Archive for the 'health' Category

why i am a vegetarian, and why my family freaked out when i first told them

I’m a vegetarian. And no, I don’t eat fish.

I read a New York Times article today on “Putting Meat Back in Its Place“, which gives meat-eaters pointers on cutting back their meat intake, and I reflected on how I turned to a life of vegetables, eggs and dairy. I first became vegetarian my freshman year at Stanford, when someone handed me a pamphlet about factory farming on Earth Day; I still can’t think of eating meat without thinking about it. It was pretty easy for me to turn veggie– one day I sat down in our dining hall with a meatless plate and announced that I was going to try the vegetarian thing. I don’t proselytize, but I do recount this story to people who ask.

My family is heavily ensconced in Filipino food, which relies on dishes that are heavy in fatty fish, meat, oil, bone marrow, and other things that will clog up your heart but are just so good. So when my grandparents found out that more than half of their culinary repertoire was now off-limits for me, they got really worried. “How are we going to feed her?” they wondered. (Actually, the first question they asked was, “But you eat fish, right?”)

My dad was really against it at the time. I don’t have the most resilient of bodies, and my freshman year was already taking its toll on my health, so I had to convince him that no, I wasn’t going to waste away, and yes, people can live a life without meat and still be normal.

But more importantly, rejecting Filipino food is like rejecting Filipino culture. It was the same thing as refusing to go to church or refusing to respect my parents. This really was like slapping my father in the face. As I’ve said before, vegetarianism to me is more like a belief than a food preference, but not everyone sees it that way.

Also, a lot of people view eating meat as a sign of wealth and abundance, of things that their parents and grandparents never had, so rejecting it can be an insult to their past as well. My housemate Ana, who was born in Romania during the Ceauşescu regime, recounted how her family was taken aback when she first declined meat at dinner. They were like, “We never had meat when we were your age, and now you’re refusing it?! This isn’t how we raised you!” Some of my friends who grew up in Soviet Union countries have similar stories.

What people need to realize is that meat is now so cheap that it’s no longer a sign of wealth. I really think that vegetarianism is going to become the diet of the new elite— an elite that is well-educated and concerned about their environment and their health, and is able to spend a few more dollars on organic food and boca burgers and soymilk and tempeh to maintain their healthy lifestyle.

That said, I have three exceptions to the no-meat rule. The first is sea urchin, and only if it’s unagi nigiri at a Japanese restaurant. The second is caviar (especially the tobiko nigiri at Sushi Tomo)– sometimes the fish is killed to extract it, and there’s pretty much no way to tell. The third is instant ramen (like Cup Noodles), but only in extenuating circumstances, like when I am stressed or hungover. As part of my 101 in 1001, I’m trying to see if I can spend three weeks as a vegan (maybe when I’m back at school, or else my parents might just kill me). But I love cheese. I looooove cheese. So wish me luck.


a week on twenty euros, continued

Hmm… this experiment started to fail miserably when I got a 3-euro gelato cone from Amorino. I’ve already gone well over my 20-euro budget, but I blame it entirely on going out to eat, because my at-home meals were definitely under 20.

Here’s my menu thus far. Prices are indicated in parentheses if necessary. Also, the bread isn’t called matnakash, it’s something else. Sort of like a softer bagel, but quadruple the diameter and more flour-y. I keep forgetting the name when I look at it in Franprix.


5/3/2007 (Th)
Breakfast: cereal and milk, 1 cup yogurt
Lunch: 1 egg botched poach, fried bread, rice cake, jam on rice cake
Dinner: 2 eggs w/ legumes and soup for sauce, rice cake, bread, cranberry juice, kiwi
2h30 snack: jam on rice cake

My sleep schedule was being reconfigured, thus the snack. Also, using the potage aux légumes verts as a sauce for the eggs was BRILLIANT (ta-ta-tasty!). It’s amazing what a .99-centime box of soup can do for you. I should’ve taken pictures.


5/4/2007 (F)
Lunch: milk and cereal, 1 cup yogurt
Snack: gelato (3)
Bought: (~6 euros)
– 1 apple
– 3 tomatoes
– 1 cucumber/zucchini?
– 1 large can of lentils
– 6 more eggs
– 1 packet of grated Emmental (Swiss) cheese
– 2 1L bottles of water (this shouldn’t really count…)
Dinner: cheese and 1 tomato 1 egg omelette, finished off the bread, cranberry juice, jam on rice cake

I decided that one egg a night was enough to live off of (two eggs made me too full for dessert!). I don’t know the word for cucumber OR zucchini so I bought a random long, green vegetable and hoped for the best.


5/5/2007 (Sat)
Lunch: tapenades on bread, jam with yogurt
Linner: 3 rice cakes with tapenades and jam, yogurt, ensaymada (bread with butter, brown sugar and cheese), apple
Dinner: 1 egg botched poach, legumes, fried bread, milk and cereal, cranberry juice

This was the night I learned that in order to poach an egg, you have to fill the pan with water first. Will have to try that sometime.
Also, ensaymada is a very good but ridiculously unhealthy Filipino dessert. To make your own:

1. mix equal parts butter and sugar together
2. smother the top of a piece of fluffy white bread with this mixture
3. top off with grated cheese.

The cheese is definitely what makes this dessert. I made a lot of ensaymada once I got the combo of oil, sugar and fat just right. And ate it all. And then I felt kind of nauseated.


5/6/2007 (Sun)
Brunch: milk and cereal, yogurt
Bought: drinks, senbei (2.56)
Lunch: vegetarian samosa and egg roll, lemon tea (2.50)
Dinner: chinese buffet (10), banana split (4.30)

I went to the quartier chinois (read: Chinatown) on Sunday, which is why everything I bought was dirt cheap (but dinner was in the Marais). A fellow Stanfordian and I perused Tang Frères, a riot of a supermarket if I ever saw one outside of Asia, and stocked up on food that we haven’t seen in months.


5/7/2007 (M)
Breakfast: senbei
Lunch: banana-nutella crepe (4), water (.80)
Dinner: 1 egg omelette with legumes, yogurt, jam on rice cake, cranberry juice

I bought food today because it’s a school day again. Besides, Stanford gives us a monthly meal stipend, so maybe I should actually use it for food this month.


In all (including last week’s groceries and the last few days), I spent about 45 euros on food. I just did the math and it’s SHOCKING. Eating out was about 25 euros of that. I was even trying my best to be miserly…

Lessons learned from this week? Stop eating out. (And stop making impulse purchases!) The end.

i’m living on twenty euros this week

I was actually kinda happy when my host mother announced that she was leaving for two weeks and I had free reign over my food. Her food’s fantastic, but as you might have noticed in this entry, my low self-esteem has been begging me to go on a diet. (Though there’s no way in hell I’m giving up ice cream. Actually… remembering all the shopping I did in Barcelona will curb my cravings for a 4-curo cone.)

The thing is, I’m vegetarian and I’m broke. (Both of which are pretty much my fault, I know, I know.) I can’t eat out with my friends for lunch now. I had to steal cash from my mom’s account just to buy today’s groceries. But, inspired by the governor of Oregon’s decision to live for a week on a $21 food stamp stipend, I want to see how far my 20 euro (~$26) can go.

My first order of business was to take stock of what I already had in the kitchen:

– milk and cereal
– a small container of tapenades
– half a large box of green vegetable soup
– one kiwi (from a buffet in Barcelona)
– a little cheese that will soon be moldy.

(Host mom gave me 125 euro for dinners while she was away, but I used it to pay for my Barcelona trip.)

Then I went down to the neighborhood Franprix (NOT the neighborhood corner grocery store or bakery, which charge more) to supplement my diet with more protein, a little bread, maybe more legumes (both senses of the word), and something not too unhealthy for my sweet tooth. For 9.62 curo, I got:

– a medium-sized round loaf of matnakash
– a jar of apricot confit
– six large eggs
– two 75g packages of rice cakes
– a jar of carrots, peas and celery
– a box of cranberry-raspberry juice
– a 12-pack of plain yogurt
– a box of paper towels

Lunch: I made an omelette with two eggs and a few spoonfuls of veggies, then tried the matnakash (yummy with a hint of corn) and a couple of rice cakes (really dry).

Dinner: I had a cup of the soup with a poached egg and fried matnakash, with a spoonful of jam on a rice cake for dessert. I don’t drink much besides water, but I like the tart taste of cranberry juice.

The soup and the juice are good for about 3-4 days after opening, but I have a feeling I could keep them for a little longer. The eggs expire soon, but I’ll probably finish the rest before Saturday. I should make a cheese omelette…

According to Tim Ferriss (who gained 34 lbs of muscle in a month), repetition in meals is good for losing body fat. (And carbohydrates are bad, but I’m gonna skimp on that advice for now.) Unfortunately, since I am not a meat-eater, I will have to eat lots and lots of eggs. Should I get bio-friendly eggs? Twice the price, but better for the chickens… Hmm, my morals vs. my budget. That’s an argument that shouldn’t ever be allowed to happen.

De toute façon, I’ll probably do a few more posts than usual this week to show you how I’m doing with the 20-euro diet. And I have to get around to blogging about finding an apartment in Paris– off craigslist…

why americans are fat and parisians aren’t

Today I will address one of the most infamous paradoxes in Parisian culture: the superskinny French woman.

France, in a single superlative, is the gustatory capital of the world. Paris reflects this fact with an endless supply of cafés, restaurants, bistros, patisseries, brasseries, charcuteries, you name it. If there’s a Starbucks on every corner in Manhattan, there’s a place to eat on every block in Paris– more if the block is longer than 100 feet. I’m impressed at how so many of them can stay in business when they’re competing with three or four similar places across the street.

Despite this constant deluge of food, the body types of most Parisian women can be loosely classified into three categories: thin but voluptuous, thin, and skinny as a Japanese rock star. What the hell?

You see tons of very thin, good-looking yuppies on the streets of New York as well, but there the stick-thin population is offset by a close-to-equal number of older or overweight New Yorkers. (And Paris has a larger number of better-looking metrosexual guys in general.) The only other place where I’ve seen such a high skinny-to-fat ratio is in Japan, but that’s only because the people who *are* fat in Japan never leave their house. (See hikikomori.)

So are Parisians just naturally thin? Is it because each Métro station has a dizzying amount of stairs? Is it really because of the wine and the sex?

There’s definitely something in their diet that contributes to this, as I haven’t seen a single gym since I got here (though my host mother swears she goes to one once a week), and the walking alone couldn’t possibly make up for all the calories.

The culture, though, is probably where it’s at. Media pressure to be skinny aside, French people rarely eat unless they’re sitting down. When they do eat, the meal can take two hours, even at home. This allows for some discussion (and, most of the time, appreciation and savoring) of the food. You can always spot a tourist when they have a cheeseburger or something similarly substantial in hand and proceed to consume it while walking or while they’re on the Métro. (Btw, don’t ever eat on the Métro unless you’re hypoglycemic or dehydrated and about to pass out.)

Sure, there are ice cream vendors and crepe stands, but unless you’re under the age of twenty, avoid walking while eating them. This is also from a practical standpoint: food is messy. Parisians are fashion-conscious. You don’t want to walk around all day with an ice cream stain on your shirt.

Speaking of ice cream, be sure to try out a few new flavors if you’re ever in Paris. (Just don’t be like me and try them at the 5-euro ice cream stand at the entrance of the Jardin du Luxembourg.) They’ve got vanilla and chocolate, all right, but also things like chestnut cream, lychee cream, ginger, lavender, and rose. Yes, rose. I’ll give you an ice cream/sorbet report soon, since the weather is rapidly going from biting cold to hot and humid. Just like New York!

travel clinics are a rip-off, and housing hijinks

I visited the Vaden Travel Clinic on campus yesterday, and realized I just paid $30 for a nurse to read a printout about vaccines to me for thirty minutes. I could’ve just read up on this stuff through the travel section in the Centers for Disease Control site. The Hepatitis A vaccine I almost got anyway, until I realized in my allergy-induced stupor that it cost $65 and I wasn’t going to Eastern Europe. The meningitis vaccine? If I live in a dorm, maybe. But I don’t know if I’m staying with a host family yet, and it’s about $100. And RABIES. I can’t believe the nurse talked to me for five minutes about RABIES. If anything, I should’ve put the $30 I wasted on this useless consultation towards getting the HPV vaccine when I get back.

Anyway, my guy and I found a hotel in New York (I really, really wish we’d done this in advance ‘coz it cost $500 for THREE nights), but since the hotel will let us cancel our reservation up to 48 hours before check-in without a penalty, we’re also on the prowl for last-minute sublets on craigslist. As in, really last minute. I expect to start finding deals maybe four or so days before we leave. (I love the magazine Time Out: New York, and also the LiveJournal community nyc_for_free— I got a ton of responses to my post asking for help. :)

London’s kind of a problem because the exchange rate is $2 to a British pound right now. We just got a cozy bed and breakfast around the West End, but honestly, anything within Zone 1 of London that’s a five-minute walk from a Tube stop would be great for me. I actually wanted to check out a hostel, but bf is balking at the sketchiness. Oh well, at least I convinced him to consider craigslist for NYC.

Also, I added more referrals to the Support section in the column to the right, namely YesAsia and ThinkGeek. Online shopaholics, now’s your time to shine.


This is a blog of things place-related, by a cash-strapped Stanford grad who's lived in various places and writes about life. She's currently looking for a job in Manhattan or the Bay Area.

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