Monthly Archives: September 2012

Now do the horse…

Last weekend I experienced my first excess of “Obba Gangnam Style”, dance included. Not that I’m complaining (KOREANPRIDE).

Sorry, I meant this link.

Or Hasty Pudding’s version.

Completely coincidentally, I drew this up a couple weeks ago when I was trying to find out more about Horse pose. Turns out the actual yoga horse pose achieves things on a muscular level that can be done in much safer poses. What I understood to be horse pose was actually horse stance, a fundamental stance done in martial arts such as TaiQi and QiGong.

“Like you’re riding an invisible horse.” – PSY

Leave a comment

Filed under postures, yoga

Obesity Doesn’t Taste Like Much

Umami water.

Sounds like some sort of eel-based sushi distilled into a new type of water (or dare I say alcohol?) And yes, it exists.

This past Tuesday I had the fortune of listening to the White House pastry chef, Bill Yosses. I decided that if I ever made it to being First Wife of some president (hey I’m at Harvard, maybe it’ll happen) I am immediately going to have daily cooking lessons with all the White House chefs.

So besides playing with glass blowers and candy gel (both 100% applicable to my life), I got to try this legendary water. Everyone was given two cups. He asked us to taste the first one and we proceeded to swirl and swish the waves in our mouths. Then he asked us to do the same and contemplate the difference of the second. Nearly everyone liked the first. My friend Marissa commented that the second tasted bitter. She was partially right in that there was a difference in taste in the second, but in actual fact the key difference was umami.

The injection of umami taste molecules into the second water created subtle, fuzzy sensations on my tongue and I noticed my mouth beginning to salivate. It was an extremely cool experience but I’m pretty sure umami (unagi?) water isn’t going to go big anytime soon.

Maybe Michael Jordan’s secret water stuff might.

Umami is the taste response to salts of glutamic acid – like the infamous MSG. Processed meats and cheeses have these savory components as well. The binding of these amino acids to G-coupled protein receptors initiates a “cascade” signaling process in the tongue and sends signals to the brain. Think of one person telling another about your secret crush, and then how the secret spreads like wildfire – exponentially increasing to the point that your secret crush isn’t so much a secret anymore (#fifthgradeangst).

Although my focus for my imaginary and maybe way-way-way in the future documentary is smell, taste is equally as interesting to me because it is a physical sensation on the tongue that defines the larger makeup of flavor – almost like stretching vs. working vs. tweaking vs. pulling vs. lactic-aciding (I made that up, yup) a muscle. But with the tongue, it feels sour vs. sweet vs. bitter vs. salty vs. umami. Then there are the “mouthfeels” produced by other chemicals too – like fats and tannins of wine. Contrary to popular belief, the taste sensations are not localized to one particular area, so swishing whatever you’re eating around your tongue (without swallowing it!) has a huge effect.

Random doodling:

Click here for a brief intro to tastes and how they scientifically function.

A fascinating German study came out that found that obese kids have highly insensitive taste buds compared to their slimmer companions: “especially [with regards to ] salty, bitter and umami. They also struggled to detect the difference between salty and sour, and between salty and umami.”

The main question at hand is whether or not the lack of tasting ability makes a child more prone to becoming obese, or if the lack of ability stems from the child’s obesity and epigenetics. I believe it could actually be deeper than both suggestions – perhaps the emotional dependency on food that many obese children develop is coupled with tasting ability on a more subconscious level in the brain. I wonder if the “numbing” emotional effect food gives is metaphorized in the tongue itself.

On the note of emotional frequencies and influences on taste – one researcher thinks there potentially can be a “hormonal fingerprint” that will determine tasting ability in the present moment.

“For example, the hormone leptin is associated with hunger, fat storage and the ability to taste sweet things. Obese people may be less sensitive to its daily cycles. Also, if the level of insulin circulating in the blood stream remains consistently elevated for long periods of time, as it does in many obese people, it could weaken the cells’ receptors to the hormone, which in turn could mute taste sensitivity.”

One last suggestion is that obese kids “habituate” to tastes – almost like drug-addiction and threshold effects.

Regardless of what the true cause is – this study clearly points to the healthy mechanism of mindful eating as a means to cope with obesity. The meditation on taste forces the consumer to cultivate an awareness of their taste sensations, and like anything in life, this can be trained and improved. So rather than seeing this whole taste bud article as a limiting factor from birth, it’s actually an encouraging piece of information.

Random thoughts – what does tongue scraping have to do with all of this?

Daily Nutrition Facts

Made coffee-almond ice cream in Science of Cooking lab this week:

What I learned? Besides the great flavor combo, that salt lowers the freezing point of ice. Boom. Makin the ice cream.

Leave a comment

Filed under adventures, food, health, science

Back to School Sickness

Well it’s only week 2 of school and I’m down sick. Success.

Ugh. I think this has happened pretty much every year. So I took the time to look up acupressure points and yoga poses that could help out with my symptoms. The one that really surprised me was the acupressure points on the outer upper tip of the shoulder blades (B36, called Bearing Support). I pressed these points for a while then massage out my shoulders/neck/upper back as best as I could…and then remembered to swallow. Wait, what? My insanely painful sore throat was completely gone. And hasn’t come back since.

God I love this stuff.

Acupressure Points for Cold and Flu

Yoga Poses for a Cold

More Yoga Poses for Cold and Flu

Leave a comment

Filed under health, yoga

Amateurism and Imperfection

A couple weeks ago Kara put on a Boston Youth Leadership Conference and asked me to speak once again. I agreed to and developed a hybrid presentation based off of my PRISE and Chinese Leadership presentations. Lucky for me, this time it was in English so no opportunities to butcher any languages (unless I did without realizing. Oops.)

My brainstorming at Radcliffe Yard.

I quickly went through my little swimming saga, then dove into creativity and its implicit and explicit theories. My favorite part was the interactive portion: a quick divergent thinking task asking the kids to draw something with a little squiggle; a smell/taste experience which required them to draw the sensations; and finally an activity that sets up one’s mind to think more openly – visually focus on an object but then allow your attention to diffuse into the peripheral part of your vision. This translates into a metaphor for your body which puts your mind in a state of divergent thinking.

I was so pumped after giving the talk, especially since most kids stayed awake during the entirety of the presentation (I did make them do a inner visualization about the feeling of disappointment, and I may have lost a few soldiers there).

If you want to see my powerpoint, click here: Creativity and How to Think Differently

Right before giving my 90 minute (was originally supposed to be 45. Don’t worry Kara gave me permission) presentation, I held this mudra for about a minute, and also told myself: “I bow to imperfection.” Things I wish I had learned as a kid. Be imperfect, wait, what? You’re kidding.

On the new domain: I had an interesting little chat with my Dad the other day. As I moved to choosing my domain for this website (neurocholatier.com? thechocolate-apprentice.com? thechocoapprentice.com? I’m bummed that this person took x5 different ways to write my blog title) he asked me why I didn’t switch from being an apprentice to a chocolatier.

Well, it’s because I will always be an amateur.

One of the best conversations I’ve had in the past month was with a friend who I met last summer in San Francisco (who just dropped everything in his life to go sail the world. Pumped for him.) Among many things, one of the things we discussed is what he wanted in life (one of those casual ten things lists – said it took him 2 minutes. It’s taking me more than 2 weeks). And one of my favorites was that he will always be an amateur in music. He’s an amazing, talented jazz pianist but he chose to always be an amateur, never an expert. I liked that attitude.

While working at Clover, I learned that everyone wears blue aprons. Head Chef Rolando came up with the idea – blue is reserved for the apprentices in the kitchen. As with Clover, all employees, including the experienced chefs are all apprentices for life. I love this concept embodying humility and this passion for learning. Something I would love to cultivate in other areas of my life too.

So back to Kyle (friend) – it made me think of the question: what will I always be an apprentice in?

I threw that discussion back to my Dad. Thus, I am always the chocolate apprentice.

Ok yes that would be me trying to sign off with my beautiful blue Clover apron and uttrabodhi mudra…and being late to class.

Leave a comment

Filed under Clover, creativity, food, mudra, presentation, yoga