Found: Fountain of Youth?

This comes from The Daily Beast Too bad this didn’t come to light just a few years earlier. I didn’t mind looking middle-aged, so I’d have been happy to stay there longer. Ah, well. Here’s a few outtakes. Go to the story for some tips we can use now, while waiting for blood tests to become routine.

Over the past few decades, research into telomeres has become a “white-hot area of science,” says Singer. Last year, University of California-San Francisco cell biologist Elizabeth Blackburn (a major character inStress Less) and two other scientists won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their groundbreaking work in discovering the enzyme that lengthens telomeres, called telomerase. And increasingly, researchers are discovering that telomeres serve as markers for our overall health.

But it’s only now that the medical community is closing in on telomere testing for the average patient. “Sooner than you think,” says Singer, doctors will likely start ordering a simple blood test to determine the length of your telomeres at your yearly physical. The technology exists in research labs; it’s simply a matter of implementing it on a larger scale. In fact, in the next two weeks, Blackburn and renowned researcher Calvin Harley will be launching Telome Health Inc., a private telomere testing service “to assess health status, disease, and mortality risk, and responses to specific therapies.”

Thankfully, like cholesterol, we have the tools to control our telomeres, to preserve them, and even lengthen them once they’ve been worn down. It all comes down to stress—or, more accurately, how we perceive and cope with stress…

…Not surprisingly, the supplement and pharmaceutical worlds are taking note: A New York-based company called T.A. Sciences recently released the first supplement to restore telomeres. Made from a Chinese root, TA-65 helps to activate telomerase, which rebuilds the strands. And a Reno, Nevada-based biomedical research company called Sierra Sciences is actively working to create a drug that founder and molecular biologist Bill Andrews says could be the mythical Fountain of Youth that mankind has long sought. “I think this will be the biggest thing that ever hit the planet,” he said.

Fountain of Youth Panorama

Image by museseeker via Flickr


Eat Your Greens!


This comes from The Atlantic’s food section. It is one of the places I check in on frequently.


Eat Shoots and Leaves: A Case for the Whole Vegetable


Sayle_Leaves_11-4_post.jpgCarol Ann Sayle

Risking sounding like “a broken record”—and I do remember the click click click of a 1950s phonograph needle repeatedly hitting the inevitable scratch mark on a well-loved record—I find myself suggesting to just about anyone who buys a vegetable that is connected to its greens to eat the leaves. Please.

That is my mantra, along with “eat the skins, the roots, and the stems,” as I converse with customers in our farm stand. Generally most folks respond with disbelief. “You mean these are edible?”

Yes, and typically, they are just as, or more, nutritious as the vegetable they grew. Throwing the “extras” away, or even composting them, is a waste of potential health and money. Of course, if they are being shared with backyard hens, then that’s okay … But I want the customers to get the most nutrition and value from their purchases, and if they discard the stems and greens they won’t.

Sayle_Leaves_11-4_inpost1.jpgCarol Ann Sayle

A lady will pick up a kohlrabi, asking, What in the world is this?, and then think, Well this is a lot to pay for just that cabbagey, alien hardball thing. But then I’ll suggest that the greens, looking a lot like kale, are wonderful themselves, and suddenly, she is receiving a lot of food for her money.

Recently we harvested kohlrabies, and fortunately for us there were two with small defects that permitted us to enjoy the first of the season for lunch.

I’m a simple cook, so I just sliced the hardballs into rounds about a quarter-inch thick, chopped up the stems, and cut the greens into ribbons. Into a skillet slicked with coconut oil went the rounds, and with them, small meatballs made from grass-fed lamb. These cooked over medium low heat—getting flipped over to brown each side—and when they were nearly done, I added the stems, the leaves, and some leftover short-grain brown rice. A little salt, and a bit of stirring, and the main course was set.

Sayle_Leaves_11-4_inpost2.jpgCarol Ann Sayle

Meanwhile I took some pink and purple radishes—those from the morning’s harvest that were deemed family fare, which means that like the kohlrabies they had some cosmetic defects—sliced them up, and cut up the attached greens. This became our salad. With the addition of some feta goat cheese, a dash of olive oil, and a sprinkle of vinegar, it satisfied our need for something raw. The leaves of these radishes are a little prickly, but the oil/vinegar soon tames them.

And that was lunch. Tomorrow is market day and I’ll be in the farm stand advising people to eat the beet greens and the turnip greens. I’m almost over being surprised when they say, “You mean these greens …”

But you know, they don’t usually see turnips and beets attached to their greens in a grocery store—those leaves died long ago. And kohlrabi? Well, what is that?

It’s all right. When they come to the farm, I’ll work on them, like a broken record, and soon they’ll sing, I know! I believe you!


High Speed Video Of Popcorn Popping


Processed Foods

This is an excellent article, which actually comes from a much longer one.  Go there for the link if you are up to that much reading.

How Ultra-Processed Foods Are Killing Us

NOV 4 2010, 9:08 AM ET11


In the current issue of the online Journal of the World Public Health Nutrition Association (of which I am a charter member), Carlos Monteiro, a professor at the University of São Paulo writes, “The big issue is ultra-processing.” Because his commentary is so lengthy, I am taking the liberty of extracting pieces from it, not always in the order presented.

The most important factor now, when considering food, nutrition and public health, is not nutrients, and is not foods, so much as what is done to foodstuffs and the nutrients originally contained in them, before they are purchased and consumed. That is to say, the big issue is food processing—or, to be more precise, the nature, extent and purpose of processing, and what happens to food and to us as a result of processing.

Spice Shop

I really, really hope this idea catches on. I can’t quite imagine such a shop in my little rural-ish area but it would fit right in in Toronto. I read about this at The Atlantic.

A New Kind of Spice Shop Brings the Life to Spice


Robbins_Spice_10-22_post2.jpgRebecca Fishman

“You never go back once you’ve gone fennel pollen,” Bronwen Tawse says, opening a jar of the tawny spice to reveal its powerfully sweet aroma.

Tawse, who with her husband, Peter Bahlawanian, owns Spice Station, a year-old gourmet spice store in Los Angeles with a second location in Santa Monica, fell in love with this fragrant, intensely flavorful powder when the couple was developing their inventory. Tucked away off bustling Sunset Boulevard, Spice Station feels more old-fashioned apothecary shop than gourmet food emporium. Beautifully carved mortar and pestles, antique scales, and glass jars brimming with brilliantly colored powders line the shelves, which are made of reclaimed wooden pallets.

The earthy, relatively mild urfa biber was on Bahlawanian’s initial must-have list, but it took nearly five months before he was able to find a source.

On closer inspection, the gleaming glass jars contain—in addition to usual suspects like cumin, paprika, and cinnamon—obscure offerings like an astonishingly spicy ghost pepper salt, the Turkish pepper urfa biber, and a popular house-blended Uighur barbecue mix—a medley of black peppercorn, Szechuan peppercorns, cumin, and ginger. Prominently displayed in front of each jar is a card explaining the spice’s origin and best uses, both culinary and medicinal—creating a kind of museum of world spices.

By creating a well-curated line-up of rare spices sourced from around the world, Tawse and Bahlawanian have joined a growing group of small, independently owned spice stores around the country, such as Colorado’s Savory (which recently began franchising) and World Spice in Seattle, that are giving herbs and powders the same treatment formerly reserved for epicurean favorites like wine and cheese.

Spice Station was born out of necessity. Tawse, who previously worked as a researcher for celebrity biographies (“I went from Tom Cruise gossip to black limes and fennel pollen,” she says), and Bahlawanian, who was a concert producer, were longtime recreational cooks and spice lovers, but they often had trouble finding key ingredients for new recipes.

“My husband would go to the Valley for different things,” Tawse says, referring to the ethnic groceries that dot Los Angeles’s suburbs. But there was always something or other missing from the recipe.

“I’d been traveling and collecting different flavors,” recalls Bahlawanian, who says he noticed others undertaking similar spice quests. “I told Bronwen one day, ‘Maybe there’s a business in this.’ ”

And so Spice Station was born.  Continue reading

Tonka Beans Should Be Legal

Being a good liberal, I find this offensive. Bureaucracy does get out of hand. As happens often, I now want to do the thing somebody somewhere is telling me I can’t do, for no good reason. How to get a hold of a few? Hmm. If I learn I’ll post the fact, but people will have to email me for it. But don’t hold out hope. I live far from most places that might have a source.

The Tonka Bean: An Ingredient So Good It Has to Be Illegal

NOV 3 2010, 9:25 AM ET6


Modern haute cuisine is working so hard to add scents to our plates: pillows of vaporized fresh-mown grass that vent at Grant Achatz’s Alinea, bowls of smoke that seep at José Andrés’s Minibar, hay brulée. With a flourish, the chefs at these restaurants call it “avant-garde cuisine”—drama and novelty are also very important. But according to the FDA, drama can sometimes be deadly.

Enter the tonka bean, a flat, wrinkled legume from South America with an outsize flavor that the federal government has declared illegal. Nonetheless, it proliferates on elite American menus. The tiniest shavings erupt in a Broceliande of transporting, mystical aromas.

The aroma of the tonka bean shavings is so affecting that it seems like an actual taste in the way that opium, which has no taste in the traditional sense, “tastes” like its rich, flowery smoke.

The taste of the tonka bean is linked strongly to its scent. “Scents,” I should say, as the tonka bean has many at once. I register the aromas of vanilla, cherry, almond, and something spicy—a bit like cinnamon. When served cold—say, in tonka bean ice cream—the taste is like a vanilla caramel with dark honey. When warm, perhaps shaved over scallops, it moves toward spiced vanilla. Additionally, the aroma of the tonka bean shavings (it’s almost always shaved) is so affecting that it seems like an actual taste in the way that opium, which has no taste in the traditional sense, “tastes” like its rich, flowery smoke.

The French have had “fièvre tonka” (“tonka fever”)—an overused food-mag pun on fève, the French word for “bean”— for years. The French version of Saveurmagazine features recipes that call for the tonka bean without fanfare. But in the United States it’s a different story. Here, all foods that contain the chemical compound coumarin are considered by the FDA to be “adulterated” and have technically been illegal since 1954. Tonka beans are a major source of coumarin.

Before the law, refined coumarin was commonly added to commercial foods like cream soda, and used in synthetic vanillin. Extreme concentrations caused liver problems in rats (how unappetizing), and a rather overreaching ban on even natural sources of the compound was put in place. Coumarin has since been found to occur naturally in cinnamon, lavender, licorice, and a host of other commonly eaten plants—all of which would seem to be illegal under the regulation. Coumarin also accounts for the particular smell of fresh-cut grass and of fresh-dried hay (both in Alinea’s grass-gas scent-pillows, and on your front lawn).

The fear of coumarin in the U.S. stems from the oft-repeated saw that it is a blood thinner. It’s not. Coumadin® is the blood thinner trademarked by Bristol-Meyers Squibb. To make matters more confusing, Coumadin is made, in part, by changing the chemical structure of coumarin. Doctors who spoke with me (and who were terrified of being quoted) said there they’re aware of no anti-coagulant effect from naturally occurring coumarin in general, or tonka beans in particular. In nature, only certain rare decomposition fungi can convert coumarin to the anti-coagulant molecule. Cows grazing on (pounds of) such rotting sweet clover led to the discovery of the Coumadin drug.

Humans would need to eat an unreasonably bovine amount of tonka bean to fall ill. The shavings of a single bean is enough for 80 plates. At least 30 entire tonka beans (250 servings, or 1 gram of coumarin total) would need to be eaten to approach levels reported as toxic—about the same volume at which nutmeg and other everyday spices are toxic.

So is the FDA enforcing this old law? Has anyone been busted for tonka bean possession? Yes! While the financial industry recently spun out of deregulated control, federal regulators got busy tracking down chefs using the tonka bean. An early bust, in 2006, was at Chicago’s Alinea, currently the top U.S. restaurant in the San Pellegrino rankings, and a probable recipient of three Michelin stars in 2011. Chef Grant Achatz described the warning call from his supplier: “They said, ‘Don’t be surprised if the FDA shows up soon.'” His face still shows disbelief as he relates the story. “Two days later, they walked in:Can we look at your spice cabinet?” (See video.)

But enforcement is clearly imperfect. Last month, I was able, after a dozen attempts at various merchants, to purchase tonka beans from a Seattle-based supplier on the Internet. The spice arrived in a plain yellow envelope, and made an excellent enhancement to my mother’s Winesap apple tart recipe.

DeLorenzo_Tonka_11-2_inpost.jpgIke DeLorenzo 

A clever dessert leveraging the temperature-sensitive taste of the tonka bean is “Le Gâteau” created by chef Gabriel Bremer at Salts, in Cambridge, Massachusetts: a block of warm chocolate-tonka layered cake, semi-dried cherries, and light tonka bean ice cream. The fruit underscores the tonka bean’s cherry notes, and accompanying smoked honey amplifies its spice. Brilliantly, the dish contains no vanilla, so the unique vanilla-like scent of the bean can reign on its own.

This is the kind of culinary innovation and taste experience we are missing when tonka is excluded from menus, and even products. The age-old and fortunately undisclosed recipes of various imported Italian amaro liqueurs probably also use tonka bean. They could meet the same fate as Poland’s luxury Żubrówka vodka, flavored and colored by Polish bison grass for the rest of the countries in the world, but switched to use artificial flavors and colors for the United States market. Buffalo grass is unfamiliar to us and—you guessed it—contains coumarin.

A scientific re-evaluation of this old law, and its 1950s research, seems to be in order so we can catch up with the rest of the world. My tonka version of my mom’s apple tart might, for the first time, outshine her original this Thanksgiving. That should not be illegal.

Girl goes crazy with her cam’s special effects