Some of US’s Wealthiest Athletes Prefer 69¢ Snack At Work

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For their homes, many members of the NBA (the National Basketball Association), the top paid four of whom take home a total of more than $100,000,000 per year, have private chefs. At work, at stadiums across the country, one of players’ favorite pre-game snacks is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. (Maybe more than one, given the size of these guys, who tend to be well in excess of 6′ (1.83m) tall and hardly bean-pole thin!)

Unknown to large swaths of the world beyond the US, PB&J, as the snack is affectionately known to virtually every American, is a centuries-old tradition – dating back to the early days of peanut growing in the US, even before George Washington Carver found hundreds of uses for it (but he did not invent peanut butter!).

One use I suspect he never pursued, perhaps after one trial of it, would be peanut butter soup, a “delicacy” high school classmates of mine and I created on occasional Sunday evenings, when, unlike the rest of the week, we had “requisitions,” kid-selected foods, in our dorm. Why we made it more than once is a mystery, since the stuff hardly halted on its journey from mouth to the other end!

Yep, PB mixed with milk and heated will clean you out quicker, with less pain, than raw or lightly-sauteed Habanero peppers!

Today, there is scarcely a household of native-born Americans that doesn’t have at least an “emergency” jar of PB somewhere handy.

Among those that does is Donald Trump’s. His choice for White House Chef reportedly has no cheffing experience, but his boss declared, when announcing the appointment of Mike Wave, whose cooking-for-cash experience is more or less limited to six months with Blue Apron, the meat kit maker, “he makes a mean PB&J,” the leader of the free world (and under-valued sandwich fan) said. Then he took another bite if his!

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‘Food Crisis’ As Low Oil Prices Cost Indian Workers Their Jobs In Saudi Arabia

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Laid-off Indian workers queuing for food packets in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Low oil prices have forced the Saudi government to slash spending since last year, putting heavy pressure on the finances of local construction firms which rely on state contracts.

As a result, some companies have been struggling to pay foreign workers and have laid off tens of thousands, leaving many with no money for food let alone for tickets home.

India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday said over 10,000 Indians in Saudia Arabia and Kuwait were facing a “food crisis” because of economic hardships, while appealing to an estimated 3 millions Indians living in Saudi Arabia for help.

“Large number of Indians have lost their jobs in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The employers have not paid wages, closed down their factories,” she tweeted on Saturday.

One of the country’s two junior foreign ministers, V.K. Singh, will travel to Saudi Arabia next week.

Swaraj said on Saturday that India’s other junior foreign minister, M.J. Akbar, would take up the issue with the authorities in the two Middle Eastern countries, saying the government was monitoring the situation on an hourly basis.

“While situation in Kuwait is manageable, matters are much worse in Saudi Arabia,” she said in a tweet.

Separately, the Consulate General of India in Jeddah said on its official Twitter feed on Saturday that it had distributed 15,475 kg (34,116 lbs)  of food over the past three days to the Indian community.

It posted pictures of Indian people queuing up to collect the food packets.

The hardships faced by Indian migrants come amid rising protests about working conditions in Saudi Arabia.

Hundreds of foreign workers at construction firm Saudi Oger staged a public protest in Jeddah at the weekend to demand seven months of unpaid wages, Saudi Arabia’s Arab News reported. They were dispersed by police after disrupting traffic.

Saudi Oger did not respond to a telephone call and an email seeking comment.

The Saudi government says it investigates any complaints of companies not paying wages and if necessary, obliges them to do so with fines and other penalties.

Chinese Shamed For Dog-Eating Festival

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While Americans (and many others) have an emotional attachment to dogs, and would never think of eating them, they appear somewhat immune to the fact that, as has been widely publicized for the past half decade, an annual ‘festival’ in a small Chinese province is built around the brutal slaughter – and consumption – of some ten thousand dogs.

Somewhat, but not totally, immune: The Huffington Post has been particularly outspoken over the past two years about the goings-on in Yulin every June. The cruelty of the event – which local government deny any involvement in, citing “local businesses and [a small percentage of] local businesses” as its instigators and sponsors, is inexcusable, but it goes on.

The fact the festival isn’t just about dog-eating doesn’t make the international media and dog-lovers globally any less comfortable: The event is officially billed as The Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, because the former and the latter are paired in culinary preparations, Wikipedia (reference above) says. It runs for ten days, during which dogs are paraded in wooden crates and metal cages before being skinned and cooked for festival goers and local residents. Some, Huff Post says, may even be boiled alive.

Not to in any way condone what goes on in Yulin, I think westerners (in the U.S. in particular, since that’s the only country I know specifics about) need to consider how the meat that ends up on their tables is grown, slaughtered and processed.

While the system has improved due to tighter laws and greater enforcement in recent decades, both four- and two-legged ‘protein crops’ still often tend to be treated more like crops than sentient animals that do feel pain, and undergo suffering as they hear the outcries of those preceding them to the slaughter.

There’s also the fact that most of the animals raised as food crops are genetically modified in ways meant to make they grow faster – often in ways that, unavoidably, make life itself a misery. (Chickens bred to have breasts two, three or more times what nature intended couldn’t be comfortable even if they had the ability to move around and try to take some of that weight off their legs and feet.)

I’ve already cut my consumption of beef to a significant degree, and I’ve tried to be more selective in where I source the chicken we eat. But I can try harder, and despite the cost, I’m going to make a greater effort to seek out birds from farmers specializing in truly free-range one with diets that are in no way genetically modified.

I anticipate that, because of the far higher cost, we’ll be cutting back on meat overall – just as we cut back on eggs when I go for the likes of the local farmer’s ‘pure’ ones at close to double the price of a Walmart dozen. (Walmart is selling large ones at close to $1.50 per dozen; That farmer is asking $3.00.)

That means, of course, we’ll have to substitute something else into our diet – something healthier, and something less subject to ‘abuse’ by producers. ‘Not a bad tradeoff, that!

Want Fresh Juice? It Will Cost You – A LOT!!

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Somewhere, somehow, the economy is improving enough to justify the existence of a countertop vegetable-juice-producing machine costing $699 – with pre-packed veggies custom-made for it at prices up to $10 or so per 8-ounce (242 g) ‘dose’.

That, at least, is the view of investors who have put some $70 million behind a California start-up hawking its initial product as a tool, as one news report put it, “to get people to drink their fruit- and vegetable-based nutrients and reduce the amount of junk foods that they buy and eat, while also making it easy to cold-press juice at home or possibly the office.”

But your home or office has to be in California, as that’s the only place the Juicero is being offered at present. And while the company fully intends to expand, no future locations have been announced where it will be possible to plop down $699 up front and $9 or $10 daily thereafter to enjoy this wonder’s wonderful benefits.

Oh, OK, I’ll give to ‘em: Their machine is picture perfect, and it crushes the juice out of only certified organic veggies – from only hand-picked farms – and it comes with, and actually requires the use of, an app that keeps it connected, via the internet, to the parent company, which is able to read a QR code – a topic we’ll being looking at within a few days – to ensure your ‘veggie pack’ is within its ‘use-by’ period, and to record what you’ve ordered so ‘appropriate’ repeat or newly-suggested reorders can be scheduled.

This entire concept is, to me, mind-boggling!

First of all, how many people can afford to plop down $699 upfront than another $50-70 per week for seven 8-ounce glasses of juice?

I’m also wondering how a start-up company can raise $70 million for a product that, in the short (and probably long) term, would appear to appeal to a relatively small sector of the juice-loving public, and only a fraction of that number is likely to even want to spend so much for so little, in terms of quantity.

And of those who are so focused on getting the very freshest and purest juice available (at any price), I can’t imagine many of them being so fanatical on the subject that they want to know the specific farms where their juice-source vegetables were grown.

Even in California, where a copious number of start-up companies have earned small fortunes for their entrepreneur owners, where rents in such high tech centers as San Francisco are so high that at least one young man is living in a box (he calls it a pod) in someone else’s living room (at $400 per month, a bargain most anywhere for a one-bedroom apartment; but a box?) it’s hard to imagine there being enough people willing to shell out so much cash, on an ongoing basis, to generate glasses of juice.

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Peter Berk’s Box (or ‘pod’)

But 65 years or so ago, ‘the big they’ was saying television would wipe out radio. That still hasn’t come to pass, and more than likely never will.

And who would have imagined, a mere four months ago, that this blog would by now have found its way into 34 countries, including China?

We live in strange times.

 

The Automat Returns! Bon Chance, Eatsa!

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A story last month (February) in Business Insider described Eatsa, a new restaurant chain, as “unlike any fast-food chain we’ve seen before.”

The reporter, Hayley Peterson, who appears to be, in her photo, in her youngish thirties, clearly was using the ‘royal we’ – speaking as one as if she were, like the queen, somehow greater than the sum of her parts.

But then, no one of her generation ever had an opportunity to see Eatsa’s spiritual and practical predecessor, because Horn & Hardart, shut down its last New York City Automat in 1991 – a fact that Haley later alludes to in her well-done, highly-illustrated article.

Horn & Hardart, which opened its first restaurant in 1902 in Philadelphia, quickly caught the public’s attention for a couple of reasons. Its several walls of shiny glass-door compartments held individual portions of sandwiches, salads, desserts and more. Combinations of nickels (five-cent pieces) would be deposited in a slot by each door featuring a desired item. The door would unlock, and the item became yours!

On one side of the usually-large rooms – some seemed to be nearly the size of Rockefeller Center’s ice rink – there were steam tables where hot dishes were available. Whether you stopped by the hot tables or skipped them, you sat wherever you wanted – beside whomever happened to be there – and tipping was discouraged.

There was, after all, no service: You could enjoy a pretty good ‘fast food’ experience – this was, in fact, the nation’s first true fast-food restaurant chain – without once interacting with a person, with the possible exception of a ‘nickel thrower’: A woman who exchanged your larger coins and/or bills for their value in nickels.

The food was prepared either behind the scenes on the same location or at a central commissary elsewhere in either New York or Philadelphia, the two principal cities where Automats operated. The food was, by standards of the day, healthy and nutritious, and ordinarily pretty tasty, too.

So what happened to the Automats – which, by the way, were based on an earlier automat concept in Germany? A couple of things: The arrival of McDonald’s, Burger King and local variations on the same theme(s) provided a more ‘exciting’ atmosphere and, significantly, drive-thrus. At the same time, in the late- ‘60’s – early ‘70’s, as food costs rose, there weren’t a lot of things that could be offered for a combination of nickels.

Then there was the rent factor: For obvious reasons, Automats tended to located in high-traffic locations. Horn & Hardart at one time operated 40 of their restaurants in New York City, and as the rents rose – as they seem to do with tide-like regularity in ‘The Big Apple,’ their share of overhead, coupled with the higher food costs, made Automats economically unviable.

A company calling itself Bamn! attempted to revive the concept in New York City’s East Village in 2006.  It survived a mere 2.5 years – probably, in part, because the street it was on, St. Mark’s Place, has been ever-more ridiculously pricey real estate since the 1960’s, when it was a popular draw as home to Gerdy’s Folk City, when ‘folk music’ was all the range, then to clubs of more advanced genres, the kind of gift/memento stores tourists flock to, and, for a while, to one of NYC’s hottest jazz clubs, The Five Spot – frequently inhabited by Thelonious Monk.

(I often ‘hung’ there when Monk was in residence – selling nonsense poems written on bar napkins to tourists!)

Eatsa is a truly modern-day version of the automat-type restaurant. It’s brightly lit, it’s décor is plain but in tune will Millennials’ tastes.

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It’s computer-based ordering system – for the sole specialty, a bowl of quinoa priced at $6.96 and topped with whatever the customer orders, from a wide range of choices – is recorded and stored so when a customer returns, his/her previous preferences are  displayed and alternates are suggested as part of the approach to encouraging repeat visits.

So far, there are Eatsa locations in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Nation’s Restaurant News has reported that the chain plans to open at least ten more locations this year.

From that, point who knows?

 

A Way to ‘Immunize’ Infants Against Peanut Allergies

 

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For many decades, children have been routinely vaccinated at early ages against various diseases, and the list of ‘standard’ vaccinations has been growing: Between birth and age 18, vaccinations now are supposed to be provided at prescribed intervals for no fewer than 11 diseases – 13 if you count the three comprising the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine separately.

Another type of protection, hardly likely to become mandatory (as many of the 11 are), is a special approach to reducing the risk an at-risk child will develop allergies to peanuts and peanut-containing products.

This is, for those who suffer from it, a very serious condition and, according to Wikipedia, the most common cause of food-related anaphylaxis death in the Western world.

Even non-life-threatening peanut reactions can result in hospital visits and, even when not that severe, considerable amounts of anxiety in sufferers, their loved ones and friends.

(I’ve seen how easily, and how frighteningly, an accidental run-in with a product containing even a trace of peanut can throw a household into panic mode: A nephew through my first marriage – a child when I knew him – fell victim to such ‘traces’ on several occasions I’m aware of. His family was more aware than many of the risks, and how to react to attacks of the allergy, because the boy’s father was a doctor.)

The pre-treatment for peanut allergies is based, essentially, on the same principal as injected vaccines: Provide a potential victim with a small dose of the allergen to build immunity.

(Where there’s a family history of alcoholism, this is not a recommended approach – to inject small amount of booze into a baby’s formula – to ward off down-the-road alcohol abuse/addiction!)

The idea to expose kids at risk (through family history or whatever) to peanuts when they’re very young, in hopes doing so will ward off that allergy, stemmed from observed experiences in Israel, where it is not uncommon for children to start consuming peanuts and products featuring peanuts at an early age. And lo and behold, those who do so seem to be resistant to – immune from, to a greater or lesser degree – peanut allergies!

The validity of this concept was confirmed in a study supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. The study was conducted by the NIAID-funded Immune Tolerance Network (ITN), and the results, which appeared recently in the online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, were presented earlier this month (March 2016) at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

A clinical trial found an 81% reduction of the subsequent development of the allergy through the use of the practices recommended by and demonstrated in the study.

Researchers led by Gideon Lack, M.D., of King’s College London, designed a study called Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP), based on observations that Israeli children have lower rates of peanut allergy compared to Jewish children of similar ancestry residing in the United Kingdom. Unlike children in the UK, Israeli children begin consuming peanut-containing foods early in life. The study tested the hypothesis that the very low rates of peanut allergy in Israeli children were a result of high levels of peanut consumption beginning in infancy.
“Food allergies are a growing concern, not just in the United States but around the world,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “For a study to show a benefit of this magnitude in the prevention of peanut allergy is without precedent. The results have the potential to transform how we approach food allergy prevention.”
LEAP compared two strategies to prevent peanut allergy—consumption or avoidance of dietary peanut—in infants who were at high risk of developing peanut allergy because they already had egg allergy and/or severe eczema, an inflammatory skin disorder.
“The study also excluded infants showing early strong signs of having already developed peanut allergy. The safety and effectiveness of early peanut consumption in this group remains unknown and requires further study,” said Dr. Lack. “Parents of infants and young children with eczema or egg allergy should consult with an allergist, pediatrician, or their general practitioner prior to feeding them peanut products.”
More than 600 high-risk infants between 4 and 11 months of age were assigned randomly either to avoid peanut entirely or to regularly include at least 6 grams of peanut protein per week in their diets. The avoidance and consumption regimens were continued until 5 years of age. Participants were monitored throughout this period with recurring visits with health care professionals, in addition to completing dietary surveys by telephone.
The researchers assessed peanut allergy at 5 years of age with a supervised, oral food challenge with peanut. They found an overall 81 percent reduction of peanut allergy in children who began early, continuous consumption of peanut compared to those who avoided peanut.
“Prior to 2008, clinical practice guidelines recommended avoidance of potentially allergenic foods in the diets of young children at heightened risk for development of food allergies,” said Daniel Rotrosen, M.D., director of NIAID’s Division of Allergy, Immunology and Transplantation. “While recent studies showed no benefit from allergen avoidance, the LEAP study is the first to show that early introduction of dietary peanut is actually beneficial and identifies an effective approach to manage a serious public health problem.”
A follow-up study called LEAP-On will ask all LEAP study participants to avoid peanut consumption for one year. These results will determine whether continuous peanut consumption is required to maintain a child’s tolerance to peanut.

 

Donut Try This At Home

 

The-Krispy-Kreme-Challenge.pngFor reasons you can only wonder at, there’s been for the past 12 years, an event in Raleigh NC that sorely tests the concept that some people are – as they’re most certainly not – qualified to gain places as students at North Carolina State, a misnamed kindergarten, it would seem.

The event is the Krispy Kreme Challenge charity race – destined, without a doubt, to provide an entry to DarwinAwards.com. The web site follows a book about people who remove themselves from the gene pool through acts of utter stupidity.

The ‘challenge’ is supposed to be, according to its website, “a student run, charity-based race.” Student run can, of course, be interpreted two ways: As a race run by students, or one organized by students. One of this year’s entries more than likely was organized into the event, to his family’s eventual regret.

He – who hasn’t been identified, publicly – was 58. Like his fellow challenge-takers, was intent on running 2.5 miles, then downing a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts, then carrying on for another 2.5 miles. Doubly sadly (if you like Krispy Kreme donuts, which probably were created by a cardiologist anxious for more patients), our man didn’t make it beyond the first mile. Meaning, he didn’t cross mile point 2.5, at a Krispy Kreme shop, and collect his dozen donuts.

At age 58, with chest pains during that last mile of his, he should have reckoned it would be wholly risky for him to proceed. An exkreme risk, you could say.

The Facebook page for the challenge, funds from which go to North Carolina’s Children’s Hospital, said:

“We regretfully confirm that a participant of today’s Krispy Kreme Challenge has died.

“He was transported by EMS to Rex Hospital where he was pronounced dead. We are deeply saddened and wish to convey our heartfelt condolences to his loved ones.”

Indeed.

Maybe, should this odd tradition be continued, it should be limited to college-age individuals, an unfortunate number of whom are likely to expose themselves to the risk of consuming, as this challenge requires, 2,400 calories within one hour. Still, they’re far more like to be up to the challenge than is today’s typical 58-year-old.

May he rest in peas, not flour- and sugar-based concoctions.