Last week, Alex and I went to Limmud, just for 2 days. For a change, I wasn’t speaking nor giving a food presentation, so I was able to relax. Why do I love Limmud, when it’s all about spending free time going to lectures and rushing backwards and forwards following coloured footprints to the far reaches of the hotel? I think it’s due to the sense of community and the fact that when you get chatting to strangers at meal- times, there’s always plenty to talk about. It’s also about the mix of talks, politics, comedy, films and even dancing. It is mentally stimulating, (hence I can never sleep properly there at night, because my head’s usually spinning.)
This time, there were heroes of mine. Firstly, there was John Mann, the cross- party lead on tackling antisemitism. He is now Baron Mann of Holbeck Moor, the site of a battle between local people and Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirt thugs. It is not as famous as the battle of Cable Street, (in which Alex’s uncle threw a brick) but there were thousands of people involved and the fascist Mosley, sustained an injury to his face. John’s antecedents took part in the battle, so his title is appropriate. He fights antisemitism with no less bravery. He also intends to campaign against international Holocaust denial. The standing ovation from the audience was an inadequate expression of our deep gratitude.
My next personal hero was Jess Phillips, the outspoken MP for Birmingham Yardley. She has stood up for women’s and gay rights and is a ‘friend of the Jewish community’. She described her anger at how the actions of the Labour leadership have caused her to have “deep dark moments of rage and suffering”. She described a culture of ‘goodies and baddies’ where “some are there to be protected and some are there to be thrown under a bus”. Wes Streeting, the Labour MP for Ilford North was similarly impressive.
I didn’t have a huge amount of time for attending talks, as whenever possible, I sat in the quietest spots I could find, to do some last minute editing of the cookery book. However, a highlight was Dr Jenny Goodman talking on ‘Chicken Soup for the Brain’. She’s studied environmental medicine- looking how the environment impacts on our health. She treats patients who suffer from early dementia and told me that although she is unable to reverse this devastating illness, she has had some successes in slowing progression.
She believes strongly in prevention. I was really relieved that in many respects we are ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’. She emphasized the importance of healthy fats, such as omega-3, olive oil, nuts, seeds, eggs, avocados and olive oil with the need to avoid refined oils and to go instead for cold-pressed, extra virgin or organic oils. She said that a lot of the patients she sees in her clinic have been on a low-fat diet for many years. She said, however, that one should not overdo the omega-3 supplements and recommended 3 months of supplements followed by long term oily fish eaten twice weekly or more.
Jenny was asked about cholesterol-lowering spreads and her response was that she considers them to be ‘total junk’! There was a sharp intake of breath from the audience, but I was not so surprised, as I dislike any forms of margarine, due to them being highly processed. She feels that coconut oil is controversial but ‘basically good’ and that it can act as ‘fuel for the brain’ (Ideally again in the virgin form).
She focussed on vitamin D, which is apparently often very low in dementia sufferers. She recommended that anyone suffering from ‘brain fog’ should ask their GP for a vitamin D test. She also highlighted the fact that minerals have an important role, especially magnesium, found in many green leafy vegetables (especially Swiss chard) pumpkin seeds, or can be boosted by bathing in Epsom salts. Zinc is helpful for the immune system and chromium and manganese are needed in small amounts. Unfortunately, our soil has become depleted of minerals by over-intensive farming.
Jenny is concerned about toxins in the environment and their impact on our brains and so she advises people to reduce exposure where possible, e.g. by using organic makeup and sunblock, aluminium-free deodorant, reducing intake of tuna fish, due to the mercury and also buying water filters.
Jenny’s bringing out a book in January, to be called ‘Staying Alive in Toxic Times: a Seasonal Guide to Lifelong Health’. I look forward to getting it and finding out more.
Another main highlight of the festive season was of course having Daniel and Heather return home for a few days. We went to the evening light show at Dunham Park with my Mum. It was extraordinary and magical. I was worried that they might be underwhelmed but it was impossible not to be uplifted by the gorgeous effects of the lights and music, glass flowers, giant raindeer and ‘firework trees’ with lights wrapped around them which lit up in sequence up the length of the trunks.
One of my favourite sayings is ‘ Any Opportunity for Joy!’
Wishing you all an especially happy and healthy New Year in 2020!