In Defense of my Diet AND The Words I Use to Reference it

July 16, 2009

Jim’s comment on my last post reminded me of something I haven’t covered here–and I like to cover the crap out of things. That is, what I eat and drink. And the whole interaction with my little Crohn’s problem. We’ll start here.

Curiously and counter-intuitively, there has not ever been any direct or observable correlation between what I eat and the onset of Crohn’s-related symptoms. The vagaries of my auto-immune disorder tend to run on their own clock cycles, blatantly ignoring any onion rings or flaming hot curry I might throw its way, at least as far as causation goes.

I have spent time discussing this with my doctor. Though I am one to jump to conclusions, this is not one I was comfortable assuming without expert medical advice: that what I ate wasn’t terribly relevant in preventing flares. I will share with you the information I have gleaned from Dr. Gravitas and other Crohn’s-expert sources, as well as my own experience:

  • Many, perhaps even a majority, of people with Crohn’s disease are lactose intolerant. I, simply, am not. I can eat milky things with impunity, which is good, because I might commit ritual suicide if I couldn’t have cheese.
  • When it comes to diet and Crohn’s, a common sense approach seems to have the best clinical track record. That is, if something specific makes you sick consistently, stop bloody eating it. For me there are only a couple of foods in this category. Example: pineapple. Always makes me sick. Apples: usually. Popcorn: sometimes.
  • I do actually drink quite a bit less than I used to. I have come to recognize that I now get brutal, possibly Crohn’s-enhanced, hangovers from a rather silly-small amount of booze. So my solution: I don’t drink as much.
  • There is a difference, that I was alluding to above, between causal onset of Crohn’s symptoms triggered by foods versus foods that exacerbate already-flaring Crohn’s. When I’m sick, I can’t tolerate large amounts of fiber easily. Sometimes when things are quite unpleasant, I opt to go on a liquid- or soft-food-only diet for a few days. Sometimes I’ll restrict myself to a white bread and macaroni kind of thing for a while. This gives the ravaged tubes some time to chill.
  • My experience with Crohn’s has been far from textbook. So it may well be that “mainstream” Crohn’s sufferers are able to detect clearer patterns of diet-induced Crohn’s problems.
  • When I do feel good, sometimes my reaction is to eat a lot of “heavy” foods. Sometimes this is as simple as trying to shove calories into myself while I can. I have lost 20 pounds since the beginning of the year, see.

I have had many good-natured suggestions from people about tweaks I could make to my diet to try to reduce Crohn’s flares. But here’s the thing: my Crohn’s is not active at the moment, in terms of actual inflammation, and my life is circumscribed in a lot of other ways as it is. I love food, and, unless I see solid evidence that it is harshing my physical buzz, I’m going to keep eating it for now.

Food, Words

Speaking of food and buzzes, we’ve been having a fun time this week at Pencilhaven. We’ve been inundated from trekking travelers from all ends of the Commonwealth, with five folks crashing in various parts of our house. On a multi-week motorcycle trip (on bikes they bought, sight unseen, on Craigslist SFO), our visitors originate from Scotland, London and western Australia. Plus our friend Julian has been hanging around, who grew up in Leicester. So, a good scientific testbed for linguistic origin.

When I lived in England, one of my favorite things was going to the grocery store and gawking at how many alimentary terms were different between British and American English. Whereas back home we had zucchinis, red peppers, eggplant, in the UK I had to buy courgettes, capsicums, aubergines. Pickle doesn’t mean pickle in our sense, for that you want gherkins. The term “salad cream” really bothered me. And so on.

Last night David made one of his sublime salsas and everyone was enjoying it and one of the guys asked “Do you put coriander in this?” and David started responding in the negative until I bumped him and whispered “He means ‘cilantro’” because whereas we reference only the seed of the plant by this term, the rest of the English-speaking world uses coriander seed for the hard bits, and coriander to mean the leafy bits.

This is confusing, but not as bothersome to me as the whole Mars Bar shift. What we call a 3 Musketeers is, in the UK, a Milky Way. A Milky Way here is a Mars bar there. And a Mars bar here can only be obtained there by buying a Mars with Almond. OK, headache-inducing. Really I’d rather have a Cadbury Double Decker. Please buy me one.

Another thing that amuses me is the Anglicization of the pronunciation of foreign foods. La-tte, pa-sta instead of lah-tte, pah-sta. And I last night ribbed David because he slipped and used the British English pronunciation of fillet (fil-lett).

“What is it with you folks and your eating of fil-letts and visits to the bal-lett? ” I asked.

The group looked horrified.

“No one says bal-lett!” they insisted. “It’s bal-lay!

“So, then, you say fil-lay?” I asked.

They then looked horrified again.

“No! That would be so pretentious!

You can keep up with the group’s travels at Edinburgh/Glasgow Jon’s (Twitter @jonathansykes) Tumblr page, where he’s been posting nifty video diaries of the group’s odyssey.

Also, I apologize. This post has no core point, and commits some egregious non sequiturs.

One Comment

  1. Todd says:

    We had similar linguistic fun when we were in Scotland. I remember a conversation between a waitress and Julia involving our dinner. The waitress said it came with a side of courgette — the word was familiar to me, but I couldn’t remember what I would call it, and the waitress wasn’t very good at describing things. So there we are, three English-speaking adults, all capable of understanding each other except for the identification of this vegetable. I almost forgot we were all speaking Enlgish for a second. Finally, she offered up that a courgette sort of looks like a cucumber. Ah. Zucchini.

    Now, as for how we Americans ended up with the Italian word and the Brits went with the French word, I’m sure there’s a good story somewhere. … Okay, I just checked with Wikipedia. Though summer squash are New World plants, zucchini are actually Italian in origin, a spontaneous mutation in the Old World of a New World plant. Both courgette and zucchini mean “small squash” in their respective languages, though zucchini is oddly plural. Still, I think a point to the American usage.

    Wikipedia says the British use both capsicum and pepper, depending on which type of fruit is being discussed. Did you observe differently? I know my Aussie relatives don’t call them peppers. And it seems everyone refers to the hotter varieties as chil[l][i/ie]s, perhaps a reflection of their popularity coming from New World cuisine where they speak Spanish. But pepper is kind of a goofy name, even if you think these fruits and peppercorns are hot in a similar fashion (I don’t). Point: British.

    Eggplant is an odd one. It makes total sense as a name for that type of eggplant that looks like, well, an egg. You’ve seen them, I’m sure. But they are considered the exception in the world of eggplants, at least in the U.S. Aubergine, on the other hand, goes all the way back to Sanskrit, the language of their place of origin. Point: British.

    “The term ‘salad cream’ really bothered me.” As it should. Even if you like mayonnaise (which is at least the closest analog for us), actually putting it on salad is foul.

    I have to admire the British for their attitude towards appropriating terms from other languages. They don’t mind borrowing your word, but they will not go so far as actually pronounce it right, preferring their own vowel set, thank you very much. I sort of imagine someone saying, “Look, we speak English, not French, I don’t care how they say it.” Actually, we Americans do the same thing (cf. Los Angeles, cilantro, rodeo, banana), but the British just seem more curmudgeonly about it. Stereotype?

    Thus ends my novella response.

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