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Jamaica

How to Get Local In Your Neighborhood; Fast Changes in Food; Guest Heretic Graham Ellis Talks about His USDA Sustainability Grant

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How to Get Local In Your Neighborhood; Fast Changes in Food; Guest Heretic Graham Ellis Talks about His USDA Sustainability GrantHas society lost sight of sustainable living in the name of progress? Jamaicans lose sight of coconuts growing above their heads as diseases of modernization take hold of their population. At the same time, Americans vilify every real food leaving them completely at the mercy of food producers while we watch heart disease, cancer and new diseases skyrocket. Is there a way to re-capture our dietary choices of yesteryear? Guest heretic, Graham Ellis of Pono Solutions Consulting, and president of the Hawaii Sustainable Community Alliance describes how his childhood growing up in England not all that long ago is so different from the world we live in today.  His family did quite well eating fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and milk that were not only local, but delivered right to their door on a regular basis. Boy, how things have changed!

The commoditization of food has not only devastated our topsoil, but has raped local economies and deprived people of vibrant health. What can be done to move back to a sustainable society?  Is it possible?  What can you take to move towards this goal?

Listen in as Graham tells us what we can do to recapture our dietary traditions and have a bountiful supply of delicious foods should the supply lines go down.  You'll also learn about his USDA issued grant to help develop sustainability here in Hawaii.

Sustainability is something that will impact us all for the better.  Let's do our part to learn more about how we can do it locally, starting at home:

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Jamaica: Land of Mosquitoes, Machetes and MSG, Part 3

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Being the tropics, mosquitoes are a part of life in Jamaica. I didn’t see anything ridiculous in terms of size, but they can be a menace.

Many places will have mosquito nets on the beds to protect you, but you still may get bitten. My daughter, Daisy, had bites all over and seems to have developed a propensity to scratch senselessly ever since that episode. We hadn’t brought any anti-itch spray, so we relied on two Jamaican remedies with limited relief: rubbing alcohol and fresh aloe gel. If anything, they were just a way to keep busy and feel like you were doing something proactive for the situation.

You may also want to take note that Dengue fever has become a problem in the Caribbean in recent years. I’m not sure if it has hit Jamaica, but shortly after hearing about it, my husband and I wondered if that was really what happened to me when I got sick during our Jamaican visit and not MSG poisoning.

Dengue is nothing to take lightly. When we went to Kauai (one of the Hawaiian islands) last year, we learned that native Kauain surfer, Andy Irons, was killed by Dengue fever after surfing in Puerto Rico earlier that year. So if you get it, make sure you seek appropriate medical attention and fortify your body with cod liver oil, poultry fat or whatever else is necessary to get rid of it.


About Adrienne Hew

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Adrienne Hew is a Certified Nutritionist and the Nutrition Heretic Podcast Host, but is best known online as an author of the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller 50 Ways to Eat Cock: Healthy Chicken Recipes with Balls! Receiving a certificate in Chinese dietetics in 2002 and her degree as a Certified Nutritionist in 2004, she has helped many clients and workshop attendees to decode their own health dilemmas by understanding the inconsistencies in conventional nutritional dogma. She currently resides in Hawaii with her husband and two children.

Jamaica: Land of Mosquitoes, Machetes and MSG, Part 2

OK. So I’m working backwards here, but who cares?

I knew about violence in Jamaica, but was unprepared for the number of machetes that are in this country! EVERYBODY AND THEIR MOTHER (literally) has a machete! And they use them often. There are practical uses such as slaughtering an animal or chopping coconuts open, but unfortunately, they are also used in acts of violence.

For the most part in my family, people were using their machetes for cracking open coconuts. As I mention in another post, Jamaicans hardly ever use coconuts anymore. This, thanks to a pesticide spraying program that killed off the majority of the coconut trees. But also because Jamaicans like other people in the 3rd world, are ashamed of their heritage and instead of eating coconut oil and drinking coconut water, they use processed vegetable oils and drink some crap called bag juice— just what it sounds like, juice (or rather drink) in a bag.

My daughter, left, teaching her cousin the joys of fresh coconut water

My daughter, left, teaching her cousin the joys of fresh coconut water

My daughter loves coconut water and it was interesting to see her, the American kid introduce all of her cousins to this delicious drink. Even now, many of these kids (I am told) are asking their parents for coconut water whenever they see coconuts nearby. So much healthier and cheaper when they can get them in their own backyard!

My cousin had been complaining to me that she was having some knee pain. In fact, her brother suffers from the same problem. He uses bee stings for temporary relief.

After talking to me, she decided to start using her own coconut oil that she makes. Ever since, she has been raving about how none of the pain has ever returned. But darned if she can her brother to at least try it! Now she cooks everything in coconut oil instead of vegetable oil. She saves money and is pain free!

Cuz getting bee sting relief

Cuz getting bee sting relief

The other place we saw the machete used was in the slaughter of a goat. In honor of our arrival and the gift we had given to my younger cousin, they slaughtered one of their many goats which provided many, many meals going forward. It is not easy to watch an animal get slaughtered, but it is a very sobering experience. I think that if more people in our society saw this process, they would be far less wasteful of food and meat in general.

I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a person throw out meat because they are a vegetarian or would rather eat dessert. It is a disrespect that I cannot understand. Even the Dalai Lama eats meat out of respect for the animal as well as his hosts. Who among us thinks of themselves as better than the Dalai Lama?

The saddest machete story came from a friend of an Aunt who lives in Portland — the northeastern part of the country. We were walking in his neighborhood where he was thinking of doing some rafting trips for tourists. He saw a friend walking from the cemetery and told us that he had just lost his son in a bank robbery. The man’s son worked as a security guard in the bank and was “chopped up” as we were told by guys with machetes wanting to rob the bank.

Talk to Jamaicans and they will tell you that this type of violence only happens between gangs and that everyone else, especially tourists, is left alone. Not so, one week after returning to the U.S., we were told of a tourist who was murdered (not sure if it was machete or gun) in the resort where he was staying.

So if you go to Jamaica, you have to look out for more than the MSG, but the violence there is still very real!


About Adrienne Hew

Adrienne-Hew_BlackWhite.jpg

Adrienne Hew is a Certified Nutritionist and the Nutrition Heretic Podcast Host, but is best known online as an author of the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller 50 Ways to Eat Cock: Healthy Chicken Recipes with Balls! Receiving a certificate in Chinese dietetics in 2002 and her degree as a Certified Nutritionist in 2004, she has helped many clients and workshop attendees to decode their own health dilemmas by understanding the inconsistencies in conventional nutritional dogma. She currently resides in Hawaii with her husband and two children.

Jamaica: Land of Mosquitoes, Machetes and MSG, Part 1

This is kinda graphic. So don’t read if you don’t want to know that much about me!

Recently, a reader asked how she can stay healthy while visiting Jamaica. My family is Jamaican, but due to years of civil war, I never had any interest in returning. Then a few years back, my long lost cousin down there needed some cash to partake in a program which would allow her to come to the US and work for the summer. In exchange, her mom offered to give us a place to stay should we come down for a visit.

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Having gone more than 30 years without returning to JA, I decided that the time had come. Especially because I would have been staying with family instead of in a resort, which is really not my style at all.

Anyway, a few days after getting down there, I made my first dietary mistake. We went into town and stopped to get a beef patty. Now, I wasn’t expecting it to be a traditional patty, made with a good suet crust, as the place we bought it is was a chain called “Juicy”. All chain restaurants today use synthetic fats like Crisco and the like. Nonetheless, I was interested in seeing if the flavor in any way resembled what I had grown up with in the Bronx and what I can reproduce in my own kitchen.

Minutes after eating the patty, I was overcome with an intense thirst. MSG! I kept drinking and drinking, but nothing could satisfy my thirst. By the time I had gotten home, my ankles were swollen like tree stumps and my lymph nodes under my chin began to swell and hurt so much that I could barely turn my head. As the day went on, I noticed that I was barely urinating. This continued for days! Little did I know that several meals I had eaten over the following days contained a packet of soup stock that apparently EVERY Jamaican uses. It’s called Cock Soup and it is loaded with MSG.

About a week after our initial arrival, we left my cousin’s house to visit another part of the island — Portland. This is where the accumulation of MSG got nasty. On the way there (a 5 hour drive from my cousin’s house in Santa Cruz), I developed a cough, finding myself continuously coughing up some of the nastiest phlegm ever. Then that night after arriving at our apartment, I began running a fever, followed by intense diarrhea. It seems my body couldn’t figure out how to get rid of the build up of MSG except to make me sicker than I had ever been in my life (barring when I had an intestinal blockage in my 20s).

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As a result of this episode, I spent the next 2 days confined to my bed unable to do anything but sleep. The first day, I ate a little of the food that the Rastaman-caretaker prepared for me (and it was damn good!), but was afraid to eat anything that I didn’t prepare myself. So I ended up eating mostly fruit and drinking coconut water, which only made me severely hypoglycemic in the absence of any savory foods. It wasn’t until I headed to Kingston where we stayed in the Kingston Retreat that had a stove that I was finally able to make myself some chicken soup and other nourishing dishes with my own sea salt that I had brought with me from the U.S. Even so, it took me 4 weeks after my return to the U.S. before I actually felt well again.

Looking back, I guess I could have talked more extensively with some Rasta dudes to find out what exactly they used in their cooking. They’re food is supposed to be ital, which basically means that it is supposed to be pure, using only naturally derived ingredients. Even though, it’s mainly a vegetarian diet with the exception of some fish, they are supposed to use things like coconut oil, which other Jamaicans have all but forgotten.

In Jamaica, everybody believes that their food is natural, even those who are using Cock Soup and rancid vegetable oils in all of their recipes. And as much as I hate to say it, the island mentality doesn’t exactly lend itself to getting real answers to questions like “What do you use in that?” I was too exhausted to really get into any conversation that was unlikely to get me any real answers.

So how do you stay healthy on a Jamaican vacation?

1. Bring a packet of sea salt — especially if you are MSG sensitive like me. You will probably need to cook most of your food.

2. Seek out Rastas, if you’re eating out. Talk to them about what EXACTLY they are cooking with. Just hope they’re not too high to understand what you’re saying.

3. Go to outdoor markets to buy food you plan to cook. Big supermarkets and butcher shops should be good for animal based foods. But most chickens are fed “feed”, so just be aware. At least they do get to run about.

4. Don’t eat the patties. Interestingly enough, I have lots of recipes for patties in cookbooks that have been printed outside of Jamaica and not one of them contains MSG. ALL of the cookbooks in Jamaica tell you to add MSG or a Chinese version of it called ve-ting (or something like that).

5. Foods like rice and peas or jerk pork/chicken should be devoid of MSG and should be OK. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a jerk recipe in Jamaica that had MSG in it.

6. You probably want to avoid Chinese restaurants.

7. Upscale places may be OK and the people who work there are used to dealing with tourists, so you may get a straightforward answer to questions about what’s in the meal.

I’ll be back to talk about the other two M’s of Jamaica soon.


About Adrienne Hew

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Adrienne Hew is a Certified Nutritionist and the Nutrition Heretic Podcast Host, but is best known online as an author of the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller 50 Ways to Eat Cock: Healthy Chicken Recipes with Balls! Receiving a certificate in Chinese dietetics in 2002 and her degree as a Certified Nutritionist in 2004, she has helped many clients and workshop attendees to decode their own health dilemmas by understanding the inconsistencies in conventional nutritional dogma. She currently resides in Hawaii with her husband and two children.

Travel souvenirs: What are the best souvenirs to bring back?

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Traveling around different parts of the world, it’s always a challenge to find things that are new. In this age of globalization, it is easy to find the same boring stuff in practically every corner of the world. Of course I mainly only traveled to first world countries, or at least countries in the same hemisphere as me, but I still find that there are very few unique products that I can bring back to the United States.

So on all of our trips, we make it a point to go to health food stores or other specialty stores that don’t exist where we come from. One of the best things you can bring back from a trip is sea salt. Salt is the original local food.  We have a small collection of sea salt from all over the world:   Italy, Hawaii, Sicily, Spain, France, Germany, and so many other places. Each salt has its own character. The textures, subtle sweetness or lack thereof, are quite fascinating and are a nice touch to any meal you make when you return home.

Another thing I love to get when it bring back to the United States, so that I can enjoy them in the comfort of my own home is honey. Honey has got to be the other original local food. We have eaten local honeys from Spain, Jamaica, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Italy and France and just finished up a jar from Germany. It’s really fantastic to taste all the different flavors depending on what the bees are feeding on thyme flowers, coffee flowers or something else. The flavors are completely different and complex. Some surprisingly not as sweet as others and others so sweet it’s almost like a punch in the face.

One great food we like to bring back from our travels is coffee. I know, I know everybody says you shouldn’t be drinking coffee. However, even some of the strictest health gurus today are admitting that they enjoy a good cup of coffee every now and again. Remember when we talk about moderation we talk about real foods. And coffee in my opinion is one of those real food. Surprisingly, the coffee that I found the best in all of my travels over the last 10 years, is supposedly not the Kona coffee from Hawaii, nor is it the blue Mountain coffee from Jamaica. It certainly wasn’t the Costa Rican coffee that I had down there a few years ago. It wasn’t even the French coffee or the Italian espresso or cappuccino (which is the past was one of my favorite treats), but it was the coffee in Germany all places.  Germany had the absolute best tasting coffee I have had probably in my life. What was so great about it? It didn’t have a really acidic flavor and it didn’t even leave an aftertaste in my mouth. So we ended up bringing back about 4 pounds of it just enjoying at home. We drink a little (mine with lots of milk) on the weekends. A nice memory of a relaxing vacation in the exciting city of Berlin.

One last food that we like to bring back, but have to be careful with is cheese. You can only bring hard cheeses back into the United States. For the most part, in Europe at least you can still purchase wonderful raw milk cheeses which are packed with digestible nutrients lost in pasteurized versions. You are allowed to bring these back to the States technically, but with ridiculous raw milk regulations constantly becoming stricter and stricter in the US (so much for a free  country), it is more and more difficult to bring this back.

So sometimes if there is really good hard cheese from a place like Switzerland, I’ll buy a few pounds the day before I leave, have it vacuum sealed and put it in my suitcase. This is an amazing treat because the quality far surpasses most cheeses available in the  United States.

The final and most important thing that I like to bring back for myself is a cookbook — sometimes translated to English, sometimes not. Whatever I do, I make sure the cookbook focuses on traditional ingredients — the ones that have kept people healthy for centuries, not the politically correct versions that ruin every dish by using cheap vegetable oils or perhaps worse, giving low-fat advice. These books reveal the real ways that people eat, not the sanitized version pushed by overpaid scientists who lose their funding if they don’t push low quality industrialized products on people.

For my friends, I often will buy them one of the above gifts — if I have room. If not, a new thing I have found to be a great gift is shopping bags. Every supermarket in Europe seems to have reusable shopping bags for only a Euro each. They are often made of excellent quality and are a nice practical and compact souvenir that anyone would appreciate.

So what do you like to bring back from your travels? Well at least what you like to bring back that’s legal to bring back?


About Adrienne Hew

Adrienne-Hew_BlackWhite.jpg

Adrienne Hew is a Certified Nutritionist and the Nutrition Heretic Podcast Host, but is best known online as an author of the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller 50 Ways to Eat Cock: Healthy Chicken Recipes with Balls! Receiving a certificate in Chinese dietetics in 2002 and her degree as a Certified Nutritionist in 2004, she has helped many clients and workshop attendees to decode their own health dilemmas by understanding the inconsistencies in conventional nutritional dogma. She currently resides in Hawaii with her husband and two children.

Why purchase coconut oil when you can make it?

For centuries, people of the tropics have known the coconut to be one of the healthiest and most life-sustaining foods available. Unfortunately, due to a plethora of misinformation created by manufacturers of synthetic oils and nutrient-free juice drinks, the coconut has fallen out of favor even in those countries where it is amply found.

Such is the case in Jamaica. This summer, I was fortunate enough to visit members of my extended family that I barely new existed until a few years ago. Having cousins visit from their American cousin was a big deal and the two weeks we spent there were filled with many culinary delights.

At my request, my cousin, Jackie, showed me the traditional way that Jamaicans make coconut oil — a craft she learned from her mother, but so few younger Jamaicans are familiar with as their diet gives way to margarine and “bag juice” (essentially Kool-Aid in a bag). As expected, their health is suffering from this dramatic shift. Where not very long ago Jamaicans easily lived to the ripe old age of 100+ and vibrant until the end, now they succumb to diseases such as dementia, diabetes and cancer in their 60s, 70s and 80s. In fact, we had just missed the funeral of a 70-year old aunt a month earlier.

Typically, Jamaican coconut oil is not the organic virgin coconut oil that is finally getting it’s due in North American and European alternative health circles, but it seems to be just as effective at warding off disease and curing infections, thyroid and yeast conditions. The only issue I have with Jamaican coconut oil is that it is often made in aluminum pots since aluminum manufacturing is one of its largest industries along with tourism. (Driving the countryside in the parish of St. Elizabeth, you’ll notice very red soil. This contains bauxite, the mineral which makes aluminium.)

Here are a few photos of my cousin making Jamaican coconut oil.

First, she must tear the husk from the coconut which is deep inside.

tear the husk from the coconut

tear the husk from the coconut

coconut meat must be grated

coconut meat must be grated

Then, copra (dried flesh) or coconut meat (fresh flesh) must be grated.

Here, you can see the difference between the copra (left) and the fresh coconut meat (right).The copra has a slightly translucent appearance. When it is opened, there is no water left inside and it feels rather oily to the touch. This is the preferred coconut used to make coconut oil.

copra and fresh coconut meat

copra and fresh coconut meat

coconut being boiled

coconut being boiled

In this photo, you can see the coconut being boiled. As I stated above, this does not seem to destroy the beneficial properties much at all. When the water boils off, the oil rises to the top and a piece of coal (taken from the burned hardwood at the barbecue) is thrown in for a rich, roasted flavor!

For more information on the many benefits of coconut oil, consult one of the many excellent books by Bruce Fife.


About Adrienne Hew

Adrienne-Hew_BlackWhite.jpg

Adrienne Hew is a Certified Nutritionist and the Nutrition Heretic Podcast Host, but is best known online as an author of the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller 50 Ways to Eat Cock: Healthy Chicken Recipes with Balls! Receiving a certificate in Chinese dietetics in 2002 and her degree as a Certified Nutritionist in 2004, she has helped many clients and workshop attendees to decode their own health dilemmas by understanding the inconsistencies in conventional nutritional dogma. She currently resides in Hawaii with her husband and two children.

Kingston Retreat

Kingston Hideaway

Kingston Hideaway

Jamaica has long had a reputation for violence as much as it does for its beautiful beaches. Kingston, the capitol, particularly conjures up images of gang wars and fighting in the streets. So I was conflicted and pretty nervous when a distant aunt invited my family to visit her in Kingston during our Jamaica trip. Of course, she had helped us tremendously by cluing us in on nice (safe) places to visit and the best methods of transportation around the island, so we felt obliged to pay her a visit. The only question I had was, would we be able to rent an apartment as we do everywhere else? Or would we be stuck in a hotel?

A quick internet search revealed that self-catering apartments were indeed available in Kingston, but the reviews were mixed and personal safety still remained a concern despite my aunt’s assurances. Then I stumbled upon the Blue Mountain Lofts, a beautiful house perched 20 minutes above the city at the foot of the Blue Mountains in a small town called Irish Town, famous for the renowned  Strawberry Hill Resort  owned by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell.

For only  $75/night (off season) we rented this lovely property that sleeps seven and is well-stocked with all the amenities you might need from bedding and towels to tea, rice and other staples that might help you prepare a meal. It even has warm water in the showers! A rare treat in Jamaica. Whatever  else you need (meat, produce, beverages) might be found in one of the small stores along the road a mere 2 minutes walk away. If there are any specialty items you absolutely need, make sure to stock up in town before you take the taxi or bus back up the hill.

Lush gardens surround the house

Lush gardens surround the house

If you prefer not to cook though, right in town is the Café Blue where you can get a great Jamaican meal, cup of authentic Blue Mountain coffee and one of the best cheesecakes anywhere in the world!  Further down the road (probably want to take a taxi), there is another clean little hut where you can get other Jamaican specialties. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to stop there.

The caretaker, Mrs. Schroeter, and cleaning lady who lives next door are excellent hosts, seeing to your every need. You are not only left with contact numbers for each of them, but also a cell phone is left in the house to make your experience more comfortable.

Night view of Kingston from 3000 feet above

Night view of Kingston from 3000 feet above

The only piece of advice I can give you is that if you are going into Kingston, especially on a weekend day, take the local bus (about 30 cents US per person) up towards the final destination a few minutes up the road. Buses on the weekend are particularly infrequent and are likely to be jam packed on the way back down, so this way you reserve your seat early. When you are coming back up from Kingston, you can take the bus or take a taxi, which runs about US$1 per person. Although some people seem to have reservations about the taxi drivers in Kingston, note that the bus may not leave for an hour or so from the main stop. These buses cram as many people as possible into them and won’t leave until they are packed to the hilt. So plan your time wisely.

If you really need to stay in the center of town, then by all means do so. But if you’re like my family and want to experience some peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of the city with the occasional trip into town, then I cannot give a higher recommendation than the Blue Mountain Lofts home in Irish Town.


About Adrienne Hew

Adrienne-Hew_BlackWhite.jpg

Adrienne Hew is a Certified Nutritionist and the Nutrition Heretic Podcast Host, but is best known online as an author of the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller 50 Ways to Eat Cock: Healthy Chicken Recipes with Balls! Receiving a certificate in Chinese dietetics in 2002 and her degree as a Certified Nutritionist in 2004, she has helped many clients and workshop attendees to decode their own health dilemmas by understanding the inconsistencies in conventional nutritional dogma. She currently resides in Hawaii with her husband and two children.