Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Strange Relationship with Food, Part II

My last post was all about the foods I dislike. Indeed, I have banned them from the grocery list, and will not even consider partaking in dishes which contain said ingredients. I've never thought of myself as someone who holds a grudge, but by the same token, I guess I have a memory a mile long, so...

...onward to the foods I do like. Despite my desire for nutrition-in-pill-form, there are many things I love to eat. I am not usually a "gusher," I don't go on and on and on and on about things. Okay, maybe shoes. Or clothes. But food?! Not me.

Note: these are different from foods I crave, or foods that fall into another separate category entirely: SUGAR. My philosophy on that category can be best summed up thusly:

Now, without further ado, my list of foods that will always have a spot on the grocery list:

1) Apples- As I mentioned in my previous post, my mom would hide the apples she bought. I would eat them all to the point of...let's say...intestinal upset. Or so I'm told. But apples are so versatile! Depending on the variety, they can add sweetness or tartness to a dish. There's a depth they bring to savory dishes (like my favorite Moosewood Tart & Tangy Baked Beans), and their flavor in sweet baked goods...with cinnamon and nutmeg...YUM. Favorite varieties for straight-out eating? Gala or Golden Delicious.

2) Avocados- I was a late-comer to the avocado parade. My first experience with the green goddess was at a Christmas Eve celebration at my Grandma Gert's house. A cousin's girlfriend brought guacamole, and so I gave it a try. Her version, as I remember it, had sour cream and shredded cheddar in it. Eeewww! When I finally tried avocado properly- in real guacamole, in Mexico- it was instant love. How could I have missed this for so long? I love an avocado on a veggie burger, with TexMex dishes, with grilled fish, in salads. My friend My Jenny used to feed her babies avocado mashed with cream cheese for a snack. I'm told I make a mean guacamole, and maybe one day I'll share that recipe with you. Maybe.

3) Nectarines- Is there any better taste of Summer than a perfectly ripe, juicy nectarine? I think not. Save your breath in trying to tell me that its "just like a peach, but without the fuzzy skin." Puh-leeze! No comparison, in my book. That orange/amber hue of the flesh, the smooth skin, the sweet juices...the richness of the flavor reminds me of how completely satisfying the smell of a mock orange tree is. All-consuming. I'll stop now before this gets pornographic.

4) Greek yogurt- I've always been a fan of plain ol' yogurt. I like the neat new flavors they have nowadays: Key Lime, Coconut Cream, Banana, Dreamsicle. But the moment I tried Greek yogurt- what with its heavy, heavy silken texture and impossible creaminess- I bid a final adieu to those thinly flavored varieties. Even the Red Velvet Cake flavor.

5) Beans- I'm not talking green beans here, although I do like those. I'm talking what would be considered shell beans: kidney beans, black beans, Great Northern White beans, pinto beans. As a vegetarian (and a less than wealthy one, at that), they have proven to be an economical and tasty alternative protein form. The aforementioned baked beans were a turning point for me (Homemade baked beans? Instead of from a can with that blob of pork fat? Who knew they were so easy? Who knew they'd be so delish?!). I also use them in salads and that Thrifty Girl's stand-by: Empty Out The Fridge Casserole.

6) Onions- Flavor flavor flavor flavor flavor! A staple for so many reasons. I even prefer it to garlic. That is all.

7) Salmon- As I mentioned in my last post, I have only started to incorporate fish into my diet in the past few years. I grew up with those rectangular frozen fish sticks like everyone else. And being raised Catholic, I had to endure my share of Lenten Friday Night Fish Dishes. My father is a die hard fisherman, and would often bring home buckets and buckets of blue gill and crappies. I never enjoyed fish in my childhood. Gah-rosss-ah! But as an adult, I found that I missed the satiety meat brought to a meal, yet couldn't eat farm animals (my disgust of animals is another post altogether). So, fish it was. Salmon was what was in the freezer, and it was prepared simply for me: olive oil, salt, black pepper, fresh dill, lemon slices. Foil packet on the grill. Its still my favorite way to prepare it. I have also come to appreciate such fish as tilapia, grouper, and tuna. Mmmm...sushi.

8) Cheese pizza- While technically more of a dish rather than a food, it is still a staple in my grocery cart. Tomatoes in a form I can handle? Check. Cheese in a variety I can handle? Check. Warm bread? Check. Its a food ingredient hat trick, and when you take the frozen variety, add a bit more shredded cheese, and bake it until its bubbly and golden? That's comfort food, right there.

9) Lay's Original Potato Chips- "No one can eat just one." One of the reasons I run and exercise as much as I do. No ripples, no flavors. Just greasy, salty goodness.

10) Loft House Frosted Sugar Cookies- These are my nemesis. They are also my salvation. And coupled with #9, why I run as much as I do. They are what I have referred to in the past as the Chupacabra of Baked Goods. They are Evil. They are Heavenly. Chemically soft cookies with not a single browned edge topped with Keep-Your-Dentist-In-Business frosting. And sprinkles. I prefer the pink frosting to any other color, and come Christmas time, the Candy Cane ones have an honored spot on my counter top.

Needless to say, if I didn't practice self-restraint, I'd eat only Lay's and Loft House cookies, washed down with a room-temperature Coca-Cola Classic (Not diet Coke. Ever.), read fashion magazines, stalk people on facebook, and have an ass the size of Montana. Thank you, 8 lb. 6 oz. Baby Jesus for giving me a rational, practical brain.

Next post? A love letter to all things sugar.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

My Strange Relationship with Food, Part I

So, I'm a vegetarian. I have been meat-free since the birth of Daughter #1 (19 years ago). At the time, I was looking for a way to combat my genetic predisposition to the ravages of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. and cutting animal products from my diet seemed like a logical step to take. In the past maybe three years or so, I've let fish creep in to my diet, which not only makes getting enough protein easier, but makes weddings and buffet lines easier, too.

Anyway, my vegetarianism is totally not about animal rights (Au contraire, Mon Cherie! I loathe the animals!). I guess it really stemmed not only from the need to beat the genetic lottery off with a stick, coupled with the fact that I am a very picky eater.

As a child, my mother would have to hide apples from me or I'd eat the entire crop of them. My grade school lunches were always the same: PB&J on Wonder bread (because that's what my mom bought, silly!), an apple or some other piece of fruit (but NOT plums, tangerines, or peaches; oranges, bananas, grapes, and nectarines were fine), and some sort of Little Debbie snack (but NOT those icky Swiss Rolls or chocolate anything, except for the waxy chocolate-flavored coating on those delicious Nutty Bars). I still take PB&J sandwiches for lunch.

I never, ever, ever liked lunch meat. I think when I was younger I thought it was raw, and couldn't understand why people would eat it all the time. I did, however, enjoy Oscar Mayer bologna, fried with ketchup. Oh, Mama! It tasted somewhat like bacon (another weakness, although I was never very fond of say, pork chops or loin roasts).

I could go on and on with stories like these. See, I know I need food to live. And I know that a balanced diet is a good thing. I know that I need to pay even more attention to my diet than Regular Rosie because of the way I'd like my body to perform (that is, run marathons and such). But honestly, I'm waiting for the day when optimal nutrition comes in pill form. Some women are looking for the pill to help them lose weight; not me! What I'd really like to see is the evolution of food into gum form, like on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the original one with Gene Wilder, not the icky one with Johnny Depp). Roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, and for dessert...blueberry pie! *chew chew chew*

And so, for the closing of Part I, I will leave you with a list of items I have stricken from the grocery list forever:

1) Tomatoes. The only way these are remotely tasty is as pizza sauce, lasagna sauce, or ketchup.

2) Pickled anything. Seriously? Letting food items stay submerged in a vinegar solution is just all kinds of wrong. I mean, I know its a way to preserve foods, but really? Ick.

3) Eggplant. While a very attractive shade (its always featured as the "purple" in that rainbow of fruits and veggies you're supposed to eat), its not tasty. Believe me, I've tried to like it- eggplant Parmesan, breaded and deep fried,etc.- but its so....blech!

4) Okra. This has one of the prettiest plants I've ever seen: lush green leaves with delicate yellow flowers. Too bad its cooked texture- um, kinda like Vaseline- is enough to make me gag.

5) Papaya. This is the one with the little black seeds that look like caviar, right? Yeah, my first experience with papaya was on a return flight from Mexico. It smelled and tasted like stinky feet. Maybe it was over ripe? Doesn't matter. I'm not eating it ever again.

6) Cheese. Ooooh, I'm gonna get it for that one, for sure. This is where my pickiness comes in to play. The following varieties are excluded from the category of "cheese," and are edible and consumable in mass quantities: mozzarella, brie, Colby jack, cheddar (only sometimes, though), Gorgonzola, Mascarpone, cream cheese, Parmesan, Romano. I must also add that these items must also be warm/melted, breaded & deep fried, or incorporated somehow into a dessert.

7) Eggs. Again, its not really a vegetarian thing, but I only like my eggs two ways: scrambled very very very very dry and cooked in butter ONLY (like, spots of brown on the eggs), or incorporated into a baked good.

8) Shellfish. This includes crabs, lobster, prawns, oysters, clams, mussels...all of it. Why? Because they all look like giant bugs. My only exception is the fake crab used in California Rolls at the sushi place.

9) Mushrooms. Several people have tried to get me to eat and enjoy mushrooms, trying to tempt me with varieties like portabella or shiitake, or even the elusive yet sought-after morel. Listen to me: they're texture is all wrong, and they smell and taste like dirt unless you add so much other stuff to them that you should've saved your money and omitted them from the recipe in the first place.

10) Mayonnaise. This also includes the Miracle Whip variety of mayonnaise-type spreads. Please note that the main ingredients in mayonnaise are mentioned previously on the list (see: #2 [vinegar] and #7).

For my next entry, I'll focus on what I do like to eat, followed by another installment where I hope to make a case for getting optimal nutrition from sugar-based foods, just like Buddy the Elf.

Have a great week!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Year, New Goals

Happy New Year! I was reading a friend's Facebook thread recently about New Year's resolutions; some people loved them, others hated them, and still others opted for an exercise in semantics: "goals" rather than "resolutions." Well, okay.

I like "goals," but I like statements, too: "I resolve to..." It seems gentler, more manageable. Some people even write their goals down on paper. I like this idea, too. And with the writing, I prefer the ease of resolutions rather than firm statements; it makes things feel like I have some latitude with how things are played out.

For instance, if I say I will update my blog every day, and then don't perform, well I just feel like a loser. But if I say I resolve to update my blog more frequently than I did in 2010, well that is a statement I can stick with.

And so, in addition to that resolution, here are a few more of my personal goals for 2011:

1) I resolve to write every day, either in my journal, on my blog, or on Facebook (Hey! It counts!).

2) I resolve to make time for physical activity every day. Whether it be running, weight lifting, or just a long walk-and-talk session with a girlfriend, its a priority.

3) I resolve to learn something new this year...like golf. I know, I know: it'll become an addiction, its costly, its dumb, its for retirees and dumb jocks...I don't care. I wanna learn how to play.

4) I resolve to be more consistent. In my work, in my personal life, in my eating and exercise habits, in my spending and saving habits- you name it, I'm looking to be more consistent.

5) I resolve to practice strength of character, kindness, graciousness, and generosity.

So, there they are, friends: the days of my life for 2011.