Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Are those grubs in your grub?

Food has been on my mind a lot lately. I know -- just for a change, right? It's due partly to the Personal Health course I just took, and specifically one assignment about 10 days ago where I had to measure my body mass index. That required weighing myself, something I hadn't done in quite a while, and the results were... well, less than inspiring. At the time, my 5-foot-9 carcass weighed 260 pounds, giving me a BMI of 38.4. If you're wondering, 30 is the point where you go from being overweight to being obese. Yikes.

While I wouldn't necessarily call that a "come to Jesus" moment, it was certainly eye-opening. Since then, I've made a point of cutting out soda and sugar-sweetened drinks from my diet, drinking more water, reducing my intake of heavy foods and getting more regular exercise. I know those are the steps to take if I'm going to undo some of the damage to my body after not thinking about my health during my 20s -- what I didn't expect was how quickly I'd see improvement. I weighed myself today (after a meal, which apparently is a no-no) and found I'd dropped 5 pounds in just less than two weeks, knocking my BMI down to 37.7. Still obese, of course, but surprising progress in so short a time. I read that a healthy rate of weight loss is 1 to 2 pounds per week, so thus far it sounds like I'm on the right track.

With that in mind, I give you this gem from Scientific American -- your food is covered in insects. Predictably, the author does not mince words:
You’re deluding yourself if you think farming is as clean as making a microchip. We are always on insect territory. Try as we might with insecticides and other engineered poisons, bugs crawl all over our food to feed (and procreate) on it. When we harvest and package our crops, a lot of bugs come along for the ride. Be aware, all the hitchhikers aren’t removed. At least there are limits on how many bugs the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lets you unknowingly eat.
The FDA’s Defect Levels Handbook lays it all out. Staples like broccoli, canned tomatoes, and hops readily contain “insect fragments”—heads, thoraxes, and legs—and even whole insects. (I won’t tell you about the rat hair limits…) Fig paste can harbor up to 13 insect heads in 100 grams; canned fruit juices can contain a maggot for every 250 milliliters; 10 grams of hops can be the home for 2,500 aphids.
Feeling hungry yet? I know I am. That article provided a nice counterbalance to another one I found thanks to Alton Brown, a blog post from the USDA advising people not to throw out food just because it's sat forgotten for long periods. That's understandable advice and a good way to cut down on food waste. That said, I know of certain family members whose shelves house items that don't even have barcodes, which came into use in the 1970s. This is the same family member in whose fridge I once found a bottle of barbeque sauce not too many years older than me (and this was within the past decade). Some things get better with age... others most definitely do not.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Come for the food, stay for the... food

If I have one weakness, it's curry. Whether it's Japanese curry, Thai curry, Indian curry, Tim Curry, etc., I'm all in favor. I can think of few comfort foods that better dispel a cold, bland evening than a steaming plate of curry rice. You can imagine my delight, then, when while driving to apply for a job I spied a sign reading "Kurry Xpress."

I tend to seek out curry joints or places that serve curry wherever I go. While La Grande wasn't quite an epicurean wonderland, I did happen across an Indian buffet place while in Eugene to cover the state track meet. From then on, I've had decent success -- Akmal's (RIP) in Hilo served a great gosht korma before it closed down, and I was spoiled for choices in Jakarta with places such as Samy's Curry, Go! Curry, Mr. Curry, Hazara and Koh e Noor. The latter was a Friday-night staple at our office that proved reliable, affordable and damn tasty. I make sure to hit Coco's Curry when I'm in Tokyo, but I've learned from experience that Tokyo has its share of mediocre curry joints, too.

With all that in mind, I went into Kurry Xpress a bit wary of what quality of Indian food I would find in Omaha. First impressions were not promising. The restaurant is tucked away in a nondescript strip mall on Q Street and has little to draw attention to it. Its interior is fairly Spartan, to put it kindly, with just four booths and four tables on which customers dine with disposable spoons, forks and containers. The carpet has had sticky patches each time I've gone, the tables are usually (but not always) mostly clean, and the primary source of atmosphere is a TV in the corner playing Indian movies and music videos. Even at slow times, expect to wait at least 10 to 15 minutes for your food. If your goal is to be whisked away and feel as though you're dining in Mumbai rather than Omaha, don't bother.

If your goal is eating good Indian food, on the other hand, you should most definitely bother. The menu has a solid variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, and only the two top-end biryani dishes cost $10 or more. I've had all vegetarian fare two of the three times I've eaten at Kurry Xpress, and it's saying something for a restaurant when an omnivore like me happily chooses to eat vegetarian even when good meat-based options are available. It had a delicious mutter paneer -- a curry with peas and fresh cottage cheese, quite possibly my favorite Indian dish -- and the biryani options are notable both for their portion size and their spice. I also made sure to try the classic chicken vindaloo, which did not disappoint. Service, while not exactly quick, was helpful and patient. The mango lassi is a soothing way to quell any lingering fires from the preceding meal.

All told, I definitely recommend Kurry Xpress for a no-frills, high-flavor dining experience. True, you won't be blown away by the atmosphere, but the food is good and, really, why else would you go out to eat? I feel fairly confident in my recommendation as the majority of my fellow diners during my visits were of South Asian persuasion, and I imagine they would be fairly stern judges of a restaurant claiming to serve "authentic Indian cuisine" here in the Land of Hamburger Pizza. Even if the spelling is a little funky and the service not exactly express, I will definitely be eating here again.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Never relent

Feel like the world is spinning a little too fast these days? Tough. Here's noted Western philosopher Henry Rollins on the promise of progress -- and backlash -- from the recent, momentous decisions in politics and law.
Bad News for the Haters Dept.: You realize that all those obnoxious 16-year-olds you see everywhere, texting their friends who are standing next to them, will be able to vote in the 2016 elections. Do you think you will be able to sell them on your anti-gay/anti-woman/anti-brown/black platform? Do you think they want to end up like you? I bet they don't. Gov. Bobby Jindal said that you all have to stop being the stupid party. I don't think you can do it. How did equality become political? Because you can't handle science, change or the truth. America is on the move, you are not.
Roe v. Wade is still under attack. Check out what Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has been up to. The Supreme Court's recent decision on the Voting Rights Act could make the 2014 and 2016 elections pretty tricky. The demise of DOMA, while great, is also a smack to the hornet's nest and there will be a whirlwind to reap, so please, prepare for many challenges up the road. The pushback will be considerable. America is changing and, historically, we don't handle it well.
Read the whole thing. DOMA, the Voting Rights Act, the Snowden affair -- this is only the beginning, folks.