Working up an Appetite


One of my biggest irritations with most food-writing is that, with all the photos of caramel sauce and marbled beef, nary a word is said about what the cook or diner plans to do in order to keep eating like that.  Don't freak out yet.  I'm not going to ban butter or start recommending that you always substitute mashed bananas for sugar.  I am going to talk about my wonderful non-profit gym Rainier Health and Fitness and how I've come to see my hours there or running on the Chief Sealth Trail as a necessary aspect of my food-focused life.  And I'm going to talk about nutrition a little bit because I have ceased to see it as the enemy of taste.  In Sally Schneider's A New Way to Cook, she says:

Theirs [Mediterranean peoples] is the model for my everyday diet:  largely based on plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes; moderate amounts of fish, poultry, nuts and wine; with a small amount of red meat, saturated fats, dairy products, and sugar and a minimum of prepared foods.  I eat moderately day to day, and periodically I eat with abandon.

This is similar to the tagline in Michael Pollan's new book, which is something like, "Eat food. Mostly Plants.  Not too much."  I haven't read any of his books because the snob factor is a little overwhelming, but I appreciate the influence he's having on mindful, healthful eating.  And people like Michael and Sally are influencing me.

In my post about rice and beans, I told you about the MK Family Lenten experiment last year where we ate rice and beans for 40 nights.  The thumbnail version is that I realized how addicted I am to the food choices my life affords and how much rich food I had been mindlessly eating.  A kind of recalibration occurred that's changed how I relate to food (though you couldn't tell it from reading this blog!) and how I think about health and wellness.  I am more appreciative of the choice I have, more mindful of the creative boost I get from cooking, more apt to really use up everything in the fridge.
Chief Sealth

Another part of our Lent was a return to exercise.  I've been running since high school, but in spurts.  And I expect this 18 month spurt to sputter at some point, but it's my longest ever.  I hope to be blogging here long enough for you to witness one of the slumps I've been in so many times.  When that happens, you can remind me of this.  The difference this time is the lack of negotiation.  I no longer hold the Great Debate of the Century every time lace up my running shoes--Should I be cleaning the kitchen instead?  I'm actually a little sore this morning.  Yancey's tired--I shouldn't leave him with the kids and so on.  I just do it.  Sometimes I lots of energy and connect with the Universe, other times I can't wait till it's over.  But I'm out there.


after-workout snack

And Rainier Health and Fitness works for me like other gym experiences haven't.  1) It's 5 minutes from my house.  This makes my negotiations seems puny.  I don't have good excuses not to go. 2) I believe in their mission of bringing health and connection to this very diverse neighborhood.  My hours there are some of the most integrated of my week.  I attended a Zumba class awhile back.  It was me, one other Anglo woman, and 10 African Muslim women in robes and headdress. RHF has "Ladies Night" twice a week.  No men are allowed and they close the blinds, giving these Muslim women the chance to Zumba.

Another thing I did for a year was to write down every single thing I ate every day.  If I forgot or was on vacation, I left those pages blank and didn't call the whole thing off, like my former all-or-nothing self would have done.  A few principles and patterns emerged over that time:
  • Eating lots of fruits and vegetables takes intention even though I like them so much.  They must be prepped and ready in the fridge.
  • I don't skip meals and never have.  This turns out to be a good thing.
  • If I don't have a snack at 10 am and 3 pm, my children have reason to call the Jerry Springer Show and make an example out of me.
  • After the kids go to bed at 8:00, I will find every reason in the world to justify a vat of buttered popcorn.  I instituted a "popcorn once a week" rule.  I call it "spending my popcorn buck."
  • Eating oatmeal in the morning is as good as Mehmet Oz says it is.
  • Eating family style or buffet style means a happy forgetting of portions.  I try to always put things on a plate--a small one.
  • After a year, I quit the food journal and have had six months off.  I recently started up again because I could feel that, "You only live once!" mentality creeping in.  Anybody know what I'm talking about?

Two things I know now--mindfulness about food and exercise is not just seasonal--it's a way of life.  And the other is that it's possible to be obsessed with food and cooking (as I clearly am!) and still not let it rule me. There's so much more to say on this subject, but I have to take some Monster Cookies out of the oven.  I'm not joking.  You'll see them here soon after our camping trip with Bethany and Chris.  Please go away, rain.