Saturday, May 26, 2007


Here's a question:

What --
  • aids digestion lowers blood pressure,
  • reduces stress hormones,
  • increases muscle flexion,
  • boosts the immune system,
  • triggers the release of endorphins which are the body's natural painkillers,
  • heals broken relationships, and produces a general sense of well-being??

  • Answer: Laughter

    I didn't realize that our bodies derive all those benefits from a good laugh. Yes, I've heard it said that laughter is the best medicine, but not in specific terms like the ones above. (By the way, I got this from an online newsletter called Worthy Briefs.)

    I did a bit of Googling and came across an interesting article, "Laughter Does A Body Good". It expands on the same topic. Now, I understand why happy people look more radiant and younger than a sourpuss of the same age.

    "A cheerful heart is good medicine," according to Proverbs 17:22. "...but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." See, even the Bible talks about it.

    Laughter is not only good for the body. It is good for relationships too. I agree. I know that firsthand. Humour is a vital part of my family. My home growing up was marked with laughter, my parents being the laughingest ones. My Mom is already 82 but she still has that same hearty laughter. She looks 62.

    In our extended family gatherings, we laugh a lot. My parents' humour has certainly trickled down to the generation of my children and their cousins. What a blessing! In some families, gatherings and reunions almost always cause old grudges to surface, fighting to ensue, ugly dramas to unfold... I hope we never have any of that.

    My best friendships are all characterized by good-natured humour too. I have very funny friends. We share a great sense of humour. I'm usually the "laugh-er". In company, you won't hear me say a joke as much as you will hear me laugh at one. It's because I laugh easily. If I ever say a joke, I would be laughing before I get to the punchline. Often I laugh more than anyone in a group. Sometimes, it's the joke. Sometimes, it's the person. Sometimes, it's what goes on in my imagination. Sometimes, it's just habit.

    I laugh at corny jokes. I laugh at silly commercials. I even laugh alone. When I'm by myself and I remember the silly things I say and do, I laugh. Ha ha ha! I'm so funny! I say to myself. If nothing else will make me laugh, I laugh at ME. I buy my own jokes.

    This is not to say I laugh at everything funny by other people's standard. I find some popular TV sitcoms offensive and so un-funny. I prefer humour that I can enjoy with my 11-year-old. Laughter is good for the body, but it shouldn't be harmful to the mind and soul. That's my personal opinion.

    I also believe that humour requires sensitivity especially when it involves other people. Funny isn't fun if it's hurting someone. That's mean!

    One thing that really annoys me at home is when one of my boys is having a good laugh at the expense of another. "Don't embarrass your brother in public," I'd say to one. Or, "If you're the only one laughing and your brother is crying, that's not fun!"

    They say children laugh 300 to 400 times a day while adults laugh only a mere 15! This might be true. Maybe we adults should hang around with children more and let their laughter rub off on us. My kids laugh a lot, which makes me laugh, that makes them laugh... Often, I'm the one they are laughing at. Ask them.

    Whatever, I have only two ground rules -- Keep it clean. Don't be mean.

    Friday, May 04, 2007

    Meal planning

    I am getting into the habit of planning and writing down main dishes for the coming week. I mean mainly suppers. (My creative thoughts and energies have yet to spill over to breakfast and lunch. Until then, we have to be content with what-have-you’s and leftovers, the usual “wing meal”. I just wing it…)

    Even so, I find that planning for suppers alone requires a lot of time and thought and I sometimes run out of ideas. In order to make meal planning and grocery shopping easier, I started doing a weekly meal plan that entails assigning a geographical theme for each week on a four-week rotation basis, as follows:

    Week 1: Filipino foods
    Week 2: Western (Canadian, American, European)
    Week 3: Asian (Thai, Korean, Chinese and Japanese)
    Week 4: South Asian, Mediterranean, Caribbean, Latin American, African.

    The plan looks cosmopolitan as though I am a well-traveled epicure, which I’m not. I know a few dishes from different corners of the world, and I pick up new recipes here and there. But I'm not a bon vivant. I still tend to avoid dishes with names I can’t pronounce, and recipes with ingredients I can’t spell. So don't be too impressed. My Italian food is pasta, South Asian is curry from India or Sri Lanka, Japanese is sushi and tempura, Mexican is taco or fajita, African is pilau or samosa, Greek is something with feta…

    I imagined the Filipino week to be the easiest one for me. “It’s gonna be my no-thinking week,” I said. No recipe books. No measurements. No unfamiliar ingredients.

    “Mom, no sinigang and adobo,” Gino said when he heard of Filipino week. But those are my two no-brainers!

    I want to learn more international dishes. I want to be more adventurous just like the night I prepared Jamaican Jerk Chicken that was too spicy it upset some stomachs and sent people to the washroom.

    Next week is Mediterranean, Caribbean, and the rest of the world not covered by weeks 1 to 3. If you have any suggestions, I will be gastronomically grateful.