IS COGNITIVE DECLINE INEVITABLE?

My mind goes often to this non planet

If I knew where my mind was, I’d be able to find it. 
My mind goes to Pluto at the drop of a hat. 
What did I come into this room to get?
And where did I park my car?

As we age, we lose brain cells. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. My mother claimed we kids were responsible for the early grey in her hair and its white was the result of the loss of brain cells, which she attributed to our wild ways driving her crazy. Neurons in the brain do die every day, but the brain grows new ones into a person’s seventies. 

Previous research suggests cognitive decline doesn’t begin before the age of 60, but this view isn’t universally accepted by scientists, much less the common public. We all have met people who’ve quit growing intellectually in their 30’s, while some have flexible minds and continue to learn new ideas and adjust their previously held thoughts when new information is presented. Some people’s capacity for memory, reasoning and comprehension skills (cognitive function) can start to deteriorate from age 45. 

Happy Birthday—Don’t return the favor.

This is why 40 was once considered “over the hill,” but folks today think of 50 as that apex. When my brother decorated my desk with dead plants and black balloons for my 40th birthday, I’m sure he meant it with tongue in cheek. However he might have been also alluding to my well known “space ranger” wandering mind. I don’t think I had cognitive decline; rather mine was more imaginative daydreaming, also known as “not paying attention.”

When I was 60, I watched a program on dementia and cognitive decline. The difference between forgetfulness and cognitive decline is the first happens occasionally and the latter affects your daily living negatively. On my recent vacation I forgot to bring toothpaste. I bought a tube at the grocery store. Cognitive decline is when you forget how to brush your teeth, you get cavities, and don’t make dentist appointments anymore. Then you lose the teeth and get dentures. Most likely someone also has to remind you to use the bubble cleaner on them and rinse them before they go in your mouth again. 
Since understanding cognitive aging will be one of the challenges of this century, especially as life expectancy continues to rise, we have to ask, what can we do to for our whole health? 

As easy as popping a pill sounds, a large recent review of studies found no solid evidence that vitamin and mineral supplements have any effect in preventing cognitive decline or dementia. The whole internet is full of health claims for this and that supplement, drink, bar, or detox tonic. While B vitamins; beta carotene; vitamins C, D or E; zinc, copper or selenium may be needed in your diet for other reasons, none of these have proved effective in preventing cognitive decline. 

How can you prevent cognitive decline? Try this combination strategy:
Four steps can improve your mental skills, even as you age—
1. following a healthy diet, 
2. getting regular exercise, 
3. socializing, and 
4. challenging your brain.

The results of the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER), which is the latest and most impressive study, goes a step further by suggesting that if you follow all four practices, you may even reverse lost mental capacity. The FINGER study indicated those who did so not only kept cognitive skills from declining, it also improved their reasoning skills and speed in performing mental tasks.

The volunteers were randomly assigned to two groups. One set of participants—the study group—received personal nutritional counseling, exercise instruction from physical therapists, and cognitive training. They also underwent seven medical exams during the study period. They frequently met in groups for cooking classes, cognitive training, or exercise instruction. The other participants—the control group—had three medical exams, during which they received general health advice. Both groups were given mental function tests again at the end of the study.

Dr. Scott McGinnis, a neurologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital and author of The Harvard Guide to Coping with Alzheimer’s Disease, says “Healthy lifestyle behaviors can benefit people of all ages. But to have the greatest impact on late-life mental function, get started early.” 

The FINGER study’s results should offer additional encouragement to pursue a healthy, active, engaged lifestyle with regular exercise, a Mediterranean diet, and challenging mental activities because these can help preserve your mental acuity. Moreover, the FINGER study reminds us it not only helps to combine these practices, but it also helps to enjoy them as we do them. 

This wasn’t a quick fix, either. The FINGER program lasted for two years and the participants stuck with it because they were enjoying themselves. They also had become friends with others in their training groups. Although the experiment was demanding, only 12% of participants dropped out. Plus, these folks worked at their exercise—attendance was over 85% at training sessions, which included three to five exercise sessions a week, as well as 10 to 12 sessions of nutrition counseling and 144 cognitive training sessions over two years.

If you’re having trouble making healthy changes, a cooking or exercise class may help you get started and open a new circle of friends. Volunteering as a tutor, joining a community choir, or working on a political campaign can offer new intellectual challenges and social engagement. The key to making lifestyle changes is in finding a way to enjoy making them—and that is often among a group of companions who are striving for the same goal. 

Fresh vegetables and Chicken breast in Olive oil

We all make a choice in our lives. If we want good health, but don’t want to give up our television programs, we either need to pick an exercise time outside of our favorite TV shows, or hit a gym with screens. For instance, I still eat fried chicken, but only on my vacation. I eat uncured bacon on Saturdays rather than every day, and pancakes once a month. I haven’t given up my favorite foods, but I’ve put a limit on the most unhealthy ones out of respect for my body. This gives me some room for when I feel the need to self medicate with two scoops of ice cream, as when my computer died last month and I had to replace it. Making a big decision is definitely an ice cream moment for me, but I don’t need it every day anymore. 

One of my goals at Cornie’s Kitchen is to learn new skills and information to benefit the majority of persons in our world today: half of Americans and 30% of the world’s population are obese or overweight, and the cardiovascular diseases associated with obesity are increasing worldwide also. Since our children are also impacted by this health risk, we have to change our way of looking at food, exercise, time, stress, life, work, and our means of balancing the competing and complex needs in our world. 

If I can’t wave a magic wand over you, say a magic spell, or cast a potion of power over you, then at least I can help you burn through a few brain cells. They’ll grow back. Grey hair is a sign of power and wisdom.  

Joy and Peace, 

Cornie 

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OF ORDINARY MIRACLES

Greek yogurt with cocoa, fruit and nuts

“Fabulous Fermented Foods” have been part of my family’s history for generations back. In the rural antebellum South, folks made cornbread with buttermilk and bacon grease. They didn’t waste soured milk in those unrefrigerated days, just as they used every bit of the pig but its squeal. “Waste not, want not,” was an adage my forebears took to heart, even to my embarrassment of their saving balls of string or aluminum foil for reuse. The latter I thought unsanitary, in my modern worldview, but I’d never experienced great want of any kind as they had.

I enjoyed helping my nanny can food by pickling peaches and cucumbers, but that was a different process than fermentation. My mother did ferment a fruit compote with alcohol, which we all devoured with gusto over ice cream during the holidays. “Is it ready yet?” was as frequent a question as “When can we open a present?”

Of course we ate pimento cheese sandwiches, especially during those long lazy days of summer, but none of us ever connected the cheese making process to fermentation by good bacteria or yeasts. We ate, enjoyed, and never gave it a second thought as we sought the shade or a cool dip in refreshing water. Like many people of our day, we were incurious of the many ordinary miracles which surrounded all of us.

Now I’m well into my seventh decade and understand these trendy (but ancient) foods have potential health benefits. Fermenting foods changes their taste and texture, along with their chemical and biological properties.

Fermented foods may be the oldest “new” food trend around. The process is as old as civilization itself, and fermented foods are consumed in nearly every culture in the world. While researchers attempt to tease out how the changes caused by fermentation actually impact health, many not-fully-substantiated health claims are being made. Let’s take a look at what we know, and don’t know, about these promising (and tasty) foods.

FERMENTATION PROCESS

What is Fermentation? Fermentation occurs when microorganisms (certain species of bacteria, yeast, or mold) feed on starch, sugar, and other food components. This ancient process was originally used for preserving foods, but it fell out of favor in the age of refrigeration and pasteurization.

Many foods and beverages that are commonplace in the U.S. are a result of fermentation. Grains are fermented to make beer and bread; wine is made by fermenting grape juice; and yogurt and cheese are popular forms of fermented milk. Any foods can be fermented, and there are many examples of fermented foods around the world, such as Korean kimchi and the Swedish fermented fish Surströmming.

HEALTH BENEFIT CLAIMS

Behind the Health Benefit Claims. “It is becoming increasingly clear that the fermentation process changes the health-promoting characteristics of foods,” says Jeffrey B. Blumberg, PhD, professor emeritus at Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

For example, large studies have suggested an association between consumption of fermented dairy foods and weight maintenance that is not seen with unfermented dairy products, and frequent yogurt consumption is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and overall mortality.

Some data show kimchi, a fermented cabbage dish ubiquitous in Korean cooking, is associated with anti-diabetic and anti-obesity benefits not seen with unfermented cabbage. Some of these suspected health benefits may result from the presence of the microorganisms themselves, but emerging research indicates that changes those organisms make to the food constituents, and new constituents they create, might have health benefits in their own.

HEALTH BENEFITS INCLUDE

Some of the potentially health-promoting effects of fermentation include:

1. Adding to our gut microbiota. Probiotics are live bacteria that some evidence indicates can confer health benefits when consumed in adequate numbers.

Some bacteria used in fermentation are known probiotics (or are similar to probiotic species). If fermented foods and beverages contain live microorganisms when consumed, a relatively large number of these organisms apparently make it through the human digestive system alive. “During the last decade, the number of studies has exploded regarding gut microbiota and their impact on the health of not only the gut but also the brain, heart, and immune system,” says Blumberg.

2. Changing existing compounds. In fermentation, the microorganisms break down food constituents. This process may have health benefits. For example, in fermented vegetables certain bacteria help convert health-promoting flavonoids into a more readily-absorbed form.

In dairy products, the bacteria break down lactose, making yogurt and cheese easier for lactose-intolerant people to digest.

3. Creating new compounds. Fermentation may create new compounds that have health-promoting actions in the body.

For example, one common result of bacterial fermentation is lactic acid (lactate), which recent research indicates is involved in anti-inflammatory and possibly antioxidant processes.

Other strains of microorganisms actually synthesize B vitamins or vitamin K; discourage “bad” bacteria from taking hold in the gut; or produce molecules not found in the original form of the food that play a variety of potentially health-promoting roles in the body.

4. Deactivating undesirable compounds. In addition to creating (mostly) desirable compounds in foods, fermentation can also remove undesirable compounds. In some plant foods, so-called anti-nutrients like phytic acid bind to nutrients like iron and calcium, decreasing the amount of these nutrients available to be absorbed by the body.

Fermentation can reduce phytic acid levels, which frees up more nutrients for absorption. Additionally, some food components are typically fermented in the gut by gut bacteria. This can create gas and trigger digestive problems. Fermenting foods before consumption leaves less work for gut microbes, and may help ease digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome.

5. So far, there is not a lot of clinical data backing up the potential health benefits discussed above, or the health claims often attributed to fermented foods.

But tasty foods like yogurt, hard cheese, the fermented yogurt drink kefir, cabbage-based sauerkraut and kimchi, or the increasingly popular fermented tea kombucha are delicious ways to add nutritional variety to your overall dietary pattern.

Of course when we say “yogurt,” we mean the plain, unsweetened product, to which you control the additional fruits and sugar content. The presugared/fruit purée style is not a healthy choice. Look for a yogurt with more grams of protein than in carbohydrates (Greek usually fits the healthier choice).

The same goes for other milk products, or any prepared food or drink. If it has added sugars, leaving it on the shelf is the best way to keep it from showing up on your own body. If you have a body like mine, these sugar bombs explode in one perturbing place, every single time, as if there were a hidden sugar magnet inside my body! Every. Single. Time.

Yet we can do this! I keep weighing my food, keep a food diary, and exercise. I realize 30 minutes a day doesn’t seem to be enough to lose weight, but it is enough to keep my blood sugar and blood pressure in check. I either have to work less and workout more, or accept 2/3 of my efforts are good enough for someone in the later years of her life.

I’ll probably be working on the last 1/3, just because I can’t rest until I get it ALL. This means I need to cut back on some of my “working.” I’m going to post more monthly on this blog than every two weeks from now on. My Facebook Cornie’s Kitchen page will get more frequent posts.

Joy and peace, Cornie.

Tufts Nutrition Letter, Articles, November 2018 Issue

https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/issues/14_11/current-articles/Fabulous-Fermented-Foods_2487-1.html

WHY IS FAT SO POPULAR?

TRUTH!!

Why do we choose the food on our plates? Some of us eat traditional foods from our childhoods, our cultures, or our homelands to connect us with our history and our stories. Others of us may choose alternative menus, to change our story line or to rewrite a troubled or fraught past. In this way, “what we eat proclaims who we are,” even as it nourishes the person we are becoming in the flesh.

Yet the extreme carnivore fat shamers have no problem what so ever in singing the praises of a huge, fat riddled hunk of ribeye steak, preferably rare, and eagerly devoured as a testimony to their peak powers and dominance traits. They often mention bitcoin’s luster or their own wellness ventures if the conversation goes much past hello. I’ve often wondered if the inanimate aspect of the slab on the plate allows them to connect more deeply with their food than they can with an actual human being, who has feelings and might speak back. Better to devour both of these, and stay unaffected by the outer world’s complexities.

However, the world always intrudes. We find no sanctuary, for we tear down the very walls which we build about ourselves. If we choose the extreme course, we’re on a path to self destruction, unless we change our lives. The ancient Greeks were wise to say, “The middle path is safest and best.”

Our choice of menus, diets, or eating plans is also a form of tribal signaling, as we send out signs for others to recognize and to respond accordingly. Fat shaming is a negative form of signaling by those who overvalue outward appearances. Those whose bodies are overly generous in size need to disregard this crowd’s disgust. Instead, discovering their personal value and worth is more important so they can be proactive about their own health. To enjoy life, to live as well as possible, and to be a blessing to our family and the community, is important for each of us.

WHAT IS TRUTH?

With all the competing claims out in the world today, how can we know what is truly healthy for the long haul? Since anyone can get on the internet and make any claim they want, until someone gets hurt and the legal process shuts their scam down, how do we sort out these “Truth Claims?” The accepted way is a RCT, or randomized controlled trial, which enrolls a large number of persons and follows them over many years. This is the “gold standard” of science, rather than “I use it and it works for me, plus listen to these testimonials!” In between is the single paper, not published in a major journal, with only a small sample of 50 to 100 subjects studied for a brief period. (If someone still believes “all these truths are equal,” I may know a friend with a friend with seashore property in Arizona to sell you, but I’d recommend a lesson in logic first.)

The Lancet Public Health Journal, August 18, 2018, published a major prospective cohort study and meta-analysis of dietary carbohydrate intake and mortality. The study followed nearly 16,000 adults in 4 different US communities for 25 years and they added in published research results from 7 multinational prospective studies. They did some big number crunching, so if you want to read the whole paper, the link is at the bottom of the page. It is a real RCT study, and deserves space for commentary.

MORTALITY AND FAT SOURCE

As the wag says, “men live longer if they don’t mention the extra weight their sweet cake is carrying on her hips.” It must be true–Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s photo is connected to this quote (meme worthy, for sure!).

When my mother made meatloaf, it had breadcrumbs and an egg to bind it together. She laid two strips of bacon on top of the loaf in the pan so it would get extra flavoring. Today people wrap the entire meatloaf in two pounds of bacon before they grill it on the outdoor BBQ pit. That pork fat goes into the food we eat and stays in the arteries to clog those vessels. We might be able to live higher on the hog than our parents, but we won’t live longer, not even with a good medical plan.

LIFE EXPECTANCY AND INCOME

Fifty years has passed: we eat worse, exercise less, and we our life expectancy has quit increasing. Back in 1966, men and women could live on average to age 67 and 73. Now those numbers are 76 and 81 in 2016. Back in 1933, men could expect to live to age 61 and women to 65. At least we aren’t going back to those “really good old days” when life was harsh, medicine lacked modern advances, and sanitation was poor.

Today poverty often impacts life expectancy due to food deserts in neighborhoods, lack of health insurance, and low incomes. The wealthy live longer. The poor in some cities — big ones like New York and Los Angeles, and also quite a few smaller ones like Birmingham, Ala. — live nearly as long as their middle-class neighbors or have seen rising life expectancy in the 21st century. But in some other parts of the country, adults with the lowest incomes die on average as young as people in much poorer nations like Rwanda, and their life spans are getting shorter.

CHOOSE YOUR FAT WISELY

This Study of Dietary Carbohydrate Intake and Mortality explored how the source of fat affected deaths in the group. The more meat fat a person ate, the more it impacted their life span for the worse (table 2).

The low-carb group was split into two separate groups:

1. The plant-based low carbohydrate dietary score was associated with higher average intake of vegetables but lower fruit intake (appendix p 11).

2. By contrast, the animal-based low carbohydrate dietary score was associated with lower average intake of both fruit and vegetables (appendix pp 9, 10).

3. Both low carbohydrate diets were associated with higher fat intake in exchange for carbohydrate, although the plant-based low carbohydrate diet had higher average polyunsaturated fat and lower saturated fat intake compared with the animal-based low carbohydrate diet (appendix pp 9–11).

ANIMAL FATS VS. PLANT FATS

People choosing an animal-based diet had an overall, higher, total protein intake. Five foods differed most significantly between the highest and lowest quantiles of animal-based and plant-based low carbohydrate dietary score (appendix p 9):

1. The animal-based low carbohydrate diet had more servings per day than did higher carbohydrate diets of beef, pork, and lamb as the main dish; beef, pork, and lamb as a side dish; chicken with the skin on; chicken with the skin off; and cheese (appendix p 10).

2. The plant-based low carbohydrate diet had more servings per day of nuts, peanut butter, dark or grain breads, chocolate, and white bread than did higher carbohydrate diets (appendix p 11).

3. Both low carbohydrate diets were lower in average regular soft drink intake (appendix pp 10, 11)

DEATH BY GIANT RIBEYE STEAK

Exclusionary diets, unless for medically necessary reasons, are not the best choice. Just because we want to jump off a cliff doesn’t mean we should do this! Someone who wants to eat only white food, as my child did for a time, is going through a phase. An adult who won’t eat anything white is missing out on some food groups, or doesn’t want to spend the time learning about food. If we have time saving machines all around us, why don’t we have the time to care for our embodied selves in this spare time? Do we value our work more than the worker? This devaluation of people is a slippery slope to other ills, not only to self harm but to disparagement of others or outright hatefulness.

1. In the ARIC cohort and in meta-analysis, increased consumption of animal-based protein and fat instead of carbohydrate was associated with a significant increase in all-cause mortality (table 3). Eat more animal fat and die sooner.

2. Alternatively, increased consumption of plant-based protein and fat instead of carbohydrate was associated with a significant decrease in all-cause mortality (table 3). Trade animal fats for healthier plant fats from nuts and seeds, such as olive oil. Use in moderation.

3. The animal and plant-based findings were consistent for cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular mortality (appendix pp 3, 4). Both heart disease and other diseases are made worse by animal fats. Let’s eat leaner, greener, and add more plants into our menus.

4. Similarly, in the meta-analysis, mortality increased when animal-derived fat and protein were substituted for carbohydrate, and decreased when these substitutions were plant-based (table 3). Eating more plants would do us better.

THE SWEET SPOT

The model for carbohydrate caloric intake is about 50% of total calories per day. It seems to be a sweet spot for life expectancy. In the diabetes world, most of us work to control our blood glucose readings by diet, so many of us will reduce our carbohydrates until they’re minimal at best. We may get good readings on our glucose meter, but what about our heart health? We don’t have a home health test for this. Since people with diabetes also have high rates of heart disease, we need to think of our whole body as one interconnected system, and not focus only on one symptom. We are complex and wonderful, so finding a balance for our finely tuned instrument is important.

ALL CARBS ARE NOT EQUAL

What carbohydrates we choose are another factor. If we think a bag of potato chips is equal to a baked potato in calories and nutrition, we have another think coming. Learning to read nutrition labels might cure us of this delusion. In the meantime, avoiding the snack aisle at the grocery store can keep us from bringing this ersatz food product into our home.

In “Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association Clinical,” the trials that used polyunsaturated fat to replace saturated fat reduced the incidence of cardiovascular disease. In contrast, trials that used mainly carbohydrates to replace saturated fat did not reduce CVD.

CHOOSE CARBS WISELY

However, the types of carbohydrate-containing foods were often unspecified and typically included sugar and other refined carbohydrates to maintain energy balance. When carbohydrates from whole grains replace saturated fat, evidence from prospective observational studies indicates reduced CVD. The two best interventions for menu modification are DASH and the Mediterranean Diet.

LIFESTYLE MODIFICATION

The other way we can help keep our blood sugar in range is lifestyle modification. This is the most difficult of changes most of us have to make. Exercise, meditation, journaling, adjusting recipes, cooking meals, making menus, and setting a bedtime or wake up schedule all seems like too much at once. Of course it is! And if it were easy, everyone would be doing it, no one would blog about it, and there’d be no great 25 year long studies to tell us not to wrap two pounds of ground beef in two more pounds of fatback bacon.

Actually, Aristotle, the Ancient Greek philosopher, spoke about the “golden mean.” Moral behavior is the mean between two extremes: at one end is excess, and at the other deficiency. Find a moderate position between those two extremes, and you’ll be acting morally, or rationally. This was his goal in life.

If we were to pick only one of these lifestyle modifications per week to work on, then in the next, do another one the best we can, and do on in the following weeks. Soon we’d all be more comfortable with the routine, and all of us would be doing them all without even realizing it. This is how you sneak in your learning! Before you know it, you have a transformed life. No one waved a magic wand over you, but you grew into your grown up shoes slowly but surely.

Best wishes for a better life, with more exercise and more joy!

Love, Cornie.

The Lancet Public Health Journal, August 18, 2018

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667%2818%2930135-X/fulltext

Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association | Circulation

https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000510

SEASONAL FOODS TASTE BEST

Buy what’s ripe for the best value

“This is why tomatoes don’t taste all that great in January.”

AND they cost a small fortune! Have you ever noticed this?

Seasonal crops will taste better when they come from nearby and they’ll usually cost less due to lower transportation costs.

Right now, corn is still in season and very good. So are our local Arkansas tomatoes. I imagine many of my Kitchen peeps from other southern areas still have local produce in their farmers markets and grocery stores. Further north, September will mark the end of local produce, most likely, except for winter veggies.

Brussels sprouts are an autumn vegetable. While we can get them year round in our big box stores, they are best in season. They always show up around Thanksgiving in the upscale neighborhood grocery store in my town in their native form: on the stalk! Just like a tree! Exactly! I’d never in my whole life seen anything like it. Perhaps I was deprived as a child, an adult, and now into my deep geezerness, I’ve finally arrived.

This sprout tree makes a beautiful presentation for a family dinner, either for Thanksgiving or any other special occasion. You roast it in the oven, having brushed it with a bit of olive oil and dusted it with appropriate spices. Any internet recipe would give you an idea, but I like rosemary garlic spice mix.

To cook ordinary Brussels sprouts, most people make the mistake of boiling them, but boiling in water raises their temperature too high and tosses off the obnoxious odors. Ugh! Can’t have that!

I have always microwaved the Brussels sprouts so they would be sweet. This solves the overcooking problem. Then I was cooking a single slice of bacon in a heavy skillet as I finished off the baked chicken in the oven. I put thin sliced summer squash with parsley, rosemary and garlic into that pan to heat and tenderize al dente. When the sprouts were done, I tossed them in just to get the spices on them too.

The corn gets butter, salt and pepper. Fresh corn doesn’t need anything else. It too doesn’t need to be boiled to death. Microwave it inside its own husk. This is “steaming” and doesn’t heat up your house or use up costly energy.

I’m looking forward to acorn squash and pumpkin soup. New recipes when the weather cools off!

THE GRIEF CYCLE AND THE FOOD WE EAT

There’s an old joke about the kids at show and tell day at school. When asked to bring in a symbol of their faith, the Catholic brought his Rosary, the Baptist brought her Bible, and the Methodist brought a casserole and a plate of cookies. The never ending feast begins here and continues in the hereafter. We don’t so much grieve as we eat our way back to joy.

20140401-165544.jpgIn her book “On Death and Dying”, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross described a type of emotional journey among people who are facing death. We know these as the “Stages of Grief or Loss” today. No one actually goes from Point A to Point B on this journey by stages, for it sometimes feels like a wandering in a wilderness without a compass at times.

Grief isn’t one-dimensional: It manifests in a jumble of intense emotions. Dealing with grief isn’t a linear progression, but a whole process with chaotic twists and turns. How these “stages” relate to each other has very little to do with logical thinking. Actually, the emotional logic of grief is in the jumble of emotions. It’s a one dish meal, or a large casserole, more than a discrete dinner of separate courses.

The process of grieving is a series of frantic moves to re-orient to the world after a big loss has left you emotionally off-balance (disoriented). Even those of us who have learned to eat for health will find ourselves eating for comfort, not eating at all, or perhaps lying on the couch, unable to move more than our hand to change the tv station. And find ourselves dipping our hand into a bag to lift out one small, densely caloric sweet, fat, salty snack to savor bite by bite.

You may want to keep this in mind as you read the following description of the famous “stages”.

Typically, the seven stages of grief are described as:

– Shock or Disbelief

– Denial

– Anger

– Bargaining

– Guilt

– Depression

– Acceptance and Hope

This is not a mechanistic model — the stages do not occur the same way for all people; they can last very little time, or a lot of time; and they can be inter-related. They can reoccur at any point in the process, and one can begin the process anew.

Typically, the first reaction to news of impending doom is shock or disbelief, followed by denial: It’s not true, it can’t possibly happen to me, there must be a mistake–this kind of thing only happens to others, doesn’t it? Saturday I was eating a small plate of barbecue ribs at the Loose Cannon Restaurant when I got the call about my daughter’s death. She was 36 years old. A child isn’t supposed to die before their parent. I don’t remember the taste of those ribs at all, for I was numb, even to my taste buds.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross observed that facing the reality of death leads people to feel very angry, resentful, rageful. This is so unfair! I wasn’t angry or resentful, for she’d been on the streets since she was 13. Street years are hard years. She was paranoid schizophrenic, bipolar and a borderline personality. She refused help, medication, and hurt the ones who tried to help her. I thought I was prepared, but you can never emotionally prepare for the death of someone you love, even if you expect it.

I spent Sunday on my couch, only making a little soup out of the leftovers in the icebox for lunch. Breakfast was a muffin with cream cheese and dried dates. Dinner was cottage cheese, peanut butter and frozen fruit. Monday I thought, “This is a good time for GRIEF BACON.” A couple of fried eggs, and I can say I cooked! Start the day like a person who is alive! I had a protein bar for lunch and a small salad for dinner out on the patio with friends. Two meals made. Grief bacon is a great pain reliever.image

Death is a part of life, for those of us who believe in Jesus as the son of God. We too become sons and daughters of God and can have the joy of the new life in this world as well as the eternal life in the next. Death may be invincible in taking our bodies, but death never has the final victory over our souls. For many people, death brings up the issues of guilt and bargaining, for there were unresolved issues on this side of life.

What do people do when they keep bumping their heads against the seeming invincibility of their opponent? This is the time for unrealistic bargaining – I’ll give you this, and you’ll give me what I want. There’s nothing wrong about bargaining – when it is based on offering the other party something they might really be interested in. It may not be very realistic to try to bargain with natural forces, illness, death…

This is when we go to DEFCON 2–or GRIEF BACON 2: Chocolate Covered Bacon. State Fair Food rules these higher stages of grief. Actually anything chocolate and salty will suffice. Monday I finally had on clothes and went out grocery shopping. I bought chocolate eclair ice cream in a pint package. I added an ounce of salted mixed nuts to cut the sweetness. The half cup serving was enough. I wasn’t actually hungry.

Guilt is a way of making sense of what is happening, of regaining some form of control over the uncontrollable: “It must be my fault.” We are control freaks. If we only had a group called Control Freaks Anonymous, it would be standing room only. But meetings would need to be held in great outdoor stadiums, and it would be a test of everyone’s ability to “Let go and let God” on account of the varying weather, which would be like goldilock’s porridge: too cold, too hot, or just right for the whole group.

About this time I get a cooking bug. I am now at DEFCON 3–I am way past Bacon and onto the Hard Stuff! Cornie’s Kitchen goes into full production mode and my hapless taste testers will rate, suffer, or survive my latest concoction. My various “healthy, but chocolate” recipes are all the result of stress about things I can’t control. I can control the ingredients in the recipes, so I cook in the kitchen. If it turns out bad, or merely edible, or great, it’s all good. Trying to control people, events, or God will just make me crazy.

Once the reality of death sets in, the grieving person feels overwhelmed, and they may become depressed. All resistance is futile. This is DEFCON 4–NUCLEAR OPTION. This calls for chocolate cheesecake, not from a mix, not from a store, but the real McGill, as my daddy used to say. Or chocolate fudge pecan pie. I would not split it, nor take a small piece. One would be enough. In my earlier days, I would go to the doughnut store every morning, eat pie for desert at lunch, and eat a whole bowl of ice cream before bed at night. I medicated my emotions with carbohydrates. I didn’t want to deal with my pain and suffering, or the suffering I carried for others.IMG_8902

Anger, unrealistic bargaining, depression… this is our struggle against “real” problems in the outside world, but also against our own inner issues and problems.

Some dying people eventually reach a stage where they are fully aware of impending death, and neither angry nor depressed about it. They accept it. Acceptance of reality need not be synonymous with capitulation, humiliating defeat. There is a difference between accepting what is inescapable – like death, when you’re dying – and cowardly surrendering when you could have fought more. And acceptance need not mean losing your integrity – it can sometimes be quite the opposite. Acceptance is not betrayal.

Acceptance is about using the lessons we learned in life to come to terms with the realities of the world, on our own terms. As someone who loves her food, enjoys a healthier lifestyle, and wants others to share in this better way, I’m using food as a metaphor for the stages of grief.

While I’m using humor to explain these stages, grief is a serious business. It’s normal to grieve. I spent over twenty years in the ministry. I buried an average of 20 people per year; said farewell to over 400 souls in my years of service. These saints left many, many more behind to remember, celebrate, and grieve their life, death, and resurrection. Plus I served in seven different appointments in Texas and Arkansas. I made deep friends and colleagues in all those places, and had to grieve those whom I left behind as I went to serve in the next place. We can grieve for our lost youth, our lost joy, our lost loves, our former place in life or even our social status.

If you are grieving any form of loss, it doesn’t serve to deny the pain. Grief is a natural process, and there is an emotional logic to it. Riding it, as opposed to fighting it, will lead to healing. What helps is to observe it with compassion, to experience it without being swallowed by it. Grief therapy is about creating a gentle and healing environment that allows you to re-orient to the world after a disorienting loss.

http://www.dailybreadcounseling.org/ Arkansas counsellors & therapists

http://proactivechange.com/stress/grief-stages.htm source of 5 Stages of Grief List.

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/deep-dark-chocolate-cheesecake-236209

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/fudge-pecan-pie-1442

Snow Alert Means Comfort Food

Snow alert! Even the prospect of rumored snow, sleet or icing causes my adoptive state of Arkansas to rush pell mell to the nearest Walmart or Kroger for bread, milk and eggs. The shelves will be bare by 3pm. Some of our mountain towns have been known to raise the prices on these much desired products once a winter storm warning comes out. While price gouging at the pump is illegal, there’s no law against supply and demand prices for edibles.

Of course, if the weather is that bad, we should have hard boiled those eggs before the utilities lost power, so we could eat them. Along with the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cold milk. We won’t be cooking unless we have a backup generator or an open fireplace. Standing out over the BBQ pit to cook in that weather is for Nanooks of the North, but not for me.

My all time favorite comfort food for frozen weather is cheddar cheese grits with bacon and scrambled eggs. It’s simple to cook, has only four ingredients, and uses plain salt and pepper for the spice. That’s the basic recipe, but you could use jalapeño cheese for variety if snowmaggedon drags its sorry self into your neck of the woods.

One important note about this meal and it’s a southern thing: the grits must be “fork done.” Spoon grits are runny and not worth feeding to a dog. I wouldn’t treat my dog that bad. Fork grits stay on the utensil, until they reach the mouth, where they can be properly appreciated.

Since we don’t often get snow or freezing rain, this comfort food is a rare treat and can be eaten for breakfast or supper.

Nutritional information:
Calories 713
Carbs 30 g
Fat 54 g
Protein 30 g

SCRAMBLED EASTER EGGS FOR BREAKFAST

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Some folks say their hard boiled eggs are hard to peel or their yolks are never set or the whites are tough. Most likely they’ve violated the cardinal rule of cooking: “Everything has its own time and temperature.” Cornie’s corollary to this rule is “You can’t hurry good food.”

Saturday afternoon I was boiling some eggs on the stove. I put a half dozen eggs into cold water in a pan, making sure the water completely covered them. Then I put a tight fitting lid on this pot, set it on a burner, turned it to high, and let it come to a boil. Once it boiled, I took the pot off the fire and set it aside to let the water cool to hand temperature. The eggs continue to cook gently in this bath. Once the water temps are cool enough to touch, I take this pan to the sink and run cold water over the whole thing until only cold water remains in the pot. This is the point you can either extract the eggs and store in the carton for future use as food or you can set upon paper towels to decorate for Easter.

Scrambling eggs for breakfast has the same “slow and low” rule that the hard boiled eggs use. First I fry my bacon in a heavy pan at medium high heat. If I notice the grease begin to smoke, I turn the heat down a tad. Once the bacon is crispy but not burnt, I take it out of the pan. I always drain my bacon of excess grease between two paper towels. I turn off the burner, take out the excess grease in the pan with the paper towel. (Throw this away.)

Into this heated pan put 1 Tbs butter and 3 well beaten eggs. Let this set up for a minute. Use a large spoon or spatula to stir up the eggs gently. If they aren’t setting completely, turn the burner back on low for just a little while. Eggs prefer a gentle heat! Add your spices: garlic, parsley, red pepper flakes or rosemary or whatever will wake up your senses. I like adding a bit of jalapeño cheese to mine!

Throw a couple of pieces of toast or some thick cooked southern grits beside this delight and you will say, “Oh, yes! I AM ALIVE!”