What’s for Dinner?

8-course Dinner at Tatsuharu Chinese Restaurant at Nakameguro, Japan

The Menu

Coriander and Shredded Hard Tofu

Grilled Gyoza

Shrimp and Leek Spring Rolls

Stir-fried Taiwanese Greens

Stewed Oysters with Mung Bean Vermicelli and Marinated Chili Peppers

Steamed Clams and Seaweed

Crunchy Rice with Pork, Shrimp and Vegetables

Sweet Sesame Dumpling

Saffron Mussel Soup


1-12 oz unsalted butter
8 shallots, finely chopped
1 bouquet garni
1 tsp, black peppercorns
1-1/2 cups dry white wine
2-1/4 lb mussels, scrubbed and debearded
2 medium leeks, trimmed and finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
several saffron strands
4 cups fish or chicken stock
1/2 cup whipping cream
2-3 tbsp cornflour, blended with 3 tbsp cold water
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
2 tbsp Pernod (optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a large heavy pan, melt half the butter over a medium-high heat. Add half the shallots and cook for 1-2 minutes until softened but not coloured.
  2. Add the bouquet garni, peppercorns and white wine and bring to a boil.
  3. Add the mussels, cover tightly and cook over a high heat for 3-5 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, until the mussels have opened.
  4. With a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to a bowl. Strain the cooking liquid through a muslin-lined sieve and reserve.
  5. When the mussel shells are cool enough to handle, pull open and remove most of the mussels, adding any extra juices to the reserved liquid. Discard any closed mussels.
  6. Rinse the saucepan and melt the remaining butter over a medium heat. Add the remaining shallots and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  7. Add the leeks, fennel, carrot and saffron and cook for 3-5 minutes until softened.
  8. Stir in the reserved cooking liquid, bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the liquid is slightly reduced.
  9. Add the stock and bring to the boil, skimming any foam that rises to the surface. Season with salt, if needed, and black pepper and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  10. Stir the blended cornflour into the soup. Simmer for 2-3 minutes until the soup is slightly thickened, then add the cream, mussels and chopped tomato.
  11. Stir in Pernod, if using, and cook for 1-2 minutes until hot, then serve at once.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Source: Taste of France

Hidden Dangers of Ultra-processed Foods

Sonya Collins wrote . . . . . . . . .

What is Ultra-Processed Food?

Unless you make all your food at home from scratch — and even then — processed food is practically unavoidable. But there are degrees of processing.

Minimal processing cleans food, preserves it, or removes inedible parts — like the outer skin of a coffee bean as it’s ground. Besides grinding, these processes include refrigerating, freezing, fermenting, pasteurizing, and vacuum-packaging. The key to keeping it minimal is that the nutrition content of the food is still pretty much the same. Whole-grain flours and pastas are also minimally processed foods, as well as some cooking ingredients. Think oils pressed from nuts, olives, or seeds.

Are Processed Foods Bad?

Is it best to avoid processed foods altogether? Here’s how to make healthier food choices.

Once you add sugar, salt, or fats to the mix, processing is no longer “minimal.” Canned fruits and vegetables that include added salt or sugar are processed. So are fresh-baked bread, some cheeses, and canned fish. Still, they’re not ultra-processed. Their ingredient lists are limited to two to three items, but they are typically ready to eat (or at least edible) right out of the package.

Ultra-processing includes multiple steps — not just, for example, adding salt and canning. The process also brings in ingredients — usually with unrecognizable names — that you wouldn’t find in a crop or on a farm. They include artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, and ingredients, such as emulsifiers, meant to make the look or texture of the food more appealing.

Sodas, luncheon meats, sugary cereals, and chips are ultra-processed, along with many other packaged snacks and baked goods, some frozen meals, and some crackers.

“You’re introducing ingredients that shouldn’t be there in the first place, that don’t naturally exist in food and instead are brought in purely by human preparation,” says Qi Sun, MD, ScD, an associate professor of nutrition at Harvard University. “You basically destroy the structure of the food and reorganize it — introducing a new food matrix.”

Food matrix? That’s a food’s structure. It’s not only a food’s components — say, vitamin C and fiber — that make it nutritious. It’s also the food’s structure. That means that even if an ultra-processed food contains certain vitamins and nutrients, it still wouldn’t be as nutritious as a whole food. That’s why, for example, a high-fiber whole food is better for you than, say, a fiber pill.

What’s the Harm in Ultra-Processed Foods?

Research links ultra-processed foods to a number of health problems. People who eat more of the stuff are more likely to be obese, and have diabetes, heart disease, and vascular disease (that includes stroke), too.

One recent study even tied the convenience foods to cancer risk. Researchers tracked the eating habits and health records of 104,980 adults for 5 years. Those who ate the most ultra-processed foods were most likely to get some form of cancer over the study period. The researchers then looked at cancer risk based on average number of servings per day over the 5 years. For each 10% increase in ultra-processed food intake, there was a 12% increase in overall cancer risk. That’s the difference between someone who eats one whole Twinkie per week for 5 years and someone who eats one whole Twinkie plus one bite of another one per week over the same time period.

Maybe it’s because of the risk for these diseases that studies also show eating more ultra-processed foods equals living a shorter life.

Experts can’t say for sure whether the harm in ultra-processed foods is in what these foods contain or what they lack. “It’s probably both,” says Sun. “Certain chemicals, preservatives, sweeteners — even the ones that don’t have any calories — may potentially interfere with metabolism. We know these foods are not good for us, but there’s also a lot we still don’t know.”

And if you’re snacking on processed foods, you’re doing that instead of eating, say, an apple.

“A diet that contains more ultra-processed foods may contain fewer whole foods, so it may be the lack of those foods that’s most harmful,” says Katherine Zeratsky, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

Ultra-processed foods, though not all of them, tend to be low in fiber and other essential nutrients. If these snacks take the place of whole foods in your diet, you’ll miss out on those nutrients and could see the health consequences that go with that. Protein and fiber, for their part, help you feel full, which means foods that contain these nutrients may help you control calorie intake throughout the day.

Some studies find that ultra-processed foods, regardless of their nutrient content, don’t satisfy as well as whole foods do.

That could explain the results of a recent experiment. In the study, 20 healthy adults stayed in a lab under close surveillance for 28 days. Ten of them received a diet of mostly ultra-processed foods, including white bread, lunch meats, cheese slices, chips, and artificially sweetened diet drinks. The other 10 received the exact same amount of calories, sugars, fiber, fat, and carbohydrates per meal, but only in the form of unprocessed and minimally processed foods. They ate things like beef tips with broccoli, brown rice, apples and salad. (Note: It takes a lot of broccoli and apples to match the calories in a bowl of potato chips). The study participants could eat only the food that was provided, but they didn’t have to clean their plates. At the end of the 4 weeks, those in the ultra-processed group had eaten about 500 calories per day more than the others. And they had gained 2 pounds, while the others had lost 2.

Were the processed foods not as filling? Or were they just tastier, making it harder to stop? The researchers don’t know for sure why people ate substantially more of the processed stuff. But, either way, the ultra-processed foods led to overeating and weight gain.

As for Konzelman, he always found that processed foods were more satisfying. “I liked to cook and had a taste for vegetables and homecooked meals. I just didn’t do it very much because those foods didn’t fulfill and satisfy me as much as take-out fast food.”

How Do You Quit?

On his extreme weight loss journey, which got him from 503 to 218 pounds, Konzelman transformed from a guy who’d eat a whole pizza and a 2-liter soda for dinner to one who brings his own homemade salad dressing when he goes out to eat in restaurants.

“I wanted a salad dressing that wasn’t filled with sugar and all kinds of artificial ingredients,” he says.

And, with his stomach’s restricted capacity for food and his body’s limited ability to absorb it, there was no room for empty calories. “Now that I was only eating a small amount of food, I had to make sure that it was filled with the nutrients that I needed.”

Konzelman emphasizes that he didn’t go from whole pizza to make-your-own salad dressing overnight. When he first started preparing small, healthier meals at home, he’d cook vegetables, but he’d still throw in an ultra-processed sauce or marinade. Little by little, he learned about healthier ingredients he could swap in to replace the less healthy ones.

And that’s the right idea, Zeratsky says. Look for the low-hanging fruit. Are there a couple of ultra-processed foods in your regular diet that you could swap out for something else? “You could start by cutting back on ultra-processed foods at snack times,” she says. “Cut some of the chips or cookies and replace them with apples and peanut butter or vegetables with hummus.”

Dietitians and food industry professionals alike warn that it’s not about replacing one junk food with another seemingly better one. Don’t be swayed by labels on ready-to-eat convenience foods, like chips and cookies, that read “natural” or “organic.” You’re still likely to find unrecognizable words among the ingredients.

“It’s not always that much different — the so-called cleaner versions,” says David Foerstner, a food product development consultant.

Even buzzwords like “plant-based” don’t mean it’s as healthy as a whole food. “All this stuff they’ve got in plant-based protein would still fall under ultra-processed foods,” says Michael Sigmundsson, a food and beverage product developer and consultant.

The ideal choice is whole, unprocessed, or minimally processed foods. Any movement toward more of those and less of the other is a positive change. It doesn’t mean you suddenly have to make everything from scratch.

“If you need a convenient meal, can you get a bagged salad? Or pick up a whole cooked chicken or frozen vegetables that you can heat up?” Zeratsky says. “Because I don’t think we are ever going to have a lifestyle that isn’t time-crunched and that doesn’t demand convenient foods.”

Source: WebMD

Facial Expressions Don’t Tell the Whole Story of Emotion

Laura Arenschield wrote . . . . . . . . .

Interacting with other people is almost always a game of reading cues and volleying back. We think a smile conveys happiness, so we offer a smile in return. We think a frown shows sadness, and maybe we attempt to cheer that person up.

Some businesses are even working on technology to determine customer satisfaction through facial expressions.

But facial expressions might not be reliable indicators of emotion, research indicates. In fact, it might be more accurate to say we should never trust a person’s face, new research suggests.

“The question we really asked is: ‘Can we truly detect emotion from facial articulations?’” said Aleix Martinez, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at The Ohio State University.

“And the basic conclusion is, no, you can’t.”

Martinez, whose work has focused on building computer algorithms that analyze facial expressions, and his colleagues presented their findings today (Feb. 16, 2020) at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Seattle.

The researchers analyzed the kinetics of muscle movement in the human face and compared those muscle movements with a person’s emotions. They found that attempts to detect or define emotions based on a person’s facial expressions were almost always wrong.

“Everyone makes different facial expressions based on context and cultural background,” Martinez said. “And it’s important to realize that not everyone who smiles is happy. Not everyone who is happy smiles. I would even go to the extreme of saying most people who do not smile are not necessarily unhappy. And if you are happy for a whole day, you don’t go walking down the street with a smile on your face. You’re just happy.”

It is also true, Martinez said, that sometimes, people smile out of an obligation to the social norms. This would not inherently be a problem, he said — people are certainly entitled to put on a smile for the rest of the world — but some companies have begun developing technology to recognize facial muscle movements and assign emotion or intent to those movements.

The research group that presented at AAAS analyzed some of those technologies and, Martinez said, largely found them lacking.

“Some claim they can detect whether someone is guilty of a crime or not, or whether a student is paying attention in class, or whether a customer is satisfied after a purchase,” he said. “What our research showed is that those claims are complete baloney. There’s no way you can determine those things. And worse, it can be dangerous.”

The danger, Martinez said, lies in the possibility of missing the real emotion or intent in another person, and then making decisions about that person’s future or abilities.

For example, consider a classroom environment, and a teacher who assumes that a student is not paying attention because of the expression on the student’s face. The teacher might expect the student to smile and nod along if the student is paying attention. But maybe that student, for reasons the teacher doesn’t understand — cultural reasons, perhaps, or contextual ones — is listening intently, but not smiling at all. It would be, Martinez argues, wrong for the teacher to dismiss that student because of the student’s facial expressions.

After analyzing data about facial expressions and emotion, the research team — which included scientists from Northeastern University, the California Institute of Technology and the University of Wisconsin — concluded that it takes more than expressions to correctly detect emotion.

Facial color, for example, can help provide clues.

“What we showed is that when you experience emotion, your brain releases peptides — mostly hormones — that change the blood flow and blood composition, and because the face is inundated with these peptides, it changes color,” Martinez said.

The human body offers other hints, too, he said: body posture, for example. And context plays a crucial role as well.

In one experiment, Martinez showed study participants a picture cropped to display just a man’s face. The man’s mouth is open in an apparent scream; his face is bright red.

“When people looked at it, they would think, wow, this guy is super annoyed, or really mad at something, that he’s angry and shouting,” Martinez said. “But when participants saw the whole image, they saw that it was a soccer player who was celebrating a goal.”

In context, it’s clear the man is very happy. But isolate his face, Martinez said, and he appears almost dangerous.

Cultural biases play a role, too.

“In the U.S., we tend to smile a lot,” Martinez said. “We are just being friendly. But in other cultures, that means different things — in some cultures, if you walked around the supermarket smiling at everyone, you might get smacked.”

Martinez said the research group’s findings could indicate that people — from hiring managers to professors to criminal justice experts — should consider more than just a facial expression when they evaluate another person.

And while Martinez said he is “a big believer” in developing computer algorithms that try to understand social cues and the intent of a person, he added that two things are important to know about that technology.

“One is you are never going to get 100 percent accuracy,” he said. “And the second is that deciphering a person’s intent goes beyond their facial expression, and it’s important that people — and the computer algorithms they create — understand that.”

Source: The Ohio State University

Home Cleaning Products May Up Risk of Childhood Asthma

Lisa Rapaport wrote . . . . . . . . .

New parents who obsessively clean their homes to protect babies from germs might want to relax a bit, suggests a new study linking high exposure to cleaning products with an increased risk of childhood asthma.

Researchers surveyed parents about how often they used 26 common household cleaners over babies’ first three to four months of life. By the time the kids were 3 years old, children with the highest exposure to cleaning products were 37% more likely to have been diagnosed with asthma than those with the least exposure.

With greater exposure to cleaning products, kids were also 35% more likely to have chronic wheezing and 49% more likely to have chronic allergies, the study found.

“Parents are striving to maintain a healthy home for their children,” said study coauthor Dr. Tim Takaro of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada.

“We want parents to question the socially accepted norm that a home needs to smell like chemical-based cleaning products in order to be clean,” Takaro by email. “Instead, we propose that the smell of a healthy home is no smell at all.”

In other words, parents should read labels and look for items that are free of dye and perfume, and consider natural cleaning products instead of chemical alternatives.

The first months of life are critical for development of the immune and respiratory systems, and exposure to chemicals inside the home is particularly problematic because infants spend so much time indoors, the study team writes in the journal CMAJ.

Chemicals in cleaning products can cause chronic inflammation that may contribute to development of asthma or make symptoms more frequent or severe, the researchers note.

Most kids in the study were white, and most parents were non-smokers without any history of asthma.

Because asthma can be difficult to diagnose with breathing tests in very young children, researchers also tested kids’ skin for allergies and asked parents how often children experienced symptoms like wheezing.

The most commonly used cleaning products in the study were dishwashing soap, dishwasher detergent, multipurpose spray cleaners, glass cleaners and laundry soap.

The study wasn’t designed to prove whether or how any specific cleaning products or chemicals in these products might directly cause asthma symptoms.

The American Lung Association recommends against using cleaning products that contain volatile organic compounds, fragrance and other irritants, but manufacturers in Canada and the United States are not required to list all ingredients in cleaning products. Some “green” products may contain harmful substances, as these products are not regulated, the study team notes.

“While much remains unknown, we think that these cleaning products (and the chemicals they contain) act as irritants to the airways of growing children,” Dr. Elissa Abrams of the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg, Canada, who wrote a commentary accompanying the study.

Young children who spend a lot of time indoors, and especially babies and toddlers who touch everything with their hands and mouths, may be especially vulnerable, Abrams said by email.

“The take-home message is that parents should be careful which cleaning products they use in the home,” Abrams said.

Source: Reuters

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