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DOUBLE-OLIVE-SEVEN, IS THAT YOU MR. BOND?

It’s finally occurred to me! James Bond, a.k.a. Agent 007, is impossible to kill because he loves martinis! Not because he likes them “shaken, not stirred” – I think he’s just being fussy – but because every martini comes with an olive. And olives are fantastic for preserving health and promoting continual living. Martinis are really just Mr. Bond’s excuse to have his daily dose of olives and look cool at the same time: cover blown, double-o-seven!   Most of us have heard of the health benefits of eating and cooking with olive oil. Olive oil has been given bad press before, but I suspect it was an economic agenda trying to push consumers to use other oils, and not that the anti-health claims made against it were true. That exercise generally failed worldwide. And today we all know (again) that consuming olive oil is very good for health.   And if olive oil can be pressed from olives – which are fruit by the way, and not a vegetable – then it’s certainly true that olives are a high-fat food source. In fact, almost 85 per cent of the calories in olives come from fat. But it’s extremely good fat, like oleic acid (a monounsaturated fatty acid), linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid) and alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid). These decrease blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.   In addition, olives contain the phytonutrients hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein (trivia: oleuropein is found only in olives), which are not only linked to preventing cancer, but also to preventing the loss of bone mass. Olives...

POTATO CHIPS ARE GOOD FOR YOU!

I’m feeling good, actually super-elated. In fact, vindicated and downright righteous! I love potato chips – crisps, in the Queen’s English – but everyone knows (and makes it a point to tell me!) that they’re an unhealthy snack, classified as an “you-really-don’t-care-about-your-health-do-you?” part of a meal, eg. lunch that you pack to work; if you put a small bag of potato chips in your kid’s lunch box that they take to school, then “are you the worst parent ever?” Well, everyone’s wrong, or at least not all right!   Some years ago I was holidaying in London (such a historic, beautiful and vibrant city on most days). At mid-day I saw many well-dressed, suited-up, office-type people eating their lunches outdoors, enjoying some sunshine and fresh air at the same time. London has the climate for it that Singapore usually doesn’t.   Anyway, I observed that most lunches, whether home-packed or bought, looked the same: a sandwich, a small bag of crisps (it’s the UK, lah), a beverage and often an apple or banana. Even the supermarkets and food sections in department stores displayed these items next to each other, making it easy for customers to pick-step-pick-step-checkout-eat. Whether they reacted to consumers’ lunch preferences, or dictated it, I’m still not certain. Whatever the case, the combination was mostly the same, and always with crisps. I too thought then, “how healthy can that be?”, silly me of little faith!   Consider this: an one-ounce (about 30 grams) serving of “plain” potato chips contains about 150 calories, 10 grams of fat (about 1 gram saturated fat), and 180 milligrams of sodium. And...

LEMONS FOR POST-LUNAR NEW YEAR RECOVERY

“Lemon tree, very pretty; and the lemon flower is sweet. But the fruit of the poor lemon, is impossible to eat.” I don’t know why these lyrics have been playing repeatedly in my head the last few days. They’re from the song “Lemon Tree” by Peter, Paul and Mary, recorded and released in 1962 – way before my time! Perhaps it’s to nudge me to write about lemons for this week’s article. And actually, why not? Post-Lunar New Year, lemons can be great for recovery. And also, maybe after writing about lemons, I can finally get the song out of my head!   One common after effect of the busy Lunar New Year schedule visiting numerous relatives’ and friends’ homes is fatigue. At least for me, I’m usually worn out post-Lunar New Year. Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful that people like me enough to invite me their homes, and I do really appreciate that! Lunar New Year is such a great time to enjoy meeting and catching up with one’s relatives and friends, especially those whom you don’t get the chance to see regularly.   But all the festivities, hustle and bustle, and constant snacking at each home visited does take a toll, and I feel it even more as I get older with each new year. I have to confess, I’ve needed some help getting back on my feet the last few Lunar New Years.   And so now, I’d like to share with everyone a fantastic post-Lunar New Year recovery and pick-me-up trick that works wonders for me: lemons!   Lemons are easy to find, and...

GONGXI! GONGXI! TIME FOR “GOLD” MANDARINS!

For some, the Lunar New Year is about angpows: “lucky” red packets with money inside given to children and unmarried young adults. For others it’s bak kwa, the barbequed slices of sweet, minced pork that people willingly queue hours for to buy from their favourite shops. Or pineapple tarts, crispy yummy love-letters, or some other seasonal treat. Or noisy, colourful, exciting Lion Dances. For me, the Lunar New Year (or Chinese New Year) is mandarin oranges.   Actually, I only realised this of myself a couple of Chinese New Years ago. I was at someone’s house (can’t remember whose, such are the blurred recollections caused by busy visitations to numerous relatives’ and friends’ homes during this annual ritual), comfortably settled into the sofa and eating my fifth or sixth mandarin orange. And it suddenly dawned on me that this was what I’d do without fail every Chinese New Year since I was a kid: eat many mandarin oranges!   I do enjoy bak kwa, pineapple tarts, love-letters and the lot too, but I’m ok about giving them a miss, they’re not must-haves for me. But mandarin oranges – I have observed – are an item I’d always consume at each home visited. My modus operandi: at each stop, after exchanging new year’s greetings and angpows, I’d gather five or six mandarin oranges, find a comfortable spot, and devour them all at a sitting. Then off to the next venue and repeat. I reckon I’d have eaten a whole carton by the end of the day, easey-peasey.   The thing I love about mandarin oranges is that they’re so easy...

RUNNING IN THE FAMILY

We get orders for heirloom tomatoes a number of times each season here at Sofresh, and I always find them intriguing to look at when they arrive at our warehouse (ie. a quick quality check in the chiller room). They’re pretty and at the same time a little strange looking in a fascinating sort of way. They’re colourful and odd-shaped, even a little distorted. And they’re distinctly un-uniformed in size, unlike the common red/orangey all-roundish ones commonly found in stores. So what’s the deal with heirloom – a.k.a. heritage – tomatoes, really?   First off, what are heirloom tomatoes? They’re open-pollinated (or “true breed”) tomatoes. But note this tricky bit of trivia: while all heirloom varieties are open-pollinated, not all open-pollinated varieties are heirloom varieties. Tongue-twister aside, open-pollination means that when heirloom tomato varieties self-pollinate or are pollinated by other tomatoes, the resulting tomato seeds produce future tomato plants which are identical to the parent varieties. Put simply, heirloom tomatoes are not commercial hybrid tomatoes (ie. the common red/orangey roundish ones). Put crudely, heirlooms are “in-bred” tomatoes (hence their odd looks?).   Another way to understand this non-conforming variety of vegetable is that an heirloom is a variety that has been passed down through generations of an original family. Why is this done? Because of certain characteristics – such as size, shape, colour, stripes, patterns, a unique taste, or some desirable oddity – that someone had wanted to preserve and reproduce consistently. In the world of golf or tennis, when a piece of equipment is tagged “non-conforming” it usually becomes very desired, because it gives the player wielding it...

WHY IS IT CALLED LADIES’ FINGERS?

A dear, long-time friend of mine recently posted on her Facebook page a mouthwatering picture of an okra dish she’d created. Not only did the pixels jump right off the screen and grab my eyeballs by their sockets, Jean also freely shared the “oh-so-easy” recipe to her creation. Jean’s a professional private chef who cooks up a storm for her celebrity clients in Europe. Although currently based in Hamburg, she’s a Singapore girl at heart and has represented Singapore at international food and trade shows. So, I think it’s safe to say that she knows what she’s doing.   Coincidentally about the same time, right before I saw Jean’s post, I happened to be thinking about okra. Perhaps it’s because I so often see it here at Sofresh – it’s a common vegetable item that we supply our cruise ship, commercial vessel and oil rig clients with. To be exact, I was wondering how the name “ladies’ fingers” came about for okra. It was a fleeting, random thought, but I guess now it warrants an investigation once and for all.   What I found was a bit of a let-down for me, to tell the truth: okra pods are long, slender, and elegantly shaped, just like a lady’s finger, hence the name (Duh!). Oh well, at least that’s easy to remember.   But I also found out that okra is known by a few other interesting names. “Okra” is the name most commonly used in America, the UK, and the Philippines (perhaps because of past American influence). In some parts of America and English-speaking Caribbean it’s called “gumbo”. While...

IT’S ALL IN THE SEED (WELL, MOSTLY)

It seems I’ve been doing it wrong all this time! I’ve been hacking out the most important part and dumping it: so many years of utter waste! A friend once told me he watched a group of tourists eating mangosteen for the first time at our famous Newton Circus hawker centre, but the fruitseller had not told them how to eat the fruit, and they were biting into each one as if eating an apple, flashing purple-stained grimaces with each awful mouthful. I feel a little like one of those tourists.   Apparently, the most nutritious part of an avocado is its seed, which is edible! If an avocado (flesh) is a super-food, then its seed is an extra-super-duper-food. And here are some of the reasons – which I’ve just found out – why this is so.   Firstly, the avocado seed is packed with soluble fibres. It’s reported to contain the highest amount of soluble fibre in the world for its size. So this little fella is punching supremely well about its weight in this category. What the fibres do is lower cholesterol levels. One theory why it’s so effective is that the fibres bind cholesterol before it can be absorbed into our blood system. So for anyone who’s watching their cholesterol levels, this may be some exciting knowledge.   Secondly, avocado seeds are super rich in antioxidants. Avocado is an antioxidant superhero, but in fact 70% of an avocado’s antioxidants are found in its seed. Many read “antioxidant” tagged to a product and are immediately sold, no further questions need be asked. I’d like to hold back...

WHAT NOW, 2016?

I have to admit that I’ve been struggling to write this blog entry. No, that’s getting quite far ahead of myself. I’ve been struggling to think of what I should write about – the brilliant idea, the blockbuster topic to start 2016 with – so in reality, I’m actually miles away from being able to struggle with the writing itself.   It’s been a pretty hectic start to the new year. Christmas was a rare break for us: we had no ships scheduled that Friday. But it was back to work on Boxing Day to prepare for the packed following week leading up to New Year’s Day. And it’s been full-on, non-stop action since New Year’s Day weekend to now.   We’re now about midway through our annual going-bananas season. This happens between mid-October to early-April each year, when the northern hemisphere prepares to receive winter and the cruise ships head south for summer holidays in this half of the world. Not only is it nice and balmy weather here, it’s also safer sailing because the ships don’t have to navigate around ice-bergs, some as big if not bigger than the ships themselves, and other such natural obstacles as they would have to if they stayed north.   Here at Sofresh, we started preparing for this current high season from around last June, even while we carried-on with our usual year-round business. All our equipment was serviced to ensure everything would run smoothly. We added storage facilities to increase our capacity. And we gave our suppliers a heads-up. All of this is an annual ritual for us, because we...

AT THE CLOSE OF THE YEAR, HELLO 2016!

On Sofresh Offshore Supply’s Facebook page where we post “Weekend Wisdom” anecdotes and encouraging words each Friday, I’ve chosen to focus the year’s final three Fridays’ posts on people. I think this is fitting, as we reflect on the year that’s ending and look forward to the one ahead, because what we do and why we do it is ultimately about people: our own staff, our cruise ship clients and their guests; our oil and gas, and commercial vessel clients, and their staff and crew.   The post on 18 December, the third last Friday of 2015, was about forgiving others, even people who aren’t sorry for their misdeeds. The real focus of that post was ourselves. That anecdote ended with the words “Holding on to anger only hurts you, not them.” There’s another saying with words that are even more vivid: holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. (And that’s not going to happen, is it?).   The post last Friday – which was also Christmas day – was on remembering the right and good that people do, and not just focussing on their mistakes or wrong-doings. It was a reminder to appreciate and love the people in our lives, because unfortunately it’s all too often that we take for granted or hurt those closest to us, whom we see everyday, and thus mistake to need the least amount (or none at all) of our attention, appreciation, compassion and affection – like our spouses, children, extended family members, old friends, and colleagues: the very same people that deserve our best,...

COME TOGETHER (TIS THE SEASON)

Christmas is a time for people to come together. And food is a way for people to come together. So, putting the time and the way together, we have a pretty good explanation why this time of the year is really the season for precious fellowship, joy, laughter, love and very full tummies.   This past fortnight, and this week in particular, has been especially hectic for all of us at Sofresh. It’s to be expected as all our clients’ cruise ships are stocking up to throw huge lead-up celebrations and Christmas parties for their passengers and crew out there on the high seas. We’ve had more loadings than normal even for our peak season, and each loading has also been heavier than usual. In addition to the regular must-have fresh produce, meats and seafood, food and beverage products, and hotel consumables, we’ve had the pleasure to supply lots of fun stuff like Christmas trees, all sorts of beautiful decorations, confetti poppers, and so on. And why not? It’s certainly the season for lots of fun!   Come to think of it, food plays such an important and central role in almost all human social activity. Aside from celebrations and parties, many new friendships are introduced and made over meals. Love blossoms into life-long relationships of marriage and starting families from courtships that with certainty involve romantic dates and nice meals. Lots of deals are negotiated and sealed over meals shared between business counterparts. And wisdom suggests that feelings are soothed, and disputes settled and put to rest while meeting and seeing eye-to-eye again at the dining table. It’s...

THE MIGHTY ROMAINE AND ITS COUSINS

The one thing all our cruise ship clients want is to get fresh. Produce – fresh produce is what I’m talking about. Alright, that was a stiff try at grabbing some attention. But fresh produce may not strike many as sensational. Then again, I know people who love visiting wet markets, grocers and supermarkets just to look at all the produce available. We supply lots of fresh produce to our clients, and of this an especially huge amount of lettuce: a few different kinds of lettuce, in fact.   That’s actually to be expected. Lettuce is the bedrock in salads because it provides a fresh, crispy-crunchy base while adding good nutrition, texture and a light taste, so that you can still savour the flavours from the other ingredients. You can just imagine how many salads are consumed onboard cruise ships everyday, not to mention all the other dishes that use lettuce either as a main ingredient or garnish. So, what are the different kinds of lettuce that Sofresh commonly supplies?   Romaine lettuce is perhaps the “mightiest” of them all. By volume supplied, it’s certainly up there. And by nutritional content it is king. It contains vitamins K (a whopping 107% Daily Value) and A (45% DV), and folate (32% DV). It also has a good amount of molybdenum (13% DV), an essential trace element crucial for the survival of humans and animals. Severe deficiency in molybdenum results in toxic reactions to sulfites in certain foods, while studies have linked molybdenum deficiency to instances of esophageal cancer in some parts of the world, and an increase in urates people...

BLONDE, WORTH ITS WEIGHT IN GOLD

OK – so this one’s not really for vegetarians, or those strongly opposed to the meat industry and some of its lesser practices: the priciest steak in the world has been found! This was newsworthy enough for both CNN and The Telegraph to report on earlier this week. I’m always in for a good steak, so this piece of news sounded pretty exciting to me. If steak – or meat in general – is not your favourite thing, please take this week’s article with a pinch of salt (sea salt preferably, and freshly ground black pepper: my favourite seasoning combo to let the steak speak for itself). In any case, I learnt a couple of things researching this week’s article, and if you’ll bear with me I’d like to share some of what those things are.   On to the star of this week’s piece: the world’s most expensive steaks cost up to US$3,200! And they’re sold by French butcher Alexandre Polmard from a brand of cattle called Blonde d’Aquitaine which the Polmard family rears in northeastern France.   Polmard told CNN, “My family wouldn’t dream of raising animals in sheds where they have no space or room to roam. Here they are in the open air, living in forest and on parkland. There are shelters they can choose to visit in case it rains or snows. It’s really five-star accommodation.” Polmard also said that he talks to the cows everyday to make their lives as comfortable and stress-free as possible. To keep stress levels down, only four cows are slaughtered each week in his abattoir: “All the love...

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