Originally created 06/18/97

Small portions



Restaurant rule

The next time you eat in your favorite restaurant, check out the health claims on the menu. The rules just changed in your favor.

The same law that pasted nutrition facts labels on packaged grocery store foods now requires nutrition information from restaurants if they make health claims on the menu. That's not for every item, just the ones for which they make a nutrition claim.

If a restaurant menu says a dish is "low fat," for instance, it has to meet the same standards as a low-fat packaged meal from a grocery store. It can have no more than 3 grams of fat in each 100 grams (about 31/2 ounces) of food.

Spam sonnets

There's an Internet site for Spam limericks and haiku - 6,900 of the latter - and it now boasts a Spam sonnet page. More than a dozen are currently posted there, and additions are welcomed. So if you think you can do better than:

"O! SPAM, thy glories always manifest

"In pinkish mass, and jelly shim'ring sweet

"Atop unfathom'd mystery of meat,

"Encased in tin your honesty is truest,"

the address is http://pemtropics.mit.edu/@jcho/spam/sonnets.html

Great grilling

What makes grilling so popular? It's the taste it imparts to foods, says chef Bobby Flay.

Some grilling tips for summer:

  • Grill only what you can manage. A mixed grill of six foods sounds great, but it could be a hassle to finish them all at the same time.
  • Use dry rubs and marinades, not fat, to add flavor.
  • Never marinate flaky fish; it breaks down. Rub fish with olive oil, salt and pepper before grilling.
  • Let the grill do the work. A common mistake is to throw the food on the grill and immediately start moving it around. Be patient.
  • When steaming vegetables in aluminum foil, place a few ice cubes on top of the vegetables before sealing.
  • Toxic beans

    Samuel Johnson said, "He was a brave man that first ate an oyster." But what about the people who first ate "jengkol" beans - and then kept on eating them?

    Jengkol beans, considered a delicacy on Java, have to be soaked and fermented. In the process, they develop a sulfurous aroma that becomes part of the body odor of the eater. You could say the same about garlic, but aroma isn't the real problem. Most would object to the fact that jengkol beans cause acute kidney pain.

    "In spite of these disagreeable side effects, which are observed rather often," reports a book titled Toxins Naturally Occurring in Foodstuffs, "the jengkol eaters will consume their beloved beans again the following season."

    No stones about it

    Harvard University researchers tracked almost 92,000 nurses for 12 years to see if there was a relationship between calcium intake and kidney stones. Those who got the most calcium from their diets were at lower risk for kidney stones. This is exactly the opposite of common sense practiced through the ages.

    Many kidney stones are a combination of calcium and oxalic acid. So, historically, kidney-stone sufferers have been advised to limit or eliminate high-calcium foods.

    What seems to happen is that calcium in food combines with oxalic acid in your digestive tract. These "oxalates" exit your body with other waste products. But, when you're not eating enough high-calcium foods, you can't make oxalates in your digestive tract. Instead, oxalic acid is absorbed and travels through your blood stream, eventually landing in your kidneys.

    Your kidneys are busy processing calcium in your blood. They make a great place for calcium and oxalic acid to meet and form those insoluble oxalates. Over time, oxalates can become stones.