Archive for September, 2011

Eating and drinking European style

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Living and eating at a vineyard

We're just back from 3+ weeks in Europe, almost all of that in Portugal. We had keys to an apartment situated in a village west of Lisbon and owned by old friends. Downstairs was a superb Brazilian restaurant and 100 feet from our buildings door was another, more casual eatery in a glass-sided tent-like structure. We dined at those two places a lot, but also rented a car, drove north, and stayed in walled cities, a university town and a farm in the Douro Valley raising grapes for Port wine, olives and some fruit.

We discovered a new style of eating and drinking, far different from American fast food restaurants or home meals eaten on a couch in front of a television set or hurriedly at a table. Many of our dinners lasted well over two hours and almost all were accompanied by red wine.

We had already, over the past few years, changed our style of eating, at least for our evening meal. We move from the kitchen area to the dining room, serve one course at a time, portion out our meat, salad, and vegetables in the kitchen so we don't have platters of food before us as a temptation to refill our plates. We slow down, talk and reflect on our day or on issues of substance. Perhaps three times a week we have a glass of wine, almost always a sweet white varietal. Our dinners often stretch out to an hour in length, sometimes longer.

I've read about the supposed health benefits of red wine (the Mayo Clinic website has an excellent short review on the subject) and, in recent years, realized there are some reds I can drink without having the kind of reaction (mostly nasal stuffiness) I got from Cabernet sauvignon in the early 1970s. I went back to a March 2011 update from Mayo's which, with appropriate cautions, discusses an antioxidant named resveratrol, which comes from grape skins. Because red wine is fermented with grape skins longer than is red wine, it contains more of this polyphenol chemical.

I knew I wanted to try and likely buy some Port. That was easily done during our four-day farm-stay. But elsewhere in Portugal there were various other local red wines. So we walked from our hotel to a restaurant (I don't drink and drive), ordered some red wine and markedly changed our eating style.

Take a bite, put down the utensil, savor, swallow and then talk for a while. Our meals stretched out to two hours and often beyond. In one restaurant we were next to a French couple and beyond them was a Canadian couple. We entered the place before either and left last.

We usually ate bread (freshly made) and ate desserts. I knew I would gain a few pounds, but I also knew I could lose it quickly when we returned home. The food, on average, was wonderful. We ate lots of fresh fish, lots of vegetables and the occasional mousse de chocolata. We hope to carry over some of those habits now that we're home.



More on the heatwave and its consequences.

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Here's one way to cool off

This morning I read in the New York Times Breaking News that comes to my Kindle that NYC has recently seen an unprecedented number of heat-related deaths. The age range of the victims varied considerably; youngsters, a 45-year-old  woman and some elderly folk all were struck down. Today I'd like to concentrate on older adults.

You may or may not believe in global warming (I certainly do) and, if you do, whether humans are making a significant contribution to it. But in the meantime we seem to be experiencing a hot patch and we have to cope with that.

I got up fairly early, took Yoda, my Tibetan terrier, to Whole Foods to buy a sack of his dog food and then took him for a walk. All in 72 to 75 degrees on a day that will later see a 95+ degree peak temperature. And this is in Colorado at 5,200 feet elevation. I checked out temp predictions for Denver and for the mountains; the former will be just under 100 degrees later on today whereas those areas at considerably higher elevation will stay in the 70s.

But agewise, I'm also in my 70s, as of April, and therefore read with interest the National Institute on Aging's paper titled "NIH tips for older adults to combat heat-related illnesses." The basic concepts are threefold: we lose some of our ability to adapt to heat as we get older; we are in a group that frequently has underlying diseases/conditions that fare poorly in hot weather; the meds our physicians use to treat those diseases sometimes limit our ability cope with the  heat.

I'll add a link to the article below, but will paraphrase some of their points and add my own spin.

Firstly some of the physiologic changes we experience as we age limit our ability to respond to elevated temperatures. Those include our cooling via sweating or , in some cases, our limited mobility and, in other cases, our mental responses or lack thereof. Additionally, our ability to vasodilate small blood vessels may be compromised.

Then we're experiencing, as a nation, an epidemic of obesity and concurrently those who exceed their weight goal by a large amount experience more heat-connected problems. I searched medical websites for the rationale and, if I were a teenager, would have said, "Duh!" The layer of adipose tissue the obese accumulate is the equivalent of wearing an insulted suit, something you wouldn't want to do in the heat of a summer day.

And then there are all those medications we take as we age. One article I found said older people take 2 to 6 prescribed drugs while also taking a number of OTC medications. Those drugs can directly alter our response to heat while potentially causing increased body temperature in a number of other ways, e.g., hypersensitivity reactions or the pharmacological action of the drug itself.

That helps

So if you're an older adult, avoid the heat of the day, get enough fluids and, if necessary, contact the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (through HHS) for help with home cooling.