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Archive for the ‘food is health’ Category

Time for the State Fair


After a two-year visit to Indiana, Michaelangelo’s David (accompanied by the Slow Food Indy contingent) will return to Italy.

My advice, Dave? Lay off the burgers, fries and KFC. Skip the colas and watch those Krispy Kremes.

Thanks, Tilden and Cathy, we needed a good laugh.


Written by Susan Gillie

June 26, 2008 at 1:13 am

Terrorists and Tomatoes–One More Thing to Worry About

Anxiety is not high on my list of emotions. I don’t toss and turn at night, stress is for the big stuff–war, famine, death, chronic, untreatable illness.

Now flooding and the ever-present threat of tornadoes and severe storms, gives us much to worry about. And this, from Purdue, via WTHR

Purdue agriculture experts issue a warning to avoid buying fruits and vegetables from flooded Indiana farm fields. That produce could be contaminated by microorganisms because of rivers that flooded parts of Indiana this month.

…Often sold at farmers markets during the summer, Indiana’s fruit and vegetable crops were valued at more than $112 million in 2006. It is unclear how many production acres were flooded this month

TV is a visual medium and this Sunday story was shot at City Market. I shop there every week and none of my farmers were near flooded areas.

I’m with Mr. Farris of Your Neighbors Garden:

Ross Faris sells vegetables and fruits at Indiana farmers markets and sees little room for concern.

“I don’t know of anyone with an operation close to a river or stream that could have contaminated soil,” said Faris.

What’s sad is all the flooding, devastation and destruction was preventable. Rain is An Act of God. Flood management is the domain of mankind. In Indiana, our dams weren’t properly maintained and our state government, mandated by the people to oversee the dams, looked the other way.

Now, we’re worried about the lettuce.

Written by Susan Gillie

June 19, 2008 at 2:34 pm

Posted in food is health


Saturday, after lunch with the Vulgarians, Ruth wanted to show me the city chickens who live in the backyard and lay fresh eggs every day.

We walked up the winding steps to the house. Sarah greeted us, called Will and led us through the house to the backyard. Will showed us the hens. When we asked him their  names,  he couldn’t remember. From the kitchen door, Sarah leaned out and said, “their names are Mary, Jacqueline and Andrea.” Then she came outdoors and showed us the new bunny, Ginger.

Will tried to coax the hens into letting him pick them up, but they weren’t in the mood. He showed us the coop and gave me a new egg. We went back into the house and out the front, crossing the street to Andrew and JoyLynn’s house.

We stayed there for a few minutes, playing with the boys.

As we left their house, Sarah was standing in her driveway, smiling. She started toward us, but Ruth ran toward her, “no, no Sarah, you’re not allowed to cross the street without permission.”

You see, Sarah is only five years old. She looked at us wistfully, like we were big, beautiful ships about to sail on an adventure. She was too little to go with us, she’s not allowed to cross the street or wander the neighborhood.

Sarah looked down at her feet, defeated. Her dream of freedom from a house full of older brothers, and a yard full of chickens, dashed. She turned, and like a tired, old nun, walked slowly up the driveway and into her house.

I took the egg home. For dinner, I heated butter, cracked the egg into the skillet, broke the yoke and swirled it around while it cooked. Then I slid it onto a plate and topped it with fresh vegetables, salsa and sour cream.

Written by Susan Gillie

May 19, 2008 at 4:06 am

Saturday, February 23rd

Mark your calendars for this Saturday.

It’s the 2008 Food, Farm and Energy Gathering, an all day series of lectures and seminars on local and sustainable agriculture.

This year’s conference is consumer-driven. Steve Bonney, president and founder of Sustainable Earth, says “we’ll always support the farmers, but consumers are the critical factor right now.”

Indiana has a rich tradition of independent, local, sustainable food products. Compared to Ohio, Illinois and Michigan, however, consumer interest in purchasing these products was weak.

Until now, that is. Saturday’s conference serves as the juggernaut for Natural Living Expo’s fall three-day showcase of natural, organic, local, sustainable products and services.

John Bartos, owner of Bartos catering, says he and Chef Chip Huckabee will use Saturday’s conference to source vendors for the fall expo.

Partnering with Natural Living Expo, Earth Charter Indiana,  Branches and Nuvo magazines, Indiana Sustainble Living Coaltion is bringing the conference to Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis.

Well-known Indiana food aficionados will share their expertise.

Chef Wendell Fowler will prepare local foods. Maria Smietana, columinst for Indiana Living Green will share her experience setting up a vegetable hoop house. Going Local‘s Victoria Wesseler, along with other panelists, will talk about sourcing and purchasing local foods.

Bartos Catering’s serving 360 Vodka, organic wines, teas, salads and sandwiches. Bartos is using products from Trader’s Point Creamery and their vendors, as well as Indiana pork and beef for sandwiches.

The conference costs $10 for individual, $25 for a family. It starts at 8am. You can register on-line or on Saturday.

Written by Susan Gillie

February 20, 2008 at 3:43 pm

Posted in food is health

inhailing pig brains

The saga of the mystery disease continues.

Written by Susan Gillie

February 4, 2008 at 4:06 am

Posted in food is health

Informational Cascade


Nora Ephron is back.

She never left, of course, she shifted from mistress of magzine essay to screen writer. In the last few years, she’s returned to the fold and entertained us in the New Yorker and O.

Now Nora Ephron is blogging.

She’s a woman of my own heart. In her post on omelets she has this to say:

protein is good for you, carbohydrates are bad, and fat is highly overrated as a dangerous substance.

She talks about informational cascade, a phenomenon described in the New York Times as a truism taken as fact until someone debunks it. Ephron says:

doctors are not deliberately misinforming their patients; instead, they’re participants in something known as an informational cascade, which turns out to be a fabulous expression for something that everyone thinks must be true because so many reputable people say it is. In this case, of course, it’s not an informational cascade but a misinformational cascade, and as a result, way too many people I know have been brainwashed into thinking that whole-egg omelettes are bad for you.

My favorite informational cascade? Oatmeal, soymilk, upteen glasses of skim milk? They’re fair game, but no, my favorite is “drink eight glasses of water a day.”

I’ve known for years this is nonsense. It ruins your appetite and bladder. You don’t need to be a chemist to figure out there’s lots of water in fruits, vegetables and other foodstuffs. Besides, it’s not a normal way to live, keeping track of how much water you drink in a day. People have been on this earth for a long time and only in the last two generations did this water thing get out of control.

People in the desert, riding camels, do you ever see them with bottled water slung under their arms? No, they stop and get a glup when they’re parched.

Now, medical researchers on our own IUPUI campus debunk this old wives tale.  I stand vindicated. Doctors Aaron Carroll and Rachel Vreeman published their findings in the December, 2007 issue of British Medical Journal.

“The first belief they explored — people should drink at least eight glasses of water a day. This advice has been promoted as healthful as well as a useful dieting or weight control strategy.

“When we examined this belief, we found that there is no medical evidence to suggest that you need that much water,” said Dr. Vreeman. She thinks this myth can be traced back to a 1945 recommendation from the Nutrition Council that a person consume the equivalent of 8 glasses (64 ounces) of fluid a day. But an important part of the Council’s recommendation has been lost over the years — the large amount of fluid contained in food, especially fruits and vegetables, as well as in the coffee and soda people drink each day should be included in the recommended 64- ounce total. Drinking excess water can be dangerous, resulting in water intoxication and even death, the study authors note.”

So there, quit drinking all that bottled water. Save your pennies and spend them on fresh tarragon, mortadella or cipolini onions at The Goose Market.

Food as pleasure, not virtue, makes you a happier person.

Written by Susan Gillie

January 28, 2008 at 2:04 pm

Posted in food is health

Magical Thinking

Originally published in


As a working cook, I prepare food in front of customers. Cooks hate the open concept, but I love it. Customers give instant feedback, making me better at what I do. Right now, I work the grill station noon to 7:30 at night. That means burgers and fries. Monday everybody’s back to work. It’s obvious they all made the same New Year’s resolution.

They ordered the grilled chicken sandwich.  

Normally customers don’t order this sandwich and for good reason. It’s awful. The breast is a mass-produced, skinless, boneless, soulless piece of meat the consistency of composite sawdust. The box says “up to 15% of a Solution.” Food alchemists concocted sodium potions to give this synthetic poultry taste. Each breast is at least 5oz., almost one third of a normal adult’s weekly allowance of animal meat. 

My customers are trying to eat “Heart Healthy,” buying into magical thinking that boneless, skinless chicken or turkey is good for them.  

Here’s the kicker, they ordered it with cheese. Over half of them had french fries. 

The problem is calories count. Do the math: chicken breast and bun 493 calories, slice of cheese 94, fries 509, for a total of 1,096 calories. A hamburger, with lots of veggies (lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles), without cheese and fries is 446 calories.  American cheese isn’t even cheese. It’s “a cheese by-product made from a combination of natural cheese, vegetable-based gums, dyes, emulsifiers, and stabilizers. (Steven Jenkins,  Cheese Primer).  

French fries, nothing more than deep-fried, cancer bombs. Ragging on french fries is like kicking puppies. don’t give them up, just save them for special occasions. Order fries at Peppy’s–they make them with real potatoes. Or live large and eat pomme frites with aioli at Brugge’s or Taste Café. 

Surviving the lunch crowd, I prepped for dinner. I’m allowed a certain amount of freedom to improvise so I make a sandwich special every night. Monday’s was Salad Sandwich, inspired by Hank Stuever’s Washington Post article, The List: What’s In and Out for 2008.

Panini out/Banh Mi in. 

Banh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich traditionally made with chicken, scrambled eggs, shredded pork, grilled pork or pork meatballs. The meat’s layered on a Vietnamese style baguette, with pickled carrots, radishes, chili peppers, cilantro and then topped with a Vietnnamese-like mayonnaise.  

You can see a street vendor making Banh Mi at Making Banh Mi Thit @ Cho Ben Thanh Market   (No refrigeration, no hand washing station, I don’t care what Anthony Bourdain thinks, ouch!) 

My version strays from the original, but I’m trying to entice vegetable-challenged Hoosiers to eat delicious food and dump the pound packers.    

Ginger’s Salad Sandwich 

  • 6 oz baguette or Hoagie bun
  • olive oil
  • 2 oz grilled or roasted chicken, sliced paper thin
  • a handful of spring mix
  • 4 cucumber slices
  • small handful of grated carrots
  • 2-3 springs of fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic/mustard vinaigrette

 Lightly toast inside of bun with olive oil. Layer chicken on bun, then spring mix, cucumbers, carrots and fresh cilantro.Drizzle sandwich with balsamic/ mustard vinaigrette. 

Balsamic/Mustard Vinaigrette 

  • ¼ cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • salt
  • pepper
  • ½ teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon Maille mustard
  • 1 cup canola oil

 In a food processor, blend balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, honey and mustard. Blend for 2-3 minutes. Slowly add canola oil. Refrigerate vinaigrette, it lasts for up to one week.

Written by Susan Gillie

January 10, 2008 at 3:06 pm

Posted in food is health

Scott Hutcheson’s Resolution Muffins

Originally published on

Scott Hutcheson (The Hungry Hoosier), like the rest of us, made food-related New Year’s resolutions. Continuing his 2007 resolution to eat more slow food and less fast food, he’s come up with a great recipe for an egg muffin. 

I’m not a breakfast eater. As I’ve said, oats are for livestock (am I the only one creeped by the fact that Purina makes breakfast and pet food?). When I read Scott’s recipe, I tried it right away. And, oh, those muffins are so good and so easy. They’re clouds of billowy eggs. 

You can find Scott’s recipe on his website The Hungry Hoosier.

Try making these muffins. With Scott’s recipe, you can vary ingredients to whatever’s in your frig. You don’t need three kinds of herbs, chipotle or whatever exotic ingredient is popular. Portions are controlled, and if you have children, you can make these in smaller muffin cups. 

Just make sure you have good eggs.  

Since my New Year’s resolution is to cut down on meat consumption, I made a variation of Resolution Muffins.  

Asparagus Muffins

  • Olive oil
  • 12 Asparagus tips
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 7 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon half-and-half
  • salt
  • pepper
  • grated nutmeg

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a six-serving muffin pan with cooking spray and place the pan on a baking sheet. Mix the eggs, salt, pepper and half-and-half in a bowl. 

Saute asparagus tips in olive oil. Place two tips in each of the muffin cups. Grate about 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese into each muffin cup. Pour egg mixture over the asparagus and cheese. Stir with a spoon to mix ingredients. Top with grated nutmeg. 

Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a wired rack.  Muffins can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days or put each one in a freezer bag and freeze. If frozen, thaw and microwave for 30 seconds. 

Scott’s writing, radio and television programs contribute to the dynamic Indy food scene. He’s starting a Hungry Hoosier column for Indianapolis Monthly featuring local farmers and producers. He and Christine Barbour, another great Indiana food writer, wrote a book which will be published this Spring. 

If you haven’t read Scott’s writings or heard him on radio or seen him on TV, make it a resolution to do so.

Written by Susan Gillie

January 7, 2008 at 4:44 am

Posted in food is health

Weight Watchers Made Me Fat

Originally published on


Overindulgence takes its toll and it’s the time of year when we vow to lose weight, once and for all. Newspapers, television, magazines are at it, reporting the latest weight loss advice, parading svelte “half their size” dieters to show us we can do it. INShape Indiana’s ads target flabby Hoosiers, and today’s Indianapolis Star reports 16 companies are joining the good fight.

In the midst of all this enthusiasm, Weight Watchers is the gold standard of weight loss. Many of those “half-people” profiled in People magazine lost 100+ pounds by joining Weight Watchers. In an industry based on vanity, riddled with gimmickry and quackery, Weight Watchers towers above others. Their program follows government guidelines, adapts to latest scientific findings about weight loss, nutrition and healthy lifestyles. Clarian, in its “Call for Change” offers on-site meetings to its employees.

Not everyone embraces the program. Weight Watchers success rate is no different from other weight loss programs. Since 1981, obesity skyrocketed in the U.S., especially among women.

I’m not impressed because Weight Watchers made me fat. I joined the program, ate amazing amounts of food, lost over 30 pounds, gained it all back, plus a few more, joined, rejoined and ended up weighing a whopping 236 pounds. The good news is I finally came to my senses, did my homework, went back to eating the way I did before Weight Watchers, and am a normal weight.

I started Weight Watchers in the late eighties. After years of wearing a size 10, I’d gone to a 12. Health was the last thing on my mind. I wanted to look good in clothes.

First meeting, horrors of horrors, I weighed 167 pounds. Goal weight was 158-132. I dedicated myself to the program, measuring and recording every morsel of food. I bought prepackaged popcorn, rice cakes, sugarless jams, low-fat everything, and, of course, all the Weight Watchers frozen dinners.

Diligence paid off. I was a size 8 bitch and looked smashing.

Trouble was I’d traded real food for processed and was hungry all the time. I tried sneaking around. I’d be good all week, weigh in, sit through a meeting, then head for the nearest restaurant for a platter of nachos. Soon the dam broke; I was sneaking away from work in the afternoon to buy one-pound bags of candy.

I went from 138 pounds to 175 (8 pounds more than when I started Weight Watchers). I rejoined, lost 25 gained 32. The spiral continued. I went from 175 to 182 to 190. Then I went over the edge, 200 lbs, and never went back to Weight Watchers. I stayed in the 210-220 range for a number of years, jumping to a whopping 236 pounds.

January 2004, I woke up one morning and realized, “I can’t live like this.”

Obesity didn’t create health problems. My cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure were normal. But my legs hurt, my body was sluggish and I just didn’t feel right. There was one other problem. I gained weight because I was eating more, and as I ate more, I was never full, always hungry. I felt like a starving madwomen, always on the lookout for food, food, more food.

I had no idea what to do. I knew not to go to Weight Watchers, or to any other weight loss program. I also knew not to listen to any weight loss guru’s advice. If what they were saying was true, then why was I (along with the rest of the country) fatter?

I remembered Julia Child. In the 1980’s, when so many of us embraced the low-fat lifestyle, Julia knew better. Diet food is what you ate while waiting for the steaks to cook. Cholesterol became the enemy and egg hysteria swept over us. Julia suffered ridicule but stayed the course and spoke the truth. She pointed out the obvious. Foods high in nutrition are high in cholesterol. She advocated a lifestyle of moderation and portion control. In her memoir, My Life in France, she calls it the belly-control system. Pull your stomach away from the table. 2004, I followed Julia’s advice.

I cut down the amount I ate, nothing drastic, just 300-500 calories a day. Within a few months I lost 12 pounds.

Here’s the kicker. I stayed at that weight for a few months, cut down the amount again. I’d lose another twelve pounds, level off, and reduce the amount of food. I didn’t exercise until I was less than 200 pounds. I did’t shell out a lot of bucks for a gym.

I just walked.

By the end of 2004, I weighed less than 200 pounds. By the end of 2005, I was in the 180’s. In 2006, my weight dropped to the 170’s. Last fall, I broke the barrier, I weighed 168.

Just one pound heavier than when I joined Weight Watchers and thrilled to be so thin.

As I lost weight, my eating habits changed. To keep from being hungry and over eating, calories needed to count, so food had to taste better. I dumped convenience foods for simple scratch cooking. I banned low-fat foods from my life. They taste artificial and make me hungry. I put real cream, not skim milk in my coffee, cutting down to one cup a day.

I quit listening to common wisdom about “healthy” foods. Oats are for cattle, not humans, and soymilk is a crime against humanity (and as we are finding out, not all that good for us). I read, Food Politics by Marian Nestle. It explained in clear language why I and so many people have a weight problem. Food is a growth industry and we have grown along with it.

The problem isn’t just a matter of personal choice, or ability to control one’s behavior. It’s a political, economic issue in which our country needs to make a major shift in thinking and behavior. Last year I read Mindless Eating Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink, research that compliments what Nestle is saying.

As we enter 2008, I thought about making a weight loss goal and decided against it. I’m a size 12, look great in clothes, with great health and stamina. All my numbers are in order, so why bother? Instead, I’m concentrating on things that will make a difference. Restrict consumption of animal protein to 18 ounces a week. Add more calcium to my diet. Spend my food dollars wisely and support local farmers, markets and restaurants that commit to food as quality of life not just quantity of profit.

November, 2005 I started my job as a cook. One of my customers lost over 100 lbs. One day while I was on a break, I sat down with her and exchanged weight loss stories. She’d lost weight through Weight Watchers and espoused the low-fat, eat all the vegetables you want mantra. I knew it wouldn’t last, but she was so proud of her accomplishment. I didn’t tell her Weight Watchers made me fat.

Sure enough, hunger hit her with a vengeance last year and she’s packed it back on. When I see her now, she avoids me. She smiles and waves, but looks down so our eyes won’t meet. She doesn’t want to show her shame; she doesn’t want to show envy. I want to take her by her shoulders and tell her, “It’s not your fault.” You were told lies. There’s a way to do this.

I can’t invade her privacy; I can’t get through to her. I can share what I know, however, with you readers. If you want to know more about managing weight, or just want support and encouragement, feel free to contact me.

Email me at susan@

Written by Susan Gillie

January 5, 2008 at 4:42 am