Thursday, July 30, 2009

Another reason to avoid MSG

The Surprising Ingredient Causing Weight Gain By Margaret Furtado, M.S., R.D. - Posted Mon, Jul 27, 2009, 12:23 am PDT
75% of users found this article helpful.

Here is the article from yahoo today..this article will disappear and I won't know where to find it, so I am putting it here....and sharing it with my blog readers...
To your health!

Say it isn't so! A recent study out of the University of Carolina at Chapel Hill cites what animal studies have hinted at for years: MSG (aka monosodium glutamate) could be a factor in weight gain.

The study focused on 750 Chinese men and women, ages 40-59, living in 3 rural villages in north and south China. Most of the study subjects prepared their meals at home without commercially processed foods and roughly 82 percent used MSG. Those participants who used the highest amounts of MSG had nearly 3 times the incidence of overweight as those who did not use MSG, even when physical activity, total caloric intake, and other possible explanations for body mass differences were accounted for. The positive correlation between MSG and higher weight confirmed what animal studies have been suggesting for years.

Maybe you're wondering what monosodium glutamate is exactly, and what you can do to avoid it in your diet. MSG is a flavor enhancer in foods—some believe it may even provide a fifth basic taste sensation (in addition to sweet, sour, salt, and bitter), what the Japanese call "umami" (roughly translated as "tastiness"). MSG is considered an "excitotoxin," since its action in the body is to excite neurotransmitters (important brain chemicals), causing nerve cells to discharge and also exciting nerves related to taste. Perhaps this ability to excite these nerves is a factor in an association between increased MSG usage and weight gain.

How prevalent is MSG in the U.S. diet? Americans consumed about 1 million pounds of MSG in 1950, and today that number has increased by a factor of 300!

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) describes MSG as "naturally occurring," and has it on the GRAS ("generally regarded as safe") list. However, not only could MSG be causing us to gain weight, but some studies also reveal that as many as 25 to 30 percent of Americans have adverse reactions to it (e.g., palpitations and migraine headaches), and as many as 30 percent are extra sensitive to it if they consume more than 5 grams at one sitting.

OK, if you're an MSG user who could stand to lose a little weight (or know someone who is), what should you do?

Unfortunately, eliminating MSG from the diet is much easier said than done, since—given the fact that food processors often change recipes—there's no list of "safe" foods that never contain MSG. A good start is to avoid anything with MSG anywhere in the ingredient list, but there will still be many foods that have MSG hidden inside other ingredients. Likewise, even products labeled "no MSG added" can still contain these hidden sources.

Best bets for avoiding MSG
Buy organic produce whenever possible.

Make things from scratch, avoiding processed ingredients as much as possible.
Limit making stews or soups in a crock pot, since slow-cooking tends to cause small amounts of glutamic acid to be released from the protein sources (e.g., meat, chicken) in the recipe.

© 2007 Johns Hopkins University. All Rights Reserved. This article from Johns Hopkins University is provided as a service by Yahoo. All materials are produced independently by Johns Hopkins University, which is solely responsible for its content.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Another Not So Good Eat. Read your Labels!

I am cutting and pasting the entire article here....I shared this information with Amy and she told me MSG can be added to foods but under the natural flavoring entire ends with stuff about aspartame.

MSG - Slowly
Poisoning America

Author Unknown

I wondered if there could be an actual chemical causing the massive obesity epidemic, so did a friend of mine, John Erb. He was a research assistant at the University of Waterloo, and spent years working for the government.

He made an amazing discovery while going through scientific journals for a book he was writing called The Slow Poisoning of America. In hundreds of studies around the world, scientists were creating obese mice and rats to use in diet or diabetes test studies.

No strain of rat or mice is naturally obese, so the scientists have to create them. They make these morbidly obese creatures by injecting them with a chemical when they are first born. The MSG triples the amount of insulin the pancreas creates, causing rats (and humans?) to become obese They even have a title for the race of fat rodents they create: "MSG-Treated Rats" .


I was shocked too. I went to my kitchen, checking the cupboards and the fridge.

MSG was in everything! The Campbell's soups, the Hostess Doritos, the Lays flavored potato chips, Top Ramen, Betty Crocker Hamburger Helper, Heinz canned gravy, Swanson frozen prepared meals, Kraft salad dressings, especially the 'healthy low fat' ones. The items that didn't have MSG had something called Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, which is just another name for Monosodium Glutamate. It was shocking to see just how many of the foods we feed our children everyday are filled with this stuff. They hide MSG under many different names in order to fool those who catch on.

But it didn't stop there. When our family went out to eat, we started asking at the restaurants what menu items had MSG. Many employees, even the managers, swore they didn't use MSG. But when we ask for the ingredient list, which they grudgingly provided, sure enough MSG and Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein were everywhere. Burger King, McDonalds, Wendy's, Taco Bell, every restaurant, even the sit down ones like TGIF, Chilis', Applebees and Denny's use MSG in abundance. Kentucky Fried Chicken seemed to be the WORST offender: MSG was in every chicken dish, salad dressing and gravy. No wonder I loved to eat that coating on the skin, their secret spice was MSG!

So why is MSG in so may of the foods we eat? Is it a preservative or a vitamin?

Not according to my friend John. In the book he wrote, an expose of the food additive industry called The Slow Poisoning of America, ( ), he said that MSG is added to food for the addictive effect it has on the human body.

Even the propaganda website sponsored by the food manufacturers lobby group supporting MSG at explains that the reason they add it to food is to make people eat more. A study of elderly people showed that people eat more of the foods that it is added to. The Glutamate Association lobby group says eating more benefits the elderly, but what does it do to the rest of us?

'Betcha can't eat just one', takes on a whole new meaning where MSG is concerned!

And we wonder why the nation is overweight? The MSG manufacturers themselves admit that it addicts people to their products. It makes people choose their product over others, and makes people eat more of it than they would if MSG wasn't added.

Not only is MSG scientifically proven to cause obesity, it is an addictive substance: NICOTINE for FOOD!

Since its introduction into the American food supply fifty years ago, MSG has been added in larger and larger doses to the prepackaged meals, soups, snacks and fast foods we are tempted to eat everyday.

The FDA has set no limits on how much of it can be added to food. They claim it's safe to eat in any amount.

How can they claim it is safe when there are hundreds of scientific studies with titles like these?

The monosodium glutamate (MSG) obese rat as a model for the study of exercise in obesity. Gobatto CA, Mello MA, Souza CT, Ribeiro IA. Res Commun Mol Pathol Pharmacol. 2002

Adrenalectomy abolishes the food-induced hypothalamic serotonin release in both normal and monosodium glutamate-obese rats. Guimaraes RB, Telles MM, Coelho VB, Mori RC, Nascimento CM, Ribeiro Brain Res Bull. 2002 Aug

Obesity induced by neonatal monosodium glutamate treatment in spontaneously hypertensive rats: an animal model of multiple risk factors. Iwase M, Yamamoto M, Iino K, Ichikawa K, Shinohara N, Yoshinari Fujishima

Hypertens Res. 1998 Mar

Hypothalamic lesion induced by injection of monosodium glutamate in suckling period and subsequent development of obesity. Tanaka K, Shimada M, Nakao K, Kusunoki Exp Neurol. 1978 Oct

Yes, that last study was not a typo, it WAS written in 1978. Both the medical research community and food "manufaturers" have known MSG's side effects for decades!

Many more studies mentioned in John Erb's book link MSG to Diabetes,

Migraines and headaches, Autism, ADHD and even Alzheimer's.

But what can we do to stop the food manufactures from dumping fattening and addictive MSG into our food supply and causing the obesity epidemic we now see?

Even as you read this, George W. Bush and his corporate supporters are pushing a Bill through Congress. Called the "Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act" also known as the "Cheeseburger Bill", this sweeping law bans anyone from suing food manufacturers, sellers and distributors. Even if it comes out that they purposely added an addictive chemical to their foods. Read about it for yourself at: tmpl=story&u=/ap/20040311/ap_on_go_co/obesity_lawsuits_4

The Bill has already been rushed through the House of Representatives, and is due for the same rubber stamp at Senate level. It is important that Bush and his corporate supporters get it through before the media lets everyone know about MSG, the intentional Nicotine for food.

Several months ago, John Erb took his book and his concerns to one of the highest government health officials in Canada. While sitting in the Government office, the official told him "Sure I know how bad MSG is, I wouldn't touch the stuff!" But this top level government official refused to tell the public what he knew.

The big media doesn't want to tell the public either, fearing legal issues with their advertisers. It seems that the fallout on the fast food industry may hurt their profit margin.

So what do we do?

The food producers and restaurants have been addicting us to their products for years, and now we are paying the price for it.

Our children should not be cursed with obesity caused by an addictive food additive.

But what can I do about it? I'm just one voice, what can I do to stop the poisoning of our children, while guys like Bush are insuring financial protection for the industry that is poisoning us.

I for one am doing something about it.

I am sending this email out to everyone I know in an attempt to show you the truth that the corporate owned politicians and media won't tell you.

The best way you can help save yourself and your children from this drug-induced epidemic, is to forward this email to everyone. With any luck, it will circle the globe before Bush can pass the Bill protecting those who poisoned us.

The food industry learned a lot from the tobacco industry. Imagine if big tobacco had a bill like this in place before someone blew the whistle on Nicotine?

Blow the whistle on MSG.

If you are one of the few who can still believe that MSG is good for us, and you don't believe what John Erb has to say, see for yourself. Go to the National Library of Medicine, at . Type in the words "MSG Obese", and read a few of the 115 medical studies that appear.

We do not want to be rats in one giant experiment, and we do not approve of food that makes us into a nation of obese, lethargic, addicted sheep, waiting for the slaughter.

With your help we can put an end to this, and stop the Slow Poisoning of America. Let's save our children

Hidden Sources Of MSG In Foods
From the book 'Excitotoxins - The Taste That Kills'
By Dr. Russell Blaylock, MD

What if someone were to tell you that a chemical (MSG) added to food could cause brain damage in your children, and that this chemical could effect how your children's nervous systems formed during development so that in later years they may have learning or emotional difficulties?

What if there was scientific evidence that these chemicals could permanently damage a critical part of the brain known to control hormones so that later in life your child might have endocrine problems? How would you feel?

Suppose evidence was presented to you strongly suggesting that the artificial sweetener in your diet soft drink may cause brain tumors to develop, and that the number of brain tumors reported since the introduction of this widespread introduction of this artificial sweetener has risen dramatically? Would that affect your decision to drink these products and especially to allow your children to drink them? What if you could be shown overwhelming evidence that one of the main ingredients in this sweetener (aspartate) could cause the same brain lesions as MSG? Would that affect your buying decisions?

And finally, what if it could be demonstrated that all of these types of chemicals, called excitotoxins, could possibly aggravate or even precipitate many of today's epidemic neurodegenerative brain diseases such as Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, ALS, and Alzheimer's disease? Would you be concerned if you knew that these excitotoxin food additives are a particular risk if you have diabetes, or have ever had a stroke, brain injury, brain tumor, seizure, or have suffered from hypertension, meningitis, or viral encephalitis?

Would you also be upset to learn that many of the brain lesions caused by these products in your children are irreversible and can result from a SINGLE exposure of these products in sufficient concentration?

How would you feel when you learn the food industry hides and disguises these excitotoxin additives (MSG and Aspartate) so they can't be recognized? Incredulous? Enraged? The fact is many foods are labeled as having "No MSG" but in fact not only contain MSG but also are laced with other excitotoxins of equal potency and danger.

All of the above are true. And all of these well known brain toxins are poured into our food and drink by the thousands of tons to boost sales. These additives have NO OTHER purpose other than to enhance to TASTE of food and the SWEETNESS of various diet products.

Hidden Sources Of MSG
As discussed previously, the glutamate (MSG) manufacturers and the processed food industries are always on a quest to disguise the MSG added to food. Below is a partial list of the most common names for disguised MSG. Remember also that the powerful excitotoxins, aspartate and L-cystine, are frequently added to foods and according to FDA rules require NO LABELING AT ALL.
* Food Additives that ALWAYS contain MSG *

Monosodium Glutamate
Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
Hydrolyzed Protein
Hydrolyzed Plant Protein
Plant Protein Extract
Sodium Caseinate
Calcium Caseinate
Yeast Extract
Textured Protein (Including TVP)
Autolyzed Yeast
Hydrolyzed Oat Flour
Corn Oil

* Food Additives That FREQUENTLY Contain MSG *

Malt Extract
Malt Flavoring
Natural Flavors/Flavoring
Natural Beef Or Chicken Flavoring

* Food Additives That MAY Contain MSG Or Excitotoxins *

Soy Protein Concentrate
Soy Protein Isolate
Whey Protein Concentrate
Also: Protease Enzymes of various sources can release excitotoxin amino acids from food proteins.

Aspartame - An Intense Source Of Excitotoxins

Aspartame is a sweetener made from two amino acids, phenylalanine and the excitotoxin aspartate. It should be avoided at all costs. Aspartame complaints accounts for approximately 70% of ALL complaints to the FDA. It is implicated in everything from blindness to headaches to convulsions. Sold under dozens of brand names such as NutraSweet and Equal, aspartame breaks down within 20 minutes at room temperature into several primary toxic and dangerous ingredients:
1. DKP (diketopiperazine) (When ingested, converts to a near duplicate of
a powerful brain tumor causing agent)
2. Formic Acid (ant venom)
3. Formaldehyde (embalming fluid)
4. Methanol (causes blindness...extremely dangerous substance)
Common Examples:
Diet soft drinks, sugar free gums, sugar free Kool Aid, Crystal Light, childrens' medications, and thousands of other products claiming to be 'low calorie', 'diet', or 'sugar free'.
A Final Note...
Dr. Blaylock recounted a meeting with a senior executive in the food additive industry who told him point blank that these excitotoxins are going to be in our food no matter how many name changes are necessary...


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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Cone or Cup?

True or False? Licking ice cream is more satisfying than eating it with a spoon.
True, according to Kay McMath, a food technologist for New Zealand's Massey University. "Flavor in ice cream is released when the fat-which carries the flavor-is warmed to at least body temperature," says McMath. When you lick ice cream it coats the tongue and fully warms the frozen treat. A spoon, on the other hand, insulates the ice cream. And then there's the psychological aspect of savoring the treat more slowly: you just cannot lick ice cream as fast as you can spoon it.
Now I know why my dad loves to eat his ice cream in a cone! For those of us who want to cut calories a bit, cone eating is get maximum taste and enjoyment with less actual ice cream...sometimes when I eat ice cream in a bowl or cup, I want a second (or even third) bowl. Not good. Too greedy. Puts on weight.
So choice is...cone!

Friday, July 24, 2009


I am craving a nice hot dish of bulghur..or as they call it at "The Pita Stop" (A Mid East restaurant here in the high desert),burghul. Pronounced "BURR gul".


2 tablesppons butter or oil
1 cup bulgur or burghul
2 cups water or broth

Saute until golden the burghul in the butter or oil. Add the 2 cups broth or water. Bring to a gentle boil, stir, cover and cook over low heat 20 minutes (like you do withr ice) or unitl bulghut is fluffy and liquid is absorbed. Makes 2 cups. Serve as side dish like you would rice.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hot Dogs Are NOT a "Good Eat"

This just in...(Yet, reseacrh showed this 30 years ago which is why we never gave our kids hot dogs....)I believe it is the nitrates in processed meat that causes the cancer. I also have believed that Vit. C can be a good antidote to the nitrates.
We do eat vegetarian hot dogs...they taste the same!

Do hot dogs need warning labels?

NEWARK, N.J. - Hot dogs may be as American as baseball and apple pie, but an anti-meat advocacy group says they're hazardous to your health and should carry warning labels.
The group, called the Cancer Project, wants to force hot dog makers to use warning labels. An offshoot of a pro-vegetarian organization, the Cancer Project filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Superior Court in Newark on behalf of three New Jersey residents. The defendants are Kraft Foods Inc., manufacturer of the Oscar Mayer brand; Sara Lee Corp.; Nathan's Famous; and the makers of the Hebrew National and Sabrett brands.
The lawsuit cites a report by the American Institute for Cancer Research that concluded regular consumption of processed meat can increase the risk of colorectal and other forms of cancer

The 9 Inch Plate Diet

Fitness Special: The Nine-Inch Plate Diet
An author has figured out why Americans are so fat. And he's on a mission to change our eating habits—one (small) plate at a time.
By Kirsten Matthew

Photos: Courtesy The 9 Inch Diet

Alex Bogusky doesn't think bigger is better. He believes we should think small—especially if we want to stay trim. The idea that if you eat less, you weigh less is hardly a new concept, but it's one that Alex has packaged into a tidy little eating plan and book, The 9-Inch Diet, that hits stores this week.

His "eureka" moment came after buying a 1940s lake house. The co-chairman of Crispin Porter + Bogusky, an ad agency, discovered the old kitchen cabinets wouldn't fit his dinner plates. So he did some research and found out that in the past 30 years, plates have gone from 8.5 inches in diameter to 12 inches.

Those plates get piled high with food in homes across the country and that, Alex says, is the reason why so many of us are packing on the pounds. His remedy is simple: It doesn't matter what you eat, just eat 9 inches of it—not 12. And when it comes to snacks, Alex says, stick to healthy ones and don't eat too many. The same goes for booze: "Nothing more than a glass of wine with dinner," he advises.
The 45-year-old admits that eating out is the biggest challenge to his plan. "Of all the things restaurants have to provide—staff, furniture, ambience—food is the cheapest," he says. "That dynamic has forced them to give us too much. And we've followed with our portions at home."

Next to Japan, we eat at restaurants more than any other nation in the world—4.2 times a week to be exact. And folks in the Big Apple dine out even more often: According to the Department of Health, New Yorkers get at least a third of their calorie intake away from home.

The obesity rate in Italy and France is almost 70 percent lower than in the U.S. That's because "their standard plate size is still 10 inches," says Alex, compared with our 12.

To fix that, Alex, who lives in Boulder, Colo., but is a regular visitor to NYC (his dad grew up in the Bronx), suggests we throw out our crockery and start over. Within a week of eating on smaller plates, he claims, our stomachs and brains will be sated by smaller servings.

But what about those of us who eat out for every meal? "No diet is going to work if you do that," Alex explains. But if you do, you should start thinking creatively about how to avoid overeating. Order off the kids' menu, for example. "It's a great tip!" the author exclaims. "Don't be embarrassed about it." Or order a regular meal, then eat only the part that fits on a salad plate. "If the server won't bring you one, spread out your hand. That's the area your food should fit into," says Alex, who has lost 15 pounds by following his own plan for the past four years.

His favorite tip? Stuff a paper plate in your bag (typically they are 9 inches in diameter) so you always have a guide. "If you're dedicated, it's not that weird," says Alex.
"I like the idea of carrying something around with you," he says of his paper plate tip. "It's just strange enough to catch on. Someone needs to come up with a line of plates that travel," he adds. "Maybe I'll do a collaboration with Kate Spade."

Ali Nazik recipe

I am fascinated by Ali Nazik and am putting the recipe here so I can find it again and make it. Find the recipe at

The site would not let me cut and paste it...

essence of frozen custard

When you go get a frozen custard anywhere...first get a small vanilla cone. That is the best way. Cool "velvet on the tongue". A spoon just muddles the experience. Then after you have enjoyed the pure essence of the vanilla variety, you can get another flavor or a sundae. Go hungry. Around 5:30 pm. Call it supper. You're blissfully done eating for the day.

Frozen Custard Sundae

Frozen Custard is on my mind lately. I was so pleasantly surprised, when on a recent trip to Silverthrone, Colorado, they had a custard place called "Good Times". The photos above are taken from the website

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bottled Water

AP – FILE - In this June 3, 2008 file photo, Liberty Valley Elementary School, then, kindergarten student

I wanted to save this article that was posted on yahoo today because I may never find it again .... not only do we have to worry about the quallity of the water in store bought water bottles, we have the problem of the plastic it is stored in...

Stricter labeling urged for bottled water
By EMILY FREDRIX, AP Food Industry Writer Emily Fredrix, Ap Food Industry Writer Wed Jul 8, 7:41 pm ET

Consumers know less about the water they pay dearly for in bottles than what they can drink almost for free from the tap because the two are regulated differently, congressional investigators and nonprofit researchers say in new reports.
Both the Government Accountability Office and the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, recommend in reports released Wednesday that bottled water be labeled with the same level of information municipal water providers must disclose.
The researchers urged Americans to make bottled water "a distant second choice" to filtered tap water because there isn't enough information about bottled water. The working group recommends purifying tap water with a commercial filter, however.
Both reports were released at a congressional subcommittee Wednesday morning.
Bottled water — an industry worth about $16 billion in sales last year — has been suffering lately as colleges, communities and some governments take measures to limit or ban its consumption. As employers, they are motivated by cost savings and environmental concern because the bottles often are not recycled.
Bottled water sales were growing by double-digit percentages for years and were helping buoy the U.S. beverage industry overall. But they were flat last year, according to trade publication Beverage Digest.
Beverage Digest editor John Sicher said some consumers are turning on the tap during the recession simply because it's cheaper.
From 1997 to 2007, the amount of bottled water consumed per person in the U.S. more than doubled, from 13.4 gallons to 29.3 gallons, the GAO report said.
The issue before a subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee was less about waste and water quality concerns and more about the mechanics of regulating bottled water.
As a food product, bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and required to show nutrition information and ingredients on its labels. Municipal water is under the control of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The two agencies have similar standards for water quality, but the FDA has less authority to enforce them, the GAO said, and the environmental agency requires much more testing.
Subcommittee chairman Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., said the subcommittee was requesting information Wednesday from a dozen bottled water companies on their water sources, treatment methods and two years' results of contaminant testing. It was not immediately clear which companies were being contacted.
"Consumers may not realize that many regulations that apply to municipalities responsible for tap water do not apply to companies that produce bottled water," he said in statements opening the hearing.
The GAO noted the FDA has yet to set standards for DEHP, one of several chemicals known as phthalates that are found in many household products, while the EPA limits the presence of phthalates in tap water.
In a survey of officials in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the GAO found they think consumers are misinformed about bottled water.
"Many replied that consumers often believe that bottled water is safer or healthier than tap water," according to the GAO report.
The Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group said in its report that consumers do not get enough information to determine which water is best for them.
Both groups said some bottled water brands include the same information required of tap water providers on either labels or company Web sites.
The GAO called for more research but said the FDA should start by requiring that bottled water labels tell consumers where to find out more.
Community water systems must distribute annual reports about their water's source, contaminants and possible health concerns.
Consumers should know where all their water comes from, how it is treated and what is found in it, said Richard Wiles, senior vice president for policy and communications for the Environmental Working Group.
"If the municipal tap water systems can tell their customers this information, you would think that bottled water companies that charge 1,000 times more for this water could also let consumers know the same thing," he told The Associated Press.
The bottled water industry's trade group, the International Bottled Water Association, planned to testify Wednesday that the product, — subject to the same regulation as other soft drinks, teas, juices and other beverages — is safe. Additional standards apply for bottled water products labeled as "purified water" or "spring water," among other labels, because they must prove a connection to those sources, according to planned testimony from Joseph Doss, president and chief executive of the International Bottled Water Association.
Doss said consumers can learn about bottled water by contacting the company, reading its Web site and visiting sites run by state governments.
State safeguards for bottled water often exceed the federal, though they are less stringent than for tap water, the GAO wrote.
The trade group declined to comment on the reports before they are released

Difference between Mid East and Turkish Food

(Food Photo shows Ali Nazik....
We went to San Diego today for John's Dr. appointment and picked up the San Diego reader, which comes out weekly. This restaurant review was so informative, I had to save it here, and the photo that came with the article...enjoy!

Gimme More Turkey
By Naomi Wise | Published Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Pasha Mediterranean Grill & Café
3614 Fifth Avenue, San Diego, 619-294-4444

Pasha drew my eye with an ad in this paper, including a coupon for a freebie appetizer platter. Hmm...a new bargain destination? Worth trying? I scurried to the website and found that the restaurant wasn’t just another generic Mediterranean eatery but specifically Turkish. Now that’s something fresh! (There’s also the charming Bird House Grill in Encinitas, and a doner-kebab joint downtown, but that’s about it for Turkish, far as I know.) The menu revealed standard Middle Eastern dishes, but also several distinctly Turkish specialties I’d never encountered before — two salads, three entrées, a dessert. Good enough for a start. And this would be third in a row for an exploration of new or newish restaurants serving various global forms of “barbecue,” after Southern and Japanese, and leading right in to July 4. Posse roundup time!

Several of my friends have traveled in Turkey. They’ve come back raving about their trips but not so much about the food. Still, knowing a trifle about Turkish history, I’m curious about the cuisine.

First off, Turks are not generic “Middle Easterners,” even if they share a common religion in Islam. They don’t speak Arabic (a Semitic language) but the totally different Turkish (a Ural-Altaic Turkic language, most closely related to Azeri and Uzbek). Their location and ecosystem tie them to Asia Minor (Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, etc.), Persia, and the Adriatic Sea, rather than the Mediterranean Arab world — think snow, not sand.

And when the Ottoman Empire swept through the rest of Asia Minor en route to Greece, its military fell in love with Armenian food (same as me) and scooped up large numbers of Armenians to serve as army cooks while they were conquering the world. Greece gained an infusion of fresh recipes from Armenia, shaping the Greek cuisine we know today, but traditional Greek dishes also gained worldwide currency, especially their ancient masterpiece of stuffed grape leaves — now best known by the Turkish word dolma.

One end result of all this conquest was the settling of a huge Armenian population in the city of Izmir, which became the “cuisine capital” of Turkey, after a fashion, spreading its culinary influence (at least until the whole Turkish-Armenian thing went horribly tragic, as the empire rotted, but I’m not going to go into that in a restaurant review…).

What other influences did the Turks pick up in their conquests and meld into their own cuisine? Inquiring minds want to know.

When we arrived at Pasha, we found a medium-small room with dark tablecloths, paper napkins, walls painted a light terra cotta and hung with a spare but beautiful collection of Turkish handicrafts. The restaurant is owned by a youngish couple, the husband from Lebanon and the wife from Turkey. Both do some cooking and some serving. But the night we ate there, most of the Turkish dishes — the malatya (Turkish potato salad), the etli borek (meat pie), and the spinach borek — were all unavailable; they just hadn’t been prepared for a midweek night.

We began with the vegetarian meze platter, for which we had the coupon. Everything on it was very pleasant, especially the lively tabouli and the light, faintly smoky baba ghanoush. (A typo on the website spells it “Babagannosh,” which sounds like Turkish/Russian-Yiddish for “Grandpa’s getting a snack.”) None of the appetizers on the platter seems uniquely Turkish, or in any way different from every other meze platter in town.

Be sure to save some of the çaçik (pronounced “jah-jik,” the Turkish version of Greek tzatziki or Indian cucumber raita) and the garlic-yogurt sauce for your main courses, as dips for your grilled meats.

We also ordered the Turkish Shepherd Salad (coban salatasi) — diced tomatoes amended by cukes, scallion, onions, parsley, and bell pepper in a lemon vinaigrette, topped with a light snowfall of feta cheese. The tomatoes are under a lot of pressure to perform in this dish, and sad to say, they didn’t: They were nearly tasteless, hard supermarket-style globe tomatoes, and June is not yet their season. The dressing needed more acidity for “oomph” to compensate for their blandness. “This time of year,” said Marty, “the only tomatoes worth anything are little ones, cherry or grape tomatoes.” “Yeah, even if you leave the regular ones on the counter, they never ripen and sweeten,” added the Lynnester. Oddly, the leftovers of this salad improved greatly during two nights in the fridge, allowing the dressing to soak in and saturate the veggies.

The best of our entrées by far was a Turkish specialty, Ali Nazik. It features small, richly seasoned cubes of charbroiled beef served on a warm bed of tart, creamy patliçan (pronounced “PAHT-lee-jahn”) salad, mashed eggplant mixed with yogurt and plenty of garlic. It comes with grilled tomato and grilled slices of slightly spicy red pepper. It all works together, with a fine contrast between the chewy, salty meat and lush, garlicky eggplant. (The eggplant is also available separately on the meze list.) “I’d come back for this dish,” said Lynne, who lives nearby, and probably will do just that.

Shrimp kebabs came in second. The shrimps were well seasoned if quite salty, and reasonably tender. Like nearly all other entrées, they were accompanied by fluffy basmati rice, pita, hummus (standing in for the baba ghanoush promised on the menu with the seafood dishes), and the fine house salad, a lively mixture of greens, tomatoes, cukes, onions, and (in this plate alone) a few whole basil leaves.

The lamb shish kebab was flavorful with a marinade and charring, but dry and rather tough. It set Marty, Dave, and me to reminiscing about Sayyat Nova, an exquisite Armenian restaurant in Greenwich Village, way back when I was a teen beatnik, thrilled to taste this new cuisine with my dad and stepmom. That restaurant’s rendition had a subtle, garlic-perfused olive-oil marinade for large leg of lamb chunks charred outside but rosy inside.

At Pasha, the chunks are smaller and cooked medium (pinky-brown) inside, and the marinade is more assertive, possibly, judging by the result, including an acidic, tenderizing component like lemon juice. “I think the meat’s been marinated too long,” said Dave. “The texture on the exterior, just under the char, is a bit mealy.” “And the lamb doesn’t have much lamb flavor,” Marty observed. “I don’t know whether that’s because it’s cooked too well done or if the lamb itself is lacking.”

Unable to fulfill our hopes of a borek, we asked the owner whether the gyro meat in the Iskender (doner) kebab plate was house-made or bought. Bought, alas. Instead, the owner persuaded us to try a shawarma. Because this is a newbie restaurant with not much volume yet, the traditional shawarma of a huge hunk of flesh rotating on a vertical spit has proven impractical. “Instead, I cut it in slices, so the delicious marinade goes all through the meat, then I charbroil the slices,” he said. We chose beef shawarma over the alternative chicken breast, which dries out too easily. But the beef proved just as dry. “It’s almost like jerky!” Lynne said. “You can’t even taste the marinade, just the charring,” said Dave. Dipping the slices in çaçik or garlic sauce left over from the appetizer platter helped, but only a little.

There are two desserts. The house-made baklava is flaky and nutty (with both pistachios and walnuts) but sparing on the honey syrup — much less sweet than standard versions. “I like this a lot,” said Lynne. “It’s not overwhelming.” Kunafa is genuinely exotic, a large wedge-shaped pastry with delicate top and bottom crusts of crunchy farina flakes, sandwiching a filling of melted mild cheeses (mozzarella and Jack or Havarti, or another cheese of that ilk). It’s topped with crumbled pistachios, lightly dressed with fragrant rosewater-scented sugar syrup, and is barely sweet at all. It’s like a cheese course and a dessert all in one.

The Turkish coffee was strong and a little bitter, with all the “mud” hiding at the bottom of the cup. It comes unsweetened. We stirred in sugar with our fork handles (no spoons provided — yeah, it’s still a start-up).
Bottom line: Pasha is indeed a bargain. With the coupon for a free appetizer platter, the bill came to $28 per person total, all inclusive. But I feel the restaurant isn’t making the most of its greatest potential strength. Generic Middle Eastern restaurants are a dime a dozen, some cheaper than this and some offering easier parking. In order to compete, the Turkish dishes that distinguish Pasha from the crowd should be available all the time, and I’d also like to see more of them, if the Ali Nazik — outstanding hit of our dinner — is any example. Then there’d be a reason to come back over and over and explore what could be a unique menu. Hey, flaunt it if you’ve got it, baby!
Pasha Mediterranean Cafe & Grill

** (Good)

3614 Fifth Avenue, Hillcrest, 619-294-4444,

HOURS: Tuesday–Sunday 11:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m.

PRICES: Soups and appetizers, $5–$22; salads, $7–$13; sandwiches, $8–9; entrées, $9–$25 (most $13); lunch specials, $6.

CUISINE AND BEVERAGES: Middle Eastern (Lebanese) menu with several Turkish specialties.

PICK HITS: Vegetarian meze platter, ali nazik (Turkish beef cubes over eggplant salad), patliçan salad (eggplant salad, if not ordering ali nazik), shrimp kebabs, baklava.

NEED TO KNOW: Loads for vegans, including three entrées (two always available). Unisex bathroom, marginally handicapped accessible. No alcohol. Halal (Islamic version of kosher) ingredients.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Highy recommended product!

John orders this box of packets of crytals that you put in a glass of water...the flavor is so so yummy (I do love anything citrus, though.) It is great with ice cubes in the tallest galls you can find! So refreshing...and all that vitamin C ! Here is the site:


I need to think of a good name for these. Any ideas? You melt 63% dark chocolate chips...then place tablespoons of this melted chocolate onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Then you place 3 pieces of dried fruit/nuts on each one., so the pieces sink into the chocolate. I used dried fruit and nuts from Costco called Fruit and Nut Medley.
Then put in fridge for it to harden.
The result is a delicate dark chocolate wafer with intense taste of whatever dried fruit and nuts you put on. My favorite is dried pineapple and dried banana and a piece of walnut.

Discovering Coconut Oil !!!!

While we were in Utah, Doug's Aunt Claudia introduced us to Coconut Oil. She made popcorn with coconut oil, using Amish blue popcorn. Eating it was a unique experience....for the popcorn was very slightly infused with a coconut flavor.
She showed us the book, Coconut Cures and I read it through and was amazed. Coconut is the king of foods, plus you can benefit by rubbing it on your skin.

There were many stories in the book about people being cured from certain ailments by eating coconut. John received coconut macaroons for Father's Day (made by Kelsy) and he reported they cured his diarrhea.
I could go on and on, but get the book and read it yourself!
We are converted to it.