February 24, 2015

Digestion Does Not Begin In Your Mouth: Your Brain on Hand Food

Potato-garlic pierogis and spinach.  Applesauce on the side.

I wouldn't call pierogis "hand food."  (Pierogis, if you don't live in parts of Brooklyn or Buffalo or another Polish community, are dumplings filled with mashed potato, or potato plus another ingredient -- common fillings include spinach, mushroom, meat, or, as Veselka has mastered, sweet potato).   They're eaten with forks, slathered in applesauce, sour cream, and/or sauteed onions.   Still, when I cook up a portion, I can't resist eating part of one with my fingers.  It just tastes better.

I'm like that with other non-finger foods, as well.  Roasted potatoes.  Brown rice.   Beans.   Lasagna.   Broccoli.  Most of this is done while cooking just for a taste but sometimes after the meal, too, while putting leftovers away.  And I've been known to outright "eat with my fingers" at my desk at work when no one is looking. :)

I am convinced food really does taste better "from hand" to mouth.  One of my theories is that the food gets closer to your nose, thereby ramping up the eating experience.

Not quite, but almost.   I discovered (after looking into this -- surely I couldn't be the only person willing to admit I'm an enthusiastic hand-eater) scientists are finding a connection between how you eat -- with your hands or with a utensil -- and how the brain responds.   Indeed: the act of picking food up with your fingers triggers a response to the brain and your guts -- your second brain -- to get ready for digestive action.   It's a more "whole body" experience that encourages mindfulness while eating -- you are really engaging with your meal.

Gastro Note:  I've found pierogis are a favorite "easy to digest" food of mine.   When my guts are churning, if I have nausea or other gastro issues, I can always tolerate and enjoy pierogis.  Sometimes it gets crazy -- I've had weeks where I've wanted nothing but pierogis for three days in a row!  (They are insanely delicious, especially in my neighborhood, where they are made fresh just down the street.  The "pierogi factory" -- really! -- makes a few varieties but my favorite is garlic and potato, which are also vegan.  Yeah!)  I eat mine with applesauce -- double points if I've made my own applesauce that week!


NPR's The Salt:  Is Everything More Delicious When You Eat With Your Hands?

Express Tribune:  5 Reasons Why You Should Eat With Your Hands

HinduismToday:  The Ways and Joys of Eating With Your Hands

HinduHumanRights: Vedic Wisdom Behind Eating With Your Hands

Organic Olivia:  How Eating with Chopsticks Massages Your Organs and Stimulates Digestion  An interesting related article...

NY Times:  Mind Your Manners:  Eat With Your Hands

SFGate: A New, Old Restaurant Trend: Eating With Your Hands

January 4, 2015

New Root Soup for a New Year!

New Roots Soup Recipe (see below for recipe)

Cranky Gerd is back!  I've updated the description of my blog to include Gastroparesis -- also known as "slow stomach emptying" or that unfortunate phrase, "lazy stomach."   After months of assuming I was suffering from "GERD,"  my doctor and my own self-observation realized it's not quite GERD that's the problem -- it's the more ambiguous gastroparesis.   In short, things don't move quickly enough through my GI tract.  Sometimes things get log-jammed in the stomach itself.  Other times, my intestinal tract is sluggish and there is "no movement" -- despite the healthy amounts of fiber, liquids, dried fruits, caffeine, and other traditional remedies.   This results in bloating, pain, gas, and overall feeling awful!  On a bad day, nausea can join in the fun. 

Gastroparesis is not just a physical discomfort -- it's a ridiculous waste of time, an annoyance, and emotionally draining.  Like right now, for instance.  I am supposed to be out the door in 10 minutes to have a relaxing Sunday, but my GI tract feels bloated, gassy, heavy -- I have to "go" but nothing is working "out."  Argh!  Do I leave the house like this and suffer for hours?  Or hang around for hours, possibly (most likely) for nothing but more waiting around until my guts decide to take action? 

This year, Cranky Gerd will continue to share my GI journey, and as in the past, recipes and tips for a healthy gut (or what works for me, in any case).   I'll also include "off topic" posts from time to time because 1) it's my blog :)  and 2) these things may be of interest to others here too, as we are not just our GI tracts!   :) :) 


The first recipe of the year:  new root soup.   Inspired by the new roots emerging in the greenmarket these days, and the need to "de-tox" a bit after the holiday onslaught of treats, I tossed this soup together this morning.   Stay clear of salt, be stringent with oil, and enjoy the roots' naturally mineral-rich flavors and nourishing goodness. 


This amount makes soup for a few portions -- depending how much you want to eat in one sitting.
Easily doubles or triples -- use a large pot to give the vegetables plenty of space to simmer.

  • 2 small sweet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled as needed, and cut into small chunky slices
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces
  • 4 medium potatoes, cut into thin slices (any non-Russet potatoes would work best)
  • 1 celeriac root, trimmed and cut into small chunks
  •  2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1 small leek, trimmed and sliced into small pieces  
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • water

1.  Heat garlic and oil in soup pot at very low heat.
2. Add carrots, sweet potatoes, celeriac, and potatoes.  Cover pot and leave over low heat for 5 minutes to "sweat" the flavors together.  Mix occasionally to prevent sticking.
3. Add water -- use enough to cover about an inch above the vegetables.    Add the leek.
4. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are softened.
5. Stir occasionally throughout the simmering.   Add more water if needed -- you want the water to cover the vegetables just a bit so there is a nice broth going.
6.  The soup is done when the potatoes break up easily and the other vegetables are softened.  You can cook more or less to your taste.    Take a wooden spoon (or potato masher if you wish) and "mash" on section of the veggies in the pot to thicken the broth and add texture.
7.  Enjoy!   This is a nourishing but "light" root soup -- great as a prelude to any meal, or a snack between meals, or a light meal in itself.

June 18, 2014

On Hiatus! (See you in September!)

Cranky Gerd is on hiatus until mid-September!   Until then, browse the old entries, send me links or suggestions for future posts, breathe and nurture your guts and your whole bodies!   :)