One of the great things about working in publishing is the conversations you get to have with experts and enthusiasts in a variety of fields. In my time in the world of books I have worked with people writing about medicine, religion, philosophy, self-help and business. But perhaps the most enthusiastic people I have met are the experts in wine with whom I’m involved at the moment.
What is more because their field of expertise lends itself to conviviality some of the conversations we’ve had with authors of books in the Classic Wine Library have taken place over a glass of red or white. It’s not that the authors in those other fields were lacking in social skills but given the choice between meeting an author at the hospital to pore over images of skin diseases or meeting one in a wine bar to talk about the wines of Languedoc, Spain or northern Italy, the decision is pretty easy.
One of our most eminent authors is Julian Jeffs. He is also a generous host and the owner of an impressive wine cellar, some of which Infinite Ideas was privileged to experience over lunch (cooked by his wife) at our first meeting to discuss the most recent edition of his classic book Sherry. And I have encountered several authors who think it quite normal to have a glass of sherry or madeira for elevenses – whereas if I suggested this back at the office (even given that the Infinite Ideas office is a pretty relaxed place) people might start to worry. Apparently having one at eleven is the more sensible of two available alternatives – the other option being to have eleven at one. In any case, inebriation is not the aim here (or so I am led to believe), and any partaking of wine is always accompanied by an evaluation of its merits.
A couple of years ago Infinite Ideas spent a particularly relaxed (by which we don’t mean sozzled) afternoon in the company of Richard Mayson and Julian Jeffs as they discussed the wine trade and wine writing. We were able to sit back and listen to these two experts chat about the subject they know best. One thing that particularly struck me, which I had not considered before, was that writing about wine actually has played an important part in the trade. Once producers realised they and their industry were being written about they had to clean up their acts and practises such as adding sugar to sherry, which were common when Julian began writing on the subject in the 1960s have now disappeared.
Wine writing does continue to influence the trade and help ensure quality; as Julian noted, ‘I think the job is still to keep the standards up and to tell the truth about wine in some detail to serious wine drinkers who want to know it.’ So while Classic Wine Library books will not educate the next generation of heart surgeons, help somebody manage their depression or give them the tools to become the next Bill Gates it’s good to know that they are making a difference to the wine we all enjoy drinking.
Infinite Ideas dropped in on a conversation between Julian Jeffs and Richard Mayson in February 2015. They spoke about changes in the wine world over the last 60 years, especially in the field of fortified wine. You can read the whole conversation here.
The problem with the discipline of nutrition is that it has a tendency to make us think of eating as a science, and lose sight of the fact that food is actually something quite wonderful and, dare I say, a little magical. We have become obsessed with looking behind the curtain to understand HOW IT ALL WORKS, but has it led to a better understanding of what nurtures us as humans? After all we have been eating for millions of years; in examining the microscopic detail, have we missed the big picture?
In the last few centuries nutrition science has developed with the goal of improving our health – identifying components in food, separating them from the food to study them, and reducing what we eat to a collection of elements. We’ve counted calories, weighed and measured our fats, proteins and carbs, and separated foodstuffs into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, good fats and bad fats, good carbs and bad carbs. But when we separate the nutrient from the food it can lead to us overcomplicating eating. Recently the fad for ‘clean eating’ has led to a proposed new eating disorder, dubbed ‘orthorexia’, with people’s obsession with healthy eating leading to problems with both their physical and mental health. So can we rely on the experts to tell us what to put on our plates – do they really know what’s best for us?
Well, yes and no. The challenge with science is that we are so good at it these days we are constantly making new discoveries. And because of this the guidelines are frequently updated. So while in the 1980s we were all told that margarine was better than butter, nowadays the more natural hard fats such as butter and lard are creeping back into favour. And science is rarely simple and occasionally not particularly pure either. There has been controversy recently over studies from the 1970s into fat and sugar. We were told at the time that they revealed that fat was the big killer but now it seems that the studies were misrepresented (or worse) – sugar may have been the culprit after all. No wonder it is so easy to get confused about food.
So how can we simplify eating while ensuring we consume foods that nurture our bodies? Well I don’t think we can dismiss nutritional science out of hand. There have been some amazing steps forward in our understanding, but at the same time there is a lot more going on when we eat than science can unearth by breaking food down into its constituent parts. It is somewhat arrogant to assume that the latest piece of research, or superfood discovery is the end of the discussion in nutrition and what creates health.
We can take a leaf out of food writer Michael Pollan’s (author of books such as In Defence of Food) book in learning to eat ‘real’ food. By this we mean not taking short cuts, cooking meals ourselves from scratch, using great ingredients. Following that one simple rule will improve your health no end as you’ll be avoiding all those unnatural chemicals added to manufactured foods and cutting back on sugar, salt and processed fat without even thinking about it. Also of importance is eating together with our families or loved ones, taking the time to enjoy meals rather than grabbing food on the go and being wary of massive food fads and fashions. We can avoid the scare stories in the popular press and the flash in the pan obsessions over this nutrient or that superfood by keeping an eye on advancements in food science through reading more in depth and scientific writing. The key is balance.
So don’t feel you have to atone for that chocolate bunny you ate last weekend by spending the next fortnight living off green juices. We shouldn’t obsess over food and can all enjoy a little treat once in a while.
Go well – Kate
By Kate Cook, author of Kate Cook’s Wellness Guide
Most businesses are eager to be at the cutting edge of the technology revolution and quite rightly – falling over themselves to be hyperconnected, ahead of the trends. There are downsides to the worldwide web but there are very positive up sides too. Most of the nutritional research papers I read to update my body of knowledge I obtain through web digging – something that would have been quite impossible a few years ago. It enables me to be very nimble in my uptake of the latest research, something that chancing on a book, or waiting for a published journal to appear on my desk made it impossible to do a few years back. I am also very grateful that we are able to connect with like-minded people across the globe, of course that has its downside too, but used in the right way we are able to build communities of people who can generously help each other.
But in relying on tech too much are we in danger of forgetting what it is to be human? We need to remember to solve business problems in a human way, not merely focus on box-ticking, or allow a computer to dominate our decision making. We are more and more often letting machines take over, and becoming distanced from what makes us human. One area where this really impacts our lives is in the world of food. Eating is one of the crucial things that makes us human and what we eat makes us either dynamic, engaged, happy, healthful humans or depressed, demotivated, sick humanoids. But we have become increasingly distanced from the real food that nurtures our bodies, favouring instead manufactured foods and convenience eating.
When we eat conveniently, we fuel our bodies with food-like imitations, where life, energy and essence have been replaced by synthetic sensations. These foods are designed to look, smell and taste appealing but are largely devoid of the energy and nutrition that come from eating food grown by the sun, full of the life-giving micronutrients that power our energy output. When we replace real food, of the sort our ancestors would recognise, with these chemical concoctions, we reduce our ability to function as human and lay ourselves open to the possibility of a whole host of minor, and not so minor, ailments; from tiredness to type 2 diabetes and beyond.
As employers we know how important it is to maintain our machinery, our hardware and software, but what about our human resources – how many of us are making sure our people have what they need to function optimally? For example, studies suggest that there is an association between obesity and lower productivity at work -and if that tide doesn’t turn then we may find that we are unable to find employees fit enough to work. One study estimated that lost productivity time (LPT) costs the US economy $42.29 billion annually. This was thought to be a conservative figure because studies which use BMI data rely on self-reported weight, which is often understated. The estimate also does not include the costs of recruiting and training new staff and the impact on co-workers’ productivity.1 A study of 15,000 people in the US and UK found that employees with poor nutritional balance reported 11% lower productivity than healthier colleagues.2 Surely it is time to pay attention this powerful connection. Though the focus on nutrition and its impact on the workplace has, to date, mostly been on the link between poor diet and chronic disease and obesity (the long term impact) it stands to reason that poor diet will also have a short term impact in terms of energy and productivity.
The health of our employees is key to our business success – yet a large proportion of our human resource is sick. How can we restore it back to full, engaged, dynamic power? Through the power of real food.
Kate Cook’s Wellness Guide is available free for Kindle for a limited time. Download the book here.
- Reilly, Sally, ‘Eating the Profits.’ Personnel Today, 4 July 2006: 26.
- ProQuest online article, 6 Aug. 2009.
If you were not inspired by our last blog when planning your Valentine weekend, how about doing something more fantastical, magical and indulgent? Over the next few days, a pop-up restaurant in London is hosting a Game of Thrones themed feast with opulent dishes inspired by the hit TV show.
Diners can eat like King Joffrey as they feast on giant platters of regal food and sip on goblets of the finest wine. Unfortunately for most of us, this is an exclusive event with the guests drawn out of a hat. One can only imagine how atmospheric it must be to find yourself transported to King’s Landing, your servants bringing plate after plate of delicious food, all while shouting ‘off with his head’ to your council.
However, if you are a massive fan of the show like we are at Infinite Ideas, why not plan your own Game of Thrones Valentine’s activities. With the fifth season only 59 days away, what could be better than a weekend spent watching your favourite episodes with your favourite person. Did you know that there is a food called a Crown Prince Squash? Well neither did we but it’s really like a green pumpkin. Why not try and get your hands on one and make a delicious, royal pie.
If you are thinking that you haven’t made any plans and things are getting a bit desperate, Infinite Ideas have come up with some tips on how NOT to spend Valentine’s day. No matter how much you love Game of Thrones, we strongly advise that you do not try the following at home (or anywhere else really):
- Practise incest: whether it be shagging your sibling like Cersei and Jaime Lannister or feeling-up your sister on horseback, this is possibly the number one no-no when it comes to romance.
- Get engaged to a psychopath: poor Sansa really didn’t have a choice when she became betrothed to King Joffrey but ‘when you bleed I will put a son in you’ is hardly the stuff of true love. Before you fall victim to Sansa’s fate, do a background check on anyone who seems a bit dodgy.
- Break your vow of chastity for a woman with a dodgy northern accent: Jon Snow thought he was doing really well as aspiring leader of the Night’s Watch. That was, until he was seduced by (clearly not) northern Ygritte. She’s not worth it*, Jon, but at least she isn’t your sister!
- Fall in love with your employer: since the very first time they met, Daenerys has put Jorah in the friend-zone with no way out. Poor man must bear the burden of his unrequited love. But as he learnt, falling in love with your boss is never a good idea.
- Share your beau with a family member: Much like practising incest, we do not advise you to take inspiration from Renly and sleep with your wife’s brother. No judgement but perhaps you should seek enjoyment elsewhere.
If you enjoyed Infinite Ideas’ infinite wisdom, our book, Game of Thrones on Business by Tim Phillips and Rebecca Clare will also be released in 59 days’ time.
*Actually, we grew to love Ygritte despite her strange vowels. Perhaps she was worth it after all.
There are only two days to go until the most anticipated film of the year is released in the cinemas. While many people have been protesting the release of 50 Shades of Grey, claiming it promotes domestic violence, others have booked up their tickets months in advance (that’s delayed gratification for you!)
One can’t help but notice the rather obvious connection between the film and its release date. Valentine’s Day is on Saturday; no doubt the production companies are hoping for a surge in ticket sales as husbands begrudgingly take their wives to the local Odeon for their annual night out together. We can’t think of anything worse than being taken on a date to a packed cinema where we watch two hours of BDSM with other couples, awkwardly checking our phones when the sex scenes begin and desperately hoping to have a normal conversation at the pub afterwards.
However, for those of you who enjoy that sort of thing, and those who prefer a more, ahem, private Valentine’s Day, Infinite Ideas have a helpful selection of books to get you in the mood to spice up your weekend. If early reviews of the film are anything to go by you’ll find far more to titillate you here than in Sam Taylor-Johnson’s film.
Whether you’re looking for love or wanting to spice up things in the bedroom, we have something for all tastes: from Master dating to Erotic fantasies (the stacks in the library will never be the same again) or perhaps you’d like a night to yourself …
If watching 50 Shades … has inspired you to commit your activities to film, then we have the book just for you: Secrets of porn star sex. This book could help you try something completely new on Valentine’s day, or, while it’s not intended as a career guide, it could help you get your dream job if you’re that way inclined. Its been tried and tested on many couples and has proven to be a real relationship booster as well as having launched the careers of three notable porn stars.*
Rather than churning out the same old kitsch-y bears with hearts rubbish (again, not our cup of tea) perhaps you can make this year’s Valentine’s Day one to remember (or forget, depending on the results of your experiment). Though we at Infinite Ideas want you to enjoy our ideas for great sex, please follow our advice with caution, be safe, and make sure you don’t lose the keys to those handcuffs.
*OK, this is what we hope the book will achieve.
As if Monday isn’t bad enough, today is Blue Monday; supposedly the worst day of the year. Christmas seems like forever ago, you’ve already broken your resolution not to drink and temperatures in the UK have dipped below zero. What could be worse? Well actually, there are lots of things that are worse, like losing your luggage at the airport (bad luck to anyone who experiences this today) or stepping in something wet when you’ve just put on a clean pair of socks.
Infinite Ideas are no strangers to helping people out of a bad spot with our books, Defeat depression and Beating the blues. We have come up with several strategies in the office to give you some helpful tips to make this feel like any other Monday (except better because most people do not like Mondays).
- Perhaps the obvious solution to beating Blue Monday is to paint the town red. Don’t do what the media is telling you to and go crazy after work. Infinite Ideas will not take any responsibility for the hangovers or bad decisions that may ensue. Our advice should be taken at your own risk.
- Play your favourite song. We’ve all got a song that makes us get up and dance; throw our arms in the air like we just don’t care. Blast it out in the office and start a happiness rave
- Go swimming. Immerse yourself in a pool of relaxation and pretend you are in the Mediterranean Sea.
- Take a long lunch. OK so you may have to make up for this later today but give yourself a break today. Take some time for yourself and chill out before returning to the office.
- Think about this evening. What will you do with your free time? Perhaps you could go home and curl up with that book you swore you’d read this year. Or cook for your friends/housemates/significant other; there’s nothing better than coming in from the cold to a hearty meal on the table.
- Think about summer. Just like Olaf in Frozen, think about what you’ll do in the summer. It might feel like forever away but the daffodils are beginning to bud. Before you know it you’ll be dusting off your summer wardrobe.
- Do something spontaneous. This could be simply buying a chocolate bar or it could be booking that trip to Morocco that you’ve always wanted to take. Regardless, it’ll put a spring in your step.
- Call someone that means lots to you. For many of this, it’s our mum, but it could be a friend or extended relative. You can bet that they’re not expecting it and it will give them as well as you a lift.
- Print off a picture of happiness. Of course, happiness is subjective so find something that makes you smile. This may be a picture of a tropical destination or it could be Ryan Gosling. See, we’ve done the hard work for you!
- Look at the picture of a really happy baby elephant. This is bound to improve your day. If it doesn’t then we cannot help you.