Oil Pulling? This is the new health craze (and I tried it)

Gargling Coconut Oil.

Gargling Coconut Oil.

I’m amazed, fascinated, disgusted, and yes, more than a little bit curious about the latest health trend. Swishing oil around your mouth is the latest in oral health!  And I tried it. Apparently the practice comes from Ayurvedic medicine and the acclaimed benefits run the gamut from teeth whitening, breath freshening, all the way to curing infection and liver problems. Lets just say that I’m in it for the sake of curiosity and possibly some whiter fangs.

How to do it:

Grab the nearest vegetable based oil. You can use coconut oil, sesame oil, or even olive oil. Put about a tablespoon in your mouth and start swirling it around. Set your timer for 20 minutes. The trick is to swish the oil around calming and in a relaxed fashion, I learned this the hard way.

At about 15 minutes my cheeks and lips began to tremble with exhaustion, I guess 1 tablespoon of delicious unrefined coconut oil was a bit too much volume for my tiny chipmunk cheeks. Also, I was a bit overzealous with the ‘pulling.’

After 20 minutes, spit the oil into the trash can – not the sink or you will clog your pipes! The idea is that this oil draws the bacteria out from your mouth, so make sure you don’t swallow it. Now go rinse your mouth with warm water and brush your teeth like you normally would.

Everyone I’ve talked to is similarly intrigued by the new concept. After reading this Jezebel article, even Zev was curious enough to try it!

Health fads are bizarre. It’s impossible to pinpoint how these sorts of things come into popular consciousness. But Oil Pulling has officially arrived as a thing. And I am always willing to try something harmless and gimicky.

I’m on my second day of oil pulling and I must admit that my teeth look a wee bit whiter (real or perceived?), my breath is fresher, and my teeth are insanely smooth. I’m hooked, and maybe you should be too?

Another health fad that I totally love: Dr. Bronner’s Soaps!

Advertisements

Polite Smiles and Braised Leeks

Riverside Park is quite charming in the snow.

Riverside Park really is quite charming in the snow. But the 10th snow storm of the winter is significantly less charming than the first. The novelty of this winter is dead.

Someone asked me recent how moving to Manhattan has been. The city is enormous, overwhelming, cold in all senses of the word, and intimidating. But I grew up in the South, where they always tell you ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.’ So the adjustment has been (smile). I think this politeness rule goes doubly true for the blog. So I’ve been a bit quiet recently. However, springtime has me coming out of my shell and loving trying to love my new home.

These articles really struck a cord with me. What to do if you’re falling out of love with New York. And most saliently, New York Doesn’t Love You.

Getting my engagement ring sized in the Diamond District.

Getting my engagement ring sized in the Diamond District. This sparkly strip of Manhattan really is delightful and you can easily burn an hour gawking at the windows.

Whenever I need some comfort food, I make braised leeks with vinaigrette. They are simple, hearty, and a cheerful shade of green. Transforming the humble, sandy leek into an elegant dish is the most satisfying act of alchemy of which I am capable.

Zev noticed my unusual obsession with leeks. I didn’t grow up eating them, but I have learned to love their versatility. Cheap, plentiful in the winter, and seemingly insubstantial, they are easily transformed into an impressive side dish by simmering them gently in stock for 10 to 15 minutes and smothering them in a tangy mustard vinaigrette. A perfect vinaigrette is all about the ratio of 3-1-1 (6 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar). I borrowed this recipe from Nora Ephron’s impossibly witty novel Heartburn.

Learning how to prep leeks was a culinary revelation. It felt like unlocking a little secret. Trim off 1/4 inch of the short white root fibers and generously lop off the tough fibrous green end to where the stalk isn’t tough and fiberous. Preserve a delicate stalk segment ranging in color from white to pale spring green. This is the tenderest portion of the leek plant and the most delicious. Slice the leek lengthwise down the middle and rinse out the sand between the layers. Lay the leek halves cut side down in a medium saute pan, add enough stock to cover, and simmer for 15 minutes until tender.

Serve warm or cool with vinaigrette. Imagine you’re sitting at a rustic patio table in the South of France opposite Julia Child and Stanley Tucci. Warm weather is on the way!

Old Blue is ready for the warm weather!

Old Blue is ready for the warm weather!

 

Culture Shock and Cooking

Meet our beautiful Peking duck, he was a total quack up.

Meet our beautiful Peking duck, he was a total quack up.

We returned to America earlier this month and were struck by two things; firstly, the icy blast of a polar vortex that was freezing much of the East Coast (including Manhattan, where we’re setting up home), and secondly, a jolt of culture shock. We slowly unpacked our bags, constantly expecting to wake up back in Southeast Asia on a damp mildewy mattress. But here we are, a month later, still hacking it out in snowy Manhattan.

It’s been just over a month since we came back to New York, and it’s starting to feel like home. I spent the initial two weeks driving up and down the east coast visiting friends and family, a leisurely and scenic tour up and down the East coast. I drove from New York to North Carolina and back, stopping in DC, Charlottesville, and Carborro. It was a very productive looking form of denial – denial of the culture shock I’m going through, denial of impending unemployment, and denial of being in a very inbetween place.

What better thing to do when you’re working through your culture shock than to cook? I cooked a seared juicy steak and creamed spinach for my mother, turkey pot pie for my father and sister, eggplant parmesean for my friends in Charlottesville, and even Peking duck for my soon-to-be-in-laws.

In case you’re wondering how to make Peking duck, check out this uber helpful tutorial from Serious Eats. It was a lengthy but surprisingly simple endeavor.

Links from around the interwebs:

The Reality Behind Instagram Feeds, so true!

Comfort Food for the Cold Weather: Bon App’s Cacio e Pepe

What Happens When You Live Abroad

The Hunt for the Perfect Understated Nail Polish

How to Quit Traveling in 10 Easy Steps

It's tough to walk away from these kind of sunsets.

It’s tough to walk away from these sunsets. Neil Island, Andamans

  1. Call your Parents.
  2. Tell them you’re never coming home.
  3. Listen to your mom/dad/sibling get all weepy at the thought of you extending your travel plans.
  4. Think about how cold hearted you must be to hurt your parents like this.
  5. But seriously, how cruel are you?
  6. Consider the bathtub/washing machine/mac n’ cheese/clean bed etc. waiting for you at home.
  7. When was the last time you didn’t sleep fully clothed and mummified in a sleep sack?
  8. That nagging headache, is that malaria? Dengue? Or just caffeine deficiency.
  9. Book tickets home.
  10. 10. Call parents and tell them you’re coming home. Hear them cry with joy.

MORE TEARS?!?!!?

Screw it, you need a good meal and a clean bed. It’s time to go home.

We had an amazing final two weeks of our trip traveling through India with a rambunctious group of friends from the US, and capped things off with the beautiful wedding  of our close friends in Kolkata. We’re finally home in NYC and easing ourselves back into the real world of applying for jobs, moving into an apartment, and generally being productive members of society once again. Our trip may be over, but readers fear not! We plan to continue to regale you with tales of our adventures eating, cooking, and living life in the Big Apple.

Saying Goodbye to the Andamans

Sunset, Chitya Tapu on South Andaman

Sunset, Chitya Tapu on South Andaman

Cinque Island, Andamans

Cinque Island, Andamans

While we’re very sad to say goodbye to the islands, we are so looking forward to traveling around mainland India for the month of December and then coming back home to New York City. Beginning in January, we’ll be settling back into the pace of normal life and desperately trying not to freeze our buns off.

I realized that we haven’t properly told you guys what the heck we were doing out on the boat in the middle of the Indian Ocean and how we ended up there.

Wellllll, way back in May we finished our Divemaster course in Bali and started thinking about ways we could keep diving without killing our budget. A short but incredible diving trip in Komodo National Park helped us realize that paying for fun diving is not a feasible way to maintain our diving habit, financially speaking.

A few weeks later we serendipitously stumbled across an old college friend and former roommate of Zev’s who mentioned that someone was starting the first scuba diving liveaboard to be based out of India. We took one look at their website and were sold. A few emails and one Skype conversation later, we had tickets booked to the Andaman Islands.

Since the first week in October, we’ve been on the boat assisting with scuba diving courses and completing a few certifications ourselves.

The ambient noises of a constantly running kitchen, engine room, and dive operation became the sounds of home to us. The pressure cooker whistles and looping 15-song playlist of Bollywood hits emanating from the kitchen alerted us to upcoming meals, and the faint but constant rumble of the engines and generators soothed us to sleep each night. Keeping the boat clean and running and its inhabitants fed and entertained kept life onboard always humming with activity. The crew made the (not so) little ship feel like home. They kept the boat in tip top shape and were a hysterical hard working bunch. Spending time with them was one of the highlights of our time on the boat.

Our cruise director, an affable retired businessman with a booming voice and a silver ponytail coiling down his back, led the guests with gusto through early morning dive briefings, mid-afternoon naps on the sun deck, and evening cocktails and carousing. The head divemaster was the quiet but imminently wise and experienced Yoda of the dive team; when he spoke, we listened. Two local guys from the Andamans were our surface support while diving. The first, who gained the nickname “chotu” (Hindi for “shorty”) was the youngest and greenest guy on the boat and became notorious for hiding from the harsh sun under an umbrella. The other had spent his whole life fishing and swimming around the Andamans. When we weren’t on trips with guests, he would send us diving at his favorite local snorkeling spots provided we take photos of what we saw.

From the chef who was also a welder and artist, to the captain who had killer Michael Jackson dance moves, the crew was really a hoot.  They became our family for our two months on the boat, and they will certainly be what we miss the most.

The guests brought an infusion of excitement to the boat and made the hard work worthwhile. The divers ranged from students whose nervous hands I held through the first dive jitters, to professional divers with elaborate photography set-ups that resembled something straight out of the NASA Mars Rover expedition. One raucous trip consisted entirely of people in the film industry who showed up to every dive, dinner, and cocktail hour with a camera (or 6) in hand, ready to get the perfect shot at a moment’s notice. Another group arrived onboard with suitcases full of nuts, Indian snacks, and even chorizos out of fear the boat wouldn’t have their particular brand of post-dive munchy. Yet another memorable voyage found us scheduling dives between breaks in the gale force winds and pouring rain of a passing cyclone.

We’ve left the Andamans for good and are heading for the west coast of India. Our first stop is Mumbai, a city that I fell in love with when I visited as a gap year student way back in 2005. It beats with the frenetic pace of a metropolis but retains a tremendous amount of history and charm.

Neil Island, Andamans

Neil Island, Andamans

Most of the gang.

Most of the gang.

The Liveaboard Life

Sunset from the dive deck.

Sunset from the dive deck.

This week I thought I had nothing to say; we are resting up after a trip. By all accounts it was another routine week of diving on the boat, albeit a pretty busy trip. But pouring over the photos I quickly remembered that being on a live aboard means there is no such thing as an ordinary day. The diving is nonstop and every day presents new challenges and adventures.

The handful of photos I managed to take between diving, filling tanks, and organizing the dive schedule remind me how lucky we are to be leading such an exciting and unusual life. Some days we wake up at sea with our first dive scheduled for 5am and the fourth and last dive getting in the water at 4pm, and other days we are anchored in port waiting for the next group to arrive, anticipating the fun and insanity that will ensue.

This past trip was filled with beautiful sunsets off the dive deck, coconuts on the dock, deliriously fun dives, and divers that kept us laughing and partying late into the night.

Can you spot the crab?

Can you spot the crab?

Feeding the local goats on Havelock. They are serious coconut fiends.

Feeding the local goats on Havelock. They are serious coconut fiends.

Fishermen heading to market in Havelock.

Fishermen heading to market in Havelock.

Lovely little shrimps at 'Vivek's Wreck,' just outside Port Blair

Lovely little shrimps at ‘Vivek’s Wreck,’ just outside Port Blair

IMG_2907 IMG_2897

On the ferry out to Neil Island to find some new dive sites.

On the ferry out to Neil Island to find some new dive sites.

A beautiful pufferfish with some big ole chompers.

A beautiful pufferfish with some big ole chompers.

Sunset dive at Vivek's Wreck, Port Blair.

Sunset dive at Vivek’s Wreck, Port Blair.

Many hours were spent filling tanks on the dive deck.

Many hours were spent filling tanks on the dive deck.

I’m on a Boat, Andamans Edition

North Bay near Port Blair, Andaman Islands. We went looking for new divesites near the capital and were pleasantly surprised to find some nice easy reef diving.

North Bay near Port Blair, Andaman Islands. We went looking for new divesites near the capital and were pleasantly surprised to find some nice easy reef diving.

Castaways on Sir Hugh Rose Island, Andamans.

Castaways on Sir Hugh Rose Island, Andamans.

As you read this, we are cruising in the Indian Ocean around the Andaman Islands on a diving liveaboard. We’re on an enormous boat with a lovely sundeck and a great diving platform. I promise we aren’t suffering too much on this portion of our trip 🙂 We’ll be on the boat until December, diving and assisting with PADI courses.

It’s difficult to describe the Andamans without falling into the usual tropical island trap of ’emerald,’ ‘turquoise,’ and other hyperbolic gemological adjectives that never really suffice. But let me make my own feeble attempt. These islands are tiny, lush spits of land surrounded by cruise-commercial white sand beaches and electric blue waters.

In 2004 the tsunami came through and damaged many of the coral reefs that circle the 500 plus islands. Zev and I keep reminding ourselves that unlike most coral damage we’re used to seeing, this is the result of a natural disaster and not man made destruction (dynamite fishing, boats anchoring on reefs, global warming). The reefs are staging an aggressive recovery; soft and hard coral has begun to regrow and there are some really vibrant patches of reef.

The diving here is good and we are looking forward to visiting the more remote islands where the diving is supposed to be truly spectacular.

A tiny tiny nudibranch or 'sea slug.'

A tiny tiny nudibranch or ‘sea slug.’

Another nudi, great colors.

Another ‘nudi,’ great colors.

One of my favorite sea creatures, the octopus! Found at the Wall dive site, Havelock.

One of my favorite sea creatures, the octopus! Found at the Wall dive site, Havelock.