Food Memory: A Port in the Storm

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In a month of health problems, grief, and overwhelming amounts of work, Husband and I took a weekend in a nearby city to cut the stress and try to recover a bit. I wasn’t feeling my best, but that is nothing that a plate of lemon ricotta pancakes couldn’t help. This memory is perfect for me – the most delightful crispy edge on the pancakes, the tart berry sauce they gave me, and of course the morsel of that amazing hash brown that I stole from Husband’s plate. Sometimes, especially on crazy Mondays, I like having pictures of past meals that have helped me to relax. This feeling of treasuring a sweet memory, a good moment in a good day, is so great for propelling me forward through the many tasks that lie ahead this week.

Easy and Healthy – Spaghetti Squash

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When I want to be healthy, as in not eat a pile of pasta, it’s wonderful to throw a spaghetti squash in to roast if I have the time. It is fun to put all the traditional pasta toppings on a pile of the loose squash strands, which I don’t enjoy quite as much as pasta, but honestly, the pasta is meant to carry the sauces for me! If you’d like to try it and don’t believe it can turn into spaghetti-like strands, try this recipe and be amazed. http://damndelicious.net/2016/04/26/how-to-cook-spaghetti-squash/

 

Family Time Adventures

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Because of a family funeral, I’ve been on the road for days now. One unexpected surprise, among many, was the visit to the Bob Evans Farm, which is in Ohio and is the original Bob Evans restaurant! We had a delicious meal after a long drive on a very overwhelming week, and I will remember for a long time how nice it was to sit down and be greeted and served here. The weather has been almost heartbreakingly pretty lately and I barely know what to do with February 70s, but I’m trying to take everything one moment at a time.

Little Changes and Bamboo Toothbrushes

A friend posted this article recently, http://www.sarahwilson.com/2016/09/8-bits-of-plastic-you-can-quit-right-now/, and it reminded me all over of how important it is to me that I not become complacent just because I don’t think that I need to be obsessive about every environmental thing. It’s such a small thing, grabbing the bamboo toothbrushes over the plastic ones, carrying reusable cutlery and tupperware that I always want to have handy anyway. I want these things to be habits, easy, not notable.

I think this is the way changes will be made, not by shaming or overwhelming people with the impact of trash but by noting the fact that a drink without a straw is less wasteful and, well, pretty much the same as a drink with a straw. I like that she doesn’t just tell people “these things are bad” but immediately says “and its so easy to avoid them in the future.” This is the approach that I need to keep caring about environmentalism, about not wasting and about recycling. I need to find habits that make a positive impact, and then carry them out over time, rather than having ardent pushes where all I talk about are environmental concerns, and then months of exhausted lack of concern after that.

What do you do to be less wasteful in little ways? I don’t necessarily mean in order to “save the Earth,” if that’s not your pet cause, but just ways that you find to be a good steward of what you’ve been given and not waste what you have?

A Single Piece of Ham

My boss is one of the people who initially inspired me to try Whole30. She takes it seriously in a way that I sometimes find intimidating; basically, she thinks that as participants in Whole30, we owe it to ourselves to stick with the program. She’s never going to shame someone for not sticking with Whole30; it’s more like she wants people to treat themselves to the real experience. She gave me my first RX bar, a clean-food energy bar that many Whole30-ers and Paleo folks swear by.

One thing that I realized, though, is that there are certain foods that Whole30 participants should be able to have, but current popular methods of production simply don’t make. A good example would be sausage or ham; both of these foods don’t need to have added sugar in order to be delectable, but pretty much all commercially available kinds do. So the other day, my boss walked into my office and gave me a single piece of ham in a plastic baggie. It looked pretty ordinary, and I looked at her with amusement, ready to hear a hilarious story.

It wasn’t hilarious though – she told me how she’d found uncured, no sugar added ham at a local market from a nearby farm. She was so excited to find ham that was still in a reasonable price range that supported local farmers, that she wanted to share that excitement with me. Instead of being amused, I was really excited.

I think that the presence of so many “celebration” foods at our fingertips may have had an unfortunate side effect; as Americans, we have a hard time seeing almost any food as rare or special. When you choose to make a lifestyle choice, like eating less added sugars or trying to buy more locally produced products, you create a kind of scarcity. This scarcity does lead to more expense most of the time, and often a little confusion or frustration at social gatherings where folks don’t share your passion, but it also leads to moments like this: someone found the hard-to-find item you were looking for, and shared it with you. I’ve seen this look when I made gluten-free cornbread instead of regular cornbread for a dinner with a friend who cannot have gluten without feeling wretched; it’s an opportunity to be there for someone. I still appreciate people who are flexible on their food intake, because it does make hostessing less stressful, but the opportunity to give someone exactly what will nourish them? That’s a pretty special gift.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

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I’m well aware that running is hard on my body – it seems to constantly leave me with some form of ache or pain. I decided that a good thing to try might be eating more toward the anti-inflammatory end of the spectrum. According to Harvard Health, some of these foods include:

  • tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • leafy green vegetables
  • nuts
  • fatty fishes
  • berries

The more inflammatory foods, according to the same site, include:

  • refined carbs (white flour)
  • fried foods like french fries
  • soda
  • red meat
  • margarine/shortening

I have no idea if trying to eat more in the first category will help with my training soreness, but I like a lot of those foods anyway, so I’m going to try it – do any of you have experience eating to avoid inflammation?

Thinking about Hospitality (repost)

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In the wake of the Presidential election, I’m even more thoughtful about community building and neighborliness than before. It’s easy to assume the country is close and united when we have two moderate candidates in the running, but throughout this election cycle, I’ve been stunned by the differences in mindsets among the candidates, and by the closeness of the races: the country is divided.

I know that there are some disagreements that getting to know each other cannot solve. I know that being political is not a good way to run a food blog or host a dinner party or any of the things I claim. But I do think that talking to each other, knowing people whose experiences are different from our own, seems to be one of the only chances for getting out of this mess. Half of America is a stranger to the other half; they need to have each other over for dinner.

For this reason, part of my upcoming thoughts on the blog are going to shift toward discussing modern hospitality and how people talk to strangers around them. I want to keep talking about food, because I think we are all so united when it comes to food and wanting to belong. However, I think that the ability to be isolated and self-reliant but miserable is higher than it ever has been in the United States, and I want to be a part of figuring out where we need to come together. So many books talk about how we are desperate to connect to each other, that disconnection causes so much pain and ruin. I would submit there has to be a place where people are brought together who disagree with each other, who can eat together and maybe let down some of their most emotionally-held beliefs for a little while.

This blog has always been about forming community with my friends and family; I just think that this election cycle shows that I need to move beyond that, to strangers and political opponents and people I don’t understand. We all have to live together, after all.

Loneliness when Never Alone

I’ve clung to company lately – my carpool buddy C, my co-workers, even the many students I work with, and of course Husband. I cling to nearby friends and acquaintances, always trying to squeeze one more coffee date or meet-up in even when I’m exhausted and unhappy. I have long operated under the assumption that people even me out, make me less crazy, and make me happy. In large part, they do make me happy: I’m definitely extroverted and I started a whole blog about how the wonderful people in my life gave me recipes.

I’ve noticed, though, that when I don’t take time for myself, a measured version of time for myself that has room for reflection, I stay lonely and hungry for companionship. When I do take time for myself, and really relax without just zoning out with television, I often come to a place where I actually look forward to seeing other people, rather than needing them to come and fill my worried and anxious mind.

This evening, I could have stayed with a social gathering with Husband, who was enjoying himself a lot, but I was so tired and stressed and just done that I excused myself – I honestly did need to go home and pack for an upcoming trip. But more than that, I needed to cook a wholesome meal, make a cup of chamomile tea, take a hot bath, and listen to an episode of Gastropod podcast about the history of chocolate while I tidied the house and filled my suitcase. I also needed to write this blog post.

I’m realizing that just like there is high quality and low quality olive oil, there is high quality and low quality companionship. This doesn’t refer to the quality of the companions; it refers to the motives and mindsets that bring the two people together. I spend lots of high quality time with Husband, but too often he gets time with me that is low quality too because I think I’d prefer to be accompanied than to take a break and experience aloneness. I am never perfect, but I do know that after a restful night like this one, I am less of a jerk and more likely to be the wife and friend that I want to be for those I care about.

Making “Breakfast Food” Your Own

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I love breakfast food – I mean, pancakes? Waffles? Bacon? All the fanciest and tastiest of breakfast foods are wonderful to me. When it comes to everyday, average breakfasts, though, I’m pretty weak: I’ll enjoy a bagel and cream cheese, or a big glass of fruit smoothie, but I have a hard time working up an appetite at 6AM and whatever I do manage doesn’t hold me till lunch.

When I learned on the Gastropod podcast that breakfast food is somewhat a modern invention, I felt pretty liberated; if in the past, most people just ate whatever they had lying around as leftovers for breakfast, I would do the same! Today I had leftover quinoa salad, filled with tomatoes and spinach and walnuts and feta, for breakfast, and it was wonderful: hit the spot and also was so full of protein that I didn’t get hungry!

It’s time to take breakfast to be another meal; one where, yes, we sometimes eat french toast because it is so delicious, but where most of the time we eat healthy veggies and proteins we need to get through our day, just like other meals! It is very comforting to realize that I’m not crazy for feeling a sugar-crash many mornings when I start off with a sweet-tooth breakfast. This is fine for a lazy Saturday morning, when I might actually enjoy a blissed-out morning reading and feeling calm, but at work, I want all systems go, and that means protein and nutrients aplenty. Quinoa, to the rescue!

I Don’t Call It Dieting, I Just Call It Attention, So Should YOU!

Interesting Thoughts!

Wilted Wisdom

I started counting calories again today.

Even the phrase ‘counting calories’ tends to elicit an extreme response from the general public, especially people who are not particularly health-conscious (no pressure, no judgement, just saying.) I remember in college I was sitting with a friend explaining how my old Wingstop order (ten piece boneless combo half Louisiana dry-rub and half Atomic with bleu cheese dressing and a root beer, mind you) had over 2,000 calories, which is more calories than one needs in an entire day.

The friend in question did say “Oh, wow…” but when I mentioned how I was counting my calories to actually understand in real time what I was consuming, she just shook her head and said, “You don’t have to do that.”

I understand the reaction of my friend. When you hear “counting calories” it tends to sound threatening and rather extreme because there are very…

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