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Archive for the ‘Diabetes’ Category

Touching story this.

Meredith and I were at the La Gare in Castres some weeks back seeing our friends Anne and Ray from Maryland onto their midday train to Toulouse.

Double seat benches faced each other in the waiting area–perfect for two couples.

Problem was that on one of the benches sat a hooded figure hunched forward, asleep perhaps–his face hidden, anyway showing no signs of being about to move.

Not a threatening presence exactly but hooded figures give you pause.

It was a chilly early autumn day. He was wearing shorts and sandals and a plastic bag rested at his side.

When the train arrived, the four of us made our way onto the platform with the other waiting passengers.

Mr Hooded Figure followed amid the general animation, fearing perhaps being moved on unless he gave the impression he was traveling too.

We said our goodbyes to Ray and Anne and headed back towards the hall.

Meredith looked for Mr HF.

He was sitting on a bench on the platform still hooded looking straight ahead; unfocused, dazed, unengaged–certainly benign but lost and hungry, Meredith thought.

She made her first move.

For this story is about the moves that Meredith makes that others (like me) might not always leap up to make.

I said I’d get the car started–wary of being too eager a samaritan.

Meredith doesn’t recognize “wary”, be it dog or human, when she senses need.

She went up to him and asked if he’d like something to eat and drink.

He said he would and they made their way to the little news stand where the refrigerated shelf held sandwiches and salads.

He said he just wanted water but Meredith persuaded him to accept a small tabbouleh salad with the bottle of water.

She was also concerned about his state of mind and asked him if he wanted to see a doctor or go to the hospital.

He eventually agreed to go to the hospital.

My face when she turned up with him was a picture, she says.

She explained the situation and the young man got into the back of the car.

I said “Bonjour Monsieur”; took a deep breath and set off.

When we arrived at the hospital Meredith accompanied him into “Urgences”, the emergency reception.

I parked the car and hung out.

It took a while.

When she came out she said she’d left him waiting to see a doctor.

To her surprise he’d produced his identity card and carte vitale (health system card) from a deep pocket in his shorts, when asked by reception.

She later went back to the hospital with a bag of clothes but found that he had been discharged–to her dismay.

The receptionist said the doctor who’d dealt with him was busy with other patients and she’d have to wait.

After 45 minutes she reluctantly gave up and drove home.

She later found him on Facebook and left a message wishing him well and hoping he was alright.

Last week she received this email from him.

Bonjour, je suis la personne que vous avez aidée à la gare de Castres.

Merci pour votre humanité et votre gentillesse.
Je vous souhaite une bonne continuation.
Thanks,
Denis

She found this quote from Voltaire to include in her reply:

 La vie est un naufrage, mais nous ne devons pas oublier de chanter dans les canots de sauvetage

“Life is a shipwreck but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats!”

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 Today is World Diabetes Day–Nov 14th, birthday of Fred Banting, who along with Charles Best first discovered insulin, revolutionizing the treatment of diabetes.world-diabetes-day

The World Diabetes Day 2014 campaign marks the first of a three-year (2014-16) focus on healthy living and diabetes.

Special focus will be placed on the importance of starting the day with a healthy breakfast. (see below!)

Facebook question for Robin & Meredith: What do you guys have for breakfast? The cookbooks don’t mention anything and I’m curious ~Maire Martello 

To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day.

                                     ~ W. Somerset Maugham

All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.            ~ John Gunther

Oysters are the usual opening to a winter breakfast. Indeed, they are almost indispensable.

~ Grimod de la Reyniere (1758-1838)

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” 

~ I’m sure my mother said that a few times!

Breakfast–before I set off on my walk–is the same every morning (and no sign of an oyster)!

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large organic oat flakes mixed with…

freshly-cracked walnuts (watch out for rogue pieces of shell that crack your teeth)

a dried, untreated apricot–chopped

a teaspoon of linseeds

a prune (cooked),

half a pot of plain organic yogurt

cinnamon–sprinkled on top (Some studies show cinnamon helps lower blood sugar levels.)

and moistened with unsweetened oat or almond milk

Two slices of 100% organic rye bread with a little butter and pear & apple fruit spread (no added sugar)

and a small black coffee

The same every morning?

Yes!

Dull?

Not for me. I look forward to it–once a day, at least!

Maybe we are at our most conservative, most in need of ritual, just after waking up. I find the assembling and eating of this bowl of goodies a daily delight.

Meredith’s version of breakfast heaven is cooked oats (she’s eating it as I write!) :

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Porridge: small oat flakes cooked in organic milk, organic plain yogurt, a cooked prune, perhaps some seasonal fruit, cinnamon sprinkled over.

Neither of us feel the need to snack before lunch–the oats keep us going.

Latest estimates* suggest that there are 382 million people living with diabetes worldwide.

What makes the pandemic particularly menacing is that throughout much of the world, it remains hidden.

In my case, there were NO symptoms. My Type 2 diabetes was picked up in a routine blood test.

Up to HALF of all people with diabetes worldwide remain UNDIAGNOSED!

A simple blood test is all that is needed for a diagnosis.

If you have a family history of diabetes, as I did, a routine test is a good idea!

Life, within doors, has few pleasanter prospects than a neatly arranged and well-provisioned breakfast table. 

~ Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)

* International Diabetes Federation Diabetes Atlas

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The fight goes on to get kids eating more healthily, which is good for them, their future health and welfare and is ultimately a money saver on health costs.

This piece by Mark Bittman from The New York Times  addresses the fight over ensuring school children get healthy school lunches and speaks to the heart of the problem of child and adult obesity that besets populations worldwide.

British cooking guru and author Jamie Oliver comes up against the same difficulties–and fights on.

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…We are in a public health crisis largely brought about by the consumption of sugar and hyperprocessed carbs. It’s fine to scream “don’t eat as many of them,” but that message can’t possibly match the power of the billions of dollars spent annually by an industry ($400 million a year on marketing soda to teens alone) encouraging us to consume more. Government’s proper role is to protect us, and this would be a fine way to start.

…Healthy food initiatives threaten profits and are therefore fought or deflected or co-opted at all costs by the producers of hyperprocessed food. This is true even when those costs include producing an increasingly sick population — and a disproportionate number of defenseless children — and an ever-growing portion of our budget spent on paying for diet-related illness. Big Food will continue to pursue profit at the expense of health as long as we let them.

 

At Jean Jaures College in our local town, a glance at the lunch menu seems to confirm that an effort is being made–though the day we visited we were not invited to sample for ourselves!

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These knobbly numbers are Jerusalem Artichokes.

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They are doubly duplicitous.

The name has nothing to do with Jerusalem the town and even less to do with the noble globe artichoke.

It derives from a corruption of the Italian for sunflower–girosole--which, because of the way it sounds, morphed into Jerusalem.

Also known as sun chokes, sunroots, topinambor and earth apples they are a species of sunflower and originating from the eastern side of North America–their health benefits, especially for diabetics, are explained here.

Duplicitous, yes, but also delicious and especially here when mixed with capers, white wine and pieces of chicken.

Marcella Hazan devised this recipe.

One caveat–they do have a reputation for causing flatulence–but hey!

1 chicken–cut into pieces

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2 tbs olive oil

1lb Jerusalem artichokes–peeled and sliced thin in a food processor

2 garlic cloves–chopped

2 tbs capers–drained

2 tbs parsley–chopped

1 glass/6 tbs/4 fl oz white wine

salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a casserole with a lid and brown the chicken pieces (five minutes each side)

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Park them in a bowl.

Add the garlic and sauté briefly.

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Mix in the parsley, capers and wine before returning the chicken to the pan.

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Turn everything again and add the artichoke slices.

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Again turn everything over a couple of times and cover the pan.

Cook on a very low heat for 30 to 40 minutes.

It’s good to let the condensation moisten and tenderize the artichokes–so resist the temptation to lift the lid too often.

A couple of times is good to check the liquid–add a little water if it is drying out–and turn it all again.

IMG_1519We are seeing a movie tonight with some friends so I made this last night and stored it in the fridge.

I shall reheat it slowly when we get home and before you can say Jack Robinson or Jiminy Cricket, we’ll be sitting down tearing the chicken (and the movie) to pieces!

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This recipe is from my new book,  Healthy Eating for Life.

I was going to try out a new dish using the cooked Puy lentils left over from lunch yesterday, but changed my mind–and settled on this soupy supper instead.

I found a small cabbage sitting in the fridge, patiently waiting its turn…

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Red lentils with cabbage and tomatoes

Rose Elliott adapted this from a recipe in Julie Sahni’s Classic Indian Vegetarian Cookery. I have tweaked it a bit more.

for 4

250gms/8oz red lentils

2 1/4 pints/1300ml stock–I use organic vegetable stock cubes

1/3 tsp turmeric

375gms/12oz tinned [canned] tomatoes–chopped

  • Rinse the lentils thoroughly.
  • Put them in a saucepan with the stock and the turmeric and bring up to the boil.
  • Cook at a gentle simmer for 45 minutes.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes then set aside.

1 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tbsp curry powder–(your choice how hot!)

onion–chopped

a small cabbage–outer leaves removed, quartered, cored and shredded

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Juice of half a lemon

salt and pepper

Parsley or better still fresh coriander–chopped to sprinkle over

  • Heat the oil in a new pan.
  • Add the mustard seeds and cook them until they start to pop–a couple of minutes.
  • Mix in the curry powder.

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  • Add the onion and the cabbage and mix everything together well.

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  • Cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add the wilted cabbage to the lentils.
  • Bring the mixture up to the simmer.
  • Leave it to simmer gently for 20 minutes.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Stir in the lemon juice.

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  • Sprinkle over the parsley or coriander (none available chez nous ce soir!)

It’s best served hot.

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diabetes_gymnema1

I feel pretty invested in this day–November 14th–each year. World Diabetes Day…

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Frederick (Fred) Banting, who would have been 122 today (!) was one half of the Canadian duo (the other was Charles Best) who by discovering insulin, prolonged the life of my mother Molly Ellis and millions of other diabetics worldwide.

“With the relief of the symptoms of his disease, and with the increased strength and vigor resulting from the increased diet, the pessimistic, melancholy diabetic becomes optimistic and cheerful. Insulin is not a cure for diabetes; it is a treatment.”

Sir Frederick Banting, Nobel Prize Lecture, 1923

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Dr. Banting and Dr. Charles Best (a medical student at the time) worked together at the University of Toronto where they discovered a method to extract the hormone, insulin. It was a fundamental breakthrough in the treatment of diabetes.

Insulin is central to regulating (metabolizing) sugar and carbohydrate in the body. Without it there was little hope of survival for millions who, like my mother, were diagnosed with Type 1.

On January 23rd, 1922–a historic date–they tested their insulin serum on 14-year-old Leonard Thompson–who experienced almost instant relief. He survived into his thirties.

My mother, Molly, often referred to Banting and Best as her saviours–and they were.  Diagnosed in her mid-thirties, she survived for over 30 years, dying from a diabetes-related heart attack at the age of 68. ma3img_0044_2

November 14th is also the anniversary of my father’s death–30 years ago. Tony would have been ten days into his 99th year today. Image 83 RIP Mum, Dad and Dr Banting.

Millions of people have diabetes but are ignorant of it (for Type 2, there are often no symptoms in the early stage). It’s diagnosed by a simple blood test.

http://www.diabetes.org.uk/

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In 2006 I worked on an episode of the Swedish TV version of Wallander, playing an American professor suspected of killing his wife. (Meredith couldn’t resist a visit to the set!).

It was an entirely enjoyable experience working with a fine cast and crew in Ystad on the southern tip of Sweden where the stories are set.

No hint was given in our episode that Kurt Wallander (played definitively by Krister Henriksson) was diabetic. Perhaps the production company decided not to go down that road.

A pity in my view.

Henning Mankell, author of the Wallander books, explained in an interview in The Daily Telegraph why he’d made his hero diabetic:

“I wanted to show how difficult it is to be a good police officer. But after, I think, the third novel, I spoke to this friend of mine and asked what sort of disease I could give him. Someone who leads the life he does. Without hesitating, she said: ‘Diabetes!’ So I gave him diabetes and that made him more popular. I mean, you could never imagine James Bond giving himself a shot of insulin, but with Wallander it seemed perfectly natural.”

I’m reading The Troubled Man at the moment–the last in the nine-book series.

It is as much a character study of his vulnerable and flawed detective as a thriller–an absorbing read.

Wallander is in his early sixties, divorced, living alone and full of foreboding and gloom about his future.

He doesn’t take care of his diabetes, which is Type 1.

He’s overweight, eats haphazardly and takes little exercise. At one point in the novel he has a hypo (hypoglycemic–low blood sugar–blackout) and nearly dies. He’s discovered naked and unconscious in the shower by his daughter, also a police officer, worried when she is unable to reach him by phone.

She has recently given birth to his first grandchild and is keen that he lives long enough to know his granddaughter and vice-versa.

Shocked into action by his narrow escape, he starts to take more care of his condition.

Henning Mankell doesn’t elaborate further on the condition, but saddling his main character with this disease of-the-moment works well and stealthily provides readers with helpful information, even if that wasn’t the author’s intention.

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being wired for sound just before making a run for it!

For the record–my character is arrested, after a car chase, on the Oresund Bridge that links Denmark and Sweden.

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“OK Gov, it’s a fair cop!”

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