My grandmother grew them in her garden, and as a child, I scarfed down a lot of pickled beets. But they never became a part of my typical menu rotation as an adult. Usually I have them only a couple of times a year at most. Kyle fixes beets for the New Year dinner and they’re always lovely, but I guess due to my own unfamiliarity with how to prepare them, I’ve never cooked beets at home.
Now they’ve become a part of my daily routine.
Like everyone else, I’m daily learning the many joys of aging. Most of the little aches and pains are nothing more than a nuisance, just a constant reminder that things ain’t what they used to be and they aren’t going to get better. But I had become concerned about my rising blood pressure, measured several times in the past year in the low 140s. That’s not what would be considered dangerously high – but it’s also not optimal, and if it follows the trajectory of the other physiological changes I’ve experienced, it will get worse. Aches and pains are one thing – strokes are entirely another. So this is something I decided I needed to be worried about, even though those low 140s readings were outliers. More typically, I was seeing readings in the mid 130s and wanted to get them back to 120 or below.
Medical experts have concluded that blood pressure meds for slightly elevated pressure don’t show much appreciable effect over the long term, and I really would like to avoid having to take any kind of daily prescription medication, so I had tried CoQ10 supplements a while back after reading that they could bring blood pressure down around 10 points. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice any improvement after several months of taking the supplement, so I continued to look for other things that might help.
Then a few weeks ago, I heard something about beet root juice helping to bring down blood pressure. I looked into it, and determined that while it would be worth trying, it would be too expensive for me as a long term solution. Beet root juice isn’t all that common so you’re looking at either ordering online or buying from a place like Whole Foods, at a cost of $15 or so for a 5 day supply. Then there’s the whole thing of drinking beet juice – the recommended dosage is 1 cup per day, and I imagine that it may not be the most delicious beverage around. $90 a month is a lot to spend on something that you don’t really like.
So I thought, why not try beet powder? It’s just dehydrated beets, so it’s got all the stuff that would be in the juice or the beets themselves. I found some beet powder capsules on amazon and they were cheap, so I ordered them. I took a blood pressure reading 3 or 4 days before I started taking the capsules and I was at 138/84. Two weeks later, after taking the capsules for about 10 days, I took another reading…and was down to 107/74.
This was with a daily dosage of 6 capsules – approximately 1-1/2 teaspoons of beet powder, equivalent to eating 1-1/2 medium sized beets. If you have any concerns about your blood pressure being too high, you need to give this a try. It’s not a quack remedy; it’s actually scientifical. Apparently there’s a compound in beets (nitrites or nitrates – like I said, this is scientifical, not scientific) that boost the levels of nitric oxide in the blood, and nitric oxide has the happy effect of relaxing blood vessel walls. Bottom line – even if my before and after readings were outliers – that is, the before was higher than average and the after lower than average, I figure I still got at least a 20-point drop in my blood pressure within 10 days. Compare that to the 10-point drop – or less – doctors hope to achieve with many of the prescription meds for reducing pressure, and it’s even more remarkable.
Of course, the first thing I did was email Dr. Lyta to tell her to add beet root powder to her Vitamin Manifesto. Then I did what I always hoped I would never do – I sat down to write an Old Fart blog post. Sorry about that, but I thought this was something that should be shared with friends, so hopefully it will help at least one person out of the five who read this blog.
I hope you find this as funny as I did:
As you probably guessed, I was laughing hysterically all the way through. But just in case it’s not your cup of tea, here’s another birfday offering:
Hope you’re having a happy one! And congratulations on the upcoming graduation of your wonderful son.
I think I know why you like this picture. It reminds you of the time you set the gutter on fire, doesn’t it? Big flames, satisfied smirk. Was the other weird sister was there, too? It was practically in her yard, at any rate.
Recently, you must have told my own kids about this one. They refuse to believe I didn’t participate in those pyrotechnics. They tell me, as if citing from a rule book, “Well, did you do anything to try to stop it?”
Or maybe the picture reminds you of our own experience in Girl Scouts. Until recently, I thought we were atypical. How many times did we even make it in the door after our moms dropped us off? On at least one occasion, I remember smoking cigarettes behind the building. I have a vague memory of blaming it on the ugly uniforms, which I suddenly hated after doting on those cute Brownie clothes. Our moms tried to keep us from quitting. Good luck with that.
Now I know that it was Girl Scouting itself that set us on this dark path of independent thinking. I’m sure it’s why our collective closets are packed full of gay and lesbian friends. We’re only fruit flies, after all.
Which brings me back to my own boys, who on occasion over the years begged me to let them be Boy Scouts. Each time, I patiently explained to them why they couldn’t. In fact, I think this was probably the opener for their ongoing indoctrination into civil rights for homosexual people. Which, sadly, has now deteriorated into “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!” on cue.
We should’ve stuck with that Cub Scout pack we enjoyed so much. In hindsight, my mom probably knew the Boy Scouts wouldn’t let us play once we aged out of her backyard den, Or maybe she sensed that budding feminists, latent Communists like us would never fit in with the more military (would that be Fascist, then?) agenda of boys who had outgrown pine-cone crafts and pond fishing.
Probably a good thing. Those Boy Scout shorts would have made our butts look big.
Just be happy you got in under the wire*, so your birthday song sounds like this….
…rather than this…
*(I refer of course to the pending zombie apocalypse….er…rapture…due to occur this Saturday. Fortunately you get to celebrate your last birthday pre-Hellscape.)
Anyway, I hope you have a happy one, and I’ll leave you with this little remembrance:
Cesspool Hattie lived back in the cesspool
Where the strange green reptiles shit
Mosquitoes and the fever had to eat it, too
And Hattie practically lived off it.
Well the cesspool’s alive with a thousand smells,
And all of them coming up your nose,
Stay off the track of Hattie’s crack,
In the back of the black pantyhose.
Looking back on it, I realize now – we never had a chance of being normal. Thanks for helping out with that, and happy birthday!
I’m surprised the holiday hasn’t flushed Lyta out into the open. If I recall correctly, growing up this was pretty much our favorite holiday. Halloween was in its heyday back then – everyone went trick-or-treating. These days, not so much. At least in my neck of the woods, the churches have managed to convince a fair number of the bufords that Halloween is “satanic” or something equally stupid. The good news is that this year – on a Sunday night, no less – I saw more trick-or-treaters show up at my door than I have in the past 10 years. I had some last night too, which was the “official” trick-or-treat night, all the better to not offend the overly sensitive who feel that everyone should respect their fee-fees by pretending to believe the same things they do. I’m happy to report that tonight’s crew of ghouls and goblins outnumbered last night’s by a factor of 10 or more. I count that as one more win for sanity.
I would tell you all about Pegleg Pete, who was a ghoul known only to the kids in our suburban neighborhood back in the day, or about the time in college my fellow architect geeks and I destroyed a frat boy’s car with a pumpkin decoy, but the holiday’s almost over and it will have to wait for another time. Instead, in honor of the day, I give you this:
The funniest thing that happened is this – I had a motion-activated talking pumpkin, left over from several years ago at the Hallmark, that looks like this:
When activated, the organ music from above plays, and the friendly fellow says things like, “I hope you enjoyed the music – I decomposed it myself…ahahaha,” “Do you like Halloween? Of CORPSE you do! Ahahaha!,” “Did your mummy dress you like that? Creepy!” and “It looks like you grew some since last year. Yes…GREWSOME!!!” Also, when he talks, his mouth moves.
Anyway, I had set him up on one of the chairs on the porch and aimed him so the motion detector would activate whenever someone came up the porch steps. So I could hear from the living room when someone was coming, even before the bell rang, because that creepy organ music would start up and he’d start talking.
So, last night I’m sitting on the couch reading, and I hear the thing start up. But no one ever rings the bell or knocks. I go look out the door, and here’s these two little kids out at the end of the front walk with their mom. I ask them, were you coming to trick or treat? And their mom says, “that thing started talking and scared them, and they ran down the steps and out to the street!” So I told them it wasn’t anything to be afraid of, but the little one wasn’t having any of it. Finally I said, “if I take him in the house, will you come up to get your candy?” The little kid just nods. Even after I did, when he came up to the porch, his eyes were as big as saucers. I guess it’s fortunate that they didn’t fall going down the steps in their hurry to run away – otherwise I might have had a really scary lawsuit on my hands.
Good thing I didn’t order one of those motion-activated skull heads that flies out from the wall and screams when activated – I admit to being sorely tempted. I always was a fan of playing dirty tricks on Halloween. Just ask Beth and Lyta.
Food – specifically, healthful, unadulterated food – is a topic that interests all 3 weird sisters. Lyta and I have both read Michael Pollan’s The Ominvore’s Dilemma; Beth hasn’t because she’s worried it will make her afraid of all food – and that’s not a groundless concern. When you dig into what really goes into our “food” and how much of it is made up of things your grandparents would have never considered putting into their mouths, it does instill some paranoia.
But that’s why it’s important to get informed about it and modify your buying – and eating – habits as warranted. While it would be very difficult if not impossible for most of us to eliminate all of what Pollan refers to as “food-like substances” from our diets, cutting 50 – 75% of it out really isn’t that hard to do. It mostly comes down to reading labels.
I started noticing a sharp decline in food quality in general at about the same time the cats started refusing to eat Friskies Buffet. Miss Ella was the last cat I had who would eat it – she died in 1999. My next cat ate it for a few months but then started turning her nose up at it. Figuring she must have just been finicky, I tried it with the next cat. Same thing. And the kitty I have now won’t go near it, either. I concluded that whatever nasty leftovers they had been using to make it prior to 2000 were for whatever reason no longer available – and so they had turned to even nastier leftovers – leftovers so nasty that even a cat won’t eat them. That got me wondering about why the nasty leftovers used to make Friskies Buffet prior to 2000 were no longer available – what were they being used for now?
As it turns out, for the past 10 years most Americans have literally been eating cat food.
But that’s not the worst of it. As bad as it is to think about the viscera and connective tissue that goes into your child’s chicken nuggets, it’s small beer compared to the pink slime that’s been going into your hamburger since the early 2000s, when the Bush administration agreed that mixing generally inedible “beef trimmings” treated with ammonia into ground beef to lower the price by 3 cents per pound was a good idea. This NY Times piece from last December gives a good overview – really, more than you wanted to know – about the pink slime issue. Basically, pink slime is manufactured from fatty trimmings from the outside of the carcass – the parts of the carcass most likely to be contaminated with e coli, salmonella and other food pathogens. It gets chopped and mixed into a slurry, which is then treated with ammonia gas. The final “sterilized” product then gets mixed with hamburger meat.
Here’s the kicker, though: under government regulations, they don’t have to tell you the product contains ammonia – they’re allowed to describe it as a “processing agent.” Better yet, once the producer of pink slime had been exempted from government testing, based solely on their own in-house testing, they tinkered with their sterilizing formula – and both e coli and salmonella showed up in their product. So now, we’re getting both the ammonia and the pathogens, in return for eating cat food.
The mystery of what happened to Friskies Buffet has been solved.
If only it were an isolated example. Unfortunately there is a similar story for just about every food out there. BGH in milk, injected chemical “broth” in chicken, e coli contamination of raw produce, HFCS in everything, allowing labels to claim “0 grams trans fat” per serving when a product contains hydrogenates and is NOT “trans-fat free”… the examples are endless.
So what are we to eat? Pollan has another book – pamphlet, really – called Food Rules, a series of simple guidelines about what to eat. Things like, “if you’ve seen it advertised on TV, it’s not really food – it’s a highly-processed food-like product.” “If your grandparents wouldn’t have recognized it as food, it’s not food.” “If there are more than 5 ingredients on the label, particularly ones that you can’t pronounce, it’s a highly-processed food-like product.” Pretty simple stuff, actually. Thanks to Food Rules, the pasta I buy now has this listed on the ingredients label: “ingredients: wheat.”
The criticism that food-purity zealots often come in for from people who can’t wrap their heads around the idea of preparing their own food is that most people “can’t afford” to eat this way. To that, I can only call bullshit. My food budget – the amount I spend on food each month – is probably less than most people’s. My average monthly grocery bills are $225 or less, for one person and a cat (who eats Fancy Feast because my fellow Americans are eating the classic pre-2000 Friskies Buffett). I might spend as much as $50 per month in restaurants. That works out to an average of $3.05 per meal – and I could cut that by probably a third without going hungry or eating more processed crap, if I did things like spending NO money in restaurants, making my own salad dressings and salad croutons, etc. I’d not only be spending less, I’d be eating even better. There’s just no way a grocery cart piled with frozen pizzas & dinners, Lunchables for junior’s snacks, and various and sundry other highly-processed food-like products is less expensive than one filled with basic unprocessed or lightly-processed food items.
I suspect the reason this criticism of real food is the one most frequently levelled is that most people have become so disconnected to food and where it comes from that they don’t give it any thought at all; also, people are lazy and change is difficult. It does take more time and more work to prepare real food, and these days, most people don’t know how to do it. In addition, people’s palates are desensitized. I have a friend who hates to cook and more or less lives on fast food. She can’t smell the chemical aroma coming out of the bag, or taste the sugar in the hamburger bun, the pizza crust, or the corndog coating. She knows it’s not good food, but she hates to cook so she chooses not to think about it – just like the kids on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution were fine with the fact that they were eating chopped up chicken connective tissue in their chicken nuggets, because the deep-fat frying made them tasty.
Which is to say, at this point, there are a lot of people for whom the fact that they’re now eating the equivalent of pre-2000 Friskies Buffet wouldn’t matter. If they aren’t squicked out about eating chicken viscera, beef scraps and ammonia in their hamburger isn’t going to be a cause for alarm. We’ve reached a place where if you could mix enough sugar, salt, and fat into feces, “Deep-Fried Shit on a Stick” would become the next fad food at fairs and carnivals nationwide.
I will say this though: you’ve gotta hand it to Republicans. They managed to get most of America on a cat food diet without first destroying Social Security, Medicare, food stamps or the school lunch program, thus rendering silly liberals’ concerns about their continuing attempts to dismantle the entire social safety net moot.
Who’s going to worry about having to eat cat food in their golden years when they’ve been eating it for decades already?
Update: (h/t to actor212 in comments at Sadly, No! for the tip on the whole pink slime thing. I don’t eat or buy hamburger and haven’t for years, so I’ve never looked into how much worse it is than I suspected. For me, it was enough that they were grinding up multiple cows in huge batches, spreading germs and possibly rogue prions throughout, not to mention that it’s a very fatty meat. And I never could acclimate my palate to the pasture-raised ground beef. Word to the wise – if you don’t want to eat pink slime, don’t buy hamburger anywhere – switch to ground chuck or sirloin. They don’t add it to the leaner ground cuts.)
I’ve spent a few days now trying to decide what to put up for this, our 100th post. I thought it should be something light-hearted, joyful or inspiring, if not a combination of all three, and since if you haven’t noticed I’m not exactly Little Miss Mary Sunshine, that was a real stumper. I mean, I once stayed at the DisneyWorld resort on a trip for a business meeting, and while my colleagues spent the day off visiting the Magic Kingdom, or Epcot, or doing something else appropriately Disney-themed, I spent my day puttering around the shopping area close to the hotel and making observations. What I came away with was this: DisneyWorld is like the former Soviet Union, only with better weather and brighter colors. Everywhere I went, there were long lines of tired, unhappy people waiting to purchase overpriced, shoddily-constructed merchandise they neither wanted nor needed, and looming over it all, wherever I looked, was the larger-than-life-sized portrait of one Mickey Mouse. He’s the Vladimir Lenin of DisneyWorld.
Don’t think I didn’t enjoy myself – I did, completely. It’s just that what I find enjoyable and what the vast majority of the human race finds enjoyable are two very different things. I’m not a pessimist so much as I am an incorrigible cynic; pointing out the dark cloud around the silver lining is my default setting and as much as it irritates everyone else, it’s what makes me happy. If it wasn’t for cranks like me keeping you tethered, all you happy campers out there would OD on your own dopamine. You need us, dammit!
So finding something appropriately uplifting for our centennial blogpost was particularly challenging for me. But thanks to Tbogg’s link to Lance Mannion’s blog, where this was posted:
… I was reminded of this video from several years ago:
It still makes me smile – most especially the New Guineans and the crabs on Christmas Island, but also the lemurs on Lemur Island, the dog who danced with him in Kuwait, and the guy in gay leather bondage gear in London.
Even a hard-core malcontent like me can’t find anything bad to say about either of these – other than to admit I’m pissed that I went to college in the pre-YouTube era, and so it never would have occured to me to find a corporate sponsor to underwrite a year-long vacation – not to mention that I’m a much better dancer than Matt is. So yeah, there’s your black cloud.
Happy Centennial to us!
Now, where the hell is Lyta, and when is Beth going to get back from her umpteenth trip this year to pick up the slack here?