Beer Is My Spiritual Guide

As I delve deeper and deeper into the world of nutrition, more and more do my prejudices, handed to me on a platter (no pun intended), by the powers that be, crumble into dust.

One of these is my prejudice in regards alcohol. We are told incessantly not to drink alcohol. It is, our Masters tell us, the root of all evil. Yet if it is so evil, why is it that every society, no matter how primitive, has a tradition of brewing?

Brewing is simple. All you need is a source of sugar and a source of yeast. If your source of sugar is left alone, it will probably ferment by itself. Alternatively, you can add yeast.

These days the simplicity is hidden from us. Brewing is presented to us as if it were some kind of magic that only the gods of Anheuser-Busch, InBev or SAB have access to. Yet, these gods are false gods. The truth is that brewing, like the spirit, exists everywhere, even on your skin and in your intestines. Fermentation exists everywhere. It is only those who would deny nature, that would deny the ubiquity of fermentation.

False god - worship at own risk

My first attempt at beer has been interesting. I used a light malt extract, some spray malt, Safbrew S-33 yeast and Premiant hops. I have to admit that I didn't follow any recipe. The only thing I was careful about was the yeast, because it was warm I sought out a high temperature yeast. S-33 seemed to fit the bill.

On the basis that everything takes twice as long as the fanboys usually tell you, I took the advice of those who said:

  • Keep the brew sitting in the primary fermentation vat for at least two weeks, possibly three (instead of one).
  • it's good to to let the beer condition in the bottles for at least a few weeks (instead of one).

It's good I've waited. S-33 has a vigorous first fermentation, which suddenly stops. Yet the forums suggest S-33 keeps doing its work for weeks or months. I've sampled the brew at various stages. Now, at last, about four weeks after bottling, it's starting to taste quite good. In the next few months the flavours should really mellow.

I'll report back.

Trauma and Distress at Diet's End

When I awoke, it was already sunny. I arose and padded across the stone floor to the lounge room. Through the ceiling-to-floor glass doors shone the sun. I slid them open and stepped onto the patio.

I turned back towards the kitchen. The wall clock showed 5 a.m.

My stomach was screaming for food. I started frying some eggs and put the Mocha coffee pot on for strong coffee.

With trembling hands, I poured the coffee, slid the eggs onto a plate and went out to the patio. The eggs and coffee calmed my stomach. The protein and fat lulled it.

Four hours later my housemates started to emerge from dreamland. They set to laying the breakfast table, piling the table with mounds of white-flour baguettes. Sitting around these odious piles of carbs, they would reach them, tear them apart and slaver them with butter and jam.

I felt awkward and withdrew. At 11 a.m. I raided the fridge for ham. At 1.30 everyone was tucking into a hearty lunch at a restaurant, I had a grilled chicken breast with no side of carbs.

My diet was finished. I shouldn't have been losing any more weight. Yet, I was.

Back from holiday, I could weigh myself; I was shocked. I needed ways to increase my calorie consumption. I started to eat yet more meat, more vegetables, more tins of sardines; the weight kept coming off.

I was failing.

There was answer an answer though. It came quickly and unexpectedly. It came during one of those errors of judgement which the Wise always counsel you against. The answer was with friends, in a pub, around a table. The answer came in glass packages containing 200 Calories each.

The answer was: beer.

The Answer

Are You Eating Too Much? Or Are You Just Lazy?

How many calories should each one of us be burning? How many calories were we evolved to burn?

And if we habitually burn under or over that genetic sweet-spot will there be health consequences?

Farm workers.

Work hard, get ripped.

One group of researchers wrote an essay about the nutrition of Victorian Englishmen:

Their levels of physical activity and hence calorific intakes were approximately twice ours.

They estimate it as follows:

Using average figures for work-related calorie consumption, men required between 280 (walking) and 440 calories (heavy yard work) per hour; with women requiring between 260 and 350 calories per hour. This gives calorific expenditure ranges during the working week of between 3,000 to 4,500 calories /day (men) and 2,750 to 3,500 (women).

What is interesting about this is that it seems to fly in the face of a study of the Hadza people of Tanzania:

We found that despite all this physical activity, the number of calories that the Hadza burned per day was indistinguishable from that of typical adults in Europe and the United States.

Therefore, far lower than that purportedly consumed by Victorians.

We think that the Hadzas' bodies have adjusted to the higher activity levels required for hunting and gathering by spending less energy elsewhere. Even for very active people, physical activity accounts for only a small portion of daily energy expenditure; most energy is spent behind the scenes on the myriad unseen tasks that keep our cells humming and our support systems working. If the Hadza‚Äôs bodies somehow manage to spend less energy in those areas, they could easily accommodate the elevated energy demands of hunting and gathering. […]

Our findings add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that energy expenditure is consistent across a broad range of lifestyles and cultures.

The conclusion doesn't 'feel' right. Hunter-gatherers need to do a lot more work just to eat than we do. It also does not quite sit with what the authors of the Victorian essay concluded.


Coming home from the shopping mall.

The researchers undertook their study during 11 days over the dry season. Would their results be similar if they undertook it over the wet season? And if they followed the tribesmen all year, would the results have been different? According to Wikipedia the diet and the activity of the Hadza are different during the wet season:

During the wet season, the diet is composed mostly of honey, some fruit, tubers, and occasional meat. The contribution of meat to the diet increases in the dry season, when game become concentrated around sources of water.

Perhaps most interestingly, the authors not only plotted energy expenditures against Westerners, but also against a group of Bolivian farmers. These had significantly higher energy expenditure.

To get a few more ideas about this, I had a look at "The Logistics of the Roman Army at War: 264 B.C. - A.D. 235" by Johnathon Roth. Roth considers what the energy requirements of a Roman (and therefore, as far as I am concerned, ancestral) soldier might have been.

Rations for Roman soldiers were two sextarii of grain per day, about 1.08 litres or 800 grams of wheat. Additionally, they probably ate half-pound of meat a day, around 190 calories of legumes (page 34), 100 calories worth of cheese, 1 1/2 ounces of olive oil for 360 calories. On page 39, Roth estimates they would consume, on average, 0.54 litres of wine, for around 350 calories. This all amounts to around 3390 calories/day (page 43).

On page 12, Roth calculates that an average soldier would be 66kg. Assuming 12% bodyfat, that would be 58kg of lean mass and meant the soldier would be burning 58.4 Calories/kg

I've plotted the Roman soldier (green) and a 5'6" Victorian with a BMI of 23 (yellow) on the graph provided by the Hadza study team for energy versus body mass. Both are above the trend line. In fact, the averages for all agricultural populations are above both the trend lines. That tells us something. But what?

Agricultural Populations seem to have higher energy expenditures either than us or the Hadza hunter-gatherers.

Get Paid to Cook at Home - Latest Idea from the Idiocracy

There's stupid and then there's really stupid. There are people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. There are people who think they can price everything, but don't know how to.

Enter Kristin Wartman who has had the revolutionary idea that people should be paid to cook at home.

You see, Wartman thinks that because people spend so much time in offices, in cubicles, in front computers with their ample bottoms spilling over the side of their poorly designed office chairs that they don't have time to make nutritious home-cooked meals.

Wartman's ingenious solution is to pay women to do it, just as women are paid to slouch in front of computers in cubicles. That way a proper value can be put on home cooking.

She's serious and I'm underwhelmed.

Needs instant home cooking! Demand it Now!

Wartman is silent on who should pay, but she can only be thinking that it should be the government, or other family members.

Let's say, the solution is that the government pays. How should the women be compensated for slaving over a hot stove? By the hour? If so, surely cheese on toast would be worth less than lasagna. Or should the women be compensated according to the nutritional profile of the food? So, white bread with jam would be worth less than a boiled egg, say. This leads to the problem of how micro-nutrients should be valued. Is vitamin C worth more than zinc? Is vitamin A worth less than soluble fibre?

And how does Wartman propose standards be enforced? Should the government employ an army of inspectors to ensure that only sanctioned nutrition appears in homes around the land? So that, at 6 p.m. every evening, there is a rapping at the door as the health inspector does his rounds. Or should other family members report to government commissars whether their home is nutritionally correct?

Wartman is silent on all of this. She should state her position.

Demand a Living Wage for the Cooking Class!

Alternatively, rather than the government pay the women of the nation, employment law could be amended so that other family members are forced to pay the home cook.

"No I don't want boiled chicken, brown rice and broccoli, I'm having chicken nuggets and chips, so I'm not paying you," says eleven year-old daughter

"Piss of bitch, I'm having beer and pizza," says de facto husband, "and seeing I'm paying I'll eat what I bloody want".

I'm not sure Wartman knows how to deal with such situations, but I have one solution which I'm sure would gain her approval. CCTV can be wired into every house so that government inspectors can know exactly what is going on in each home of the country every minute of the day. That way proper nutritional standards can be enforced with an iron fist.

People who cook at home do so, because they like food and because they like to feed their families, their children and themselves well. They have positive relationships with food and healthy and strong relationships with their loved ones.

An idea like Wartman's can only come from someone who doesn't really like food, who never cooks for anyone else, who has no children, who holds their family in contempt and who has no loved ones.

Whatever you do, don't go anywhere near Wartman's place of abode. It must be an uninviting, cold and brutal place. And she'll charge you for it.

Ice Cream and Body Image One-Upmanship

Focus is passe. In the modern world we want to feel all the time. There is no point in just taking a walk in the park when we can also listen to headphones, munch on a hot dog, crank up our vibrating soles to the maximum , and check out the passing carnival of humanity.

  • The Game by Neil Strauss.

A woman's extremely long legs loped through the mall. They extended out from a derriere that was barely covered by extremely short shorts. As she loped, her lips sucked at an icecream cone. I, indulging in my favourite vice at a branch of the ubiquitous Costa Coffee, pondered the 200 Calories that she was consuming and whether she would forgo a proper nutritionally balanced lunch. Beside her, sashayed a short, shaven-headed thuggish looking man with a protruding belly.

The signal she was unmistakable: "I eat ice cream and I haven't got a dimple of cellulite on my pins. Take that bitch!"

When this woman eventually did sit down for lunch across from the thug who would undoubtedly stuff his face with pork ribs, a side of garlic bread and three beers, she would have a large glass of water. Thus, she makes a trade: the pose that having an ice cream afforded against real nutritious food.

Any more ice cream and you won't be able to wear that!

Her eating of ice cream is a social statement, a message to other women, a sneer. Yet, it rots her on the inside. She's signalling that she is an air-head with poor impulse control, that she is vain and prefers the one-upmanship to the more tangible benefits of her long-term health. In other words, she is signalling that she not long-term partner material. A thug is right at her level.

So what does what you're eating say about you?

Heston Blumenthal and the Decline of Western Civilization

They say that every culture has a natural progression, the Archaic, the Classical, the Helenistic and finally the Fall. I think that's it. Or maybe, it's the Gothic, the Renaissance, the Baroque and the Revolution.

Which ever way around it is, we are at the end stage, at least in so far as cooking television goes. It has descended so far into self-regard that it has fallen into mocking self-parody.

Enter Heston Blumenthal, the man that is teaching the television viewing public that food is something geeky, arcane and totally impossible to make at home.

Heston Blumenthal

Blumenthal's television shows aren't about food, although they make allusions to it. They're not about history, although they make allusions to that too. Their only value is a vapid titillation, in almost exactly the same way that porn is.

Blumenthal is to food what Sasha Grey is to sex: unpleasant and disturbed.

Blumenthal says he wants to create food as 'theatre'. Yet, what he has come up with is not food as theatre, it's food as television. It sits in the corner of your living room, aspirational, unavailable, under-nourished and sterile.

It's sterile in the same way that a morbidly obese, omega male oggling Sasha Grey is sterile; he has no hope of ever going there.

Every one of Blumenthal's shows presents food the likes of which you can never have and certainly can never make at home. Want to make ice cream? Whip out the liquid nitrogen from the cupboard. Mashed potato? 25% butter. Want to make jelly? Mix it with absinthe and make it wobble with a dildo.

Blumenthal surpasses any previous notion of the ridiculous with his pseudo-historical feasts, wherein he serves a bunch of TV 'personalities' food that is not in the slightest historical. Said celebrity pseudo-guests then make inane and scripted comments with big, toothy, botox smiles.

Take, for example, his Victorian feast, the centre piece of which is a giant jelly made to wobble with a vibrator. It's not artistic - it's jelly, it's not funny - it's a giant wobbly dildo and it's not something that you'd want to do at home - unless you want your other half to laugh at you rather than shag you.

A Dildo

The departure of Delia Smith from the BBC to concentrate on internet media, shows where real cookery is going. Television has reached the end of the line. It has settled down to its true essence - endless repeats, home shopping, advertisements for phone sex, giant wobbling dildos and Heston Blumenthal.

Whatever you do, don't try this at home.


The Beginning of The Beginning

The sun was streaming through the window of the university union cafe. I was sitting in front of a cappuccino and watched as the last two bubbles of froth popped. I stared at the unappetising grey milk. A skin was already forming on top. I knew well that it was one of the worst cappuccinos in the world. Yet, my stomach was crying out in pain and tepid milk wasn't going to do it It needed food.

"I'm hungry," I muttered.

The blonde vegan opposite me grasping an alfalfa wholemeal pita wrap in her red, sore-covered, blotchy hands, nodded with a condescending smirk.

I had recently embarked upon a Pritikin-style, low fat, low protein high carb diet. I had read that it would keep me healthy, happy and allow me to live forever.

Yet, I was constantly hungry. The blonde vegan slurped her chamomile tea. I wasn't listening to what she was saying, because my stomach was in such pain. It needed food. It needed something big, it needed something calorific and it needed it instantly.

In the university students' union cafe, known for some of the worst food then available in the so-called civilised West, I espied something. It was huge, it was calorific and it was available for immediate purchase: an iced coffee scroll.

Huge, calorific and available for immediate purchase.

With that, the diet was dead.

The blonde vegan almost choked on her raw grated carrot as she saw what I was bringing back to the table. Her cold-sore ringed mouth smiled with a healthier-than-thou pity. No one ever suggested that the never-healing sores on her hands might have a nutritional cause. But, hey, she looked OK in a crop-top.

Looking good in a crop top

It was then that I learnt that there was something basically wrong with the nutrition propaganda that we were being fed. I knew that low fat, low protein, high carb diets missed the mark and badly.

Although, I had discarded the only dietary advice that was around, and didn't have anything sensible to replace it with. As a consequence, I didn't understand what I was eating and I didn't understand why.

As time passed, I put on weight. A cheese cake here, a beer there, a plate of chips, a bottle of red wine, it all adds up.

This site is about that journey. It's about what I've found out and it's about where I'm headed.

Some Geeky Science Stuff

Here is an interesting video.


Hello, World!

Hello! This is the first post on this new web site. This website is a playground for me. It is to see what I can do with writing, food and technology. The title of the blog reflects my initial aims. This may change in time. It is, after all, a personal blog.

Tags: housekeeping