of how I healed my body but not exclusively.  Integral components of healing my whole self--mind, body & spirit--are detox, sleep, nutrition, hydration, and deep breathing.  

Are you a follower of ____ nutritional philosophy/diet? (fill in the blank: paleo, primal, Weston Price, ketogenic, GAPS, etc etc etc.)

As I indicated in my inaugural Real Food, Real Pho blog post, I am not an adherent of any particular nutritional diet nor am I dogmatic about it.  I take what aspects I find useful.  There are some elements of Weston Price Foundation's philosophy that I find helpful/works for me (research, techniques, bone broth, healthy fats, sprouting, etc) and there are other aspects I eschew (universality based on Euro-American normativity, dairy in all forms--raw, goat or cow, heavy grain reliance esp wheat, etc).  Just as there aspects of paleo/primal/ketogenic that resonate for me and other aspects that don't (universality based on Euro-American normatively; I eat low grain, whole animal meat from the rooter to the tooter including fat, very high sea salt intake) .  I find that adherents of any given nutri-diet philosophy have interesting things to say and far superior to the mainstream take on "healthy" (i.e. low fat, high carb, high processed) in terms of information and recipes but I am wary of any universal aggrandizing.  So I read/skim all sorts of blogs across the nutri-diet spectrum myself. I take what I read critically with a grain of seasalt knowing my own boundaries/needs.   As much as these nutritional diets claim to be discrete, unique, branded products, their fundamental commonality is a reliance on real food and exclusion of processed food.  
As I mentioned in the post link above, I think bio-individuality is important to acknowledge.  I do not claim that what works for me is a universal to all humanity which would be arrogant folly; nor is what works for me right now going to be what works for me in 5, 10, 20 years since I am not a psychic and have no way of knowing.  What works for my bio-systems may not work for yours. That's why my blog subtitle and summary is a list of what my dietary parameters (no wheat, dairy, refined sugar, corn, or additives) rather than claiming an allegiance to a branded diet.   
I've been called "kinda paleo" and sorta Weston Price, and my NP/acupuncturist has called it anti-inflammatory; if those labels help you to understand my culinary perspective then by all means use them but don't limit me to them.  (Source for comparing Weston Price to paleo.) 
That said, I don't try to disparage/dismiss everyone else's nutri-diets (ok, I do talk smack about the Standard American Diet, but it is truly killing people and is not nutritious) in an effort to elevate myself/my "brand" (I am a human being not a consumer product); I am not looking for converts to/consumers of my "new religion."  I hope never to resort to scare tactics and sensationalism and I'm relying on my readership to keep me honest.   Love is my religion.  So holla at me and use the comment form or email me!


What is GF/DF?

It's an acronym for Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free.  You may also see SF which is Refined Sugar-Free.


What's your cooking process?  Do you eat Vietnamese food everyday?

When I meal plan a week, it tends to work out better.  However, I am a gemini (pretty equal left-right brain split) and as the youngest child of three with a single, working mom (and then later a working stepdad), I am not very disciplined, so more often than not, I improvise.  Sprouting for example takes some forethought, like 2-3 days in advance.  So a lot of times, I don't sprout but can at least commit to soaking a few hours or overnight.  Not meal planning means I grab standard ingredients each week (kale, frozen fruit for smoothies, salad, carrots, cucumbers, organic chicken) and work off that.  I get into ruts a lot.  We eat a lot of chicken because I can roast them and then we can have them any which way.  We eat Vietnamese style food maybe once or twice a week.  We eat brown rice maybe 2-3 times a week.  Maybe I haven't quite mastered the technique of cooking other grains (millet, quinoa, buckwheat), but we haven't found another grain we love.  We eat a lot of sweet potatoes in lieu of rice.  

How can you cook real food on a budget?  What do you do for lunch on the go?

Cookie cutter brown rice "balls"
This comes down to source and compromise.  Source your organic meat & produce directly from the farmer when you can to reduce the middleman costs.  Use the Clean 15, Dirty Dozen guide to make decisions about which produce to buy organic and which to get conventional.  Rinse conventional produce with white vinegar & water, castile soap & water or those produce rinses to remove any pesticide/herbicide residue.  
For meat, the next best is Costco or halal markets.  Halal is typically conventional grain-fed, antibiotic/hormone-free, and humanely slaughtered.Meal ideas: Make a roast organic chicken. Shred it while it's still warm and pliable and reserve the bones. Then you have chicken for slaw/salad or wraps or GF pasta/rice noodles, etc for several meals. (TJ's has a decent quinoa brown rice pasta for cheaps. Costco too.). We don't like breast meat that much so I get halal organic chicken leg quarters for $2.29 at a local Indian market which gets their poultry from the same place as Whole Foods. Oh and once you've shredded the chicken, you can use the bones for broth and it maximizes the amount of food you can get for the price.  use the broth to make a soup with veggies, add shredded chicken.  Bone in roasts typically shoulder cuts are less costly than steaks.  Slow cooked and sliced or shredded, they can be versatile as well.  The bones can also be reused several times for a nutrient-dense bone broth.  Here's a great example of how you can stretch one pasture-raised chicken into 4 meals.

Kid approved DIY salmon poke sushi


Sandwiches are tough. When we eat on the go, we use bento boxes or tiffins and have small meals.  You can make wraps with rice paper or corn tortillas. On my pinterest I have found a recipe for Indian lentil wraps that is decent but when best cooked fresh. Or you can make brown rice balls. If you get a larger roast like turkey, lamb, pork or beef, you can slice thinly and eat in a lettuce wrap (iceberg works best.) 
Another good budget meal is chili/curry made with organic beans, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, squash, whatever veggies as long as there's lots of it (seasoning is just cumin, garlic, onion, salt, and your fave herbs). You can stretch 1 lb of organic meat a longer way and with beans and amped up veggies, you reduce the grain-carb load. Also leave it in a slow cooker and there's little work involved. Take it to go in a thermos canister. We like to eat avocados on it in lieu of cheese to bump up the fat content. 


What's a gluten-free substitute for hoison sauce?

Hoison sauce (or plum sauce) has a limited use as a condiment in standard Vietnamese cooking.  To my recall it is just used as a condiment for southern-style phở and for making peanut dipping sauce.  As I mention here, I do not use hoison sauce myself.  Store bought hoison sauces vary in ingredients, but the basic commonalities are refined sugar, wheat/gluten, food coloring, and starch/binder.  Nary a plum to be found!  So there is little to no flavor beyond that of a thick sweetener (and apropos enough, my auto-correct keeps replacing hoison with poison).  My suggested replacement is a fruit syrup comprised of organic prunes (thar be plums!) or unsulfured apricots pulverized with a little water.


What's a gluten-free substitute for soy sauce?  Can fish sauce be used in place of soy sauce?

I don't use soy products very often because of the phyto-estrogens.  It's a very different flavor from fish sauce.  For years prior, I used to use Bragg's liquid aminos made from soy.  Then when I eliminated soy from my diet, I used coconut aminos which are sweeter and really taste different.  Now I just use gray sea salt (also called Celtic sea salt) which brings out the natural flavor of the food.  On the rare occasions I use soy (like this khao soi recipe, I try to use organic, non-GMO fermented soy.

Are you writing a book?

No, not yet. I would love to write a book. It'll happen when it is supposed to happen. I am an avid speed reader (~1100 words/minute; read the entire Harry Potter series in under 10 days last summer) and I love to craft words. I started reading at 4 and making little booklets shortly thereafter.  I published by first poem at 10; my first skit/play was performed at 16. I used to do more creative writing but with the advent of college and graduate school and email, I became more of an essayist. I write like I think, so I am very syncretic, eclectic, synergistic with lots of tangents, parentheticals, pop culture, literary references, and cheeky irreverence. My main writing influences are Stephen Jay Gould, Douglas Adams, bell hooks, Lewis Carroll, and many, many children's book authors who know the intrinsic value of irreverence, humor and unbounded imagination. 

Are you a medical professional?

Don't be offended this is all my opinion aint nothin that I say is Law.  This is a true confession of a life learned lesson I was sent here to share wit y'all.  So get in where you fit in, go on and shine, Clear your mind, now's the time.  Put it on the shelf. Go on and love yourself. Cause everything's gonna be just fine.
I've formed my opinion by research, reading, and phenomenological knowledge (i.e. lived experiences).  I read scientists, nutritionists, moms, acupuncturists, chiropractors, functional/integrative medicine doctors, chefs/cooks, health coaches, bloggers, etc.  Most importantly, I learn from listening to my body and how it responds.  I grew up being dairy-boarded.  When I thought as an adult that I was lactose intolerant, I tried lactase enzyme supplements but they did not "fix" it.  When I thought I was allergic to the cow casein proteins, I tried goat milk, sheep milk cheeses, raw cow milk, ghee and butter, and that did not fix it.  I can say with reasonable confidence, that I cannot consume non-human dairy in any form.  I make the infrequent exception for organic, cultured butter but in very very small quantities.  The last time I fell off the GF/DF wagon eating the hot buttery rolls at Connie & Ted's last year, I paid for it with a sleepless, agitated night and inflammation/bloating.  Once one has isolated a factor and made a correlation to a reaction, falling off the wagon becomes no longer worth it.
For more concerns about my opinion, please consult with my lawyer Bob Loblaw, Esq.


More Questions?  Post a comment below or email me at realfoodrealpho @ gmail.com.


RESOURCES FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

Websites

Documentaries/Videos:

Books

  • Omnivore’s Dilemna by Michael Pollan
  • Never be sick again by Raymond Francis

Articles


Ăn Ngon Lành | Eat Delectably!

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