My husband and I have the same interaction most mornings.
"Hey, honey, do you know where I put my list of things to do today?"
"I think you put it by the telephone."
"No, it's not there, but here's your cell phone charger."
"Excellent! I've been missing that for days. Did you find the thing you were looking for?"
My short-term memory has taken some unapproved vacation time. As its boss, I am not pleased. However, I don't blame it for leaving. Maybe it's concluded there are some things going on during my menopausal 50s that should not be remembered.
The decision could have been made the day I walked into my office, used the restroom, and then wandered out to buy mascara, forgetting that I was there to send an important document to my CPA.
Or the day I was trying to book an airline ticket for my daughter and could not, for the life of me, remember her birthday. I even heard a "good gawd" from the agent as I stumbled over the date. Yes, I was there when she was born. Yes, it was painful. No, I can't remember the date.
My short-term memory may have shut off the day I put mascara on only one eye and looked all Clockwork Orange for the rest of the day. Or perhaps it was the day that I yelled "Are you effin' kidding me?" and burst into tears in the grocery store aisle because my favorite diet cookies had been replaced with their crappy generic version.
I think most of us are finding our memories smashed under the anvil of so much information. I turn on my computer at 9 a.m. and am suddenly inundated with information, including great blogs from intelligent people that are blended with threats of nuclear war and suggestions concerning the right fertilizer for my yard.
Oh, yeah, and Jessica Simpson is showing a baby bump and more district attorneys have been shot and Kim Kardashian got bangs and Margaret Thatcher died.
Every story seems to have equal value, so I'm suddenly tweeting about everything from shit to bangs to the possible big North Korean bang. Within an hour, I barely know where I am.
In light of this avalanche of information, I know why my short-term memory is in the islands. I also understand the new need for lists these days. Every blogger knows that viewership goes up if you distill your facts into a list.
In case you weren't aware, Margaret Thatcher did pass away. Unfortunately, a lot of people probably read more about Shania Twain's boots at the ACM Awards rather than the passing of one of the most powerful female leaders in our lifetime.
Maybe if the story on Thatcher had been written like this:
"Margaret Thatcher was:
1. The only female Prime Minister in the history of Britain.
2. Very controversial, mostly because she was the only female Prime Minister in the history of Britain.
3. The daughter of a grocer, who graduated from Oxford University as a research chemist.
4. Married to a wealthy businessman, which doesn't seem relevant but is always mentioned.
5. A strong leader, but was not wearing thigh-high boots or donning a new hair-do which means you might have missed it."
See? Lists simplify information. The problem is that lists also over-simplify things by removing the guts of an issue.
Want to know if your company is efficient? There's a checklist for that. Want to know how to satisfy your spouse? There are multiple lists for that. Want to know if your neighbor is a sociopath? There's a checklist for that, too. By the way, according to that checklist one out of 25 ordinary Americans are sociopaths. Look around, you could be having lunch with Hannibal Lecter.
Checklists are easy and often misleading but, hey, in a ridiculously brain-busy world I'll go with whatever works.
I even looked back 40 years to check out Jerry Lucas's The Memory Book, published in 1974. I told you my short-term memory was shot.
Jerry Lucas was a professional basketball player and genius, much like Bobby Knight. His passion was helping people learn how to remember things through association of objects. Here's an example:
Need to buy a lamp today?
Also need to buy typewriter paper? (Hey, it was 1974)
Imagine yourself putting a lighted lamp into your typewriter.
Need to also pick up a suit?
Imagine wearing typing paper instead of a suit.
I tried this approach the other day. I needed to take the dog to daycare, pick up some medicine at the drugstore, write three blogs and get groceries. So, I:
Imagined walking into doggie daycare while dressed as a pill bottle.
Imagined three blogs written on the prescription label.
Imagined blogs written about getting groceries.
Thanks to this genius approach, I walked into the doggie daycare and asked about my prescription, which totally confused the owner. I then wrote the shortest blogs in the history of the world about getting groceries, but then forgot to actually go to the grocery store. I'm still waiting for my prescription to be filled by Hanover Your Pets.
Association doesn't work for me. I need my lists.
Here are 5 reasons why I'm glad my short-term memory is on vacation:
1. People no longer expect me to remember their birthdays now that I've forgotten my own children's birthdays.
2. When I forget to put on make-up, I get sent home from work because everyone says I "look like death."
3. When kids ask for money, I really do forget to send it to them. They thank me for my tough love. I have no idea what they're talking about.
4. When that well-meaning young man tells me that I remind him of his grandmother, I can slap the hell out of him and then forget about it.
5. I've forgotten my fifth point.
But at least I have my list.
<a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Alzheimers-Prevention-Cookbook-Recipes/dp/1607742470">The Alzheimer's Prevention Cookbook</a> by Dr. Marwan Sabbagh and Beau MacMillan. Published by Ten Speed Press. (The following slides were reprinted with permission from The Alzheimer’s Prevention Cookbook: Recipes to Boost Brain Health by Dr. Marwan Sabbagh and Beau MacMillan, copyright © 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group)
The key to this recipe is using a ripe, in-season peach. It’s always good to get to know the produce guys at your local grocery store because they will let you know when peaches are in their prime. Peaches contain numerous nutrients that are good for your body, including niacin, thiamin, potassium, and calcium. They are also high in beta-carotene, which promotes healthy hearts and eyes. The darker the peach’s color, the more vitamin A it has in its pulp. Peaches may also help in maintaining healthy urinary and digestive functions. There’s some evidence that flaxseed oil may help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and even diabetes.
MAKES ABOUT 3 CUPS 11/2 cups apple juice 1 ripe peach, peeled, pitted, and chopped (about 3/4 cup) 3/4 ripe banana, peeled and chopped 1 tablespoon vanilla yogurt 6 ice cubes 2 teaspoons honey 2 teaspoons flaxseed oil Combine the apple juice, peach, banana, yogurt, and ice in a blender and puree until smooth. Add the honey and flaxseed oil and puree briefly to incorporate. Pour into glasses and serve right away.
Think outside the (cereal) box: fried rice is a great way to fuel up with carbs in the morning. With brown rice, lots of fresh vegetables, and a minimal amount of fat, this recipe is a healthy take on fried rice and is high in vitamin B6. <em>Lop chong</em> is a dried, cooked Chinese sausage with a slightly sweet and smoky flavor; it will require a trip to the Asian grocery store, but you can choose to leave it out.
MAKES 4 SERVINGS Fried Rice 2 tablespoons chopped lop chong (Chinese sausage; optional) 1/4 cup vegetable oil 1 tablespoon chopped garlic 1 tablespoon peeled, chopped fresh ginger 1 green onion, white and green parts, chopped 2 tablespoons diced red onion 1 or 2 leaves baby bok choy, thinly sliced 1/4 cup shredded red cabbage 5 sugar snap peas, cut into thin strip on the diagonal 2 cups cooked and cooled brown rice 4 tablespoons soy sauce 4 tablespoons mirin Eggs and Garnishes 2 large eggs, beaten 1 teaspoon sesame seeds 2 tablespoons toasted cashews, chopped 1 green onion, white and green parts, sliced thin on the diagonal 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro To make the fried rice, in a large wok or large skillet over high heat, fry the lop chong until rendered, less than a minute. Transfer the lop chong to a paper towel–lined plate and discard the fat. Set the wok over high heat and heat until very hot. Add the oil to the wok. Add the garlic, ginger, chopped green onion, red onion, bok choy, cabbage, and snap peas. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute, or until the vegetables have softened and you can smell the ginger. Add the rice and continue to cook, stirring, until everything is coated, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the soy sauce and mirin and toss well. Remove the wok from the heat. To cook the eggs, heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray, and then pour in the beaten eggs. Cook, gently stirring the eggs, until scrambled but still moist. Transfer fried rice to a serving bowl and top with the scrambled eggs. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds, toasted cashews, and diagonally cut green onion and serve right away.
This is not your average tuna sandwich. For one thing, it’s more like tuna tartare on bread. For another, it’s a very brain-healthy meal. Spinach Pesto Yogurt, not mayonnaise, holds the tuna mixture together, which keeps the amount of saturated fat to a minimum. Tuna is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, the pistachios provide vitamin E, and the raisins are a good source of polyphenol antioxidants. Because the tuna is not cooked in this recipe, be sure to purchase sashimi-grade tuna; ask the fishmonger if you aren’t sure about the quality of the tuna on offer at the seafood counter.
MAKES 2 SANDWICHES 8 ounces sashimi-grade ahi tuna, diced small 2 tablespoons Spinach Pesto Yogurt 2 tablespoons golden raisins 1/4 cup shelled unsalted roasted pistachios, chopped Juice of 1/2 lemon 4 slices rye bread, toasted 1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil Spinach Pesto Yogurt Makes about 3 cups 2 cups loosely packed baby spinach 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1/4 cup pine nuts 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 1 clove garlic, peeled Juice of 1 lemon Pinch of salt Pinch of freshly ground black pepper 1 cup low-fat or nonfat plain yogurt In a medium bowl, combine the tuna, Spinach Pesto Yogurt, raisins, pistachios, and lemon juice, and mix well. Lay out two of the bread slices on a work surface and divide the tuna mixture evenly among them. Put the alfalfa sprouts into a small bowl, drizzle with the olive oil, and toss to combine. Top each portion of tuna with half of the alfalfa sprouts and top with the remaining slices of bread. Cut each sandwich in half and serve right away. Combine the spinach, olive oil, pine nuts, cheese, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a blender and puree until well blended. Pour the mixture into a bowl, add the yogurt, and whisk until incorporated. Serve slightly chilled. The mixture will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
MAKES 4 SERVINGS Tomato and Sweet Pepper Stew 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic 1 small shallot, finely chopped 1 fennel bulb, diced large 2 yellow bell peppers, seeded and diced large 3 yellow tomatoes, cored and diced large Pinch of saffron threads 2 tablespoons Pernod or other anise liqueur, such as ouzo or anisette 1 cup white wine 2 cups Brain-Boosting Broth Salt and freshly ground black pepper Fish 2 tablespoons olive oil 4 (6-ounce) skin-on striped bass fillets Salt and freshly ground pepper 11/2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish Preheat the oven to 350°F. To make the stew, in a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic, shallot, fennel, and bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and saffron and continue to cook until the tomatoes soften slightly, about 2 minutes. Pour in the Pernod, bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring, until almost evaporated. Add the white wine, bring to a simmer, and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half, about 5 minutes. Pour in the broth, season with salt and pepper, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes to bring the flavors together. While the stew is simmering, cook the fish. In a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Score the fish fillets with a knife and season them with salt and pepper. Add the fish fillets to the skillet skin side down and cook until the skin is golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. Slide the skillet into the oven and cook until the fish skin is opaque and flaky, about 5 minutes. Divide the stew among four plates and place a fish fillet on top. Sprinkle with parsley and serve right away. Brain-Boosting Broth Makes 2 quarts 8 quarts water 3 carrots, coarsely chopped 2 white onions, coarsely chopped 2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped 2 bulbs fennel, coarsely chopped 1 parsnip, coarsely chopped 12 cloves garlic, chopped 1/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and chopped Stems from 1/2 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley 1 bunch green onions, green and white parts 1 stalk fresh lemongrass, cut in half lengthwise 1 tablespoon salt 1 teaspoon black peppercorns 2 cloves 1 teaspoon dried oregano 1 teaspoon dried rosemary 1 bay leaf Combine all of the ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn down the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, for 2 hours. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve. Use immediately, refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.
Spaghetti squash is an often-overlooked vegetable. But it’s a very powerful ingredient from a brain-health perspective: it’s low in saturated fat, very low in cholesterol, and a good source of niacin, vitamin B6, and pantothenic acid--plus spaghetti squash is a very good source of vitamin C. In this recipe, strands of baked spaghetti squash are the backdrop for sweet caramelized onions that contrast against salty, savory Parmesan cheese. This dish will appeal to adults and kids alike, and it’s a great way to get pasta lovers to eat more vegetables.
MAKES 4 SERVINGS Olive oil 1/2 spaghetti squash (about 2 pounds), seeded 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced Curry Salt 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 1/3 cup chopped fresh chives 1 ripe tomato, cored, seeded, and diced Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish Preheat the oven to 350°F. Drizzle a rimmed baking sheet and the flesh of the squash with a little olive oil. Set the squash half cut side down on the baking sheet. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of water over the squash and bake, uncovered, until a fork inserted into the thickest part of the flesh meets no resistance, 30 to 45 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes. Set aside. Using a fork, scrape the squash from the skin into a medium bowl; the flesh will separate into spaghetti-like strands (you should have about 21/2 cups). Return the skillet with the onion to medium heat and add the squash. Cook, tossing gently, just until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Season to taste with Curry Salt; go easy because the cheese will add salt, too. Toss in the cheese and chives and transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with the tomatoes and cilantro and serve right away. Curry Salt Makes about 1/2 cup 1/2 cup fleur de sel 4 teaspoons curry powder Mix the salt and curry powder until well combined. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place (the flavor of the salt gets better with age). This recipe will not go bad over time.
MAKES 4 SERVINGS 11/2 cups Brain-Boosting Broth 3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed 1 teaspoon curry powder 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger 5 to 7 green onions, white and green parts, chopped 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted 1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped Pinch of salt Pinch of freshly ground black pepper Juice of 1 lemon 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring the broth to a boil. Add the quinoa, curry powder, and ginger. Turn down the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer the quinoa to a rimmed baking sheet, distribute in an even layer, and let cool to room temperature. When cooled, put the quinoa into a medium bowl and add the green onions, basil, almonds, and cherries. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and toss to combine. Drizzle with the lemon juice and olive oil and toss again. Serve at room temperature or lightly chilled. Brain-Boosting Broth Makes 2 quarts 8 quarts water 3 carrots, coarsely chopped 2 white onions, coarsely chopped 2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped 2 bulbs fennel, coarsely chopped 1 parsnip, coarsely chopped 12 cloves garlic, chopped 1/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and chopped Stems from 1/2 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley 1 bunch green onions, green and white parts 1 stalk fresh lemongrass, cut in half lengthwise 1 tablespoon salt 1 teaspoon black peppercorns 2 cloves 1 teaspoon dried oregano 1 teaspoon dried rosemary 1 bay leaf Combine all of the ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn down the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, for 2 hours. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve. Use immediately, refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.
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