Food blog revival

I’m bringing my food blog back to life. After I went abroad I tried to keep it alive but was too busy with all of my school work and trying to graduate. Now that I have more time, I’m going to be blogging about food through photography, experimental recipes and my dining adventures.

Right now I’m volunteering at a farm in central Maine, so stay tuned for pics of freshly picked, organic goods.

Also, for anyone who already follows, I changed the url so it’s not just about me being abroad. Just a heads up: http://eating-myway-throughlife.tumblr.com/

Tales of a Feminist Porn Critic

By Alexandra Fileccia

Her latest blog post reads, “You guys. You guys. Oh my god, you guys. My brain is a whirling, whorling mass of confusion right now. Because DRONE BONING has apparently arrived. And yes, it is porn filmed by a drone.” Lynsey G is probably among a small percentage of women interested in advancements in the porn industry. And that’s because 31-year-old Lynsey writes about feminist porn and sex-positive feminism, a niche she’s made her own.

Lynsey freelances and works a romance-novel editing job to pay the bills. She got her “big break” writing reviews for adult entertainment films—and by “big break” I mean a writing job that pays well for minimal work (hard to come by in the writing and publishing industries) and provides a place to be published, even if by a ridiculous penname. However, she was quick to realize that reviewing porn movies wasn’t as glamorous at it initially sounded. “I came to [my job] thinking this would be really cool. I thought, ‘I’ll be the coolest person anybody knows because I’m reviewing porn,’” she says. But while watching films over the course of that job, she realized there were no plots and just hardcore, focused-on-straight-cis-male-viewers, porn. It was not as cool as she thought she was going to be.

Starting out with pornography sparked her interest in studying women and how they are treated in our society. She says, “My feminism wasn’t fully developed until later in life.” She graduated from Fordham University, a historically Jesuit school, so there were no gender classes or sex and sexuality classes. She studied writing, literature and philosophy which Lynsey says were mostly centered on religious texts and teachings. “I don’t think I’m one of their favorite alumni,” Lynsey says in gest. “Most of my publications are not going to go in the alumni bulletin. It’s a shame, I’m doing great stuff!”

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Benefits of laughing

Published in Atlas Magazine

By Alexandra Fileccia

Before Jordan Perry, president of the comedy troupe Jimmy’s Traveling All-Stars, walks on stage, he takes a deep breath and clears his mind. He gets into the character of his first skit. The audience roars with laughter. Typically when you are laughing, you are reacting to humor or comedy. For Perry, laughter is a way to feel good. Though the purpose of laughter is not to improve your health, there are some side effects that are conducive to your health.

Laughter is a major combatant to stress. When you are stressed, you release hormones such as epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol. Cortisol diverts energy from other functions in the body, such as the immune system, in order to use and conserve it for the stress stimulus. Laughter, which releases endorphins, suppresses stress hormones. When stress hormones are reduced, it allows for an improvement in immune functions because cortisol is no longer deterring the energy that the system needs. Studies have shown that women who are characterized as optimistic see less cancer growth because they are able to laugh and make light of their situation, which in turn optimizes their immune system and creates more antibodies.

When you have a really good, deep laugh, your whole body is involved. Your head may tilt back, arms swing, and stomach muscles contract. Some people laugh until they are rolling around on the ground, some even cry. These are all responses to the hearty, belly laugh. During intense bouts of laughter, your heart rate significantly increases, mirroring what happens during exercise. William F. Fry, humor research pioneer who experimented with heart rate and laughter, noted that one minute of a strong, jovial laughter produced the same heart rate as ten minutes of rowing on an exercise machine. Intense laughter can result in muscle soreness, similar to the sore feeling after a heavy workout. However after laughing, your heart rate returns to a relaxed state faster than it does after exercising. Robert R. Provine, psychology professor at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, says laughter can be a gentle form of exercise though the calorie cost has not been determined yet.

Laughing also improves your mental health, mostly due to the positive emotions associated with laughter. It serves as a distraction from anything negative in your life. Humor researcher Rod A. Martin says laughter is a coping mechanism. The positive emotions tied to laughter temporarily replace those of anxiety, depression, or anger. This is why people sometimes laugh at inappropriate times or break out in bouts of nervous laughter. It is a way to emotionally deal things that make us uncomfortable—a defense mechanism.

Laughing is contagious; it’s part of human nature. When a person sees laughter, their instinct response is to laugh as well. “The neural mechanism responsible for laugh epidemics replicates behavior that it detects, producing a behavioral chain reaction,” says Provine in his novel Laughter: A Scientific Investigation. The contagiousness is one way laughing strengthens relationships. People who laugh together form a certain connection and comfort. Laughter can diminish stress in social situations, which enhances social interactions. “I like to try and make people laugh,” Perry says, “because I believe laughter brings us together.”

Meat getting a bad rep

By Alexandra Fileccia

As the horse meat scandal continues in the United Kingdom and Ireland, the people’s trust in the meat industry is on the decline. Since January 15, the day that the public of Ireland and surrounding countries was informed of horse DNA found in frozen beef burgers, the public looked for someone to blame leaning toward the major meat manufactures in Ireland and the UK.

A lot of pressure has been put on big food regulation organizations, as well, to control the horse meat outbreak and find a solution. “We have been working with the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with its investigations,” says Jane Ryder, press officer for the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. “At the request of the European Commission, we, like all Member States of the EU, have commenced a testing program of 50 samples of beef products for horse meat and will report back to the European Commission by 15th April.”

Though horse meat is safe to eat, according to the Food Standard Agency in the UK, if there is little trace of phenylbutazone, an anti-inflammatory commonly used in animals, are found, the majority of the population thinks that eating horse is wrong and seen as a taboo in most countries. In a survey mentioned in the article “Horse Meat Survey Reveals How Many Americans Think Scandal Should Be Handled: Give To Poor” by The Huffington Post, most people would rather eat alligator meat than horse meat. The survey showed that people would only eat horse meat over dog meat, which makes sense since both of these animals are commonly domesticated and people view eating them as eating their own pets.

With all of the tests being conducted on DNA in beef burgers, it came to light that many of the patties contain not only horse meat but pork as well. The horse meat scandal exposed the cut corners made by the meat companies. It was found that a French meat processing company, Á la Table de Spanghero, knowingly sold horse meat as beef, which was bought from Romania and relabeled by the French company.

“When we carried out our survey we were looking at beef burger products on sale in Ireland,” says Ryder. “We had no idea that what we uncovered would lead to a much greater issue of fraud throughout Europe.”

By relabeling the packaged horse meat as beef, meat producers knowingly lied to its consumers. “People don’t like to be deceived. The idea of getting what you pay for and not something else is fairly fundamental,” says Maureen O’Sullivan, chairperson for the Vegetarian Society of Ireland.

Reports have shown that vegetarian alternatives meat products have increased in sales due to the horse meat scandal, and meat products sharply decreasing, according to The Guardian. What does this mean for the future of the meat industry in the UK and across the globe? At the rate that sales are going, it seems that majority of the population will shift away from meat consumption. “The numbers of vegetarians increased during the BSE or ‘mad cow disease’ scandal some years ago,” says O’Sullivan. She says the number of vegetarians will most likely rise because of this scandal as it has in the past.

Though this incident directly affected Ireland and the UK, it will have an impact on the entire world and change the way people think about eating meat. “The meat industry is a very cruel one,” says O’Sullivan, “so I wish that, in the words of Paola Cavaliere, that meat eating would become taboo in the same way in which we don’t eat humans.”

 

Is gluten free the way to be?

Read this article in the Health section of Atlas Magazine’s New Renaissance issue!

By Alexandra Fileccia

From pizza to canned baked beans, sausages to fried foods, we live in a gluten saturated world. We pour our dressing on our salads without noticing the wheat added for thickness, or we drink a glass of root beer overlooking that the ingredient modified food starch is derived from wheat. Wheat, rye, and barley, all of which contain the protein gluten, can be found in most meals in the typical American diet, which makes it difficult for people living with a gluten allergy, gluten intolerance, or Celiac Disease.

When Mason Weiser, an intern for Boston’s Weekly Dig, was 13 years old, he was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. His fatigue and frequent stomachaches stopped when he eliminated gluten from his diet. “[Living gluten free], you have to learn how to cook,” says Weiser, who is now 19, “and you have to develop a taste for cultures in which wheat isn’t the main ingredient.” A lot of Eastern cuisine, including Thai and Indian food, is gluten free because the meals are rice-based. Weiser likes to make quick meals using rice pasta and fresh vegetables, reminiscent of Asian cuisine.

In addition to having gluten intolerance, it’s also possible to have a gluten allergy, which is an immune response to gluten that can cause skin and gastrointestinal irritation as well as anaphylaxis, according to a handout that Lisa Ferreira, a registered dietician at Boston University’s Sargent Choice Nutrition Center, gives to students. A gluten allergy can be life threatening.

Boston resident Emma O’Brien, 23, has a different reaction to gluten. Her body’s autoimmune system damages the lining of the small intestine, which leads to mineral deficiencies. This reaction to gluten is known as Celiac Disease. According to celiaccentral.org, about 3 million Americans suffer from Celiac. Celiac Disease is more severe than gluten intolerance.

Living with Celiac Disease, gluten intolerance, or a gluten allergy makes it hard to “eat-on-the-go.” O’Brien needs to make meals from scratch and carry homemade snacks with her because she can’t just pick up something quick at any convenience store or fast food place.

O’Brien has to think about cross-contamination as well. One time she was babysitting a toddler at his home and decided to eat a spoonful of honey that his family had. “Immediately, the child asks for toast with honey on it– and it hits me,” says O’Brien, “there’s totally gluten in the honey from a knife that touched bread touching the inside of the jar.” She immediately got hiccups and became painfully bloated, vomiting soon after.

Kimberly Dong, project manager and research dietitian at Tufts University, says there is a lot of misinformation about gluten, especially now that it is hyped up in the media. Gluten free has turned into a new fad diet that companies are capitalizing on, saying that it is healthier to cut out gluten. “Gluten is the latest fad “scapegoat” these days,” says Dong.

Though it is not necessarily healthier to live gluten free, following a gluten free diet has forced Weiser to eat healthier. “I can’t really go for fast food anywhere,” say Weiser. “So that cuts off a whole swab of really, really unhealthy food.”

Dong says there is a lot of misinformation surrounding gluten sensitivities– the main misconception is that grains containing gluten are unhealthy. “If people focus on eating whole grain wheat products that are high in dietary fiber and within portions,” says Dong, “it can be a healthy part of one’s diet.”

“Gluten isn’t bad for everyone, inherently,” Weiser says, and someone who isn’t gluten intolerant can get the same health benefits from a gluten free diet by just being mindful of what he or she eats. Dong says someone can still get a high amount of calories and unbalanced portion of nutrients without consuming gluten, which can make a gluten free diet unhealthy.

Ferreira says gluten free versions of food sometimes contain more fat than the food made with gluten. “If there is a reason to follow the [gluten free] diet, there is a benefit,” Says Ferreira. “However, if there is none, following the diet can be an unnecessary challenge on many levels.”

CSD Awareness Event provides students with a dose of perspective

CSD Awareness Event provides students with a dose of perspective
By Alexandra Fileccia/Beacon Correspondent
March 28, 2012 at 11:02 pm

A student mouthed “hello” as an electrolarynx vibrated against his neck, making the word faintly audible and slightly robotic. His facial expression mirrored the weird sensation of the device as it picked up the vibrations in his throat. The device allows users to see what it is like to communicate after having ones larynx removed due to throat cancer.

This was the first thing onlookers saw at the Communication Sciences and Disorders Awareness event last Thursday in Piano Row’s Multipurpose room. Students made their way through a crowd of 30 starting at the vocal hygiene table, then making their way to the remaining three tables to learn about transgender voice and gay lisps, accent reduction and modification, and hearing loss and prevention.

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Alcohol poisoning transports increase

Alcohol poisoning transports increase!
By Alexandra Fileccia / Beacon Correspondent
February 16, 2012 at 2:27 am

A freshman stumbles into the lobby of Piano Row one October night, too drunk to know much of what is going on. She just wants to sleep.

As she is about to pass out, a concerned resident assistant spots her and calls for help. Hours later, the student — who spoke on the condition of anonimity — woke up in the hospital with a sense of fear and little recollection of last night’s events. “Honestly, I don’t remember leaving the party. I just remember waking up in the hospital,” the student said.

The student was one of the 14 on-campus residents in the fall of 2011 semester hospitalized for heavy drinking. Over the past three years, the number of students transported to the hospital due to intoxication has increased, according to David Haden, associate dean and director of housing and residence life. Haden said according to statistics, in fall of 2009, there were six hospital transports, and 11 in the fall of 2010.

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