Saturday, August 20, 2016

Conversation with Orsalem Kahsai, founder of OMG FLAX BUTTER.

Issayas: Would you update us on your activities since I interviewed you last time on my blog?

Orsalem Kahsai: As a native Eritrean, I grow up eating flaxseed as a part of my diet. My extensive  biochemical background and knowledge of flax and the compound in flaxseed allows me to recognize the contribution flax could make to American diets. I obviously took on the  scientific investigation to combine ground flax seed with other nutritional ingredients. After years of research and trials resulted in my now patent pending to stabilize ground flax seed for use in products requiring long shelf life.  As a result I’ve created and launched the first OMG FLAX Butter in 2016.

OMG FLAX BUTTER products are now available at Amazon and at selective stores.  
When looking at today’s available nutrition options, we see a hole and an opportunity to help humans to be healthier. Today’s foods are so overloaded with high saturated fats, hydrogenated oils and along with those come an abundance of Omega-6. Now moderation of healthy sources of Omega-6 is totally fine if there is also a good balance of Omega-3.

Over the course of human evolution, there has been a dramatic change in the ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fats consumed in the diet. This change, perhaps more than any other dietary factor, has contributed to the epidemic of modern disease.

Anthropological research suggests that our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed omega-6 and omega-3 fats in a ratio of roughly 1:1. It also indicates that both ancient and modern hunter-gatherers were free of the modern inflammatory diseases, like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, which are the primary causes of death and morbidity today.

At the onset of the industrial revolution (about 140 years ago), there was a marked shift in the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. Consumption of Omega-6 fats increased at the expense of Omega-3 fats. This change was due to both the discovery of the modern vegetable oil industry and the increased use of grains as feed for domestic livestock which in turn altered the fatty acid profile of meat that humans consumed.

In the U.S. the average person’s tissue concentration of highly unsaturated omega-6 fat is 75%. Since we get close to 10% of our calories from omega-6, our tissue is almost completely saturated with omega-6. This creates a very inflammatory environment and goes a long way towards explaining why 4 in 10 people who die in the U.S. each year die of heart disease.

In short, elevated Omega-6 intake is associated with an increase of all inflammatory diseases – which is to say virtually all diseases. The list includes (but is not limited to):

    •    Cardiovascular disease
    •    Type 2 diabetes
    •    Obesity
    •    Metabolic syndrome
    •    Irritable bowel syndrome & inflammatory bowel disease
    •    Macular degeneration
    •    Rheumatoid arthritis
    •    Asthma
    •    Cancer
    •    Psychiatric disorders
    •    Autoimmune diseases

America and the world have created the nutritional decline of the human race over its history of innovation. Nothing has been done much in the way of combating this epidemic; it’s rather been ignored until now. I am always driven by innovation and thus created a market first Flax butter from flaxseed.

The battle of Omegas in the human body:

Omega-6s and Omega-3s appear to compete with each other for space in the cell membrane and consequently for the attention of various pro- or anti-inflammatory enzymes. You can't just take a few servings of omega-3s and expect everything to click into place like a fatty-acid Tetris game without simultaneously reducing your omega-6 intake because the existing omega-6s will bully the omega-3s away. Reducing consumption of omega-6s and implementing a healthy plant based omega source like OMG Flax Butter to get dense omega-3s will put you on a path to feeling amazing!

3 Ways to Fix the Problem

1. Definitely finding a product like OMG Flax Butter that is dense in omega-3s is the top choice. But you need to simultaneously reduce your intake of omega-6s. You can do this by:

*avoiding most foods that come in a box or polyethylene bags as they include foods generally made from grains chosen for their long shelf life (i.e., high concentration of unhealthy omega 6's).

*avoiding cooking oils that are soy, corn, safflower, and cottonseed based and replace with olive oil sunflower oil. The foundation of OMG Flax butter is from sunflower as well which contains Linoleic Acid, a healthy and essential polyunsaturated fatty acid that we can all benefit from.

*avoiding the consumption of restaurant-fried food, as they're almost always fried in unhealthy high -omega-6 cooking oils. In fact, it's a pretty safe bet most restaurant dishes are dense in things we don’t really want in our bodies.

*choosing grass-fed and grass-finished beef. All cattle are initially grass fed before being fattened
up with grains, so make sure the meat you buy is from grass-finished livestock to ensure you are consuming the healthy proteins and fats that your body needs.
2. Remember that the ratio of the two fatty acids is more important than the quantity. If you eat more omega-6s, eat more omega-3s. In other words a serving of OMG Flax Butter 3 times a day should get you into the more “balanced omega zone.”

3. Regularly get your cholesterol checked at the doctor for ongoing health screening. One test you'll
want as well is a blood test to determine your omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio to determine your real risk of heart disease. It is a test that most people don’t know is available.

Issayas: There are other flax products on the market today, what sets this product apart and how can
your product be used on a daily basis.

Orsalem: OMG FLAX BUTTER products have a wonderful taste with numerous health benefits. We have a patent pending nutrient extraction process to where we are able to bring the vast health benefits to the consumer in an amazing tasting spread. It can also be used as delicious alternative to other Omega-3 supplements, because all OMG FLAX BUTTER products contains 100% Daily value of Omega-3 per serving, which science has shown it may help to prevent heart disease and cancer with regular usage. OMG is low in sugar, No salt, essential Vitamins & Minerals, rich in lignans, 100%  NON-GMO ingredients, No Artificial colors, No Preservative, No Trans Fats, No hydrogenated oils,  so you can feel good about what you are putting in your body. OMG FLAX BUTTER Products are suitable for a lot of specialized diets.  OMG FLAX BUTTER Products are also non-GMO, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Kosher, and Vegan.


1) spread OMG FLAX BUTTER on toast, crackers, waffles, bagels, pancakes, English muffins or
    any  of your favorite foods.
2) straight out of the jar
3) spread it on fresh fruits, banana, strawberry, apple..
4) spread it on fresh vegetables, celery sticks, carrots…
5) topped on frozen dessert
6) added as a sweet treat for baked goods
7) protein shakes or smoothies
8) yogurt
9) oatmeal or granola for that extra crunch!



Issayas: What is your next plan?

Orsalem: I believe my unique work experiences provide me with a completely fresh perspective on nutritional foods at its molecular level. I also learned that the lack of nutrition not only affects your body’s ability to maintain itself but may also help you manage your risk for developing disease. Therefore, we are in a great demand to understand the functionality of foods due to the risk of food related illnesses such as: diabetes, obesity,  cancer, cholesterol, anorexia, malnutrition…

This is why after years of research and trials, I created OMG Flax Butter, and now I want you and your family to feel the best possible on a daily basis.

Yes, I am consistently working with great food scientist around the globe to develop and innovate ways to deliver the best possible nutrition for humans in a delicious way. Why can’t getting healthy be enjoyable?!

Issayas: Orsalem, thank you for your time. Below is the link for Orsalem's company, OMG Flaxbutter.

Orsalem: Thank you.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

General Domenico Mondelli (1886 - 1974)

                                                                     General Domenico Mondelli

          Domenico Mondelli: Eritrean-Italian General and a Grand Master Mason


                                                 Issayas Tesfamariam

The history of Eritrea (ancient & modern) and its people (inside & the diaspora) never cease to fascinate and amaze me. Without an exaggeration, I can confidently say that the more I do research on the aforementioned, the more I realize that I know so little. Mind you, it is not because I just started, but the sheer volume and depth of the research to be done (and yet to be discovered) is so vast, it is scarcely touched.

Six months ago, I started working on a fascinating story that I first heard from an Eritrean family. Since the research is still on-going, I will write more on this, in due time. While looking for a cross reference for the above story, a friend (thank you) alerted me to another incredible story.

The timing could not have come at a better moment for two reasons. First, in the story that I am working on, in the absence of documentation, the rough time reference given to me by the family was a challenge, therefore, the following story makes the time reference a possibility; and the timeline not totally off. Second, it was only last week that I watched the screening of “Blaxpoitalian: 100 Years of Blackness in the Italian Cinema” by Fred Kudjo Kuwornu at Stanford University. Eritrean actresses Zewdi Araia and Ines Pellegrini are briefly featured in the not yet released movie. It is a documentary about the black image on Italian Cinema. In other words, racism on Italian reel, hence a perfect segue to the following real story (also a victim of racism).

Professor Mauro Valeri is a sociologist at La Sapienza University who specializes in racism in Italy (sports, second generation immigrants, ethnic relationship and etc.). He wrote a 276-page biography (published by Odradek Edizioni in December 2015) entitled, IL GENERALE NERO Domenico Mondelli: bersagliere, aviatore e ardito (a rough google translation gives: THE BLACK GENERAL Domenico Mondelli: soldier, airman and bold).       

                                                     The front cover of Prof. Valeri's book

According to Professor Valeri, Domenico Mondelli (born Wolde Selassie) was born in Eritrea in 1886 and came to Italy with Lt. Colonel Attilo Mondello in 1891. Domenico came to Italy when he was 5 years old. That is, only one year after Eritrea officially became Italy’s “primo genita”. Domenico grew up in Italy and later became an aviator and a soldier. He fought in World War I and in Libya.

In a recent article by Gazzetta de Parma, Domenico Mondelli [during that time] had received two silver medals and two bronze medals won by fighting as an airman, soldier and commander of assault troops, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Only after the end of World War II did he manage to reach the rank of General of the Army Corps (With the rise and for the duration of fascism, Domenico Mondelli was discriminated against. The image of a black officer commanding white troops was just too much for fascism)

(Note: Domenico Mondelli was the first black aviator in Italy. My great uncle, Fessehatsion Beyene, had his pilot’s license in 1928, a little more than 10 years later)

During this period, according to the Freemasonry of the Grand Orient of Italy in Palazzo Giustiniani, Domenico Mondelli had joined the Freemasons in 1912 and by 1919, he had become a Master Free Mason. In 1956 Domenico Mondelli had become 33rd degree of the Scottish Rite (the highest degree).

Finally the Gazzetta informed its readers that Professor Mauro Valeri had presented his book to the public at the Governor’s Palace of Parma and that the extraordinary story of Domenico Mondelli was reconstructed through the examination of the original documents thanks to two grandchildren who have recovered several news about him.

Kudos to Professor Valeri, the librarians at Parma and Domenico Mondelli’s grandchildren for letting the world know about this extraordinary story of the human resilience.

Check out the video link on General Domenico Mondelli (and the website of Blaxpoitalian) at the end of this article. The still shots are from the video from TG Parma.

                                                   Domenico Mondelli during WWI

Captain Domenico Mondelli (Aviator)

1927. Lt. Colonel Domenico Mondelli

On December 4, 1968 Domenico Mondelli 
was awarded the rank of General

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Conversation with Daniel Abbay: Graphic Designer and Restaurateur

Issayas: Would you tell us about yourself?

Daniel: I was born in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia in April 1974, to Eritrean parents. As a child I was fortunate enough to travel the world, got a lot of exposure to different countries and looked at travel guide books because my father worked for Ethiopian Airlines. My mother is a special woman who to this day is the rock on my side who introduced us to business and entrepreneurship from a very young age. I attribute all of what I have done to them.

I left Ethiopia when I was 12 years old to Kenya during the Mengistu (the Derg) era as my parents were worried about the situation. Then, from there we moved to the UK when I turned 15. Life in the UK was tough and it was only me and my brother, Ben, who was 17. We were refugees with no supporting adult. All of this was to strengthen my character and carry on to study and gain a diploma at one of the the best art college in the UK - Central Saint Martins. I then studied graphics design for a year then later switched to Engineering Product Design and gained my first degree.

I have worked for myself as a freelance graphic designer on contract. We have been active in other business ventures such as setting up a restaurant since my mother came to England to escape the 98 situation.

Currently, I manage the restaurant full-time, design & amp;business consultancy at Creativeonestop with my business partner, Henock.

Issayas: How did you come up with the idea of EriTrip?

Daniel: The initial ideas that sparked the project was a simmering lack of knowledge about Eritrea because I was born in Ethiopia. The sense of being Eritrean was made more evident when my family were displaced in the Ethio-Eritrea war in 1998. The self identity question was always a bother when someone asked about Eritrea. The worst times were when I find “non Eritreans that knew more than me” as I work in my family restaurant (Mosob Restaurant in London

Furthermore, visiting Eritrea for the first time as an adult in 2011 strengthened my quest to know more and simplify the journey and experience for others like me. There are a lot of people that were like me, Eritreans that are either born outside the country or left when they were young. Although the trend of the usual visit to Eritrea mainly by the Diaspora can be summed up by Asmara, Massawa, Keren and a quick visit to home village (Adi). Eritrip's aim was to break the cycle to challenge visitors to travel the whole country to truly experience Eritrea.

I then, asked my friend, trusted cousin & business partner (Henock Hailemariam) to help with the work. When Desta Haile, who is our distant cousin saw the plan, in its infancy, she could relate and volunteered to help with writing the content from the notes that were given to her from my journey and more from her own research. She worked tirelessly to make it fun and easy to read. She has done a brilliant job at that. My brother Ben who is a natural born salesman also volunteered to help to promote and sell the project.

The other people who contributed to the project in many ways were: my sisters Selam (who is a web developer and handled the glitches on the website) Jeremy & Henry with proof reading and  Quedest with moral support. Meaza who is my other sister and her husband Yohannes purchased the first copy, before the project was even finished. I would also like to express my deepest gratitude to, Aman, Olga, Haregu, Yosef, Fitzum/Jimi, Lidya, Sara, Ruth, Kass, Jorda, Leo, Medhane and Ambesa. In Eritrea, many thanks to Brikti, Mary & Danait, Feven, Simon, Teddy, Yonas, Tadese, Tesfai, Solomon, Aman, Said, Nebeyu, Ibrahim Qohaito, Tesfai in Ministry of Tourism in Adi Keyeih, Rahwa and Giuseppe for their help and assistance. 

 Issayas: The design and concept of the package are just wonderful. For me, at least, the design and purpose of the package is professional, essential, functional, and more. Am I correct in stating this? Would you tell us more about it?

Daniel: The plan from the start was to make a product that we would be proud off, and be the best among travel guide books. High in quality, in terms of print and the packaging, hence the reason as to why we did the printing in the UK, whereas the plastic cover was custom-made import from China. We followed the rule of three to make the three parts and the starting points are incorporated in the ideas below.

Issayas: What is the next step for EriTrip?

Daniel : Apps

Issayas: Does EriTrip organize trips to Eritrea? If not, do you plan to?

Daniel: No, the plan at the beginning was to only create a guide book but then collaborate with travel agencies and hotels in the future.

Issayas: Do you work with or coordinate with the Ministry of Tourism, travel agents or others in Eritrea? If not, do you plan to?

Daniel: I received fruitful and encouraging words from the Ministry of Tourism. They invited me in while I was in Eritrea and discussed the project at length with some good feedback. Yes in the future we aim to work with travel agencies.

Issayas: Thank you for your time.

Daniel: Thanks.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Conversation with Sara Tracy Meretab

                                                         The “default” for Eritreans is to help one another.

Issayas: Would you tell us about yourself?

Sara: My name is Sara Tracy Meretab.  I’m currently a Senior at Stanford, graduating in March. I’m majoring in Economics, so I’m interested in business and finance. I grew up in Montclair, New Jersey. My father was born in Asmara and my mother is American.

Issayas: Your video is wonderful.  What can you tell us about it?

Sara: I had so much fun making that video. I took that trip after my freshman year because I told my dad that I wanted to visit Eritrea again. It had been a couple years since my earlier visit, and I felt like there was a lot more value I would get out of the trip now that I was older. I recorded everything. That video is taken from hours and hours of footage! There were two reasons I made the video. The first was to immortalize my trip in my mind—re-watching it always triggers so many warm memories. The second reason was to show the country as I experienced. Both the highlands and the lowlands are beautiful in different ways, and the people have a unique warmth and sense of community. My goal was to convey that spirit in the video. Watch the video below.

Issayas: You and your fellow Eritrean students at Stanford University came to talk to the Adal Tigrinya School in San Jose. You came with the first group. How was your visit ?

Sara: I loved visiting the Adal Tigrinya School. I was so impressed and inspired by the young Eritrean students that I had the opportunity to teach. They’re not your average kids. A 5th grader asked how she could get ahead now so that she could take college courses in high school. A 7th grader took diligent notes on preparation strategies for the SATs. As I stood in front of them, I was in awe of how their parents have worked tirelessly to give them the best opportunities, and engrained a tremendous emphasis on education and a strong work ethic. Those hard working Eritrean kids make me so proud of my heritage. I hope the Adal Tigrinya School continues to grow and strengthen the Eritrean community—I would have loved to have been a part of that growing up!

                                          Eritrean Stanford students Adel (left) and Sara (right) at Adal Tigrinya School.

Issayas: After your first visit to Adal Tigrinya School, you and your fellow Eritrean students at Stanford University decided to start the Stanford-Adal Mentorship Program with the Eritrean high
school students at Adal.  This is a great idea. Do you think this could be a model to other Eritrean communities?

Sara: The Mentorship Program has so much potential in other Eritrean communities around the country. It plays to so many of the strengths that I see in nearly all Eritreans that I meet—hard work, determination, growth and communal support. The “default” for Eritreans is to help one another,
and that is truly special. The network of support for Eritreans could be extremely expansive—middle schoolers mentor elementary school students, high school students mentor middle school students, college students mentor high school students, and young working professional Eritreans mentor college students. We all want to see one another succeed, and as a united community, we have so many resources to help our youth do just that.

                                 Eritrean Stanford students Lewam (left), Eden (center), and Adel (right) at Adal Tigrinya School.

Issayas: You are graduating next quarter, what is your plan?

Sara: When I graduate in March, I plan on taking a couple months to travel. There are many parts of Europe and Africa that I would like to see. I will also be spending some time with my family in Pennsylvania, before returning to San Francisco where I will start working at Visa in August.

                                                           Watch Sara's video below.

                                                                  Sara's Gopro video
Issayas: When is your next trip to Eritrea?

Sara: I don’t have a tripped planned to Eritrea..yet! I was considering taking another trip with my father again after I graduate, or perhaps a trip alone. I also promised myself after the last visit that I would be much more comfortable with Tigrinya when I returned—so I’m still working on that!

Issayas: Thank you for your time and congratulations. Of course, we will keep in touch after you've graduated.