Sunday, November 18, 2007

Food, glorious food

Since the moment of conception I have been dieting, or at least that's how it seems most of the time. Living in a family full of balos con pelo (sticks with hair), I was made acutely aware that I was different: taller, bigger, more muscular and, at least to my mother, fat, (pictures forthcoming), so I was denied food, which made it that much more important to me. I love food. I like the way it looks and smells and tastes, the way it feels when handling it to make something special (even not so special), and the way it makes me feel -- no longer hungry. I go into paroxysms of joy over sizzling medium rare steaks, onions and mushrooms sautéed in olive oil, salads full of vegetables and fruit, and fresh fruit and vegetables, I dream of luscious desserts and fantasize about simple snacks. In short, I love food. Yes, I know I already said that, but it bears repeating. What's not to like? And I love to cook and bake. Anyone who knows me well has been party to my cooking and baking jags. For me, baking and creating new desserts and meals is therapy for depression and sadness, always perks me up. But I also keep my weight in mind and I do have a tendency to gain weight quickly.

The thing is that I gain weight when I starve myself or my food budget is under funded and I am stretching my reserves of cash and food to the limits. It's a well known fact that most people who are overweight (like Sumo wrestlers) are mostly malnourished and oftentimes don't eat all the time but rather in spurts, activating their survival genes to lay down a supply of fat to get through the lean times. The more lean times, the more fat laid down when available. After years and years of starvation or near starvation diets I have evolved a coping mechanism; I make lists. Lists of recipes, foods, menus, and ingredients culled from food magazines, cookbooks, and tinkering with old reliable recipes to make them healthier.

For some people, reading and rereading cookbooks and food magazines and going through old recipes makes them hungrier, so hungry they can't resist a trip to the kitchen or the nearest restaurant to sate their cravings; it has the opposite effect on me. It quells the hunger pangs and takes me to a place where anything is possible, a place where the foods of the world are at my fingertips and I have an unlimited supply of ingredients. I am -- for lack of a better phrase -- in hog heaven with a world of food at my fingertips in glorious color.

I sometimes spend hours making lists of weekly menus, checking and rechecking ingredients and making substitutions in recipes I want to try out to see if they taste as good as I think they will. Most of the time, my substitutions come up roses and sometimes they come up dandelions -- edible but not good enough for gift giving.

Right before payday when the food budget is stretched the thinnest, I pull out the magazines and cookbooks and make my lists. Then I go through the grocery circular and check for sales, adjusting my list to reflect what is available and least expensive. I mix and match and come up with some pretty good recipes and menus that are pruned and pruned again when I add in the necessities: toilet paper, Kleenex, shampoo and conditioner, soap, toothpaste, new toothbrush every three months, etc. The list is pruned again when I have to buy gas for the car which, luckily, only happens every other month (I work at home and most things I need are within walking distance), but the list takes the hit.

Every once in a while I go off the list to buy pots and pans and bakeware, adding stock to my nearly empty cupboards, but that requires making a new list to reflect diminished funds, knowing the items will reappear in later lists when I buy the ingredients that will require the new cooking utensils.

For me, lists are a great way to diet because they keep me from eating and keep me focused on the delayed gratification of a slimmed down recipe in the future. Hours pass quietly while I nibble on celery stuffed with chicken liver pate studded with pistachios and rich with organic chicken broth, Marsala and sautéed shallots or sip a cup of cocoa made with almond milk, 85% cacao and agave nectar. Butternut squash soup sprinkled with toasted pumpkin seeds and made with organic vegetable stock and coconut milk instead of cream is soothing and delightfully warming. I made big pots of soup and freeze individual portions, stock up on unflavored almond milk and organic vegetable or chicken stock when they're on sale. I hoard sugar for months for when I make cheesecake for special occasions, keep a few bottles of organic key lime juice and buy pumpkin puree (or make my own when pumpkins are in stock and on sale) for the future. The foods on my lists aren't always bought when I want them but they are bought eventually and as long as I have paper and ink, I'll keep making the lists and culling magazines and cookbooks for the future. For me, it's a great way to deal with food and my weight. Unfortunately, it hampers getting out and walking a couple of miles, but there's always a trade-off. Walking makes me hungry. Cookbooks keep the hunger at bay.

Beauty shot

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Bouldering in the Black Forest

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My German gang -- I'm the one with Mohawk hair

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Everyone's a clown but me and my dog, Rinnie

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Girl Scout fashion show with Debbie Nelson in the lead in her paper towel dress held together with staples and me in my hillbilly garb peeking out from behind

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Opening presents with Beanie at Gram's

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As you can see, I was very much in need of a ton of diet pills and a case of anorexia.

That is all. Disperse.

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