New Lamps For Old! A dieting post.

The Atkins Diet.

The South Beach Diet.


When you come right down to it, they are all the same thing: a regime focused on lowering carbohydrates and upping your proteins.

“In 1863, William Banting published his Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public, in which he promoted the benefits of a low carb diet for weight loss and optimal health. Banting is now considered to be ‘the father of the low carb diet’.”,of%20the%20low%20carb%20diet’.

In the 1960s, Robert Atkins promoted his own “version” of this, and for a year or three, it was all the rage. Atkins blamed carbs, not fat, for poor weight-loss outcomes. This was coupled with the idea that you could “change your metabolism” by consuming lots of fat, some protein, and fewer carbohydrates.

Many books were sold.

It was heavy on processed meats (Bacon! Baloney! Hot dogs!) which seem to carry not only fat and flavour, but risks of some types of cancers and heart problems, which is kind of weird when you consider that Atkins was a cardiologist.,is%20to%20change%20your%20metabolism.

In 2003, we got the South Beach Diet, which (once again) promoted a low carb/high fat plan (although this time, it was “healthy fats”).

Many, many books were sold.

And then came Keto.

Well, not exactly – a keto diet (largely vegetarian) was promoted in the 1920s as a cure for epilepsy.

Around 2017, though, “Keto” was the new buzzword in dieting. This time, it wasn’t just “low carb” – it was super-super-super low: less than 50 grams a day of carbs, with no fruit allowed, and a restricted list of vegetables.

Not only were many more books sold, there were a variety of YouTube gurus making money from this, as well.

The thing is, all these diets are exactly the same, and for the vast majority of adherents, the experience is roughly the same, too.

Yes – these diets work, for a while. Of course they do.

ALL diets work, short term, in that any restriction of food helps you lose weight. If there are fewer calories to burn and you are still expending your pre-diet number of calories, there will almost inevitably be some weight loss.

Let’s repeat this, because apparently, our own lifelong experience hasn’t taught us this truth yet:

ALL diets work, short term, in that any restriction of food helps you lose weight. If there are fewer calories to burn and you are still expending your pre-diet number of calories, there will almost inevitably be some weight loss.

The problem is that very few people can stay on a restricted diet forever.

It just takes one Christmas get-together centred on mashed potatoes and stuffing drenched in gravy, or a summer barbecue with really enticing bowls of chips and dip, and the next morning, our brains point out what utter failures we are and what’sthepointanyway? and we just go make a sandwich.

Some people do stay on longer – even “forever”, despite the probable health risks. I knew someone who was doing the “isolated in the boonies/prepper thing” one winter back in the 80s. He trapped rabbits. Tons of rabbits. He never went hungry, because of all the meat. He almost died, though, because despite this protein-rich diet, he was found, come April, to be suffering from fairly extreme malnutrition (and scurvy!), and wound up in hospital for three weeks.

But I digress.

My point is, this thing is going to make a comeback in a few years, with a catchy new name and some new, unscientific wrinkle added, and it won’t work then. either. Not for most of us, anyway.

We’ll get a few pounds off, plateau out well below our stated goals, feel bad about that, and then go out with friends and that second glass of beer to wash down the nachos will sink our resolve.

That’s probably a good thing, too.

Eat a balanced diet with sensible portion sizes, get up and move around, take care of your teeth and gums, buy a pair of good-quality shoes, and worry about health, not the number on the bathroom scale.

Cooking Tip for Vegans



I’m not a vegan, or even a vegetarian (although there was a long-ish spell when I did stop eating meat), but my mom was, and I grew up with a lot of ideas and tricks.

It’s difficult to adapt recipes, or get those comfort jolts, but I do want, since we’re all at home and changing our lives (all that breadmaking, and baking, and experimenting with the sou-vides, oh my!) to give you a really good way to make sauces and gravies with that rich, beefy taste you might be craving.

To make a really terrific “beef stock substitute”:

1 carrot, cut in quarters

1 small onion, cut in quarters

2 stalks celery, cut into sizable chunks

1 tsp each oregano, basil, thyme (and/or whatever else you think might be what you’d like. Tarragon. Savory. Dry Mustard. Rosemary. All good.)

2 bay leaves

3-5 cloves of garlic (or more, what the hell)

4-6 cups of water

Couple-three glugs of Worcester sauce (optional) or some freshly ground pepper

Soy sauce to taste (the miso should be salty enough, though)

½ cup DARK miso paste (or more…it depends a lot on the brand’s concentration level. Add the whole darn package if you want. You can always add more water if you think the stock is too strong.)


Lightly sauté the veggies and herbs until soft and beginning to caramelize, add the water and miso paste and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the paste thoroughly. Simmer for 2 hours. Taste occasionally, and adjust the seasoning as you wish to.

Cool the stuff down to around warm/room temperature. Discard the cooked chunks of carrots et cetera.


Method 1:  sieve the liquid through a wire strainer lined with cheese cloth till you get a clear, dark brown broth. You will probably have to do this twice, and wash out the cheesecloth in between rounds. At least twice. Maybe three times.

Method 2: Strain it through a non-electric Melita coffee filter system if you have one. You will almost certainly need to change the filters a couple-three times, but this works really well. (Send the coffee purist out for a walk while you do this, so everything is washed up and looking completely innocent by the time they get home. Trust me, you don’t want the argument that inevitably happens if they catch you doing this.)

Use now or store in a tightly lidded glass jar in the fridge for 3-5 days. Can be frozen.

The broth will be strong and delicious, and makes an awesome “beef” gravy base, also perfect for barley soups etc. Basically, anywhere where you used to use beef stock, this will do the trick. It makes a super tasty stock for sweet and sour bean balls, as well as upping the ante for wine sauces.

I’ve had any number of confirmed steak addicts swear they can taste the meatiness.

Plus, miso is good protein.

Trying Times


By now, everyone in my house is getting pretty squirrelly.

We’re losing ourselves in time, for a start – none of us can remember, offhand, what day it is, and mealtimes are getting to be notional, because we aren’t on any kind of schedule, so we find ourselves eating lunch anywhere between 11 am and 3 o’clock.

I haven’t seen a new face in about two weeks, which feels kind of odd.

Laundry isn’t piling up much, on account of no one getting out of their jammies until after lunch, if at all.

We aren’t cooking exotic meals, but that is because for the last ten days, all three adults have had a recurring stomach flu, so we’ve been sticking to mac and cheese, and soup and things like that.

But there’s been another shift, too.

Art is starting to occur. Evan and his mom painted owl pictures yesterday, and I have to say that Evan’s is darned good.

I’ve started writing again – I was in a slump, and now I’ve managed to force myself out of it, although Book Three is still having plot problems, so I’m working on other things and hoping for inspiration to strike.

I miss being able to go out for lunch. Or go out anywhere, although I fully intend to start walking in the park again, probably very early in the morning in the hope that there will be no one else around.

And we’ve all woken up to what really matters in life.

Art matters.

Generosity matters.

People matter.

Let’s try not to forget that, okay?

JordanCon and stuff.

So, obviously, my fave sff convention is cancelled.

It’s sad. Of course it is.

On the other hand, I’ve got time to write, I guess. Or something.

It’s hard, though, as someone interested in history, to remain dispassionate and calm when I see people behaving exactly as those in earlier times did in these situations.

Hoarding and xenophobia are the least of it.

It’s the corkbrained theories and insane “cures” – you would think we would know by now.

It’s the immediate regression to “whatever idiotic thing that sounds confusing enough to work” as the answer.

It’s really depressing, because even in the 1600s’ people were aware that quarantines are the most efficacious response, both for limiting the spread AND protecting those who are still untouched.*

And the assumption that because so far, most of the deaths have been for old people or those with underlying conditions, the rest of us are somehow protected is nuts.

Viruses mutate.

If they can’t find an easy host one way, they change the kind of host they need.

If there aren’t any weaker hosts to latch onto, they will alter to better invade something stronger.

And those “underlying conditions”?

How do you know you haven’t got one? Sometimes these things are not apparent. Sometimes you feel just great at 20, and are laid low with immuno-deficiencies at 25.

Those things might have been there all the time, but just not have manifested in some way before.

Maybe it’s not you, though.

Maybe it’s your boyfriend. Or your BFF from school. Or your mom’s BFF who has been like an auntie/big sister to you all your life.

You might, by your arrogance, kill them.

You might, by your arrogance, kill yourself.

It’s time we stopped relying on “common sense” and listened to the medical and scientific professionals, and stay home, wash our hands, and shut the eff up about what we “think” is the cure.


  • About the 1600s? The village of Eyam in the UK self-quarantined back then. Read a travel piece on that HERE

The Spectrum


Where are you, on the Spectrum?

People talk a lot about this.

Researchers do studies.

People read the articles about the studies.

People identify with the spectrum.

And then, when they’ve processed it, they Facebook about where they are on the sliding scale of “I’m different”.

Seriously: everyone (or nearly everyone) I meet at some point will tell me about how they are in some way neuro-divergent.

They’re dyslexic, but no one noticed because they found ways to limit the problems very early on. Or not, and they’ve struggled into adulthood with the scars that the school system inflicted on them.

They’re ADHD, but they caught on at a young age how to control this enough to get by and be labeled as “rambunctious” or “athletic” instead, because by the time it mattered, they’d gotten it down to something manageable. Or not, and they continue to pay the price.

They saw the world from a different perspective, but learned to keep that shit to themselves and echo the prevailing opinions before they were out of kindergarten – or were/are ostracized by most of the people they meet/work with.

To be honest, I know very few people who admit to “normal”.

Those cheerleaders and jocks you knew in high school? They’re now revealing their “otherness” – telling the world about how they hid the reality of their experience. How they struggled to fit in. How they still struggle.

The co-workers you see as policing some indefinable “norm”? They tweet out their discomforts. They blog about the weird way they see things, about how they were at the Christmas party and blurted out something no one else understood, even though it seemed perfectly obvious to them.

In fact, as far as I can tell, almost none of us fit into the “normal” box.

I mean, I’m an “extrovert” by any standard test, I was popular (for whatever value of “popular” that one can define, because it’s murky) all through school and life, and I don’t really struggle that much to get along with people. Reading came easily, and I am good at “school”, and work, and parties full of strangers.

But when the telltale signs of the spectrum are listed out in some study, I see myself in so much of that.

What if – bear with me here – what if we are all mostly on the spectrum?

What if “normal” is the outlier?

What if being different, and difficult, and full of angles and edges and awkwardness is what humans in their totality are, and it’s the bland/boxed/kneejerk reactive people who are the minority?

It sure would explain a lot. About all of us.

Let’s talk about poverty. And food.

This week, I got into a discussion with friends about poverty and food choices.


Mostly, it was civil and reasoned, but, as so often happens, there was that one (white, middle-class, never been unemployed) person who started in on “shitty food choices that make people overweight and unhealthy”.

And there I was, white and middle-class (and revoltingly over-educated, to boot) watching as people floundered around, trying to refute this without knowing quite how because most of them (white, middle-class and rarely unemployed) have not ever been realio-trulio poor.

But I have been.

In my early 20s, I wound up poor and homeless, on-the-streets and sleeping rough homeless, for about six months. Never mind why. It can happen to anyone, and this is getting truer all the time.

When I came back to live in Canada, I was in my fifties, and there was a recession on, and I couldn’t find work. I wound up on welfare.

Don’t let anyone tell you someone on welfare is living some kind of high life on the taxpayer dime.

Do you know what a single person without a disability gets as welfare in Calgary?

They get $590/month, and eight trips to the Food Bank each calendar year.

That’s it. Less than $600 to pay rent and buy food, in Calgary, where the rent on a one-bedroom apartment averages out at over $1200/month.

So, even supposing you could find a two-bedroom basement suite for $1,000/month and could share it with another person, you are left with about $90 each month to cover everything else in your life.

If you are job-hunting, you can, of course, use the EI office computers. That’s a great thing, and the public library has internet access, too. So you will be able to apply for lots of things.

But you will still need a phone. To get a job, prospective employers need to get in touch and set up an interview. A phone is a basic necessity, and that’s going to be, at the very cheapest, around $30 every month.

So now you have $60 a month left. That has to cover things like bus fares if you do land a job interview, on top of your share of the bills every month, and those four months where you don’t even get a chit to go to the Food Bank on.

Buy in bulk, say the people who have never gone hungry for longer than two days in a row, and then only when on some new fad diet.

Well, the math is tricky. Bulk costs money up front: it doesn’t matter if a 10lb bag of rice is a great deal and will last a month, if the cost of that bag represents a third of your total food budget for that month.

Humans NEED calories. It’s impossible to survive for long at around 800 calories a day – that’s when actual malnutrition will start being a factor. Stay at that rate for too long, and you will die.

A 3lb bag of potatoes at Superstore is $3.97. One baked potato (no toppings) gives you 200 calories. If that bag has to last all month, then one potato might be more than you can give yourself every day.

A bag of carrots costs $2.98. One cooked carrot equals 80 calories, give or take. There are about 16 carrots per bag. So you need two bags, in order to eat one carrot every day. That’s about $6/month. For carrots.

Other vegetables tend to be more expensive, but come with smaller caloric pay-offs. A cup of steamed broccoli rings in at 31 calories.

A 900 gram (2lbs) bag of brown rice at Superstore is $2.24. One cup of cooked brown rice gives you around 210 calories.

But humans also need protein and fat, bigtime. Sure – we need vitamins and minerals to survive in *good* health – but those by themselves, won’t allow you to survive at all.

And if you’re homeless, you cannot even bake that potato or boil that carrot, which will cut your caloric intake in half.

Why do poor people wind up eating badly?

Because junk food is cheap. A Sausage McMuffin is $1.69 – and it has the calories and protein to make you cheaply reach almost halfway to the minimum daily requirement.

A bag of no-name potato chips ($1.18 for 200 grams) fills the belly AND the calorie need at way less the cost per pound than fresh produce does. A Big Mac Meal Deal($4.60) quells the hunger better and cheaper than a plate full of steamed broccoli ($2.97 for a pre-bound “bunch”) can, and for longer.

Do the math. It has become cheaper to eat over-processed, sugar-laden crap, because poor people are powerless: all their energy is spent trying to survive until tomorrow. They’re the very definition of a “captive audience”.

I know there are those of you who will not believe me.

All I can say is that I hope you never have to find out for yourself in real life, just how classist, discriminatory, and skewed against us all the food industry has become.


What’s wrong with our food?

The thing is, when we’re young, most of us don’t really feel our bodies.


I mean, we look at ourselves, we critique ourselves, we complain, especially during puberty, that we’re too “this” or too “that”, and we compare ourselves to the carefully-lit, impossibly airbrushed images in the media, but we don’t really, on a normal basis, feel our bodies.

If we’re within some very broad statistical parameters of “healthy”, we just get up and do things. We run, we jump, we eat, we poop.

We don’t, unless something seriously hurts, notice much about how these things happen – they just do, and it’s all fine.

As we age, though, more and more of the things that we did so effortlessly begin to be noticed. We get to points, as the wear and tear of living takes its toll, where we have to think at least momentarily about how to get out of a sling-backed chair, or how to reach up over our heads without dislocating our shoulders.

We notice when we’ve been kneeling for too long, because our feet fall asleep inside of two minutes.

We’re aware of ourselves because things are maybe not wearing out, exactly, but are beginning to bounce back more slowly.

It’s why at five, climbing onto the kitchen counter to steal cookies is just an adventure, and why, at fifty, climbing on a footstool to dust a light fixture requires planning and forethought.

It’s why kids can jump off the top bunk at six a. am., ready to roll, and why adults take five minutes to rally themselves before reaching out to hit the off button on the alarm.

And that’s why, I think, people begin to think certain foods are inherently bad, because nowhere is this effect noticed and discussed more keenly and in excruciatingly detail, than over our digestive tracts.

When you’re eight, the only time you notice your bowel movements with any medical interest is when you have stomach flu.

When you’re thirty-eight, every incipient gas build-up feels like a cancer warning.

And that, I think, is the root cause of the sudden swell in “food allergies”.

I know, I know: every one of you can anecdotally prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that every time you ingest even a single droplet of unapproved, no-name soy sauce at the mall, you will be wracked all night by cramps and bloating.

You believe it. I believe you believe it.

And sure: things like wheat have been changed over time by farmers trying to get the highest and hardiest yields. That process was well underway 5,000 years ago, though, and frankly, human digestive tracts are enormously adaptable – that’s why we’re called “omnivores”. We can, and do, eat practically anything.

(And let’s stop a bit and examine what you DID eat before you decided it was bread, or meat, or green peppers that were the problem. If the bulk of your intake consisted of McDonalds, frozen pizza, and KFC, and now you eat a lot of legumes and raw veggies, and have bought a steamer basket from Chinatown that you do, in fact, actually make use of — you don’t think THAT has something to do with the change in how you feel and function? No? Really, no?)

Those highly evolved digestive tracts work pretty hard, and in the process, they make a lot of funny noises, create a lot of smelly gasses, and – yes – when the waste is navigating a tight corner of your lower intestines, there can be actual nerves feeling actual things.

Just because you notice it, it doesn’t necessarily mean that something is wrong.

It more likely just means that you aren’t a kid anymore.