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WHAT’S GOOD FOR POPEYE (IT AIN’T FRIED CHICKEN)

I watched cartoons a lot when I was young, in fact every one that was available on TV. There wasn’t the variety then that there is now, and we certainly didn’t enjoy internet on demand. But what we lacked in choice, I think, was made up for with wholesome, meaningful programming. Back then, one could still pick up some positive values from cartoon shows, like the good guys always win, bad guys never get away with lying, cheating and bullying, and so on. I’ve tried watching modern cartoon shows, and usually come away wondering what I’d just allowed my eyeballs to be abused by.   One cartoon I remember loving was Popeye The Sailorman. He was a pretty affable fellow, short in stature but with oversized forearms like canons. He spoke with a funny accent, had an infectious chuckle, smoked a pipe, and would do anything for his girlfriend, Olive. The baddy in the show, Brutus, also had a thing for Olive, and would thus be at loggerheads with Popeye. But Brutus wasn’t likeable like Popeye was, and each time that big bully pushed our hero too far, he’d empty a can of spinach into his mouth, which made his muscles bulge, and from there it was exciting to see what kind of whooping he’d give Brutus. Popeye taught me the importance of eating spinach, and that’s a good value, right?   Here at SoFresh, we get huge orders for spinach from our cruise ship clients. That’s not surprising, because spinach is a comparatively cheap vegetable, it’s abundantly available, extremely versatile in usage, and a superpower when it comes...

A BETTER TOMATO – RED OR YELLOW?

There are some things in life that are Black-Or-White; things proven beyond a shadow of doubt to either be or not be, no maybe. Such things are regarded as universal truths: facts that hold firm regardless of who you are, whom you may think yourself to be, which country you’re in, or whether you’re intoxicated or not. The point is you don’t matter in this. One just doesn’t mess around, such as trying to put gravity to the test by jumping out of a plane at 15,000 feet without a parachute. If you don’t have a chute that works, gravity will certainly do its job!   But I’m very glad that most other things in life are not black-or-white. I’m not talking about grey areas, like arguing the technicalities that get criminals off the hook as we see on TV lawyer shows, or discussing the meaning of life. I’m simply appreciating all the colours that surround us daily in the world, in such abundant splendour that helps us enjoy our lives that much better and more.   For this week’s blog, I’m focusing on the colours red and yellow, and with particular reference to a very common – and nutritiously yummy – thing: tomatoes.   This week’s article bagan a couple of months ago as a tiny seed of a question in my mind: red and yellow tomatoes look lovely, and both are especially beautiful when presented on the vine. But is there a difference between them, and if so, what? And also which is better? Finally earlier this week, my research began.   Where red and yellow tomatoes...

STARFRUIT – PRINTABLE ART AND VITAMIN C ALL-STAR

I remember as a kid in primary school, we had art lessons using cut vegetables and fruits dipped in paint to make colourful prints. Art lessons in schools these days may be more high-tech, but back in the day we worked more with our hands and with common everyday things we had at home that we were told to bring to class. And it was lots of fun. In particular, I remember using cross-sections of starfruit to make star-shaped prints. I also remember thinking what a shame it was that after art class the teacher wouldn’t allow us to eat those nice colourful pieces of starfruit.   Such a shame really, because ripe starfruit is sweet, juicy, refreshing, and would have been a perfect treat on those hot school days when the classroom fans sometimes didn’t work. This versatile fruit can be easily sliced and eaten, juiced, or cut into small pieces and tossed with salads. Unripe tart-tasting starfruit can be cooked with meat, poultry and seafood dishes. Apart from an added zing in taste, visually such dishes are notched up a level of delight and appeal when served: dinner guests literally see stars!   More than being just delicious, starfruit is loaded with vitamin C – a single fruit can provide 76%DV (ie. daily value) of vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps our bodies fight off cancer-causing free radicals, as well as boost our immune system against flu, colds, and infections. Studies have shown that diets rich in vitamin C reduce the chances of falling ill to these common maladies by as much as...

THE FRUIT OF THE ANGELS

It’s said that Christopher Columbus called papaya the “fruit of the angels”. Well that’s not too hard to believe. The massive amount of vitamin C in a single papaya fruit could imaginably lead to one having an acute case of longevity. And everyone knows that angels are immortal (or at least they last a darn long time!). So it looks like clever old Chris put two and two together, easey-peasey lemon-squeezie!   Here’s the simple math: each gramme of papaya provides roughly 1%DV (ie. daily value, the amount of that nutrient we need each day) of vitamin C, so if you were to eat a medium sized papaya weighing 300-grammes, you would have also imbibed about 300%DV of vitamin C. No worries about over-dosing, because our bodies don’t store vitamin C. What is not used that day is passed out of our system, and each new day we need to consume enough of it through the food we eat, mainly vegetables and fruits.   What’s vitamin C good for? Short of immortality, nearly everything else! Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects us against cancer-causing free radicals, boosts our immune system, and is a great infection-fighter to ward off the flu, cold and other common maladies. Our bodies also need vitamin C for the natural production of collagen which is important for healthy joints and skin (you can’t ingest collagen supplements to boost collagen levels because our bodies won’t absorb it and it’ll just be passed out as expensive waste).   Besides vitamin C, papaya is an excellent source of vitamin A, folic acid, potassium and dietary fibre....

THE KING GOES TO HOLLYWOOD

This is one that I’ve resisted writing for a while, and with good reason. There is no middle ground on this – either you love it or hate it. And it’s not something that can be genetically imparted; parents who love it do not guarantee their offspring will too. In fact nowadays, often the children won’t go near it, let alone touch it. But very recently, the king made it’s way, via celebrity hand-delivery no less, to Hollywood!   Actress Jessica Chastain, who plays Sara the Warrior on The Huntsman: Winter’s War, brought a whole durian with her on The Jimmy Kimmel Live! show. She also brought a huge knife, a shorter serrated one, and rubber gloves. Ok, I felt the rubber gloves were over the top, but what’s Hollywood without a touch too much drama, right?   You can watch the by now widely circulated video clip on YouTube. But in short, when Chastain pulls the durian out of the bag, Jimmy Kimmel stares at it like he’s looking at a maliciously spiky weapon, and exclaims “Oh wow, what is that?” Well, he is meeting the king for the first time, afterall. Chastain tells Kimmel it’s durian, the “king of fruit in Asia”, and later she calls it the “blue cheese of fruit”.   She tells Kimmel that she fell in love with durian while in Singapore, and tried to describe the taste to him as “onions and garlic, and avocado and pineapple in a custard”. She shoves a piece of durian in Kimmel’s mouth and to his credit, he doesn’t immediately spit it back out. He actually...

GUAVA – THE NECTAR OF MY HOLIDAYS

I love being on holiday. Who doesn’t, right? Waking up each morning carefree, just letting what adventures or chilling the day has in store find you, instead of “chasing-after-it” from 9am to whatever-pm. Easy strolling to the breakfast buffet spread to enjoy the first meal of the day. I’m usually not a big eater at breakfast, more a sampler, but I really enjoy those hits of chilled, fresh juice. And of all the juices typically available, my favourite is the sweet nectar of a pink guava. I simply love it: reminds me of holiday breakfast mornings. And it’s even better on a cruise.   Come to think of it, what a great way to start the day with fresh, chilled pink guava juice, wouldn’t you agree? From the moment the sweetness touches your tongue and glides down your throat, it immediately gives you a pick-up. And for me, it’s one of the best chasers for that morning coffee, as well as to wash breakfast down with.   There’s good reason too that guava juice gives such a great pick-up, besides its wonderfully rich sweetness (ie. think energy that becomes in your body) – guava contains eight times more vitamin C than an orange, and up to 30 times more than a watermelon. In guava’s case, less is certainly a lot more!   Vitamin C is a super nutrient. Not only is it essential for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of our bodies, it boosts our immune system against low-level ailments like colds and flus, and acts like a supreme antioxidant protecting us against harmful free...

THE PLUM ON JACK’S THUMB

Hollywood has been retelling a few children’s stories and fairy tales. Writers and their studios have given these much-loved fables a contemporary update, and in the modernising have injected adult-appropriate drama and darker themes in their storytelling. I suppose that makes them more marketable to present audiences. Disney’s Maleficient (2014) is based on Sleeping Beauty, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters and Warriors Of Witchcraft (both 2013) make the original gingerbread cottage look like a lame and too-sweet dessert, and it’s Snow White And The Huntsman (2012) instead of my childhood’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves harmonising “Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho…” This year’s The Huntsman: Winter’s War, a Snow White spin-off, doesn’t even reference poor Snowy, her plot’s become irrelevant. Would I watch it? Yes, it should be exciting!   Frankly, I wasn’t thinking of movies at first. I was thinking of plums. And that’s because here at Sofresh, we deliver a lot of plums to our clients, especially the cruise ships. They consume a lot of plums on their voyages, and so always order a lot of the fruit from us. And plums made me recollect a childhood rhyme, the one that goes: Little Jack Horner, Sat in the corner, Eating a Christmas pie; He put in his thumb, And pulled out a plum, And said “What a good boy am I!” And this rhyme was strange enough to make me think of those movies I mentioned in the preceding paragraph. Odd, circular thinking, I know.   I’d always wondered what that strange rhyme meant. Earliest references to it date to 1725 in England as a ballad by a Henry...

NOT SOUR NOR A SOP, SIMPLY DELICIOUS!

I have fond memories of the Taman Serasi Food Centre. It’s long gone, demolished years ago in the name of urban development, and possibly modern food hygiene standards, I’d not be surprised. It used to be opposite the Singapore Botanic Gardens, across the road from where the garden’s grand gates now stand at the junction of Napier Road and Cluny Road. My mind recalls it as a small, cozy food centre with wonderful Malay fare and a drink stall that sold simply fantastic soursop juice.   Soursop – a.k.a. graviola, custard apple, brazilian paw paw, cherimoya and guanabana – isn’t sour at all, at least not to me. I love it for its sweet taste and the soft-chewy texture of its white flesh. On a warm day, like so many of Singapore’s days are, very few things can refresh and quench a thirst like a big mug of icy-cold soursop juice. And after you’ve drank all that delicious nectar, to then spoon up from the bottom of the mug and eat the soft sweet flesh of the soursop is just sublime.   For some time now, there’s been a fair bit of discussion on soursop being an alternative treatment for cancer due to it’s so-claimed powerful cancer-fighting abilities. Some have called the soursop a cancer stopper, attributing it to be up to 10,000 times more effective than chemotherapy at killing cancer cells, and even having the ability to selectively target and destroy certain types of cancer cells while leaving normal healthy cells alone. Others have alluded to stories of the natives of the Amazon who have consumed the leaves...

A POTATO TO SAVE YOUR DAY

I remember exciting school days donning my team jersey and representing my school in competitions. On competition day, usually a weekday afternoon, none of us school team members could pay attention to our teachers in class. We’d all be eagerly awaiting only one thing: early release from class, so we could have our pre-match meal before the rest of the school had recess. The excuse was we needed to eat a certain number of hours before the competition to allow for proper digestion to boost performance. In truth, those early meals made us feel special, because in our school-age minds we believed we’d earned the right to them by being selected for the team. Young and cocky we were, then.   Those pre-match meals were unguided, unscientific carbo-loading sessions based on each other’s “good ideas”, consisting bananas (though you could only eat so many), bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes which we could really pig-out on. Occasionally a teammate would go overboard and instead of getting a lasting energy boost, he’d be bloated, sluggish and sometimes throw it all up. Those were the guys the rest of us were careful not to stand close to on the pitch.   It’s funny but somewhat fitting that years on, when I bump into old teammates, those same guys who used to puke potatoes (and whatever else they’d eaten as their pre-match meal) are now not only much larger in girth, they’re still puking although it’s not during the heat of competition, but after a night out partying and drinking. I guess those old buddies are the real athletes, they still have the...

IF YOU LIKE PINA COLADAS (A PINEAPPLE STORY)

If you like pina colada… The tune of that smooth song by Rupert Holmes (1979) always puts me in a relaxed, easy-going mood. Listening to that song and thinking of sipping a cool, sweet pina colada, you’ve also got to imagine the correct ambience for it. Afterall, it’s not like a beer which can be gulped down anywhere. No, to really enjoy a pina colada, it’s important for the setting to be right, that’s just the kind of drink it is. Onboard a cruise ship, in the privacy of your suite’s balcony, or with friends on the breezy deck as the sun hangs low in the horizon, something like that perhaps.   It was also on my mind: can a pina colada work without pineapples? The reason I pondered this was because throughout the current cruise season, here at Sofresh we’ve been supplying tons of pineapples to our cruise ship clients. Well, my research informs me that pineapples are a key ingredient in making a perfect pina colada, from the pineapple juice needed to the pineapple wedge on the rim of the glass.   So the answer is no, a pina colada just cannot work without pineapples. And thus our cruise ship clients will keep ordering massive amounts of pineapple from us each season. Or course it’s not all for pina coladas onboard, although I’m sure there’ll be a lot of those served. Pineapples are versatile and can be juiced, added to salads, cooked, made into desserts and so on, all of which to keep the many passengers onboard happily and healthily fed.   And healthy pineapples are indeed....

STOP HEADACHES WITH WATERMELON

There’s something about Singapore’s weather that gets to me. This isn’t exceptional I know, because Singapore’s weather gets to many people, both Singaporeans and foreigners. After a while, one comes to accept the local weather. Like algae and moss that grow on rooftops, leave it alone long enough and you take for granted it’s just there. You might even start appreciating its beauty and the character it gives the roof when viewed from certain angles. And that’s the thing, it’s about perspective.   And so too with Singapore’s weather. Say what you may about the heat and humidity that can feel oppressive at times, it’s undeniable that the same weather allows for a lot of outdoor activities. With mainly low-to-mid-30 degCel temperatures in the day, most days stay conducive enough for plenty of leisure and sport under the sun.   I once had an enlightening conversation with an avid motorbiker who loved Singapore’s weather… I mean, how could anyone love it, right? Well I was wrong. He told me Singapore is paradise for him, because he could ride his beloved motorbikes almost everyday, all year round. Back in his home country his BMW, Harley-Davidson and classic Kawasaki motorbikes stay parked in his garage for half the year, because the weather just won’t allow any way to ride safely – Perspective!   If you think about it, we do have relatively moderate and user-friendly weather here in Singapore. I know, lots of us Singaporeans like to complain about our weather especially to overseas friends. But many of my overseas friends also like to complain about their home weather, which they...

THE RESOURCE OF HUMAN CAPABILITY

I attended an interesting two-day workshop on Human Resource Capability last week (hence no blog post). It was conducted by the Singapore National Employers Federation, or SNEF, and I found it to be enjoyable and of great practical value. So from me, “Well done and thanks, SNEF!” The workshop was insightful in that the course materials and activities, discussions with my fun course mates, inputs from our very experienced trainer, and talking-shop during lunch and tea breaks led me to discover some falsehoods and a truth about HRM.   Human Resource Management is strategic. HRM is so much more than the administrative role it’s often confined to. It’s a function that belongs in the arena of top management, knights of the round table stuff. It’s driven by serious research, multi-approach staff surveys to capture data and identify areas of critical value, charts that project all sorts of numbers vital to building a company’s road map, and myriad rules and principles applying to all kinds of operational and business scenarios.   So, when manpower is often represented to top management as statistics, it’s easy for HR managers and executives to be regarded by colleagues as aloof, devoid of compassion, even inhuman. That’s not only a big falsehood, but a grossly unfair one at that. I once knew a HR manager who found out on a Friday that he had to conduct lay-off interviews the following Monday after a company restructuring exercise. Thing was, only he and his boss knew who were on the list, so it would be a last usual weekend for his unsuspecting soon-to-be-former colleagues. The poor man...

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