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Caulifried Rice

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Flying into Vegas

I’m a flight attendant now. That much you all know. There are a few questions that seem to arise every time I tell someone new what I do for a living. Where’s your favorite destination so far? Do you get to fly around wherever you like? But sure enough, people seem fascinated by the fly girl’s diet. So, what’s it like eating out all the time?

If you think about it, life in the aviation industry is inherently transient. It is my job, after all, to travel. And it seems that as a general rule, our eating habits are always the worst when we travel, right? We don’t have access to our usual grocers, we tend to lax up on our diets (we’re on vacation!), we often skip out on our typical exercise routines. Plus, if you’re anything like me, you travel for the sake of food. I mean, there’s just so much to learn about another culture and environment through their cuisine. That, and I just love food, plain and simple. Needless to say, many of us gain a few pounds because when we’re on vacation we let loose and enjoy ourselves, and it’s all okay because we’ll get back into the swing of things as soon as we return home.

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Cheese Steak in Philly…ya gotta go out sometimes!

But what happens when your return home is to be followed shortly by yet another voyage? How can you ever get back into the swing of it if you’re always on the move? With all these factors against me, it seems only natural that the travel diet would become my new lifestyle. But that’s not the case.

I quickly mastered the art of lunchbox tetris wizardry, out of poverty necessity. Hey, we never said we do this job for the money, people!

I enjoy clean eating. If I don’t consume some sort of fresh greens and fruits in my day, it’s a day gone wrong, and I’m left feeling wanting and unfulfilled. While eating out is fun sometimes, knowing what I’m putting in my body is ultimately more important. And I knew this would prove especially true in a tiny flying germ capsule, or else I’d suffer the consequences–weakness, fatigue, and that nasty cough and vulgar runny nose the lady sitting in 16D grossed everyone out with. So I had to figure out a way to get my daily dose of whole foods when I’m working 30,000 feet in the air or laid over in a hotel in a strange city.

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My FA training classmate, friend and colleague and I on a trip together

So I’m going to share with you some tricks and recipes I’ve learned in practice.

When packing food for travel, you have to keep a few things in mind. Sometimes, it can be a challenge to reheat food, let alone cook it in its raw form. My aircraft don’t have microwaves or ovens, so I need to get a little crafty. Some of our coffee machines have a hot plate, which you can (slowly) warm foil-wrapped food on. I’ve also heated soup right from the can this way. It takes a while, but you have the time to plan it out once you’re in the air. Some of my aircraft, however, don’t even have hot plates. In this case, I heat my food, sealed in plastic, in a bin of hot water.

Another thing you need to keep in mind when packing for a trip is that your food needs to be hardy. This can be tough when you’re trying to get fresh foods because they often wilt, get smashed, or rot. Go for hefty produce, like kale and broccoli. Apparently I’m Trader Joe’s’ unofficial spokesperson, as typically everything I eat originates there, but their Broccoli and Kale Slaw is the best. It stands up to tossing and turning, and it doesn’t get soggy after it’s been dressed. Carrots are super easy. And I also like to have Persian cucumbers because I think it’s nice that you don’t have to cut them up to fit in your bag, so they keep longer. Well, I could go on about every item I manage to cram in my life-saving lunchbox, but that’ll be the next post. Keep your eyes peeled for a video coming up.

For now, I leave you with one of my favorite healthy recipes that’s good on the go:

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Caulifried Rice

Caulifried rice is actually not rice at all. Made from riced cauliflower, this dish is light, clean, and healthy. And as a carb fiend, you can trust me when I tell you, you won’t feel like you’re being gypped as you do so often with healthy substitutions. Plus, it’s easy to customize the recipe by throwing in any veggies or proteins you have on hand. As easy, healthy, and delicious as this is to make, you may find you have a new staple to add to your busy work week menu.

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Ingredients:

  • 2-3 TBSP sesame oil (or olive oil)
  • 16 oz riced cauliflower, raw
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, finely minced/grated
  • 1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup corn, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup carrots, diced
  • 1/2 cup firm tofu, diced (I like to marinate my tofu in soy sauce ahead of time to give it more flavor. Also, you can use chicken or pork or whatever protein you prefer.)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4-5 TBSP soy sauce/tamari
  • 2-3 TBSP scallions, fresh, chopped
  • sesame seeds
  • pepper to taste
  • large wok (If you don’t have a very large pan, like a wok, cut the recipe in half, so as not to overfill your pan. You want a lot of room for the fry to occur.)

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Instructions:

  1. In a large wok, saute the onions, garlic, and ginger in oil on medium/low heat until onions become soft and translucent (about 2-3 minutes).
  2. Raise heat to medium/high. Add peas, corn, carrots, and diced tofu. Cook and stir until veggies are heated through, but still firm (about 3-4 min if frozen, 2-3 min if fresh).
  3. Make a well in the center of the wok. Pour in the beaten eggs, and stir until scrambled.
  4. Raise heat to high. Add cauliflower and soy sauce. Cook stirring frequently or about 5-7 more minutes.
  5. Garnish with fresh chopped green onions and sesame seeds.

 

 

Enjoy whatever add-ins you choose. Broccoli, baby corn, cabbage, bok choy, shrimp, water chestnuts, steak–the possibilities are endless.

Now, please excuse me while I go pack my lunch for the next trip!

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I’m Back!

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I hit the bullseye.

So, there have been a lot of changes in my life these last few months, to say the least. I’ve had a major makeover in my career, my home, my city, my company, my diet…Basically everything about my life has turned a complete 180–and I am loving every bit of it!

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Downtown NYC

The last time you saw me, I was writing out of a mish-mosh Brooklyn apartment. I was doing the nanny thing, interning at a museum, and cooking in a kitchen that only New York City could claim as passable. I didn’t have a lot of extra time on my hands, and I didn’t really get out much.

I was by no means a recluse. I enjoyed time with my friends in the city, and I always had fun whipping up tasty treats. But something was missing. It took me two years of living in the big, bad city to figure out what it was. But once I could finally admit to myself that I needed an adjustment, my life turned around and started falling into place.

In October, after months of pestering from my friend to get out of the city that had been trying my patience and happiness for the last 730 days and join her in the aviation industry, I received an email from an airline, inviting me to apply for a flight attendant position.

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Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia

I’ve always been the black sheep of the family. I’m the artsy-fartsy, free-spirited rebel. I like to do what I want, and what I want is often very different than what I’m told. But I was also raised in a well-educated, professional family. I learned to strive for a traditional life–go to college, get a good white-collar job, raise a family. These were the goals of a future I was taught to envision for myself since I was a little girl.

So that’s just what I did. I studied hard and worked my way through school. I have these two lovely degrees from a renowned university, some professional writing experience, and a 25-year-long plan for my future in the corporate world. Dropping everything I’d ever done to become a flight attendant was not an option. It just didn’t seem to make sense. Until it did.

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Reading Market, Philadelpha

Finally, something inside me just snapped, and everything seemed to become crystal clear and incredibly confusing and terrifying at the same time. By the time that invitation reached me, I guess I’d just had enough. The straws had been piling up for two years, and I just kept telling myself that if I could just make an adjustment here or a revision there, I’d find bliss in NYC. But what I’d been doing wasn’t working, so it was time to try something new. Completely and totally new.

I bought myself a ticket to Detroit for the interview, and a whirlwind ensued. It was a wild, nerve-wracking experience. The whole interview process lasted about 12 hours. There were 200 people with whom I was competing, and there were eyes and ears everywhere, watching our every move. My spirit was high, my attitude positive and excited, and my hopes soaring. I was going to land this job. And I did.

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Celebrating my new job as a flight attendant in Greek Town, Detroit

Once I returned home from the interview in Detroit, I had one month to move to the other side of the country before being shipped off to Florida for a month-long training program. One month to clear out. I sold all my furniture, tossed a lot of what had become a part of my life in New York City, rented out my apartment, and prepared to leave the city behind.

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Leaping lizards!

Soon after I landed in Florida, I found that I had underestimated the stress of a flight attendant’s training program. So, it was a month–big deal. So I’d have to share a room–definitely doable. So I couldn’t cook for myself–I’ve been there before. So there’d be some exams–I went to college! I could handle it! And while I got through training with more knowledge and understanding of the aviation industry than I’d ever even realized exists, and made some life-long friends, training did not come without its struggles.

 

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FA gathering at Ft. Lauderdale Ale House

With class from 6 am to 4:30 pm, straight to studying, eating canned soup and microwaved sweet potatoes every day, waking up an hour earlier than I’ve ever needed in order to learn how to use the company-mandated makeup I’ve spent my life avoiding, and literally having zero hours a day to myself for 30 grueling days, I was exhausted. I always had to be “on.” I had to bite my tongue…a lot. And we all know how difficult that is for me. I had to cope with little sleep, found myself longing for my friends and family, missed the Thanksgiving holiday and my mom’s heavenly spread, and lived in what I considered a hobunk town with little in the way of culture, food, history, or entertainment, save for the halfway house next door to our hotel. It was far from glamorous.

But I made it.

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Some of the gang from my FA training class

Then came the next struggle. Living in Detroit. In a crash pad. For those of you not involved in the airline industry, a crash pad is a horrid little house, furnished with loads of beds for the use of flight attendants and pilots in need of a place to stay during their time in base. I was technically residing in Las Vegas, my future desired base, but I had to be in Detroit for all of my assignments. I ended up in this double-wide trailer with ten bunk beds. Never had I lived with so many people at once. I also never anticipated having to sleep in either a bunk bed or a twin bed after my freshman year in the college dorms. Here, I had both! I was living in the town around the airport, called Romulus. Romulus, I am certain, must have been the inspiration for The People of Walmart. In fact, Walmart was the closest thing to my house–only a 15 minute drive! I felt pretty trapped and sometimes overwhelmed by all the personalities in the confined space.

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Brunching in downtown Detroit

But I made the most of my time in Detroit. The ladies in the crash pad became a family away from home. And I was able to reconnect with some close friends of my past, who oddly found themselves in Detroit by way of sunny, southern California, too. I used my 12 days off every month exploring the city, which my friends and I coined “The Land of Low Expectations.” I ran through wooded trails, dropped to the ground in total unpreparedness to make snow angels with every snowfall, baked cookies, experimented with a slow cooker, learned to sleep during broad daylight, and got the *bleep* outta there!

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Christ Church, Philadelphia

For the first time in years, I could travel where I want, when I want. And for the first time in my life, I could do it all for free.

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Lunch break by the Andes in Armenia, Colombia

I visited my friends in New York City, went home and saw my mom and dad, stayed with my sister and sis-in-law in their beautiful new home along the Hudson River, and traveled to Chicago to visit Monet and Renoir and Surat! I have a trip to LA for a reunion of my childhood choir coming up, and soon after, I will be heading to Kiev. How amazing it feels to finally have the freedom I’ve always sought. To throw away all the preconceived notions of what my life should be, and give myself the life I want. 

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Now that I’m settled in Las Vegas with my flight attendant friend, in a space I call my own, I have the opportunity to make my life mine. To use my time for me instead of working for someone else every single day. I have the time I desire for fitting in travel and writing and cooking and art and all the things I want to be surrounded by. But even more importantly, I have the means for helping to take care of my family. I finally feel like I’m able to give them something, after years of having nothing to offer other than myself. I can go spend time with my mom and cook dinner for my dad. I can send them away to the destinations they’ve always had their eyes on. I can plan excursions with my brother and explore the world at our feet together.

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I haven’t been this happy in years. I am so glad I finally took the dive and decided to do something unexpected. I am grateful every single day to have a job that I love and the freedom I need to be happy. As a flight attendant, the world really is my oyster, and boy, am I hungry!

 

Burning Corruption: US Healthcare and the FDA

THE BURN

So, last Saturday marks the first day in months that I got back into the kitchen to bake. I’ve been so busy juggling a few jobs, my new internship, several weddings in the family across the country, and general life madness that I had difficulty devoting time to cooking much of anything, let alone anything superfluous, like the cookies I was planning to bring to work.

I wanted to make my Brown Butter Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies. The first step was to brown the butter. Check. And that was as far along in the recipe as I managed to get before taking a casual trip to the hospital. I transferred my hot brown butter from the saucepan into a glass cup to cool it off. As I was walking the cup of butter over to the fridge, I heard a horrible warning sign coming from the object in my hand: a crack. Then, just seconds later, the glass shattered and the boiling butter splattered everywhere. My face, my neck, my chest, my shoulder and armpit, and my leg. And to add insult to injury, I slipped on the butter-slicked floor and fell into a puddle of the hot oily liquid.

THE TREATMENT

When I went to the closest emergency room, they prescribed me a topical cream called Silver Sulfadiazine, or Silvadene, for the second degree burns I had incurred. I had been using the Silvadene creme and dressing the burns for a few days. The cream is really expensive, and all the extra first aid supplies I need to cover the injuries are putting me out of cash that I’d really love to be saving instead. So when I recently learned from my personal doctor that I can eliminate the Silvadene from my burn-treatment regimen, I was intrigued.

But with what could I substitute this prescription antimicrobial, pain-relieving cream? Honey, he said.

My doctor told me honey is the go-to treatment for all his family’s burns, cuts, bites, and scrapes, and he claimed that he trusts the healing properties of honey, among other natural remedies, far more than he does many of the lab-created chemical mixtures they dish out like candy in hospitals. My doctor also informed me that the Silvadene cream is fairly new to the market and has very little testing under its belt, so nobody knows what sorts of long-term side effects and problems it could cause.

THE CONFUSION

For some reason, hearing this information was a little disconcerting. I didn’t really know how take it, and I definitely didn’t expect to hear it from a doctor of Western medicine. When he told me about using honey as a treatment for my burns, questions whizzed through my head, disturbing my already established schemas of first aid and health care in general.

But…it’s so sticky? Won’t that attract bugs or something? Won’t all that sugar hurt my already raw, painful wound? Wouldn’t it put my burn at greater risk of infection? Shouldn’t I trust a  prescription medication more than some sweet goop I stir in my tea?

My doctor’s response to these questions: “You’ve been brain-washed, my dear.” Huh… I guess he has a point.

A brunt of the critique faced by Western medicine is the tendency to cover up or eliminate symptoms of health problems we face instead of determining the root cause and adjusting our lifestyles to avoid those issues in the future. When we have a headache, we take some painkillers. When we have a fever, we take some ibuprofen. When we can’t sleep because we’re drinking too much alcohol and smoking too many cigarettes and binging on 12 cups of coffee a day to stay focused at work, we take sleeping meds. And when we feel overwhelmed with stress and anxiety and fear and depression, we take a cocktail of drugs that string us out and numb us to any sort of feeling at all.

And soon we learn that we ought to fear the natural. It’s dirty out there. Pain and illness and stress are symptoms of our natural state. Nature isn’t safe. We seek white coats and rubber gloves and tools wrapped in plastic and lots and lots of sterile, lab-synthesized medicine. We trust chemicals and prescriptions and procedures and science. We have no idea how to pronounce the ingredients in the pills we take and no clue where those ingredients came from. We don’t know how they work, and there’s a good chance we’ll have some sort of negative side effect. But no need to worry; there are drugs for those, too, and we want them. We don’t want herbs and diets and tinctures and voodoo nonsense! No more of that phoney-baloney-nature-hippie-shit. It’s all mumbo-jumbo.

Western medicine is full of miraculous, life-saving treatments and knowledge; there’s no doubt about that. We can transplant organs and replace deteriorating bones with titanium and fight cancer. We can cure polio and smallpox and yellow fever and tuberculosis! We have vaccines that prevent us from ever contracting diseases that used to kill people en masse. The understanding and vast knowledge of Western medicine is truly awe-inspiring.

However, humans have been using natural plant and mineral resources as treatments and remedies for all sorts of ailments throughout history. In fact, much of the world still does rely on natural medicine. But growing up in the Western World, it seems that we’re conditioned to believe in sterile, scientific medicine as the be-all and end-all.

Now questioning my previous knowledge of health care, I started to do a little research. It turns out honey has been used for centuries to treat burns and wounds. Studies have shown that when pitted against Silvadene in treating burns, honey works faster and heals wounds more completely (i.e. reduces scarring and future sensitivity to burned areas, etc.) for a far greater percentage of patients than did the prescription cream.

According to The Journal of Bioscience and Medicine on the “Effectiveness of Honey Dressing and Silver Sulfadiazine Dressing on Wounds Healing in Burn Patients”:

Honey dressing improves wound healing, makes the wound sterile in lesser time, has a better outcome in terms of prevention of hypertrophic scarring and post-burn contractures, and decreases the need of debridement irrespective of time of admission, when compared to silver sulfadiazine dressing.

If such is the case, why on earth would anyone push for the production and use of Silver Sulfadiazine in the first place? What could be the purpose of creating a chemical treatment that is known to work less effectively–and not to mention, cost more–than the natural equivalent? This is a very important question to consider because its relevance and impact touch on far greater topics than just honey and burn cream. Rather, it brings into question the integrity of the entire health care industry, food industry, and government agencies and politics.

THE CORRUPTION

It all comes down to money. Healthcare is an industry, a profiting part of the economic system. We, in our society, are conditioned to blindly accept and even prefer synthetic, lab-made chemicals to natural remedies per Big Pharma the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
It is known that pharmaceutical companies pay off scientific journals, medical school textbooks, and political lobbies through corporate sponsorship, meaning there is a pro-pharma bias throughout much of the supposedly objective discourse on Western medicine. Furthermore, medical students take an average of one course on nutrition, while they study pharmaceuticals in nearly every quarter of their degree. And of all those pharmaceuticals they study, not a single drug actually makes people healthier on its own. Instead, they mask symptoms, indiscriminately destroy human cells, or introduce small amounts of disease that the human immune system then destroys. Pharmaceuticals do not harmonize the human body, which is where all the adverse effects of drugs come into play.
The FDA, is a federal agency of  US Department of Health and Human Services. As such, it is officially sworn to protect public health by assuring the safety and security of America’s food supply, products, medicine and medical devices; make them safer, more effective and more affordable; and, provide the public with the information about food and medicine that they need to improve their health (Mercola,The FDA Exposed).
Yet unsafe and ineffective drugs, like Silvadene, are getting approved and natural medicine is being persecuted because it poses a threat to big drug companies.That public health is a means of corporate profit gain is absurd and frightening. It means the interests of these agencies lie in monetary profit and personal gain instead of public health and wellness.
And the corruption does not stop at the health care industry. It poisons our food, our water, our environment. Do some research on the corrupt politics of the FDA, and you’ll swear Big Brother’s out to get you. Public and environmental health are endangered every day by the hand of this American government agency. The FDA is not a public protector; it is a public enemy.

Originally published at newscult.com on July 28, 2015.