Monday, 21 November 2016

Reflections on food, allergies, lefties and weather!

On Saturday evening we went to a dinner party at a Portuguese friend's house. Most of us drank rather a lot of Portuguese vinho verde - and very nice it was too - but Phil, who started off with a glass of red, somehow ended up drinking red wine all evening. This was bit odd considering that the main dish was bacalhau con natas, creamy salt cod with potatoes. I have long wondered what you did to cook and serve this dried fish in a palatable manner. We once tried it in Nice, where they call it "stockfish" and consider it a great delicacy, but we were not impressed. This dish, bacalhau con natas, however, was very good indeed. Apparently the fish had been soaked in water for a few days prior to the preparation of the dish. This time we were impressed!

There was a lot of cream in the dish; so it is just as well that none of us was lactose intolerant. I have read that this is on the increase although I personally have only ever come across one person with the problem. As a small child he used to react in a most spectacular fashion to the smallest amount of dairy produce: puffy lips and a nasty rash around his mouth and that was the least of it. Fortunately for him, he seemed to grow out of it as he grew up. Apparently lactose intolerance is one of those allergies which is now on the increase but experts reckon that we Northern Europeans have no need to worry unduly as we have been genetically modified, having got into dairy farming thousands of years ago and gradually adapting our digestive systems accordingly. And here I was thinking that humans could eat anything!

Oddly enough our middle granddaughter may well have developed lactose intolerance, or at any rate ice-cream intolerance. She is a fussy eater at the best of times: pizza, pasta, cheese and chips being the things she likes best. No, in fact, icing is what she probably likes best, but the other stuff is what she eats most of. Fruit she just about tolerates in the form of a smoothie, having decided when she was a toddler that she did not like the texture of fresh fruit. However, she has always been inordinately fond of ice-cream and yet over the last six months or so she has had a very bad reaction each time she eats it! How very sad!

I wonder why it is that people are often really fond of the food that gives them an allergic reaction. My brother-in-law is gluten intolerant - or at any rate suffers from Crohn's disease - and still craves a piece of toast from time to time. When we go out walking and end up at Diggle fish and chip shop for lunch, he has chips and begs a little taste of our battered fish, trying hard to remove the batter in order to avoid a reaction. And one of our fellow guests on Saturday is also gluten intolerant but loves bread and pastries. She paces herself, eating a little of her favourite foods and gauging at which point she has to stop: keeping the pain versus pleasure balance just right!

I have also been finding out some odd facts about left-handed people.

 * Being left-handed apparently is not a totally genetic thing: "The chance of being a left-handed through inherited genes is just 25%. This is also observed in the fact that even twins who have 100% identical genes do not share handedness. The Queensland Institute of Medical Research after conducting a study on more than 50,000 identical twins in 2009 discovered that the inherited genes only account for 25% of the chances of being a left-handed person. The rest of the 75% is attributed to the environmental factors." What on earth are the environmental factors involved?

 * Babies with premature birth, especially the ones who weigh a pound or less at birth, have a high probability to be left-handed. Who knew? So the poor little things have to fight to stay alive and then throughout their lives have to struggle with scissors and all sorts of other things that are designed for ease of use by the right-handed majority.

 * Left-handed people with IQs more than 140 are more dominant in number than the right-handedpeople. My leftie sister has always maintained that they are cleverer than the rest of us. Some noteworthy intellectuals that were left-handed include Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Issac Newton and Benjamin Franklin. Quite interestingly, one of every four Astronauts in Apollo Missions were left-handed.

 * Left-handed people might well be better equipped for multi-tasking: talking while driving (our leftie daughter excels at this), piloting jet fighters (she has never tired that, at least not to my knowledge), and playing fast-paced video games.

On the negative side, here are a few facts: 

* It has been found that 40% of schizophrenics are left-handed.

* Despite popular belief, research shows that left-handers are not necessarily more creative than right-handers.

* A study by Harvard carried out in 2014 suggests that the average salary of lefties is 9 to 19 per cent lower than that of right-handed people. Life is so unfair.

If you want any more of this nonsense, here is a link.

Meanwhile, the snow that fell on Friday has largely been replaced with rain and wind. Rain on its own I can deal with. Wind on its own, likewise. You can dress for the cold. When the three come together - perhaps the tail-end of storm Angus, or whatever they chose to name it - then it really is too much. I decided this morning that juggling a frequently inside-out umbrella and a mobile phone is beyond my capacities. Maybe a leftie could have done better! And near horizontal rain can remove all the benefits of standing in a bus shelter while you wait for the bus to arrive.

So it goes!

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