Cutlery on the go

I was going through a security check and the security officer saw that my bag had fork, spoon and chopsticks. They were from my portable dinning cutlery set. The officer was amused and asked me to remove it from my bag to check. He then realised it was more for sustainability and that I was not some homeless dude lumbering around.

Lots of disposable cutlery can be saved from bringing your own cutlery set around. That reduces material waste. But at the same time, what we eat matters too!

Cutting down on meats especially beef reduces significant amount of carbon emissions and also animal waste. The globalised world has more diversity in diets so that helps to disperse demand for different food products but the way food is produced had become a lot more industrialised and intense in those particular areas where crops and livestock are produced. This means more logistics, centralisation of profits and inequality.

If you were to make a choice to change your cutlery use or your diet, I’d prefer you think more about your diet.

Making excuses for yourself

Barely 10 hours before we were slated to meet for a trek, they messaged, “Had a late night today and just got home so we’ll sleep in and skip the trek tomorrow”. We learnt from young to steer our lives using excuses in order to align it with our periodic whims and fancies, but also to ensure we stay on course in our long-term goals when we find ourselves inconsistent. So they are a double-edged sword depending on how you wield it.

Using excuses that comes out of trying to steer towards long-term goals such as having a policy of sleeping 7.5 hours each night, not signing petitions, eating low-carb, etc can be great. And at times, you might just need to give yourself some wriggle room from low-stake commitments.

But the kind of excuses you need to catch yourself on, is when you’re bailing yourself out of the future you were committing to create for yourself or others. Especially so out of whims and fancies. When you make excuses not to do the work, or to deplete the trust people have in you, or to belittle the cultivation of small positive habits.

Downward counterfactual thinking

Counterfactual thinking is a concept in psychology that involves the human tendency to create possible alternatives to life events that have already occurred. I’ve no doubt this is a sign of intelligence and it is a residue in our ability to project forward into the future. After all, if you can imagine the different possible futures, you could also imagine different possible pasts.

The question is whether the content of your counterfactual thinking is upward or downward. In other words, do you think the reality could have been better or do you think things could have been worse? People could be more positive when they consider that something worse could have happened rather than the actual outcome. In that sense, downward counterfactual thinking is actually a habit or strong mental re-frame that helps improve our well-being.

Nevertheless, the mind tends towards negativity because it sticks more than the positive. What I think is interesting is that different positions we are in can cause us to have inclination towards upwards or downwards counterfactual. It is interesting how being in second place encourages upward counterfactual thinking more than being in third place – just because you only have one person in front of you. So there are some kind of defaults that our counterfactual thinking drifts towards.

That’s not to say you can’t change your defaults. Part of my coaching practice especially around mindset shifts is exactly about that.

The Amazing Avocado Fruit


This is potentially the most random post on my website but a friend of mine who translated the Japanese variety show, Tetsuwan Dash episode on 16 June 2020 (Guest: Inohara Yoshihiko) for her family, decided to share a whole host of fun facts gathered from the show with me. So I thought it a waste not to reproduce them here:

Avocadoes have twice the Potassium of bananas, 7 times the Vitamin B2 (aids in breakdown of fats) of kiwis, twice the vitamin E (an antioxidant) of lemons, and twice the dietary fiber of 1 great burdock (a kind of root).

Types of Avocados

The most common type of avocado exported around the world is the Hass variant of avocado. This is because its thick and hard skin makes it ideal for long distance travel i.e. export. It seems to be the only one available in Singapore as well. In Japan and other places, they have started growing Pinkerton avocadoes (picture to be added soon – notice shape is different from regular Hass avocados)

The price of these Pinkerton avocadoes grown in Miyazaki (called “Hinata Princess” = sunny place princess). A 500g avocado (big) costs 5000 yen (USD50)! Unfortunately you can only buy these reportedly amazing avocados in Japan, either via their online shop (mail order) or at Miyazaki airport.

Another species is called the Monroe avocado (named for Marilyn Monroe), this same farmer in Miyazaki also grows them. They grow so huge that one avocado can sell for as much as 12,000 yen (USD120) if it tops 1kg. The one they showed on the show was 24cm long!

Similar to bananas, avocados can’t be eaten as soon as they are harvested because it takes time for the starch in the fruit to be converted to glucose (making it sweet and yummy). However in the case of avocadoes, instead of being converted to glucose, starch is converted to fat (unsaturated fat). This unsaturated fat is good for lowering bad cholesterol, and is the key ingredient giving avocadoes their deliciousness – the longer they are left on the tree before harvesting, the yummier they are because they have a higher fat content.

In the show, the Japanese farmer leaves his Pinkerton avocados on the tree (to slowly gain more fat content) for a year before harvesting! On the other hand, the normal avocados we eat from the supermarket have usually only been left on the tree for about 7 months before being harvested, because it takes about 200 days before they are big enough to be harvested and they then harvest it as soon as they are ‘big enough’. For this particular farmer, after leaving the Pinkerton avocados on the tree for a year, he stores them at 20’C for 20 days to allow them to continue to ripen (starch => fat conversion).

Unlike Hass avocados which turn black when they are ripe and good to eat, Pinkerton avocadoes do not change colour (stay green) so the way to tell the best time to eat is when you press the avocados with your finger and it is soft enough to leave a mark. The taste of Pinkerton avocadoes is also different (especially after staying on the tree for a whole year) – the hosts of the show described the taste as being similar to chestnut, and much richer than the normal Hass avocados.

The show featured this avocado farm in Miyazaki (on Kyushu island), and the good thing about the location of this farm is that the soil is actually stratified rock formed of alternating layers of sandy soil and clayey soil. The sandy soil allows water to penetrate easily as well as oxygen, while clayey soil retains nutrients. Furthermore, as this stratified rock was formed undersea (before being pushed above sea level by tectonic movements), it also contains the remnants of shells and coral – this means lots of sodium, calcium, and magnesium in the soil!

How to prepare avocados for consumption

The Japanese avocado farmer’s recommended way of eating avocados is to drizzle sesame oil and a dash of pink rock salt! The hosts tasted and said this was super good.

Other gourmet means of enjoying avocado were featured on the show as well:

Avocado foods

1)  Avocado gyoza – avocado will add to the richness of the gyoza

  • Mix minced meat with garlic, ginger, oyster sauce (like normal dumpling filling), place in the gyoza skin
  • Place a piece of avocado in the center
  • Fold the gyoza and fry it over medium fire for 2 mins
  • Pour hot water over the gyoza until they are 70% covered and cover with the lid and leave for 10 mins
  • Drizzle sesame oil and leave over medium heat for another 5 mins to get nice grill marks

2) Avocado Kimchi Cheese Nabe (hot pot)

  • The usual hot pot stuff like cabbage, pork, shimeji mushrooms in a soup base of katsuo/kombu
  • Add 300g kimchi and bring to boil
  • Add camembert cheese right in the center and surround with pieces of avocado, leaving it on low flame for 15 min [host commented avocado oil is good for the heart]
  • Tip: add guacamole to the hotpot for added taste and texture (of the spring onions)

3) Avocado wrapped in meat

  • Slice avocado longitudinally
  • Marinate boneless pork rib with salt and pepper, and potato starch
  • Wrap the avocado in the meat!
  • Fry in olive oil over medium fire for about 7 mins
  • Turn off the fire and drizzle shoyu (soya sauce) [avo fat + pork fat = umami!]

How to store avocados if you’re not finishing the whole thing

If you remove the seed, the meat will start to oxidise and turn brown. You can put the seed back after removing to slow down the oxidisation. But a better way suggested by the farmer was that after you open the avocado, you just don’t remove the seed and eat the half without the seed, then put the half with the seed still attached into the fridge (with cling wrap). This way it will not oxidise.

How to store avocados so they will be yummy: allow them to ripen at room temperature (counterintuitive since avocados are usually sold at the refrigerated section!). Letting avocados ripen in low temperature will cause brown lines to appear (I’ve personally experienced it). But it’s okay if the avocado is already ripe then you put it in the fridge so it’s cold when you eat it.

Thank you all for indulging us!


The Feast

French Laundry
Burger Stuffing?

The Economist Lexington reports on The Fat Plateau, highlighting that Americans are no longer getting fatter. This is the point of time when American Healthcare is a core concern of the Americans’ lives and obese might penalize the healthier individuals in a system that pools all their risks together. Either the number of people who can’t quite control their diet has reached the peak of their obesity potential, or that all the complex forces that pushes weight up and down for the general populace has finally reached a point where both forces cancel each other out – at least temporarily.

On food and eating, Mark Vanhoenacker compares the French Laundry, a 3-Stars Michelin Guide restaurant with McDonald’s on moreIntelligentLife. He harps on the interesting similarities between them and points out the curious fact that no one seems to bother about nutritional values of gourmet cuisine:

The mere mention of nutrition in any discussion of haute gastronomie is a cheerless business. Still, I’m certain that my waistline and arteries were affected more by our French Laundry feast (did I mention that the foie gras had chocolate on it?) than the day I had a Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit for breakfast ($4.49 with hash brown and coffee), the Angus Burger meal for lunch ($6.19) and a Chicken Selects dinner ($7.39).

Of course, it’s probably because we don’t have foie gras with chocolate for breakfast as often as we have a Sausage Muffin with Egg. And comparing French Laundry with McDonald’s simply shows how universal our preferences might be whether it’s for expensive gourmet cuisine or plain junk food.

Work Less, Live Healthy

Get Unemployed!
Get Unemployed!

When the economy gets into recession, people become anxious about their jobs, worried about not being able to get employed or having not enough money to finance their spending, so they get sick more easily. Right? Wrong! Fortune magazine ran a story that tells otherwise; in fact, it even surfaced the inverse relationship between death rates and unemployment rates!

Interestingly, people are actually working too much in most developed world today. Reducing work would make them healthier and perhaps allow them to live better lives though it might not satisfy all their wants. In any case, no amount of work would be able to satisfy all their wants in the first place. The implication of this is that there is actually an optimal income level for each person involved in a particular job. In a sense, an economy at any one time has an optimal national income so that the population is healthy (optimal health-productivity balance, long life expectancy and lower mortality).