Book Review: Eating on the Wild Side

Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health by Jo Robinson

Eating on the Wild Side not only discusses the nutritional history of fruits and vegetables, but advises us on how to value that has been squandered through modernisation of agricultural and cooking techniques that sacrifice nutrition and flavours for speed and convenience.

About 400 pages long, it may appear overwhelming. However, the information is easy to process. Each chapter is
focused on a type of fruit or vegetable, and broken up into sections to explain its origins, how to grow or find the best varieties, recipes, cooking instructions and tips to retain its goodness as much as possible.

I was expecting some complicated recommendations that would make grocery-shopping and cooking even more
tedious, but I was wrong. Many tips are surprisingly straightforward and manageable:

  • The most nutritious tomatoes in the supermarket are not the raw, fresh ones, but the ones in the cans! Processed tomatoes, whether canned or cooked into a paste or sauce, are the richest known source of antioxidant compound lycopene.
  • Shredding lettuce the day before you eat it increases its antioxidant content.
  • When using garlic in cooking, slicing, chopping, mashing, or pressing it, and then setting it aside for 10 minutes before cooking reportedly increases your defenses against cancer and cardiovascular disease.
  • Thawing frozen berries via microwave preserves more antioxidants and vitamin C than thawing them at room temperature.
  • Cooking potatoes, refrigerating them for about 24 hours and then reheating turns this high-glycemic vegetable into a low- or moderate-glycemic vegetable. (glycemic index refers to the speed at which blood glucose level rises upon consumption)
  • Eat broccoli the day you buy it to preserve its natural sugars and cancer-fighting compounds.

And there is much more. Several book reviewers pronounced it a life-changing book that empowered them to make
wiser decisions on their daily diets. Undeniably, the gardening and planting sections are not applicable to us in urban Singapore. Many of the featured fruits and vegetables are also unheard of here. Regardless, it makes an educational and entertaining read for all health and food enthusiasts.

– This book review first appeared in a lifestyle magazine

Where the sun and sea beckon…

Planning on a beach vacation to enjoy pristine white sandy beaches with blue waters gently rushing up the shores? Probably the destinations that come to mind are places like Hawaii, the Maldives, Seychelles or the Caribbean. But, think again. There are many blue sky beaches too nearer to home, and probably  well within your budget.

Right in Asia, there is Hainan Island of China which some call “the Hawaii of the Eastern world”. Hainan is well known for its 300km long national road connecting a few main cities, filled with its best beach resorts and tourist activities. Yalong Bay in Sanya is one of the most recommended along the stretch with its fine white sand and crystal-clear ocean. The dry season (spring and winter) is warm and windy. The best time to visit Hainan is from December to March (late spring and early summer) when the weather is mild and agreeable.

Boracay, an offshore island of the Philippines, offers plenty to do, including sailing, windsurfing, snorkeling and diving. Nightlife lovers will be happy to note that many bars and restaurants serve food, bever- age and entertainment till the early hours of dawn. White Beach is Boracay’s most popular beach, but do note that it can be very crowded and busy due to its popularity. For quieter but also beautiful beaches, try the Yapak Beach or Diniwid Beach. The recommended time to visit Boracay is from November to May.

The island of Bali, Indonesia offers many great beaches and amongst them, Nusa Dua Beach, Blue Point Beach and Geger Beach come highly recommended for their beauty and ambience. Bali’s beaches are best visited in the dry season between April to October. Beginner freedivers might also want to check out the Gili islands near Bali, which are nestled in clear and not so deep waters (an average of 40m), perfect for amateurs. Or you may go east of Bali to Lombok Island where you can explore its southern coastline with breathtaking turquoise bays and world-class surf breaks. Gunung Rinjani dominates the island’s northern area and many tourists would be trekking at least part of the way up.There is the resort of Senggigi on the west coast and south-coast Kuta, a popular surfing centre, also offers a range of tourist facilities.

The Western region of Phuket Island, Thailand, is world-famous for its wide variety of beaches and party hot spots, with the Kata Noi Beach being cited as one of the best. Nevertheless, the sheer amount of tourists in the region can be a turn—off, and you might want to check out Southeastern Phuket for some less mainstream but quality beaches. Nai Harn Beach in Rawai is a favourite among visitors. November to March is the best period to visit, given average high temperatures and little rain.

Ngapali Beach in Ngapali, Myanmar certainly deserves mention for being rated as the top Asian beach in TripAdvisor 2016. Myanmar may not be associated with a relaxing, waterfront destination, but Ngapali Beach is said to be in another world, with a peaceful, gentle and easy-going atmo- sphere, lots of fresh seafood and nice restaurants. Another highlight is the fact that it currently has few visitors compared to other famous beaches, but this might soon change given its new title, so visit it soon before it gets swarmed! November to February is the best period to visit.

Tips:

– Don’t leave your belongings unattended
– Use sunblock, stay hydrated
– Bring your own beach towels
– Quality of beach may deteriorate in rainy, wet, monsoon seasons. Some may even be closed in these seasons.
– Be wary of tourist traps
– Be on the lookout for potential crime
– Sign up for water sports courses or rent equipment from reputable vendors

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine.

Image from Pixabay

Book Reviews: The Cuckoo’s Calling & Mom & Me & Mom

The Cuckoo’s calling by Robert Galbraith

Genre: Mystery, Crime

Cormoran Strike. London-based Private Investigator. Clever, sharp and relentless, but also an amputee war veteran with a troubled past, broken love life and financial woes so bad that he is set on a path to penury at the start of the story. His lucky break came when he is asked by a wealthy lawyer John Bristow to investigate the death of his famous supermodel sister Lula Landry. While the rest of the law enforcement world has stuck by the conclusion that her death was suicide, Bristow ls unconvinced, which leads him to seek out Strike, whom his late older brother had been friends with.

As Strike investigates the mystery, with the aid of his quick-witted temporary secretary Robin Ellacott, he meets a cast of intriguing suspects from the glamourous and complicated world that is showbiz. Their eccentric lifestyles form an interesting contrast to the shabbiness Strike lives amidst in his dilapidated office. The story gives desired peeks into the entertainment industry and the lives of the affluent fraught with scandals, while creating highly realistic scenarios that are easily imaginable.

Those who crave action will be disappointed. Much of the story takes place months after the crime, and is unravelled largely through interviews with the suspects. Nevertheless, the writer has given all the characters distinct accents and mannerisms in speaking, which makes their accounts come alive. On a cautionary note, expletives are frequently spewed by some characters.

Weaving through the detective work are sporadic accounts of Strike’s back story, and although this adds more depth to the character and becomes surprisingly  relevant to the ending, it gets distracting and confusing at times.

Overall, this book is an entertaining read, relatively well-paced with memorable characters. Twists and turns are part and parcel of the plot, which is of course a boon for any crime and mystery novel.

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou

Genre: Autobiography

Legendary author Maya Angelou discusses in her latest autobiography, her relationship with her mother, who left the three-year-old Maya in the care of her grandmother when her own marriage crumbled. Mother and daughter’s reconciliation a decade later is an icy cold one, with Maya simply calling her mother “Lady”.

Despite being only about 200 pages long, the book is a testimony of a long journey towards acceptance and unconditional love. It is one filled with tribulations as the women struggle with the problems and challenges that result from the choices they made.

Growing up in an unsavoury environment herself, Maya’s mother was a gambler who spent time in jail, and even owned a gambling operation. Not a particu- larly good role model, some of her parenting attempts would make any self-respecting parents shake their heads. Nevertheless, her faults make her human, and her attempts to pick up the pieces would appeal to the empathy of readers who have harboured similar experiences of conflicts with their young ones. After all, parents are humans. They too make mistakes, a point that many are quick to forget, and quick to reproach. But, for all her imperfections, she clearly loves her daughter. Her farewell words to Maya when the girl leaves home is to adapt to her environment, never to veer into the path of wrong, and to be free to come home.

Likewise, Maya too, reveals many mistaken choices in life and how she deals with them, reminding us again that as humans, we sometimes find ourselves doing what needs to be done at the moment to get by. Regardless of the hardship, Maya clings to her dreams and follows them where they lead her. She attributes this to the love, support and guidance from her mother, whom she grows to appreciate over time from her personal experiences and interaction with her. The resolution is a happy one as both women grow to become loving, caring and admirable mothers.

Maya’s writing has always been captivating, passionate and poetic, and the trend continues in this intriguing story. She reaches out to readers with compassionate and inspiring words, resulting in emotional prose that brings smiles and tears to readers. Even if you are not a mother or a daughter, this book hits home for those who can relate to complicated relationships and dark days in their lives, which is probably just about any one.

– These book reviews first appeared in a lifestyle magazine