updates: acupuncture, slow cooker, star trek

I decided to try acupuncture again. In October, I saw my nephew and niece-in-law who practice Traditional Chinese Medicine and other holistic healing methods. They encouraged me to use our small insurance benefit on more treatment, even though I can't afford to continue it past that.

I purposely started in December, so I could use the acupuncture allowance for 2012, then go straight into the benefit for the 2013 calendar year, for maximum bang for my insurance buck.

I definitely feel a change. I have more energy, my head is clearer (less fibro fog), and I am cooler. Like many women my age, I am always overheated. My face is usually flushed, and I have frequent and pronounced hot flashes. I always ran warm - always preferred winter to summer, rarely complain about the cold, and so on - so this age-heat thing has been pretty dreadful. And suddenly, it's 90% gone.

The doctor expected immediate results and seemed frustrated that it took five or six treatments to start working. He asked if I've had the pain and fatigue for a long time, and seems to indicate that that's why it takes several treatments to put right.

It's remarkable. But it's also frustrating. After our small insurance benefit is used, there's simply no way I can afford to continue.

As for the acupuncture experience itself, I enjoy it. The needles are completely painless, and once they're in, I lie there in a kind of floaty, meditative state. It's deeply relaxing. As the needles are removed, I feel a tiny, extremely brief sensation at each point, less than a pin-prick. I am also taking herbs, mixtures which the doctor changes weekly.

It's a bit difficult to enter into the concept of TCM. I'm accustomed to thinking along the lines of Western medicine: this helps with fatigue, this helps with pain, this helps with metabolism, and so on. TCM treats the body as a whole, so when energies are aligned, when the body is harmonious, pain will decrease, energy will increase, unpleasant sensations will stop. I don't pretend to understand it, but it's not as if I understand the chemistry behind the Western medicine I take, either. The results, however, are unmistakable.

[If you are interested in treatments and strategies that I use for fibromyalgia, you may want to read my fibromyalgia information site.]

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I'm really enjoying my slow cooker. I'm using it about once a week, and I'm going to try to continue that during the school term. It's especially useful for making food in batches to take to work.

As I collect slow-cooker ideas, recipes, and websites, I've noticed two things. One, many people have difficulty explaining how they cook. Or perhaps they are embarrassed to share their methods? People say things like, "You just throw anything in," or "You just do whatever, put stuff in the pot and turn it on." But what do you put in? "Just anything. You know, chicken, whatever." Huh?

Also, many actual slow-cooker recipes use processed food. I see many recipes calling for canned soup, bottled barbecue sauce, powdered taco seasoning, and the like. All that adds massive amounts of salt, sugar, corn syrup, and various unpronounceable ingredients to your diet. I'm a little bit shocked that people still cook that way.

What's more, so many people seem completely unaware of what they're doing. One recipe called for packaged taco seasoning, bottled barbecue sauce, and canned soup. A commenter noted that it tasted kind of salty, so she's looking into salt-free beans.

I do use shortcuts. I don't make my own stock, as some of my friends do (some are reading this post, right?), and I use canned beans. But canned beans, when rinsed and drained, have the same nutritional content as dry beans, and I buy low-sodium stock. Canned soup is loaded with unnecessary sodium, and how difficult would it be to substitute whole ingredients that would give you the same effect?

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As I mentioned last week, I'm watching "Star Trek TOS" - the original Star Trek series - in order, from the beginning, on US Netflix. I've already seen my favourite episode - silicon-based life! - and two or three episodes that were totally new to me.

I'm enjoying it so much that I'm tempted to follow Allan's Stephen King example and write about each episode. Last term, in my children's culture course, I did some media analysis, and really enjoyed it. (I am occasionally forced to admit I like some aspect of my Master's program.) Star Trek is so ripe for review: racism, sexism, xenophobia, colonization, war and peace, capitalism... Stop me before I blog again!

I'm sure Star Trek has been analyzed to death. And I have no shortage of things to write about. And I have a distinct shortage of time. It's tempting. But I think I can resist.


M@ said...

I don't make my own stock, as some of my friends do (some are reading this post, right?)

Yes, they are. But I make stock whenever I can, and I still don't always have stock on hand when I want to make stuff in the slow cooker. There's just no way around it.

But I also absolutely agree with your approach. I am equally horrified at the idea of adding prepared foods to the crock pot. The point of simmering something for eight hours is to produce those flavours that the salt, MSG, fructose, etc. in the prepared products try to imitate!

I know I'm fortunate to have had a lot of experience cooking, so I try not to criticize others' approaches... but yeah, there is just something wrong with the kind of scenarios you describe. Something very seriously wrong.

laura k said...

I think it's the ignorance that gets me. With all the information out there about healthy eating, especially about sodium intake!

It's not like it's cheaper to use prepared foods. And it's not that much easier. It's psychologically easier, though. The time it takes to rip open a seasoning packet and dump it in, as opposed to shaking in seasonings from 4 different containers, isn't that much different. But it might feel much easier to use the one packet.

I'm guessing here. Really don't know.

laura k said...

One of the cookbooks I saw at the library was all about making dishes in the crockpot using only three ingredients. I thumbed through it, and every recipe I saw included a can of soup or a dry soup mix packet.

I can understand being intimidated by complicated recipes, but... three?? Would five or six really throw you, especially if they are things like an onion, a carrot, a potato?

But perhaps the answer is yes.

laura k said...

An observation about Star Trek TOS: back to back episodes with similar templates, more than once. One episode with childlike being controlled by super beings taking over ship... then another. The first episode involving time travel, immediately followed by another episode with time travel. Were writers copying each other? Did they get obsessed with a theme? Did viewers who watched in real time get bored or annoyed? Or were so few people watching that it didn't matter?

impudent strumpet said...

What's more, so many people seem completely unaware of what they're doing.

How do you arrive at the conclusion that they're unaware rather than they just don't care? Or perhaps that they're using what making-an-effort-to-eat-healthy spoons they have (which, in my experience, are finite) on other things?

impudent strumpet said...

Re: people not being able to explain their recipes well, I've noticed that good, experienced cooks have a lot of trouble writing down an actual recipe, and tend to get frustrated by people who follow recipes to the letter. (My mother and my grandmother never followed a single recipe as written, and they seemed to feel that I was being almost deliberately obtuse because I couldn't just see the fact that it needed to cook for another 10 minutes or have a pinch of flour added or something.) But then I find myself doing it myself once I've figured out how to cook something to my liking. If I were to write down my cooking methods, they'd be full of things like "Add a layer of water" or "Add milk until the colour looks right."

But then this creates a recipe gap, where people who don't know how to cook have trouble learning to cook because they don't know how to cook. I've seen many recipes where I need step-by-step instructions for each step, or where I have literally no clue when to stop stirring (or whatever the verb in the step is).

laura k said...

How do you arrive at the conclusion that they're unaware rather than they just don't care? Or perhaps that they're using what making-an-effort-to-eat-healthy spoons they have (which, in my experience, are finite) on other things?

Based on their comments. "This tasted too salty, I'll look for salt-free beans" doesn't sound to me like someone who knows where sodium content comes from and what to do about it but chooses to do something else. To me it sounds like ignorance.

I didn't see any comments like, I know this stuff isn't very good for you, but I love how quick and convenient it is, or anything along those lines.

Obviously I could be misreading it but I read a lot of comments, and it seemed to lean in one direction.

Spoons (which I call slots) are definitely finite. For me personally, when I'm not going to spend any time on food, I'm going for frozen pizza or some Blue Menu frozen entree. These folks want cook, and want to make their families "homemade" meals - they almost all say that. So I don't think it's a question of spoons.

laura k said...

experienced cooks have a lot of trouble writing down an actual recipe, and tend to get frustrated by people who follow recipes to the letter.

I haven't experienced the frustration, but I do know that many experienced cooks can't translate what they do into recipes.

That's why my mother and I cooked together this past summer. I wanted to know how to make her mushroom-barley soup, and I found out the way to do it was to make it with her and write down what she did. I got the idea from M@, when he told me about cooking with his father-in-law.

But I should add that I didn't learn how to cook from my mother. I learned basic kitchen competency from my both my parents, but I learned to cook by watching cooking shows on TV, following recipes, and reading food writers like Mark Bittman and others.

I don't know if the folks who said "just put whatever in the pot" were necessarily good or experienced cooks. Maybe they didn't want to talk to me! :)

laura k said...

Another thing about my assumption of ignorance is that these folks are posting recipes online, and commenting on posted recipes. They are posting modifications to other people's recipes, what they've tried and how they liked it. This alone makes me think they are choosing to spend some time thinking about and preparing food.