samedi 26 décembre 2009
How could be a village of population 20, be connected to our beloved island in the Caribbean? Improbable, no? I am not counting my presence here, bringing in the Cuban spirit…
A man from the nearby area, who started his life as a butcher and prospered in that line of business, became an early admirer of our Jefe y Comandante, Fidel Castro Ruz. They had kept in touch with each other over the years.
Soon after the fall of Soviet Union and re introduction of tourism into the country, the shortage of meat, especially chicken meat had to be rectified. Fidel’s Breton friend came to the rescue.
There is a chicken farm in Kervallon. At any one time, there are 100,000 chicken being fed and fattened. Every fortyfive days they are ready for shipment to far away lands. Cuba agreed to buy Chicken from this farm as well as others in the region. So one of the first shipments of Chicken meat from this village had gone to Cuba. I vaguely remember seeing Chicken meat from France. Soon after that USA began allowing chicken meat to be shipped from USA to Cuba, so the dependence on French Chickens ceased. Currently most of the Chicken meat from this farm goes to the Gulf Region. Six times a Year…as part of a large French Shipment..
The drive from the seaside Breton village of Quiberon with its holiday festive atmosphere and the shops awaiting the tourists, to the village of Kervallon, Population 20, was an easy one, despite drizzling rain.
No sooner we arrived, a bottle of champagne was open, and many of the relatives stopped by to visit and say Hello. The last time I was in this region was in May 2007, when I had come to observe a ceremony of welcoming someone in to the Catholique Church. Secular and independent as they are, the French, requires some sort of affirmation of faith but most opt to go to the Mayors office and pledge their allegiance to the Republic. Some decide to attend a church, and attend a mass and later have a huge feast with the family. If I remember correctly, the centuries old church in the nearby town was festive with the families of about ten children, around 14 years of age. I wonder whether there is any sort of connection to this ceremony and our ceremony of welcoming a child into adulthood, Bar Mitsvah?
The people who live in this village are farmers. They have the best cidre in all of Brittany. There is a “chicken farm” of about 100 000 “caged” chicken, owned by two brothers. Just one family controls most of the arable land around here and the parade of people in that house, the adolescents dressed elegantly rather than hip hop or bling style.
Nearly 10 bottles of champagne were to! be consumed during the course of the evening and early dinner. As guests and family, in fact almost all was family, and lived locally and I was the only Etranger..but was made to feel very welcome.
Of the twenty odd people who had dinner together and also about 20 others who came to visit, one could truly say that only one was obese and two were overweight. The farmers were thickset so we cannot mistake that for being overweight.
Americans, Australians, the British and the Nutritionists all point out to the food and its composition as the cause of lots of illness, without taking into consideration the social context of eating. Food has more meaning that just filling up your tummy, it conveys friendship, cements responsibility and solidarity and connects the past with the future.
If a nutritionist were to calculate the components of food eaten this evening by habitually thin French people, they would be horrified!
To accompany the Champagne, there were pieces of bread with various taste enhancers: salmon, tuna, fish eggs, cheese, eggs. Large plates one after another arrived, consumed and replaced.
As this was being cleared away, a large container of Foie Gras arrived and it was cut, and distributed with four different types of bread. Delicious and mouth watering, one slice would have all the fat you require in a day..I had two and enjoyed every minute of it!
White wine was served at this time. I sipped merrily along, finishing about three glasses before the main meal arrived.
The foie gras was only the first appetizer. Fresh oysters were on offer and all of us helped ourselves to about half a dozen of them, with its salty water, slurping in one instant.
The dinner had begun at 8 30 pm and at this stage it was already 10 30 pm. Conversations were flying back and forth like arrows, private and public conversations, people moving to a person they wish to discuss something with, a general level of joy and affection was ever present.
In my heart, I slowly began to feel the joy of being present at the net of family ties, to know that this sort of strength still exist in the western world. Nuclear family to them would be an anathema ..family is family.. and you sacrifice for your family and when an occasion arises, you enjoy as lugubriously as possible the event.. but with your family members..
This family has had a restaurant in town until 1981, which I will describe later. So the red wine to accompany the roast beef and potato were from that era. Dusty with their labels covered with the mists of time, bottles of Graves and Saint Emilion arrived, and as quickly as they came, they disappeared as well.
Home grown potato, gratinee, with fresh cream and then garlic, oodles of it, to accompany the roast beef. The meat is gotten locally, so there is very little chance of growth hormone or antibiotics, the taste proved it. The main meal arrived at around 11 30 pm.
The festivities continued well past into the wee hours, always with drinks and always with food.
To those interested in French Pardox, the epidemiologists who predict patterns of disease and try to find the causative agents, noticed that while the French eat twice as much fat and carbohydrate as the Americans, they had less than half the rate of heart diseases and cholesterol problems.
It takes a qualitative thinking of an anthropologist, rather than the quantitative thinking of scientists and doctors to figure this out.
Look at the milieu where this food is being eaten. Are they alone? Are they sad? Are they depressed? Au contraire..
One of the three pieces of advise I give to people who consult me to loose weight, is: Do not eat alone, do not eat standing up, driving a car or while on the computer. Always try to eat with someone or while having a conversation.
While you are doing something else, the body’s protective hormones are on the look out to take care of you, they are raised; and when food is eaten, it is absorbed and stored away as fat. When you are talking and eating, the relaxed mood brings in a state of low hormonal levels and you could enjoy a larger variety of food without harm to your body.
The fact that the French do not have the prudish thought about Alcohol, like in the USA or the restrictions as in Scandinavian countries or habits of beer guzzling as in Australia or UK, their alcohol consumption in the form of excellent wines and champagne, for the years have protected them, their hearts and their arteries. Again, don’t drink alone, don’t drink to get drunk and drink in company while enjoying the food…
This in essence is the French Paradox..there was even a book called, The French Women don’t get Fat, which utilized some of these principles..for those unfortunates who live outside France…
Today is Boxing Day and I am at a Breton village, Kervallon. Ker is village in the language, so every time you hear Ker…you can be sure that the place or the person has Breton heritage. One such famous example is Jack Kerouac, whose ancestors may have migrated from the nearby Huelgoat to French Canada. In these parts, the Royalists were strong and after a prolonged battle when they were defeated, many of them chose to go to Quebec rather than stay in a Republican France.
Looking at a book of photos of this region from 1900s, you would think that you were in some impoverished nation of thatched roofs, earth floors and people dressed in some exotique fashion.. but it was so, one hundred years ago in Bretagne, but even in this village of just twenty people, all houses are as modern as they come, with all the modern conveniences and exhibiting the affluence of the mother country. Electricity had arrived only in 1951 and indoor plumbing in 1961. I am guest at a home, which is large by any standards, surrounded by fruit orchards and rolling farm hills and studded with evergreen trees. The microclimate here provides with a warmer than normal temperature, today is nearly 10 C when the rest of France is getting itself out of the abundant snow of this season.
Two things become evident to an Anthropologist at first look. One, the solidarity of family, into which a rigorous sense of gift giving is interwoven, secondly, look no further for an explanation of the French Paradox of Eating and Remaining Healthy.
The dinner table consisted of 20 seats, occupied by an array of family members, aged 16 to 78 years. Gifts were given to the younger ones in the family and the young men and women received monetary gifts. I observered a pattern of gift giving which reminded me very much of the tale of gift giving among the Tobriand Islanders well described in that classic text of Anthropology by Bronowski.
The social events are celebrated with Gifts, birth, marriage, coming of age, pregnancy etc. the cost of the gifts tend to be uniform, in that no one spends much more than the other, how they arrive at the magical figure, I am not sure. Within the immediate family this rule does not seem to apply, mothers and fathers seem to lavish gifts on their children even after the latter had become full grown adults.
After working with many years with Tribal people, I can recognize the tribal patterns of behaviour, gossip without mal intention, generosity, hospitality, solidarity, remembrances of a good time past, and an ever present nostalgia. Even those young adults who had never lived the tribal life of the Bretons, are filled with nostalgia of a time 20 years ago when the houses still had ground earth floors in some of the villages and the visits to distribute sweets to the old and the infirm in nearby villages.
This area is beautiful in its own way, gurgling rivers, which are small but energetic, evergreen forests, rolling hills of farm land, mountains to be seen in the distance, and the silence of the day broken only by cooing of birds or an occasional bark of a dog.
I, who have lived a tribal life, philosophically speaking, all my life, now find myself pleasantly entangled with possibly the original inhabitants of this part of the world. in another blog, I will explore the origins of Bretons and where they might have come from, all those thousands of years ago.
mardi 22 décembre 2009
Never before in my life have I lost my appetite completely, but on the evening of the 19th December 2009, I did.
What a punishment since I was being upgraded to the Business Class on my flight of 9 hr 14 minutes from Houston to Paris. I always look forward to the meals on Business Class, as I have felt that the best meals in America are offerd in the Business Class International flights .
Plus the chance to drink some good wines..
My stomach was in revolt. I am not sure what had happened, I had left Paris with a perfect stomach functioning well. The chemical overload in American food, even though I avoid eating American food while I am in America..a little difficult to do when you are out in the bush ..
Jamaican food in Miami should be alright, freshly cooked. But the dinner at a Pan Asian Restaurant began this downslide to this loss appetite in Business Class.
In the boondocks of Nebraska where the Indians live, my meals were mainly the clinic food, and some food at a local face and three lunches at a Thai Restaurant, the latter being the only one that could be classified safe.
Someone offered a glass of McWilliams Shiraz from Australia on that Thursday and I couldn’t resist it. My poor stomach already under assault from the various chemical ingredients couldn’t take it any more. Starting that Friday morning, my stomach refused much further food and with increasing pain, I could easily diagnose myself as having acquired Gastritis.
Fortunately I had some of the medications necessary to treat Gastritis with me, and being a doctor I was envisaging the worst scenario of a bleeding peptic ulcer while the flight was over the water onwards to Paris..nothing outstanding happened except the lack of sleep.. thank god I was upgraded to Business Class, flying in that state of health on Economy, crowded and every single seat taken, would have been a hell, on top of the gastritis..
Then I realized that, even though this is the first ever time my appetite had completely disappeared, similar scenarios had happened to me before on visits to the USA around this time of the year.
It begins with a change in sleep patterns around late October and then around mid December, some sort of a weakness, and gastritis of some nature.
2005 on exactly the same day ,19th December, I was on Business Class on Continental from Houston to Narita, unable to drink the beverages offered, but still enjoyed a nice Japanese meal..arrived at NRT feeling sick and left NRT feeling sick as well on the 3 January , promising never to return… My companion at that time, left me alone in a roykan near Narita with this warning words: you have not looked after yourself all throughout the year, so you are suffering now, and you are to blame.
She may have been right but at least she could have offered a cup of tea…ah well.
Yet another time, I was on my way to Australia, and was not able to drink or eat much just before Christmas one year, and I remember friends saying, pelase don’t travel. That trip too was out of USA..
The endless travels during the year, perhaps accumulates, and then the final blow is the chemicals in the food in the USA. Someone remarked to me that I looked dehydrated and I drank few cans of a petulant beverage, something I never do. I have the feeling that irrational action also contributed to my sad state of affairs flying back to Paris.
Sleepy and tired, in snowy Paris, took the train from Montparnasse to Auray, sleeping most of the way, drove to Quiberon, after a light meal, I wanted to rest. I noticed that even the bread tasted different. So I had no doubt in my mind that my state of affairs was induced by the chemical load… on top of a heavy work load.
Let this be a warning to those who travel to USA from countries which has such good daily offerings of food.. Japan, Malaysia, India, Most of Europe etc…
mercredi 16 décembre 2009
Made in America… time for a boycott?
No this is not anti American rhetoric coming from South of the Border, but a look into what damage Fruits and Vegetables grown in America does to the bodies of Americans..
In the USA, when an average talks about Fruits, they usually mean Bananas, Oranges and Apples.
Where do Bananas come from, that is sold even in supermarkets in snow drenched North Dakota? At any time of the year? From Ecuador, From Colombia etc..
Oranges and Apples are homegrown products.
Which of the three have the highest amounts of Pesticides detected in them? Out of the highest pesticide load of 100? No surprise.. Oranges at 42 and Apples at 89.. their latin cousins are at a lamentably low pesticide level of only 16…
Strawberries pack in a 89 and peaches a full 100..
Home Grown Nutrition Substitutions and Country of Origin
Food with high pesticide
A small example is only given.. Not all foreign country produces are good. Read about the pollution of Costa Rican water system by increasing number of Pineapple Farms ( Hawaiian pineapple farms have become tourist attractions!), Cantaloupes from Mexico, Grapes from Chile are high in pesticidal residues ..( no wonder the Chilean grapes are cheaper than American ones..)
The Fruit-- what it has substitute it with
Strawberries - Vitamin C - Blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwi
Green and Red- Vitamins A and C - Green Peas, Broccoli,Brussels Sprouts, Asparagus, romaine lettuce,Asparagus
Celery- carrots,broccoli, radishes, romaine lettuce
Grapes from Chile
Canteloupes from Mexico
Winter Squash USA
Potatoes USA- sweet potatoes US Winter squash from Honduras
PRODUCE WITH THE LEAST LEVELS OF PESTICIDE RESIDUES
Avacados Vitamins A C Folic Acid
USA Mexico Grapes Vitamin C
Onions caretenoids Plums Vit C Sweet Potatoes
Green Onions Watermelon Potassium Broccoli Potassium
Cauliflower Brussels Sprouts
BUY ORGANIC. BUY HOME GROWN. BUY AT FARMERS MARKETS. AVOID FRUITS AND VEGETABLES WHICH ARE OUT OF SEASON.
lundi 14 décembre 2009
Genetic 'map' of Asia's diversity
Even during a short time period such as one's life time, the variation in population movement has been incredible and unpredictable. so for a traveller, it is always good to look back and study the origins of the peopling of the continents. Asia is especially interesting. this new study confirms what had been suspected that the migration from the south to the north in Asia occured. but that was very very long time ago. the further away the historic origins are from the present, the general interest wanes. Who are the Bumiputra of Malaysia? Orang Asli who must have been there for perhaps 50 000 years or the Malays who came there from the North 1500 years ago? Most of the people we call Indians are descendants of migrants from the North to India in the past 5000 years with major migrations occuring in this millenia. The Adivasi are the true Bumiputra of India. I had been fascinated by the physiognomy of the South Indian people who bear a remarkable resemblance to australian Aboriginals, they should since Australian aboriginals are thought to have migrated from southern India (there are Australoid people still living in South India, Todas of Nilgiris and Vedas from Sri Lanka among others). Often I would stop and stare at a man or woman in the streets of Madras, stunned by the similarity of the "typical" dravidian look and the Australian Aboriginal physiognomy.
Post Second World War migration changed the gene pool once again. Italy alone has contributed 60 million immigrants to the world, one in every seven australian and one in three Portenos, have Italian blood.
The new migration which is somewhat culturally incongruous, is the latest invasion of Europe and America by people who have no historical association with the developed world, and whose only reason to come, with some exception, is economical.
A Pakistani flower seller in the streets of Oslo, A Sri Lankan bar tender in Paris, A Dinka tribesman in the frigid north dakota, a shifty west african in the streets of Malaga speaking perfect Spanish and selling you a fake handphone, Bosnians in the Calle Florida in BA..
Cultural Diversity has come home.
after about 60 000 years of divergence, the modern migration has brought us back together. In an interesting study supported by National Geographic and detailed in their september 2009 issue, is the genetic study of just one street in Queens, 30th avenue in Astoria. Queens is considered to be the most ethnically diverse population in the world. There was every single human migration known to man ( not in the modern sense.. we are talking about 50 000 years to about 10 000 years ago).. Pedro A who has Indigenous blood running through his veins washes dishes, his ancestors are Peruvian having arrived there from Siberia. Atsushi M, a japanese ( I really dont believe that there is a pure japanese race,since japan was inhabited by various races of people over the centuries, but for this discussion..a japanese) may have arrived at the island from the prehistoric migration from the south. Alma M, a bosnian must have arrived in her ancestral home from Africa via the Middle East. Strangely enough the people who have least mixture are the original ones, from Africa, for many reasons, remain least diverse. Americans of African ancestry undertook only a short journey from Africa across the Atlantic.. compare that journey of an Orang Asli or Australian Aboriginal?
One every 17 person living along the meditarranean coast has one direct phoenician ancestor.. so Palestine is not the land of the Phoenicians nor the claim of Lebanese Christians that they are Phoenicians dont hold water.. A major portion of this planet's population has traversed what we call the Middle East one time or another in their long journey..
When I was a Medical Student, as part of an experiment, all of us analysed our own genetic origins by studying certain antigens in our blood... Strangely enough none of us had any African Genetic material in us ( perhaps the migration was too distant?), but in my case, the closest affinity was to Georgia in the Caucuses.
In the last 1000-2000 years or so a kind of reverse migration seems to have taken place, Moguls coming in from Uzbekistan, Han Chinese pushing down from the North, jewish populations moving out of present day Israel.
It is nice for people to know that we must price our cultural diversity whereas our genetic diversity is at best ambiguous and thus race based declarations have little meaning.
In that way we are all Bumiputras...
samedi 12 décembre 2009
It is always nice to be met at the Airport, MIA is a very quick airport in terms of Immigraation and Customs, within about five minutes I was outside and my friend was there to pick me up.. He is from Jamaica, from Kingston, but his father's family had migrated to Antilla in Oriente when his father was but a babe, from Bethlehem. Now he lives in America.. Globalization within a generation.
As we got into the car, he hands me a Cortadito.. and said: I know that you would appreciate this..
I said to myself, as I sipped that delicious Cuban Coffee.. This is truly Heaven..
Before the night fell, had to rush out and get candles for the first night of the Chanukkah... I am always glad to come to Miami which is without doubt my American Home, despite the anti island cuban rhetoric, which is sounding hollower by the day. Viva La Revolucion Cubana, otherwise we would have deprived Miami of a good Cortadito.. another way of thinking about it..
Within the week of Chanukkah: to the Indian Country where the temperature is hovering around 0 degrees C and back to Quiberon in Bretagne..
mardi 8 décembre 2009
Fraud suspected in Miami-Dade diabetes care
An investigation has flagged Miami-Dade as accounting for over half the $1 billion that Medicare paid out nationally for treatment of homebound diabetes patients.
BY JAY WEAVER
Medicare paid $520 million to Miami-Dade home healthcare agencies for treating diabetic patients, more than what the agency spent in the rest of the country combined, according to federal investigators.
The investigators suspect the disproportionate amount of Medicare dollars spent in Miami-Dade in 2008 is fraudulent because the county is home to just 2 percent of the nation's diabetic patients eligible for the federal program. The money may have been misspent in two areas: questionable claims for patients who either didn't need twice-daily nursing services to inject their insulin or who didn't actually have the diabetes.
The findings, issued Monday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General, found that Miami-Dade providers accounted for just over half of the $1 billion that Medicare paid out nationally in 2008 for the treatment of homebound patients with diabetes and related illnesses.
Also raising a red flag for federal investigators: The county's percentage of diabetics is lower than the rate in other Florida areas with heavy elderly populations.
HHS Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson said ``the recent growth in home healthcare services relative to the number of eligible [Medicare] beneficiaries indicates that it may be subject to fraud.''
People arrested almost always are cuban migrants.. is this the style of government that they want to impose on the Little Island to the South?
dimanche 6 décembre 2009
Was it March 1993, when this madness began? this continual rotation of travel..London, MIami, Havana, Baracoa, Paris as hubs of my travel?
I do remember that trip: London to Bangkok, then on to KL, visiting the Orang Asli, on to Kuching, Kota Kinabalu... This was an introduction to Malaysia which was to become dearer to my heart.. but only in 2008..
I remember going to the Malaysian Airlines Office at Jalan Ismail? and seeing plastic Palm trees.. incongruous as we were there to search for some rare palms in Malaysian Borneo..a fecund palm paradise..
2010 dont think I would be doing much travelling.. it is a mis statement.. since my January itinerary looks something like this..
my world revolves around certain planets and in 2010, it would be just
Paris Miami Havana Los Indios and KL. The only "travel" i am planning to do is to Chaungtha beach in Myanmar in July 2010 for a weekend!
I have spent most of this sunday, organizing my trips for January..for example how does one get to KL from MIami. no, i dont look up Travelocity.com, but fit the schedules of flights (I am loyal to Star Alliance and Sky Team)..
Miami to Houston to Amsterdam to Paris CO and KLM
one week later, Paris to Dubai on Air France; to catch an evening flight to KL with MH..
I had to call my credit card company three times today as they kept denying me when i tried to book a ticket Paris to Dubai and then another ticket Dubai to KL.. I am happy they keep an eye on your spending!
February: Bangalore to Paris. Paris to Los INdios and then on to the Indians in Mexico and then on to Paris.. Havana would be somewhere along there...
I am so glad that I went where i pleased when travel had not turned into humanitarian work, which now restricts my travel destinations.. i am glad to have visited Tokelau, Majuro and Nauru and Tarawa in one trip; Rapa Nui and Buenos Aires on another; Muscat and Zanzibar in another; Tsumkwe and Victoria falls in another; santa elena uiren and leatham in one another trip... many of them had no purpose other than wanting to learn about the people at the destination.. Now, in many of those destinations, I have become the doctor, consultant or just friends to whose who are suffering.
Travel is the saddest of all pleasures, Theroux said that, I dont quite agree with that; nor do I want to appear irreverential by not aggreing with the first lines of Tristes Tropiques.. I hate travellers and Journeys..
what has happened was something not quite planned, journeys and life have become part of each other, one does not know when the journey begins and the work ends or the life begins and journeys end.. it is a continuum ..