Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

April 29, 2019

Out of the Mouth of Babes, Snakes, and Scientists – Smell Begins With the Tongue

Sometimes a new idea comes out of the mouth of babes, snakes, and scientists. A study published last week online in advance of the print edition in Oxford Academic Chemical Senses finds that smell may begin with the tongue rather than the brain. One of the study’s authors, Mehmet Hakan Ozdener, MD, PhD, MPH, became intrigued with the idea when his adolescent son asked whether snakes stick their tongues out in order to smell.
tongue
A current model of taste and smell shows two genetically different receptor systems located in anatomically distinct locations that send signals to different targets. While the two are known to intertwine to form the perception of flavor, scientists thought that the first merger occurred in the insular cortex – a part of the cerebral cortex in the brain. The insulae are believed to play a role in functions that include perception, motor control, self-awareness, cognitive functioning and interpersonal experience.

The abstract of this new study states: “Here we report that olfactory receptors are functionally expressed in taste papillae…The results provide the first direct evidence of the presence of functional olfactory receptors in mammalian taste cells. Our results also demonstrate that the initial integration of gustatory and olfactory information may occur as early as the taste receptor cells.” (1) Other experiments confirm that smell and taste receptors may be found within the same cell.

There are 400 different types of functional human olfactory receptors and scientists do not know what molecules activate the vast majority of them. While fascinating, this study alone does not answer that question or have a practical application other than to advance knowledge that will lead to other studies.

That’s the beauty of science. It’s a living body of changing knowledge. One layer builds on another. The more we understand about how things work, the more options we have for enhancing our lives. It’s good to remind ourselves of that occasionally.

Believing science has become a battle cry among those who want to stand firm on what we currently know. There’s a danger in that because tomorrow we will know more and that may mean that what we know today is no longer supported by the evidence. It also makes science sound like a restrictive rule book. Who wants to learn a bunch of rules? Certainly not bright minds that can imagine big ideas.

Instead of believing science, I’d rather we love it! And while we’re loving it, let’s be curious. Curiosity leads to advancement. Questioning is good. Skepticism can play a valuable role. Allowing our understanding to shift and change does not threaten our way of life. It has the potential to vastly improve it.

But don’t take that from me, take it from the mouth of a scientist: “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” – Albert Einstein.

(1)https://academic.oup.com/chemse/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/chemse/bjz019/5470701?redirectedFrom=fulltext

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190424083405.htm

https://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/insular+cortex
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April 23, 2019

Treasures Among the Trash

recipeYou never know what treasures you’ll find among the trash when you begin to clean out clutter. I’m sure the reason most of us have clutter is that we think too many things are treasures. Marie Kondo is making sure we know how to see the difference. But when we clean out an incapacitated or deceased relative’s home, we don’t have the luxury of choosing what is saved. We only have the opportunity to discover treasures among the trash.

Every month or two I spend a couple of days in my 98-year-old cousin’s house cleaning out the compilation of trash and treasure that includes: bank records from 1972, unopened mail from 1987, family photos from 1896, report cards from 1910, a wedding invitation from 1919, and a baby book from 1920. Because these items are mixed in with junk mail, decaying candy, promotional products, and wadded Kleenex, it is an arduous and sometimes icky process. I love it when I find some treasure that makes the effort worth it!

Recently, I’ve been working my way through the den toward the kitchen. Kitchens have the best variety of memorabilia. A few years ago, I discovered my grandmother’s ceramic green pepper spoon rest in my mom’s kitchen. I was thrilled. Now it’s on my counter by the stove. I love that visual reminder of my grandmother.
pepper
I also love finding old recipe cards. Not only do they give me a chance to prepare my favorite family dishes, there’s something charming about the varying shapes, sizes, and legibility of old recipes. Some assume you are extremely knowledgable about cooking techniques. Some have an ingredient list. Some do not. Many are spattered with remnants of food. Some are in handwriting I recognize. Some have clearly been handled more than others.

This look into the past seems more enticing to me than an old photograph or a tarnished silver service. Perhaps it’s because the recipes are a living memory. They can be created again and again. They can be shared with generation after generation along with stories of previous times they were enjoyed! If you think your kids don’t appreciate those stories, tell them to your grandkids.

At 2-and-a-half, JD loves any story about my experiences; he asks me to repeat them over and over. He never tires of hearing the details again and again. Adding food into the mix creates an indelible experience that he will no doubt share with his children and grandchildren. The recipe cards may not be preserved, but hopefully the recipes will find their way into his heart and his smart appliances or voice-activated replicator or whatever generates food in 2077.

Experimenting with unfamiliar flavor combinations is fun for me, but when I’m tired and hungry or it’s my birthday I’ll take my grandmother’s beef and noodles and a lemon meringue pie any day. Throw in some fresh green beans with new potatoes and I can smell the dirt from the garden when I helped my grandmother dig potatoes. These memories bring with them a sense of belonging to my family and to the earth. I had a place and a purpose.
pie
Such simple things can have a large and lasting effect. In this era of disconnection and short attention spans, we are often lacking a feeling of belonging and purpose. If you can provide that for your family by sharing the stories and food that you loved, is time spent in the garden or the kitchen worth it? I think so! I know time spent connecting is.

https://konmari.com/

https://ideas.ted.com/finding-our-way-to-true-belonging/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/the-benefits-of-cooking-part-1-the-food/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/the-benefits-of-cooking-part-2-the-fun-2/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/the-benefits-of-cooking-part-3-the-lessons/

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

April 8, 2019

Patient and Family Centered Care You can make a difference

When it comes to Patient and Family Centered Care (PFCC), you can make a difference. My family has spent a lot of time in the hospital this past year-more than 160 days since April 2018. That’s a lot of time to observe a lot of things.
hands
Every hospital is different. Like families, each has its own culture. Departments and even units within a hospital have their own subcultures. In some institutions, the lack of an overall policy results in units developing their own policies.

Communication between units is often lacking so a patient may be transferred from one unit to another within an institution only to experience a confusingly different policy on patient communication tools, changing bed linens, who attends rounds, visitor access, response time to patient calls, etc.

As a patient, you are most likely sick, injured, or weakened in some way. On top of that, you are vulnerable to the expertise, decision making, and implementation of treatment plans at the hand of many, many strangers who you have no chance to vet. That is distressing enough. Adding confusion, inconsistency, and unresponsiveness creates an environment that’s, let’s just say, less than healing.

If you have been a patient and/or family member who has experienced less than acceptable care, you may want to explore your hospital’s policies and participation in Patient and Family Centered Care. There could be an opportunity to provide input that will improve the hospital’s process to benefit patients.

Although Patient and Family Centered Care as a concept has been around for more than 20 years, it has not always been treated as important to healthcare. With participation in Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Surveys (also known as Hospital CAHPS®) through Medicare and Medicaid and the public reporting of resulting data, hospitals are increasingly focussed on learning about and improving the patient experience. This has brought additional attention to PFCC.

Patient and Family Centered Care seeks to collaborate with patients and families as partners in care. The four basic tenants of PFCC are:
1. Dignity and Respect
2. Information Sharing
3. Participation
4. Collaboration

Simple enough, right? Of course not when you’re attempting to implement these into a system that has avoided information sharing and often treated patients as subjects rather than people. The good news is that you do not need medical training to relate the patient experience so your voice can be powerful in implementing change.

I sit on a PFCC Hospital Advisory Council. Over the past year, we have helped mold new ICU security policies, changed the language used in scheduling phone scripts and advance directives, given input on opioid risk assessment tools and MyChart content, reviewed food service menus, revised design and use of patient communication boards, and helped implement a hospital-wide linen policy.

In May, council members will begin sitting in each hospital unit to observe and speak to the nurses to determine the obstacles that prevent prompt response to patient calls. The information we gather will be transmitted to our Director of PFCC who will then meet with hospital leadership to determine how best to improve response times.

Our council is a mix of volunteers, hospital staff, and an MD who serves as the Associate Chief Quality Officer for Patient Experience. Some volunteers are retired nurses and medical school professors. Others are business people and community members who are patients or patient family members. Volunteers are required to attend orientation, be familiar with hospital codes, and get a yearly TB test and flu shot (or wear a mask during flu season).

For projects like call response observation, we also receive training for the task. It is our role to be a friendly ear to gather information, not to criticize or make suggestions while in the units. If we have specific concerns, those will be communicated to the Director of PFCC for inclusion in her presentation to leadership. The process is working well enough that current hospital leadership has given PFCC a great deal of authority and priority.

If you feel the patient experience could be improved at your local hospital, you may want to volunteer to assist with, or help the hospital explore implementing, Patient and Family Centered Care. Dedicating your time now can result in a better patient experience for you and/or your family in the future.

Given the amount of time my family is having to spend at the hospital, that seems like a worthwhile investment.

http://www.ipfcc.org/

https://www.medicare.gov/hospitalcompare/data/overview.html

https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Quality-Initiatives-patient-assessment-instruments/hospitalqualityinits/hospitalhcahps.html

https://medium.com/@cooking2thrive/id-tell-you-but-then-i-d-have-to-b49d9b2d3900

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/heres-an-idea-for-an-app/

April 1, 2019

Spring has Sprung and it’s Time to Think About Shrubs

Spring has sprung, or at least begun to sneak into our afternoons, and it’s time to think about shrubs. When warm weather begins, I spend a lot of time thinking about the trimming, digging, and planting that need to be done. I don’t manage to get to the part where I get out in the yard to do something about it though. When we have a perfect sunny, warm afternoon, I find myself too busy sitting outside having a drink with a friend. Luckily, there’s more than one kind of shrub. One is on my to-do list. The other can be in my drink. I love a happy coincidence! I can think about shrubs, enjoy the outdoors, and relax all at the same time.

It seems like every restaurant in my neighborhood has a new list of specialty cocktails for each season. I love reading these lists. The names are clever. The pairings of gin, tequila, and rum with fresh fruit, citrus juice, and fresh herbs sound sooooo refreshing. Of course, I order one. Then I take a drink. More than 90% of the time my enjoyment ends there. Most of these cocktails are too sweet for me.

I don’t object to desserts, but I don’t like sweet drinks – tea, lemonade, soda, flavored water, and coffee drinks do not appeal. I don’t like the way they taste. They don’t refresh and they leave me thirsty. That’s not to say a slight drizzle of honey won’t improve a drink. It might. But the standard is simple syrup…and plenty of it.

Shrubs appeal to me because of the tang of vinegar. If you must use sweet, at least balance it with acid. A few years ago when vinegar bars became popular, I eagerly anticipated the arrival of the trend in my city. That never happened. But a more subtle inclusion of vinegar sometimes appears on a cocktail menu in the form of a shrub.
shrub
A shrub is a syrup made of vinegar, botanicals, and yes, sugar. Historically, it was a way of preserving fruit. Taste-wise, it is meant to fall on the acidic side. If you want an even more tangy shrub, you can easily make one at home.

Most shrubs are made using apple cider, white wine, or red wine vinegar, but you can also use balsamic. A blend of balsamic vinegar and sweet cherries sounds delicious to me. Some recipes I’ve seen cut the balsamic with apple cider vinegar. Red wine vinegar would be worth a try as well. I’m describing a shrub that feels more like fall.

How about something lighter for spring? Pineapple, white wine vinegar, and rosemary might fit the bill. And you don’t have to make it at home. You can buy it in a bottle from Pink House Alchemy.

If I’m ordering, I’m going to have to include a bottle of cardamom syrup as well. It’s too intriguing to pass up. And to continue with this digression, I keep wanting to create a sassafras tea granita. Sounds like I’m heading for a spring porch party!

Anyway, you can make a shrub at home by cooking fruit, vinegar, and sugar together or by letting the fruit and sugar macerate, adding the vinegar and letting it sit for a few days on the counter or in the refrigerator before straining.

Tomato based shrubs can be used to make bloody mary-like drink. A blueberry shrub can be used for a daiquiri-like drink. And no alcohol is required for a refreshing shrub beverage. A little seltzer will do the trick.

It seems like it’s time for me to grab some fresh fruit and a few bottles of vinegar and do some flavor experiments. Until I get them right, I’ve learned that I can order those fancy named specialty cocktails without the simple syrup. I don’t know why I never thought to request that before, but I tried it the other night and enjoyed my drink much more.

Sitting in the sun smelling fresh cut grass and sipping on refreshing tangy drinks with a small group of friends sounds heavenly. I may have to do it several days in a row. We only get a few weeks between too cold and too hot and humid. We have to make the most of them! Cheers!

https://www.pinkhousealchemy.com/shrubs/pineapple-rosemary-shrub

https://qz.com/quartzy/1380589/the-delicious-ways-that-we-drink-vinegar-around-the-world/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/spring-is-for-renewal-even-in-the-kitchen/

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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