Hopeful Weekend Links

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New Parenting Study Released - Sarah Miller, The New Yorker

Science Compard Every Diet, and the Winner is Real Food – James Hamblin, The Atlantic

The Wonders and Eternal Shelf Life of Honey - Natasha Geiling, Smithsonian

When Mothers Get Moving, Children are More Active Too – Linda Poon, NPR

The Simplest Thing that Makes the Happiest People in the World So Happy – Eric Barcer, Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Lessons in Organic Urbanism from India – Taz Loomans, Blooming Rock

Why You Might Need More Bitterness

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Your mouth probably puckers at the thought of eating something bitter. But according to many experts, including clinical herbalist Guido Masé and integrative physician Tiearona Low Dog, a small dose of bitter can prevent and cure a litany of complaints.

Why do we need bitter foods?

Masé explains that plants developed bitter compounds to stop mammals from eating them. Then mammals developed detoxification systems, i.e. our livers, to deal with the bitter compounds. So bitters are the reason we have a liver, and it doesn’t work right when we don’t eat them.

Masé and Low Dog say ingesting more bitters, particularly before we eat, can:

  • Improve digestion

When there’s no bitter flavor in our food, Masé says we run the risk of poor digestion. “We see fat and cholesterol synthesis problems in the liver. … We see food passing untouched through the digestive system.” He recommends that instead of trying to “restrict, restrict and remove, remove” for concerns like toxicity, chronic inflammation, liver dysfunction, and digestive complaints and sensitivity, we “reincorporate bitterness.” When we activate our taste buds with the bitter flavor before a meal, the pancreas secrets enzymes, the liver secretes bile, and the valves through the compartments of the gastrointestinal tract work better. “As a result, the drama of incomplete digestion is really tempered.”

  • Nix heart burn

The mouth is not the only thing that puckers when we eat bitters. According to Masé, the valve at the bottom of the esophagus also scrunches up, keeping acid in place.

  • Eliminate food allergies and excema in adults and children

“I’ve seen big changes in the skin when we focus on enhancing digestion and restoring the microflora in the gut,” writes Low Dog in her book Healthy at Home. She prescribes children’s bitters for kids with food allergies, to be taken a half an hour or so before dinner.  She also recommends bitters for adults with seasonal and environmental allergies.

  • Curb sugar cravings

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, we shouldn’t seek to eliminate the sweet taste from our diet, but to balance all five tastes. In the same vein, Masé is convinced that ingesting more bitters is the solution to sugar addiction. “Just make sure you get a little bit of bitter every day and you’ll find that your relationship with sugar is a whole lot easier.” He carries a tincture of bitters in his car and takes a little bit before he goes to the grocery store. That way, he insists, it’s easier for him to keep the chips and sweets out of his basket.

5 ways to ingest more bitters:

  • Greens

One of my favorite foods — dandelion — is a bitter, and this is prime time to harvest the leaves. You can learn more about how awesome dandelion is in my (all-time most popular post) Dandelions are Super Foods.

Chicory, arugula, radicchio, escarole, turnip greens, mustard greens, watercress, endive, and other bitter greens also make delicious pre-dinner salads.

  • Teas

Dandelion root, burdock, milk thistle, hops, gentian and other bitter herbs make excellent pre-meal teas.

  • Tinctures

Urban Moonshine, Herb Pharm, and other companies make bitter tinctures and tonics that you can take with a glass of water as a quick before meal ritual.

  • Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is a delicious way to add some bitterness to your diet, and it was featured in this week’s People’s Pharmacy because of its many other health benefits.

  • Cocktails

Bitters are a common bar ingredient. Look for bitters at your grocery store and learn how to mix up a Manhattan, Rob Roy or Old-fashioned.

Do you like bitter foods and beverages? Have they helped you solve any health issues? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Hopeful Weekend Links

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Become a Radical Pragmatist – Alan Webber, Do Lectures

Top 16 TED Talks for Foodists – Darya Rose, Summer Tomato

Guide to Seasonal Living: Spring – Mother Earth News Living

Oregon Moves to Help Disappearing Honey Bees – Jodi Peterson, High Country News

How Finland created the best education system in the world – Christine Gross-Loh, The Atlantic

Cure “plant deficiency syndrome” with the wild medicine solution – Guido Masé, Herb Mentor Radio

Hopeful Weekend Links

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How green microbeweries stoke sustainability – Peter Brewitt, Orion

The full-fat paradox: Whole Milk May Keep Us Lean – Allison Aubrey, NPR

How to Change the World – Renee Tougas, Fimby

60 Plus Nutrient Dense Recipes That Any Kid Will Love – Kristen Marr, Live Simply

Some good news in the farm bill – Karen Stillerman, Union of Concerned Scientists

It took this man two hours a week to change the world – Sage Cohen, The Path of Possibility

Hopeful Weekend Links

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Murmuration – Islands & Rivers

How to Stay Healthy at Home – The People’s Pharmacy

10 Novels to a Better You – Mark O’Connell, Slate

Building Better Homes in Indian Country – Nate Seltenrich, High Country News

The One Book – Dan Zadra and Kobi Yamada

Happiness, Health and Aging – Lauren Kessler, Counter Clockwise

 

The Best Fast Food You’ve Ever Had

Here’s my article about Portland’s food cart revolution, from the current issue of YES! Magazine. We’ve had a week straight of ice-cold fog, and these photos, taken last July, are making me delirious with summer longing (not to mention hungry).

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Portland’s Food Truck Heaven: How a New Kind of Fast Food Brings Jobs, Flavor, and Walkability

Immigrants and other restaurant workers get a way to rise in local economies. Communities get the best fast food they’ve ever had.

by Abby Quillen

At noon on a sunny day in Portland, Ore., in what not long ago was a vacant lot, customers roam past brightly painted food carts perusing menus for vegan barbeque, Southern food, Korean-Mexican fusion, and freshly squeezed juice.

The smell of fried food and the tent-covered seating bring to mind a carnival, but a number of Portland’s food carts take a healthy approach to street food. The Big Egg, for instance, serves sandwiches and wraps made with organic farm-fresh eggs, balsamic caramelized onions, and arugula. Their to-go containers are compostable, and next to the order window is a list of local farms where they source their ingredients.

“We don’t have a can opener. We make everything ourselves, so it’s very time-consuming. And that’s the way we want it,” says Gail Buchanan, who runs The Big Egg with her partner, Emily D. Morehead.

The Big Egg usually sells out, says Buchanan as she hands a customer the last sandwich of the day, one made with savory portobello mushrooms. And on weekends, customers form a line down the block, willing to wait up to 45 minutes for their food.

Buchanan and Morehead dreamed of opening a restaurant for years. They had food service experience, saved money, and spent their free time developing menu items. “Then 2008 happened,” says Buchanan. Difficulty getting business loans after the recession convinced them to downsize their dream to a custom-designed food cart. When a developer announced he was opening a new food cart lot, Buchanan and Morehead jumped in.

Portland’s permissive land-use regulations allow vendors to open on private lots—food cart “pods”—like the one that hosts The Big Egg. Local newspaper Willamette Week estimates there are about 440 food carts in the metro area.

The food cart scene has taken off in Portland in a way it hasn’t in other cities—transforming vacant lots into community spaces and making neighborhoods more pedestrian-friendly and livable.

Recent features in Sunset, Bon Appétit, Saveur, and on the Food Network have pointed to Portland’s food cart pods as tourist destinations. There are even food cart walking tours.

Despite their success, Buchanan and Morehead have found that running a food cart isn’t easy money. They both work 70 hours a week, most of it prepping menu items—their fire-roasted poblano salsa alone takes three hours to prepare. But they’re grateful for the experience. They plan on opening a restaurant soon, like a growing number of he city’s most popular vendors.

Many of those vendors are first-generation immigrants who’ve found a way to make a living by sharing food traditions.

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A few blocks from The Big Egg, Wolf and Bear’s serves Israeli cuisine from Jeremy Garb’s homeland. But it’s Israeli cuisine with a Portland influence, says his co-owner, Tanna TenHoopen Dolinsky. “It’s inspired by food in Israel, but we sprout our chickpeas and grill everything and don’t use a deep fryer.”

Wolf and Bear’s has grown to two locations and employs 12 people, and Garb and Dolinsky are considering opening a restaurant. “There’s a feeling of opportunity in Portland, and I think the rise of cart culture is representative of that,” says Dolinsky.

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Nong Poonsukwattana has made the most of that opportunity with her food cart, Nong’s Khao Man Gai, famous for her signature rice and chicken dish. She describes hers as the best kind of fast food: “Fast service but not fast cooked. It’s fresh. I serve happiness.”

Poonsukwattana arrived from Bangkok, Thailand, in 2003 with $70. She waitressed at five different restaurants, working every day and night of the week, before buying her own downtown food cart in 2009.

Now she has two carts and a brick-and-mortar commercial kitchen and employs 10 people. Recently she started bottling and selling her own sauce.

Poonsukwattana likes the sense of community in the food cart pods, “even though competition is fierce,” but especially the cultural exchange with customers, many of whom she knows by name.

“I think it’s always good to support local business, mom-and-pop shops, or small businesses with different ideas. It’s beautiful to see people fight for a better future for themselves.”

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Abby Quillen wrote this article for How To Live Like Our Lives Depend On It, the Winter 2014 issue of YES! Magazine.

Hopeful Weekend Links

Photo: Hans Pama

Photo: Hans Pama

Sitting Is the New Smoking: Why Walking Is the “Secret Sauce” for Better Health and Happier Communities - Jay Walljasper, YES! Magazine

Meditation transforms roughest San Francisco schools – David L. Kirp, SFGate

Healthy at Home with Dr. Low Dog – Dr. Andrew Weil

My Philosophy for a Happy Life – Sam Berns, TEDx

Russian Mother Takes Magical Photos of Her Two Kids with Animals on a Farm – Bored Panda

How Homeschoolers Stack Up (Hint: Really, Really Well) – Kelly McCartney, Shareable

Hopeful Weekend Links

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Instructions for a bad day – Melissa Gilkey, Upworthy

Kids in the Kitchen: Readers’ Best Tips – Aimée, Simple Bites

It’s Never Too Late to Become a Lifelong Learner – Robin Dance, The Art of Simple

How to Have a Happy Family – 7 Tips Backed by Science – Eric Barker, Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Best. Year. Ever – Marco Visscher, The Intelligent Optimist

Hopeful Weekend Links

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 Take Two Hours in a Pine Forest and Call me in the Morning – Florence Williams, Outside Magazine

8 Lifestyles for Healthy Eating – YES! Magazine

11 Resolutions for a Better You – Proven by Science – Joshua Becker, Becoming Minimalist

Best of Little Eco Footprints 2013 – Tricia, Little Eco Footprints

At 94, he must let go of his piece of paradise – Thomas Curwen, LA Times

Lean in? Not Sabrina Parsons – Jennifer Margulis, Oregon Business

13 Aha Moments in 2013

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In 2010 and 2012, I shared the magic moments when I heard or read something that surprised or inspired me. Moments that made me say, “aha.” As we say farewell to 2013, I have 13 more for you:

Cooking might be the most important factor in fixing our public health crisis. It’s the single most important thing you can do for your health. – Michal Pollan

The next time you look in a mirror, think about this: In many ways you’re more microbe than human. There are 10 times more cells from microorganisms like bacteria and fungi in and on our bodies than there are human cells. – Rob Stein

You can find a way to make economic exchange one of the most satisfying, meaningful, and loving of human interactions.” – Judy Wicks

Since there is no “healthy soil/healthy microbe” label that can steer us toward these farms, my suggestion is to ask this simple question: “Does the farmer live on the farm?” Farmers who live on their land and feed their family from it tend to care for their soil as if it were another family member. – Daphne Miller

In Asian languages, the word for mind and the word for heart are same. So if you’re not hearing mindfulness in some deep way as heartfulness, you’re not really understanding it. Compassion and kindness towards oneself are intrinsically woven into it. You could think of mindfulness as wise and affectionate attention. – Jon Kabat-Zinn

“A seed makes itself. A seed doesn’t need a geneticist or hybridist or publicist or matchmaker. But it needs help. Sometimes it needs a moth or a wasp or a gust of wind. Sometimes it needs a farm and it needs a farmer. It needs a garden and a gardener. It needs you.” – Janisse Ray

Thanks to cutting-edge science, we know that happiness and optimism actually fuel performance and achievement — giving us the competitive edge that I call the happiness advantage. – Shawn Achor

I melted, and accepted, and only then could I actually enjoy his presence instead of worrying about losing him or changing him. And this, as I’ve learned, is the best way to be. – Leo Babauta

Analysis of the mid-Victorian period in the U.K. reveals that life expectancy at age 5 was as good or better than exists today, and the incidence of degenerative disease was 10% of ours. Their levels of physical activity and hence calorific intakes were approximately twice ours. They had relatively little access to alcohol and tobacco; and due to their correspondingly high intake of fruits, whole grains, oily fish and vegetables, they consumed levels of micro- and phytonutrients at approximately ten times the levels considered normal today. – Paul Clayton and Judith Rowbotham

The findings suggest that job burnout is “a stronger predictor of coronary heart disease than many other known risk factors, including blood lipid levels, physical activity, and smoking. – Anne Fisher

We also know, more definitively than we ever have, that our brains are not built for multitasking — something that precludes mindfulness altogether. When we are forced to do multiple things at once, not only do we perform worse on all of them but our memory decreases and our general wellbeing suffers a palpable hit. – Maria Konnikova

Over the same decades that children’s play has been declining, childhood mental disorders have been increasing. … Analyses of the results reveal a continuous, essentially linear, increase in anxiety and depression in young people over the decades, such that the rates of what today would be diagnosed as generalised anxiety disorder and major depression are five to eight times what they were in the 1950s. – Peter Gray

The most profound thing I have learned from indigenous land management traditions is that human impact can be positive — even necessary — for the environment. Indeed it seems to me that the goal of an environmental community should be not to reduce our impact on the landscape but to maximize our impact and make it a positive one, or at the very least to optimize our effect on the landscape and acknowledge that we can have a positive role to play. –  Eric Toensmeier

Did you hear or read something in 2013 that surprised or inspired you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.