Tag Archives: clover

Finish Lines, Flying Sheep, Frantic Knives

There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down,
the other is pulling up.
— Booker T. Washington

The Finishing Line of Summer Research

This past week was my last of research and finally got to play with the brain-analysis program. Dream come true? What was very cool was that even though I had the smallest sample size ever ( N = 9), the figural creativity scores correlated with increased thickness in the brain regions that I wanted, particularly the TPJ! The TPJ is known as the temporal parietal junction, and that’s where the temporal and parietal lobes intersect. This area is a hotbed for connection, and is also implicated in Theory of Mind (understanding the concept of a mind, that other people have minds – people with autism have deficits).

The brain doesn’t quite look like a brain in the initial analysis because it’s inflated so you can see between the gyri. But down below is what the brain actually looks like (See how hard it is to figure it out):

Final memorable moments:

1) Hilarious phone calls to Dr. Lazar – someone apparently called and said they had a spontaneous awakening and wanted their brain scanned. They also claimed to be an advanced meditator because their “nose itched”. My nose itches right now too, does that mean I’m enlightened?

2) The Biggest Loser – STRESS EDITION – Dr. Britta Holzel, Sara’s fellow researcher who ahs also worked on many papers with her, was asked by a German production company from her native homeland to star in The Biggest Loser. The twist is that rather than losing weight, it’s the contestant who loses the most stress. So Britta’s role is to be the “meditator guru”, while other people will go through things like exercise, martial arts, counting sheep… to be honest I really have no idea where this idea is going. Again, evidence we’re a little too hyped up about “wellness” sometimes. I guess it’s better than more trashy episodes of the Kardashians (no hating) and shows an interest by the “public” in mental health.

Scents and Scentsability

So, hi, guess what? I’ve decided I want to do a [mini] documentary on the sense of smell and human conscience. How did my fascination begin?

Yoga-y: I’ve been told I have root chakra issues and root chakra (muladhara) is related to smell. Something about the psychology of groundedness and being in your body is related to this underappreciated sense.

Neurosciencey: Well, our other senses (and by that I mean the common five, not the extra ones) go through our sensory neurons, to the thalamus, then to its respective part in the cortex. BUT the olfactory system, considered to be part of our more primitive brain, engages in its own direct route. The neurons go straight to the olfactory bulb, which is seated next to the more primitive, emotional centers of our brain too, thus the deep connections of memory and emotions.

Food: Well it’s no secret I love food. But you seriously can’t taste without smell. I’ve started to do this new thing which all my friends make fun of me for – take a deep breath with your mouth, plug up your nose, and then eat something. The only things you can bring your attention to is the sensations created on your tongue and mouth…that’s real taste! It’s texture and sensations! You relearn what salty, umami, bitter, sweet, and sour really mean. You relearn how your mouth feels after certain food.

And then…keep playing and unplug your nose halfway through. WOOM you get a huge attack of flavor, and you can usually identify what you’re actually eating! Most fun with spices 🙂 Try cinnamon on your friends.

Currently reading “Season to Taste” by Molly Birnbaum, an incredible book with delightful descriptions of taste and smell, as well as a juicy handful of scientific knowledge (making the science nerd in me very, very happy). The book recounts her experiences as a chef who loses her sense of smell (anosmia) after getting in a car accident and damaging her brain. While deferring her space at a culinary institute, she falls into the world of journalism and slowly relearns to smell (first thing she detects is rosemary! Then chocolate woo). Can’t wait to meet and discuss with her next week at her book reading – going to ask her for tips on documentaries and also her thoughts on smell.

So basically –  philosophers loved to rave about vision, especially because it distinguishes humans, but why not study the sense that connects us more deeply to other more ancient creatures? I’m starting to read articles which I will update here, but to begin my exploration I watched a BBC documentary – things I learned:

  • many animals are super picky like the koala that will only eat 30 types of eucalyptus, sharks only eat fish (they tried giving them steak, chicken, lamb and swam off), carnivores on land hate sweet things, hummingbirds eat the equivalent of a human eating 1000 chocolate bars a day
  • humans, on the other hand, first like sweet and salty, then learn to develop a palate – “aquiring a taste” is so unique to humans, and may have been one of our many evolutionary advantages
  • I mean, take the crazy example of feeding stilton blue cheese (molded, fermented milk) to Asians, and feeding 100 year old eggs to Westerners. Each group finds it disgusting to eat the others’ delicacy
  • As humans, we’re much more sensitive to bad smells than good…rotting meat for example – sulphurs, small, fast moving molecules
  • Buteric Acid is the culprit for making cheese and vomit taste similar!
  • A lot of smells we’re averse to (excrements) are learned as we become older – initially as babies we don’t think they’re bad at all! (refer again to parmesan cheese and vomit similarities above)

CLOVER UPDATES

I got to attend knife skills 101 with Chef Rolando!! I’ll update under cooking some of the knife skills I learned (by creating my own videos). Unfortunately, I didn’t pass my first time (a minute too slow), but hopefully with some practice I’ll get better.

Ayr had me go on a run around to Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds, Starbucks, and Crema Cafe (a local Cambridge coffee shop) to check out their basic black coffees. Conversations that I will always remember forever and ever and ever (thanks Ayr!). No, not really.

DD:

Me: “Where is this coffee from?” Her: “I have noooooooo idea. Look online.”

McD: 

Me: “Where is this coffee from?” NiceIrishLad: “I have noooooooo idea. Oh wait. It says by Newman. Ummm Bolivia?”

Starbucks:

Me: “Where is this coffee from?” 2 people: “Uhhhhhhh NO idea.” 1 awesome person: “It’s from somewhere in South America. Specifically, I don’t know. But I do know it’s a combination of farmers we rotate through to manage a flavor profile. And I swear it’s according to a bunch of sustainable codes, you can check online.”

Crema:

Me: “Where is your coffee from?” Her: “Uhhhhhh you can ask George Howell, he makes our coffee. So go online.”

Conclusion after tasting? Somehow, Starbucks tastes way worse than McDonalds or Dunkin. Disturbing.

Also, I am so jealous of these kids who get fields trip to Clover!! I want one!

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Filed under adventures, Clover, creativity, food, meditation, science, smell

Jaw Lov[ag]es Hips

Oooof, bad title. It’s early. I also woke up at 4:30 AM dramatically smacking my face with my arms because I had just been dreaming about a massive scorpion-wasp flying right for my face.

Not a big bug fan, if you can tell.

Karma Longtin led a fantastic class at Karma Yoga Studio on Sunday, emphasizing the subtle connection between the jaw muscle (the masseter, more precisely) and the hip flexors. The masseter symphasizes with the hip flexors, as both areas carry massive amounts of emotional tension. In addition, the masseter is one of the strongest muscles in our body (in terms of scale-to-size), prodcuing 117-265 lbs of force (vs. 974.99 – an Eskimo descendent!!), while the hip flexor is the “seat of the soul”, being the muscle in charge of our walking and the first to react when we’re about to fall.

You can do jaw muscle exercises (which I’ll update on the yoga/physio page) and also manually massage out your own jaw. Here is a small doodle I did for great core activation exercises:

Meanwhile at Clover…

Going through blog posts (1870 of them!), which actually has been one of the most invaluable learning tools so far, as Ayr has been extremely transparent with the building of the company. The only thing made largely confidential are things relating to investors and workers.

Coming up with a logo: focus on the sound, color, texture, type, environmental influences it creates.

Another thing I love is their food development meetings. We got to taste test a lot of up and coming menu items, as well as analyze how the day’s Chickpea plate was (Pickled veggies + salad + chickpeas + hummus).

One thing I loved that we tried was the lovage soda. It tasted almost like celery juice, with a little more intensity. It sounds strange, but it was actually very refreshing.

My taste drawing:

Lovage: has a slight taste of anise and also reminiscent of caraway (thus pairs well with things from Sauvigon Blanc, fennel, mint, basil, tarragon, etc.) It is rich is thymol and carvacrol, an essential oil of thyme, ajowan, sage, basil, rosemary, and mint.

Here are some excerpts from an awesome book called Jekka’s Herbs Cookbook:

Daily Nutritional Facts

Tried Peace O’ Pie, the local vegan pizza company, for the first time with my partner in crime Kara! We ordered the The Fresh: pesto (but it came with tomato sauce instead. Dissapointment 😦 ), broccoli, onion, and roasted garlic; as well as The Buffalo Chicken: tongue zapping buffalo sauce (as they claim – didn’t really taste it much), onions, and spicy soy strips. Conclusion? Decently good. The vegan part wasn’t so much the issue, but the pizza dough was pretty dissappointing (I’m also a fan of crispy flatbread, so a little biased. But it was very bland) and the flavors were underwhelming, although the spicy soy strips were delicious!

Last night made Rosemary Shortbread Cookies with my friend Alice, as we were inspired to do so my Harvard graduate Joanne Chang’s book, Flour. Definitely not gluten or vegan friendly, but was such an interesting concept (and I’ve never made shortbread either!) that I was dying to try. I loved the savory kick to it and am planning to try it again…vegan?! Does shortbread even work vegan? To be continued… I also threw on some cinnamon for a few bites and found the rosemary + cinnamon surprisingly pleasant.

Also, spot the unicorn in the photo. Winner may get the unicorn I adopted (named Blue) on my night out.

Recipe coming soon.

Also last shout out to: Nutmeg & eggs. I’ve done paprika before, but nutmeg? Who knew a pinch would be such an interesting twist. Becomes more like dessert than savory breakfast!

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Filed under adventures, anatomy, food, health, ingredients, postures, recipes, yoga

seasonal discourse

Interning at Clover:

Almost a “Devil’s Wears Prada” experience, but with a little less red lipstick and sass. Actually, it wasn’t bad at all. I got to start the day off by taking a yoga class with Ayr and An Li, and learned a few new things:

1. If your palms are hurting in yoga, press into the outer edges of the fingers and try to transfer your weight more to your feet by elevating hips more into the air (though tight hamstrings may be the culprit for the excessive weight as it would bring you from downdog to plank, so do hamstring stretches to help).

2. In baddha konasana (bound angle/butterfly stretch), imagine bringing sitsbones together.

3. In janu sirsasana (single leg seated stretch on floor), tuck extended leg’s hip back thus plugging the femur bone into the hip socket.

4. Walk your hands out in a diagonal during uttanasana (forward fold) for some gentle side stretching.

Then I got to run around to different food trucks to hand over items for job training (images that show how to make sandwiches) and delivered ipods for repair. So nothing too exciting (though I did get to see Boston…) It allowed me to read Edible Boston cover-to-cover, which I can’t complain about. Most interesting article I read was that the up and coming chic food-related job is not the foodies or the chefs but actually “ag-entrepreneurs”, who “understand the production side of the business but also know the distribution side and can aggregate product from a variety farms for a central delivery”. The writer, John Lee, says that CSAs and farmer markets aren’t passe, but won’t be the best opportunities to make money and have a serious impact on the quality of life for citizens. He also thinks that there will be a big shift from foodie obsession with upper market mechanisms and transition to a broader view of “do better by doing good”.

So. Many. Ipods.

Eat Like a Yogi, Summer Cooking Class: Later that day, Kara and I (my partner in crime for all things yoga/food/health related, who I am starting  a kids yoga series with – see above) made dinner at Siri Bani Kaur’s house (owner of Kundalini Boston) . For those who don’t remember, I tried Kundalini yoga once and had a very trippy, slightly disturbing experience. Kundalini yoga focuses a lot more on the esoteric, chakra regions, and is really fun but definitely not what many people would ascribe to as typical yoga. However, it is one of the oldest forms of Raj yoga.

The class was based on Summer foods (guess why), and she emphasized that a yogi diet is not a strict diet at all. In fact, it’s simply eating according to your own body’s needs and also with the seasons. It takes a lot of listening and patience to cultivate an idea of how your body operates, but it’s worth it in the end. I loved the emphasis on eating with the seasons, as that’s one essence of Clover I’ve come to appreciate and love. They don’t advertise this philosophy but the idea of eating with the seasons is integrated into its structure.

Ayr gave me this example. During a real estate meeting we ate at a bakery that served a plethora of dishes and beverages, including blueberry cake and pear juice. Ayr told me the business structure that the bakery had (sugar + butter) was foolproof. Everyone loves both. The only issues that come with it is that a lot of the stuff is out of season (blueberries and pear) and in order to cover up the lack of flavor, more sugar needs to be added. In contrast, Clover picks fruit that is in season (i.e. strawberries) and in their drinks such as agua fresca (soda water + dash of lemon juice + strained strawberry puree + sugar), about 1/6 of the sugar is used, since the strawberries are naturally ripe and sweet.

This principal of eating with the seasons is seen throughout many traditions, from Far Eastern traditional herbal medicine to Ayurvedic medicine. I won’t go into the details as it’s pretty logical (eat more raw foods and fruits during the summer that are cooling, avoid heating foods such as vinegar, tomatoes, alcohol, cooked foods).

In addition, eating locally and seasonally not only helps you avoid the nasty amounts of sugar/chemical preservatives/weird genetic modifications used with plants (and can disrupt your body balance), but also helps the food retain their nutrients. The marketing director of Harvest Coop did her masters thesis on the loss of vitamin C from shipping. For many produce, there was a 2 ½ weeks gap between picking and purchase. Kale showed a 65% loss in its dense nutrients although it appeared fresh.

Check out this website for great info on local, seasonal foods. For places near MA in early July:

BeetsBlueberriesCabbageCarrotsCauliflowerCucumbersKaleLettuceOnionsOysters, EasternPeasPotatoes,RadishesSnap PeasSpinachSquashStrawberries

So, back to the dinner. I wanted to share a one of my favorite things from the night…

Raw Cacao Cashew Berry Pie

Ingredients: 

Crust = 1 cup raw almonds (no shells), 1/4 cup raw cacao nibs, dash salt, 1/3 cup raw coconut shreds, 1/4 cup soaked cashews, 2 tbsp raw agave syrup

Filling = 2 cups soaked cashews, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup raw agave syrup, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/3 cup virgin coconut oil (mleted), 1/2 cup raw cacao powder, dash cinnamon (throw in more or experiment with nutmeg, Mexican chili, lavender, etc. as well)

1. Pulse all crust ingredients together in a high speed blender (dry first then add the soaked cashews and agave)

2. Spoon the mixture into a pie dish and spread evenly, but don’t worry it about it being perfect! It can be a bit wonky to look artisanal (oh my goodness, I said the A-word). Place into a fridge.

3. Blend the pie filling mixture and then pour on top of the crust and smooth out.

4. Slice up your berries and decorate the top! (feel free to use any other seasonal fruit) Drizzle with any spices or a bit of agave syrup.

5. Place in fridge for 2 hours, or you can quickly freeze by placing in freezer for 20-30 minutes.

Brilliance. Berry brilliant (oh ho ho ho)

Daily Nutrition Facts

Had Clover’s delicious, delicate whoopie pie which was made with fresh strawberries. I’m not a big fan of whoopie pies (only served on Friday), but this one was so fluffy and so light. I hate super-sugary things but the quality of the chocolate and strawberries and cream served their purposes well.

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Filed under adventures, food, health, ingredients, recipes

Piriformis Playtime

Yesterday (Sunday) I taught a class by the river and was approached by one of my students about the piriformis muscle. I knew it was  either an internal or external hip rotator that would be effectively worked in some fashion during baddha konasana (bound angle pose), but I wasn’t entirely sure.

So I humbly did my research, and of course, doodle time came about (I apologize once again for my lack of anatomically flattering artwork):

Daily Nutritional Facts

Smokey “Chicken” Salad

Came across this in a French-style vegan cookbook, but changed up a bit of the ingredients and portion sizings. If you’re looking for that creamy, comforting goodness that makes you smile, it’s write here waiting. And it’s blissfully simple. Feel free to mix around the “meat substitute” by using mushrooms, seitan, tempeh, etc., type of nuts, fruit, and also play with spices too! Seriously, anything goes.

Ingredients: 

1/4 cup vegannaise (maybe even go a little less, I still found it fairly heavy)

1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar

1 cup green grapes, sliced gorgeously

1/3 cup (ish?) walnut pieces

one celery stalk all diced up into 1/4 inch pieces

salt and pepper to taste, tease it up with some rosemary too if you like!

& whatever you want to serve it with/in (I chose red quinoa, but you can use a wrap or anything)

oh, oh and I totally forgot – smokey firm tofu!! I used half a packet chopped up.

STIR IT ALL TOGETHER, AND BOOM.

Also, get your bum over to Clover Restaurant or Clover Food Truck and indulge in their Basil Sandwich, with tangy pickled red onions, creamy basil pesto, juicy + refreshing cucumbers, and cheese. OMNOM perfect summer treat.

Happy Summer-ing everyone.

Tuesdays I am teaching in Harvard Community Garden from 6-7 PM. Join if you can!

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Filed under anatomy, food, ingredients, recipes, yoga

Kiting Kale

Research Update: 

Totally killing it. Or not. So far we’re still having issues with downloading the data and using FreeSurfer to adjust the images, so for now I play with sticky notes and read the amusing answers our small sample size (8?) have written for the TTCT.

Brief explanation: TTCT (Torrance Test’s of Creative Thinking) was a test created about 30 years ago by Ellis P. Torrance. There are figural and verbal components, where the figural requires the subject to draw some sort of picture with a foundational doodle/pattern provided and the verbal requires the subject to practice divergent thinking, which is essentially a form of brainstorming. I’m administering these tests pre- and post- the Mindfulness Meditation program (MBSR) and checking out what neurological correlations there might be between meditation and creativity (a long shot, I know. It’s just silly and fun).

Check out this article from Newsweek for a more thorough explanation of the figural component of the TTCT and to see how it’s graded: “How Creative Are You?”

I had a few favorites from categorizing the verbal components of the tests today. My favorite responses to the question “Just suppose everyone had 6 fingers instead of 5, what would happen?” were: “A reassuring pat on the butt would feel that much larger” “People who used to be able to put their fist in their mouths might not be able to do it anymore”. One person wrote a passionate essay on environmental issues, a couple senators, and the destruction created by supporting small businesses (“That’s great guys. It’s fine. Really.”)

Ah, science.

To be a little more serious (wait, this wasn’t serious enough?), I came across a study published recently in Frontiers of Psychology called “Meditate to Create: the impact of focused-attention and open-monitoring training on convergent and divergent thinking”.

The study addressed the idea that different types of meditation can lead to different brain states. This is an extremely good approach as everyone likes to ask 1) can you be good at meditation? 2) what is it? Well, there is no short answer to either, as there are hundreds of types of meditation. To quote Patanjali from the yoga sutras (aka sort of yoga bible?): “I.39 Or [the steadiness of the mind is attained] from meditation upon anything of one’s inclination”. He states this after listing about 10 types of possible meditations.

In the study, they predict that focused attention meditation (inhalation to a specific body part, exhalation from there) leads to higher abilities to perform tasks related to convergent thinking (one correct answer, i.e. remote association task – three words are given like time, hair, and stretch, and participants are asked to come up with one answer – long). For divergent thinking (they use the verbal part of the TTCT), the authors predicted that open monitoring meditation (breath is used to “set the mind free” and allow any thoughts or emotions to arise naturally and be nonjudgementally observed, very similar to mindfulness meditation).

The results (in short summary mode) by conducting the experiment on a group of 16 people with a lot of OM and FA experience:

1. There was no difference in performance on the RAT in either group.

2. OM meditators significantly outperformed FA meditators in the TTCT verbal tests.

3. Both types of meditation elevated mood

4. Potential self-selection and demand characteristics may have biased the results somewhat

5. Check out other types of meditation in other religions? Oooh fun future project?

Anyways, glad I came across this as it is a good article to go off of for my thesis. And there’s a great chunk of it that I really appreciate in the intro:

However, the methodological diversity across these studies with regard to sample characteristics and type of meditation is considerable, which renders it question- able whether they were actually assessing the same construct and processes. Moreover, there is still no mechanistic model explaining how creative processes operate and how different type of medita- tions might affect these operations, which in view of the lack of conceptual clarity may not be surprising. To address this issue, we tried to avoid addressing meditation and creativity as a whole but, rather, focused on particular, relatively well-defined meditation techniques and specific subcomponents of creative performance. 

Daily Nutritional Facts

During my first week at Clover I tried a couple of the coffees – Stumptown (Indo) and Terroir (Colombia). Ayr had us trial taste and see if we could match the hot coffees to the cold. I guessed correctly, but when I tried to explain the flavor differences, I ended up describing these shapes instead (doodle time!):

The way Ayr described it was that the George Howell Coffee was that it was more acidic and fruity, while the Stumptown (the local coffee) was more well-rounded, dirty, earthy and complex. The Terroir was easily identifiable when hot because it still had a fruity, stringy taste and texture, while the Stumptown transformed from a complex, leveled cold to a buttery, smooth hot.

Last Friday was my friend’s fundraiser for her non-profit in Guatemala, Unmarked Streets. They seek to create a network of women who go through an entrepreneurial program, as well as distribute technologies that increase public health, protect the environment, and further education. Asides from teaching a class with the theme “Gratitude” (I referred to Roy Horan’s speech on how the key to creativity is gratitude), I made a random assortment of desserts ranging from vegan, gluten-free peanut butter cookies to the raw cacao cookies and a terrible attempt at the brownie bites (that ended up being the flattest thing ever because I made such a small portion).

Also created the love of my life – raw kale salad with miso ginger dressing. For some reason I felt like calling this dish Kale Kites. I have no idea what it means, but I felt like going with it. I didn’t realize after up to 5 days of storing kale, it largely becomes inedible because it starts going really bitter. (also there was an interesting study done by the owner of Harvest Coop that when kale is shipped across the country, the 2 week shipment – though the kale looks fresh – makes kale lose up to 70% of it’s nutrients, especially the vitamin C)

So what you need…

  • kale of choice
  • cooked quinoa (preferably chilled, unless it’s a cold day) – for regular, cook 1 cup of quinoa with 11/4 cups of water
  • tempeh 
  • soy sauce
  • black sesame seeds
  • any additional veggies you want (in this salad I had tomatoes)
  • sauce: miso ginger dressing and vegannaise

1) Tear up the kale, leaving the stalks behind (munch on it like celery sticks!)

2) Meanwhile, you should be sauteeing the tempeh on medium heat with some olive/coconut oil and soy sauce on it. It depends how much you want to use. I like mind to be cooked fairly crisp and moderately soy sauced up.

3) When finished, cut tempeh into pieces and toss into the salad. Add a cup or two of cooked quinoa. Sprinkle lots of black sesame seeds onto it (be more risky and sprinkle poppy seeds if they’re around!)

4) Add any more veggies you’d like to the mix, then make the sauce – I like to have a ratio of one tablespoon of vegannaise to an equal amount of miso ginger. Alter the ratio to your preference. For kicks, I tend to throw in Frank’s Finest Spirulina Gomasio, a delicious spice blend of Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts, Incan Spirulina, Himalayan Crystal Salt, and Onion Granules. It’s like sea in a basket. If this isn’t accessible to you, I’d go for something with umami/savory tastes like seaweed.

5) Mix, mix, mix by really massaging the kale with everything else to soften it and bring out more peppery flavors –> done!

Random last note – this isn’t so much a recipe as something I just randomly came up with. My mom introduced me to eating avocados with lemon and salt, which is absolutely delicious and I could probably consume for all three meals. Alas, I found myself the other night with no lemon in sight, but found a jar of poppyseeds instead (it took me a while to figure out that poppyseeds DO NOT equal lemon, they’re usually just paired)…so with a dollop of vegannaise, a generous handful of poppyseeds, and a sprinkle of salt, my avocado dinner was served.

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Filed under creativity, meditation, neuronerd adventuretime, science

Herbing Out P1

So I’m in the middle of a sick yoga teacher training certification at Karma Yoga Studio and yesterday we covered superfoods and superherbs. Basically, the main idea is that these are foods high in prana/energy. Or in less esoteric terms, full of juicy nutrients, life, and are at the bottom of the food chain. It’s mother nature’s way of taking care of us.

These are things like fresh & raw veggies, fruits, nuts, legumes, mushrooms…you get the idea. It’s simple. And so healthy. And it’s the optimal way of living as it helps establish you at a healthy weight, maintain a strong immune system, and live longer (if done in moderation a la The Middle Way).

Luckily for us, Boston was hosting its first ever Herbstalk . I was so bummed I didn’t get to stay for the whole thing since I had to head back to work at Sandrine’s (the French bistro I apprentice at. Or intern. Or whatever.) But I got a lot out of the whole thing and the atmosphere was so vibrant. It was so energizing to see how many people were actually there and eager to learn about what the world has to offer. And she’s got a ton.

So what do you get to do at a Herbalicious gathering? Well, here are some available options (to continue in later posts).

1. Drawing on the sidewalk. Being eight as wait for your savory BBQ Seitan sandwich from Clover Food Truck is always a great remedy for getting over a night out.

Amanda getting her fix of chalk art.

My eating wave.

2. See a yellow jeep (please refer to my bio to understand why this is important)

3. Be intrigued by the idea of Broga (I promise you I will attend a class and report back)

4. Discover that you can dye silk scarves with food. OMGTHEFOODIEINMEISGOINGCRAYCRAYRIGHTNOWANDCAN’THANDLEIT

That’s M. She’s from Alaska. And she dyes her silk scarves with everything from beets to cabbage to lemons to grapes to flowers. The $$ is donated to different bee cooperatives and local food sources. New hobby? Potentially. If you want to see how click here.


Welcoming a new member to my family – RED ONION

[[[[to be continued]]]

Daily Nutrition Report

I got way too excited by cauliflower that looked like the brain cortex. Neuronerdiness to the rescue. (FYI, roasted cauliflower with only oil, salt & pepper sprinkled on it is phenomenal. Chef Carlos reckoned the scallops weren’t selling as well because they were only being offered with the cauliflower than with starch. Usually the dish comes with mashed potatoes.)

I also got to meet these awesome kids today. They’re called Fiddleheads. I thought originally that Enrique was saying fetal heads. I heard very, very wrong (though it works, right? Kinda?) When sauteed with onions and garlic, it tastes delicious, with half its texture like spinach, and the other like a green bean. Their light taste is a cross between okra and a green bean. Full of omega-3, omega-6, antioxidants, and potassium, these guys are only available to be harvested during the spring/early summer.

Deciding still whether or not to stay with them. Will elaborate in another post.

And boo, Celtics lost the final game. I know I’m incompetent when it comes to sports knowledge and my enthusiasm for watching sports is about the same level as my enthusiasm to run a marathon (random fact: every marathon run will do permanent damage to your heart), but I’m in Boston. And being foreign let’s me have no real affiliation.

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Filed under cooking, food trucks, neuroscience, photography, senses, shopping

The Imaginative Neuroscientist

How could reading a book from the Romantic period give headway for a cognitive neuroscientist? How could the an analysis of the line “It was impossible to melt her dream so he melted into hers” be infused into an article published by a neuroscientist? Where does one etch the hard lines in the brain to define imagination?

Alan Richardson, a professor at BC and a Harvard PhD, loves romanticism.

The concepts of perception –> memory –> imagination is so dear to him, so beloved. But then, during a seminar I attended today, a literary modernist cited Henry James and how the facilities of imagination is a feedback system: it isn’t just perception –> memory –> imagination. Our imagination also shapes our perception. And neither person cited scientific papers…yet.

I found this idea interesting because we already know biases shapes our perceptions (regular peeps vs. monks and doing tasks where rationality would be the most effective, but most people’s biases interfere). But the idea that imagination could shape our perception and experience of the world shook me slightly. I reflected on the ideas in Qi Gong and in bioenergetic healings and visual metaphors in meditation and how imagination can alter reality (like actually though. Qi Gong breaks all the rules of regular physics, bioenergetics make you feel completely different in your body [two wins for Mind-Body therapy], and meditation literally changes your brain.)

Anyways, back to Alan. So the main emphasis of his short seminar (unfortunately, I came a bit late and also was on sleep deprivation mode) was that there is a subtle tug that can be felt within the science world that different disciplines are slowly coming to a peak in the brain. Philosophy, quantum physics, religion, and now literature. The idea that a literary historian could give input to a scientific research project seems ludicrous. But I know in my gut that it’s the way to go. But how can we evolve the research lab to involve multiple disciplines? How can we justify it to the science authorities? How will it be applicable and useful? Who’s going to have the balls (to put it frankly) to pursue this?

On my to do list (so guilty, I know) is reading John Lehrer’s book “Proust Was a Neuroscientist”. To quote from a book review written by Dennis Patrick Slattery called “Pathway to a New Mythology” (sorry for the aggressive quoting!):

“What continues to intrigue me about the entire field of neuroscience is how the act of learning continues to transform the brain, creating new neural pathways into memory, perception, understanding, emotional maturation, and speech centers, such that one senses no split between mind and body, but rather that the brain is an embodied entity and that the entirety of a human being is one unified phenomenon.[oh hey Dao of Neuroscience]

… 

Neuroscience and the artists who exposed its secrets earlier are reinventing memory and imagining along new lines of exploration. Studies in psychology, mythology, and the humanities generally cannot afford to ignore the work in this field.

Lehrer draws the analogy of Proust’s discovery that “our memories are not like fiction. They are fiction” (88). What Proust grasped was that memories do not create fabrications of earlier realities; rather, they embody the fictions of earlier events, making of them part historical fact and part fictional cloth. 

One of the most provocative chapters in Lehrer’s study considers the imaginal writing of Virginia Woolf. Her own belief that, as Lehrer paraphrases it, “certain elements of consciousness were constant and universal” suggests her recognition of the archetypal realm and of the patterned propensity of psyche (2008, 193). Coherence and wholeness were what consciousness sought as it gathered the fragments of experience and placed them in an order of formed coherence.  

My favorite part of the article:

Neurons are distributed all across the brain, and their firing unfolds over time. [Fourth dimension ahhhh] This means “the mind is not a place: it is a process” (Lehrer 2008, 177). After a certain point of exploring the organ of the brain and its firings, it becomes impossible to identify and hold the brain’s processing as mind. [This is how I feel about my creativity research – so jaded. More on this later.] As such, the brain is able to be both matter and energy at the same time. The excitement of neuroscientific discoveries is that what the brain is and how it functions is continually being reframed along different story lines; its plot continues to unfold with further episodes that change its narrative structure as it exposes patterned grooves that were invisible earlier: “Modern neuroscience is now confirming the self Woolf believed in. We invent ourselves out of our own sensations” (Lehrer 2008, 182). “

In other news: had a work interview yesterday @ Clover Food Labs. I love the place and their food and had a blast during the one hour I was there making chickpea sandwiches. I got accepted to work there so I’m super pumped. This is me pre-work when we held a Clover Workshop at a Mindfulness/Wellbeing Conference I put on last weekend (“Brain Break 2.0”). As you can see, my eagerness to chop beets confirms the foodie addict still lies within me. She was just dormant for a while:

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