Sunday, August 30, 2009

#62 Is Eating For Pleasure Obsolete?

My cousin, Anna Jane Grossman, wrote a book called OBSOLETE. It's an encyclopedia of once common things that are passing us or have passed us by. This is, of course, a plug for her book; however, there are some very interesting entries. For example, ciao to adult book stores. I'm assuming that their demise is due in part to the Internet and in part to the fact that network and cable television are so OUT there that one doesn't need to hide in a dark "book store" to get their jollies anymore.

Here are a few other entries that may pique your interest: ditto paper, car cigarette lighters, social emailing [my son is quoted], and the one that really caught my interest, EATING FOR PLEASURE. Now, aren't you curious?

The small print under the eating for pleasure entry says, "the practice of not obsessing about food." Some of us foodies may be unsure as to what that means. Either we're eating really well, watching what we eat, counting our calories, preparing good dishes, and shopping at Whole Foods, or we are eating crap and dealing with all the obsessive thoughts that go with doing that. However, Annie [that's what I call her] writes that it gets even more neurotic than what I just shared. She says, "we are either over-analyzing our diets or berating ourselves...", and since the 90's, when the FDA started requiring that food packages have the nutritional values printed on the outside, calorie counting has taken the fun out of eating. She says that a person can't even indulge in, a Hostess cupcake "without first removing their eyeglasses". Well, she's got me down, although for some splurges I just ignore the fine print.

Today, people are so diverse in their diets that going out with a group of friends for lunch or dinner, or having people over, or having kids to your home can be very difficult and mystifying. You'd be remiss if you didn't check to see if your guests have any nut allergies, keep kosher, are vegetarians, don't eat dairy, are off sugar, are vegan, or only eat raw food. Recently, we had a barbeque where one of the families invited eats a gluten-free diet -- this means no wheat products. I had decided to make corn bread in their honor, but when I looked at the ingredients on the mix, gluten was the third ingredient. My choices, it seemed, were to either buy gluten-free corn bread or make it from scratch.

Recently, I made the decision to change the way my kids snack. Because neither one of them have a weight problem or "use food", I've never been overly concerned with their snacking. If they wanted something sweet, they would grab a cookie or two. Recently though, I've noticed that they are doing a lot more grazing on snack foods when they watch TV. Also, I'm concerned with the amount of sugar and hydrogenated oils they are getting in these snack foods... the ones, sad to say, that I'm buying. When I told them what I was thinking and what I wanted to do, surprisingly, there was no argument. Actually, my son went into my daughter's room, brought down the book Eat This Not That For Kids [that I had bought and don't remember doing], and we made a list of the snack foods, cereals, peanut butters, jellies, yogurts, etc. that were on the "Eat List" and that they thought they would like. Hmm, that almost seemed too easy. Now let's see if they'll eat any of these "healthy" foods.

Last night, I was reading a fellow blogger's blog http://www.http// when I noticed she had written at the top of her post that her blog contained "food porn", and one should open it at their own risk. I read through her post enjoying the recipes and photos. I then wrote her a comment telling her how yummy everything looked, but that I would have given the blog a PG13 and not the XXX rating she had given it. My response was intended as a joke in response to what I thought she was joking about, food porn. She wrote back and explained that one of her readers, in all seriousness, told her that since people have issues with food, and that reading about or seeing food could set them off on a binge, she should add some type of censure to warn her readers. OY VEY!!! And I thought I had problems....

To end on a positive note, cousin Annie tells us that Sara Moulton, of Gourmet Magazine, says that "food should be fun and tasty". For good measure though, I'm going to throw in that food should be fun, tasty and nutritious. Another well-known celebrity, Cookie Monster, agrees. He began preaching to his young audience that "cookies are a sometimes food", but he never said not to enjoy them.

Quote of the Day: "Do what's right, not what's easy" Suze Orman [financial guru]

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

#61 The Poetry of Food

When spinach is served if I am able, I always try to leave the table. But if I can’t, why then I fake, I shut my eyes and call it cake.

This poem was written by my maternal grandfather. He loved to write poetry and even had a book of children's poems published. When my sister recently reminded me about this poem, it brought back memories of my mom reciting it at the dinner table to make us eat whatever it was that we didn't want. I actually hated spinach and as much as I tried to make believe it tasted like chocolate chip cookies, it didn't!! Actually, I "lost my cookies" the first time I tried to eat spinach. I know, gross. Ironically, I now love spinach. One of my favorite side dishes is sauteed spinach with garlic, and one of my favorite omelettes is made with spinach, feta, and tomato.

When my son was about 6 years old, he was scared to float on his back. I begged and pleaded with him. No way Jose he would say. I finally bribed him with an Eric Lindros Jersey [captain of the Philadelphia Flyers ice hockey team]. That worked, and he completed the promised two minute float on his back. I decided to try this same tactic with spinach. I told him I would give him $20 if he would try spinach. I had to do some begging and pleading, but I wore him down and he finally gave in. He put a small amount on his fork and hesitantly put it in his mouth. I watched as his nostrils flared and his eyes bugged out. Next, his throat flexed, he gagged, and what followed was disgusting. I guess, like mother, like son. Lesson learned -- when it comes to food, there are certain things that [most] kids just don't like. I'll still offer new foods to my children, but my bribing days are over.

Ok, back to the spinach poem. After hanging up the phone with my sister, I began to think of other foods that I used to hate and now like. While power walking the other day, I shared the spinach poem and spinach stories with my walking partners. We had a lot of fun trying to remember that there were once foods we didn't like [LOL]. After making a list, I narrowed it down to these.

This past summer when we took my folks out to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, I chose the restaurant because they have liver and onions on the menu. Comically, as a kid, I would hold my nose, squint my eyes, and slather the liver with ketchup to make it go "down the hatch".

As you know from from babble #58, I hated the smell of boiling brussel sprouts and ranked it up there with skunked dog; now I love them. I cut them in half, spray them with olive oil, roast them in the oven til brown, and pop one after another into my mouth. It's like eating candy.

I like cream of mushroom soup. I love tuna fish. I adore almost every type of cheese on the market. However, those three foods combined to make a tuna casserole, to me, was just gross. Ugh. I hated how it looked. I hated how it tasted, and I especially hated how it smelled. Now though, if I see this on a menu or on a salad bar, I have to have some. Beyond absurd, I never make this dish at home because I can't trust that I'll stop after one serving.

Stuffed cabbage is an acquired taste, and the smell while cooking, is right up there with brussel sprouts. However, I now love this too. There is one restaurant in my neighborhood where I've never eaten anything else besides their stuffed cabbage. I go there only for that and that alone. Well, their humus is pretty outstanding too!

And so, I'll end with this little ditty -- which perhaps may make you think that I should leave the writing of poetry to my grandfather.....

As a kid, I wasn't picky, but certain foods I thought were icky
The years passed by and my tastes began to bud
I started eating foods that had once tasted like cud
The moral of this story is simple and neat
You can't go wrong with a good piece of meat!!

Quote of the Day: "The world looks beautiful through a donut hole. It reminds me that there is not always war and conflict; that sometimes there is sweetness" David Lyell (School Teacher and Part-time actor)

Monday, August 24, 2009

#60 Julie and Julia and Bobbie

It's a dark and rainy Saturday, and I've just returned from the 1:00 matinee of Julie and Julia. For my last birthday, my sister gifted me this book with the inscription: from blog to book to movie... may this be your future. She's very supportive, and I can only hope that "you know who" can read her neat penmanship from all the way "up there". Anyway, back to the movie. My husband had no interest in seeing this movie, the kids were doing their own thing, so off I went. The movie was crowded, and not surprisingly, there were a number of other single women there besides me. There were no single men, and of the heterosexual couples, the majority were at least 65+. I thought that was interesting. Did these men volunteer to see this movie or were they dragged and/or cajoled by their wives? Either way, I hope they enjoyed it. This movie was fun and funny and yummy and I think the boyfriends and husbands who chose not to go missed out. Anything with Meryl Streep AND food, has to be good. Of course, the best line in the movie is Julia's [Meryl] response to her husband [Stanley Tucci] when he asks her what she likes to do. She tilts her head, thinks for a nano-second, and answers, EAT!

So, you're wondering, where does Bobbie's food rant come into this - you know, the lesson du jour. Here goes, butter!! salt!! cream!! Julia Child's recipes were filled with these three ingredients. Whenever I follow a recipe, the outcome, a lot of the time, is boring, tasteless, bland!!! I used to wonder why, but as my friend Lauren has said to me on more than one occasion, all your "diet" substitutions ruin the recipe. She says, you can't change 3 or 4 out of 7 ingredients and expect your dish to taste the way it tasted at a friend's house or in the restaurant. When I cook, I try to watch 3 things: the grams of fat, the number of calories, and the amount of salt. So, cream becomes whatever low fat milk or soy milk I have in the house, no salt or very sparingly, and I use salt free soup stocks when needed. Blah, blah, blah as in boring , boring, boring. Plus, since I cater to my kid's palates too, I'm a restaurant at dinner time. During most meals, there is always salt, pepper and hot sauce on our table. Since the kids aren't into hot and spicy, and I'm not into salty, we all doctor up our meals as needed.

Having told you all what a terrible cook I am, I'm still going to share two recipes that I love, that I've figured out how to make a la Bobbie, and that I've been told are very good.

[original recipe first, followed by my modifications]

Spaghetti with Scallops
[or your choice of pasta]
serves 6

1 lb fresh bay or sea scallops
1 lb spaghetti
1/2 cup unseasoned dry bread crumbs
1 tbs chopped garlic, or minced garlic from a jar
1/2 cup of olive oil
2 tbs parsley
2 tbs crushed red pepper or hot red chile pepper

rinse scallops, pat dry
boil water and add spaghetti
in a small skillet, stir breadcrumbs over a high heat until slightly toasted. transfer to plate to cool
in skillet, warm olive oil and slowly watch the garlic turn golden, add red pepper and stir
add scallops
add a pinch or two of salt
cook over a high heat until scallops lose their shiny-ness and turn flat white
toss scallops with pasta

Modified - serves same number of people
A - 1 lb spaghetti --I use Ronzoni Smart Taste. Compared to regular spaghetti, there are fewer calories, more than double the fiber and this has six grams of protein. I personally don't like the flavor of this dish with whole wheat pasta, but go ahead and give it a try. For those following a gluten free diet, it tastes pretty good with brown rice pasta.
B - No bread crumbs [not that these are so fattening, but why waste calories. Plus, they really don't add anything]
C - We love garlic, so you can ignore the recipe amount and use what you think would work for your family. I believe I add about 3 tbs
D - I measure out a 1/2 cut olive oil, but never use it all. I pour enough in the skillet to brown the garlic and scallops. If needed, I add more when I toss the pasta and scallops together to make sure all the spaghetti is covered.
E - No salt - salt shaker on the table

Pumpkin Soup
makes about 1 1/2 quarts

1 large onion, halved
1/4 butter
1/2 tsp curry powder
2 cups canned pumpkin
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups of chicken stock
2 cups heavy cream

Either food process or dice onions very small
melt butter in skillet, add onion and saute until limp
sprinkle with curry powder and saute an additional minute or two
process the pumpkin and the curried onions, add salt and process for 10 seconds more
pour in heavy cream while continuing to process.
transfer pumpkin puree to a large saucepan and heat slowly with chicken stock
garnish with sour cream and serve steaming hot

Modified - serves same number of people
A - I choose a low fat, salt free butter like Smart Balance or Land O Lakes light. There are others out there too
B - 1 tsp of salt
C - light salt or no salt chicken stock
D - I use fat free half 'n half or whole milk [depending if this is for company or just my family]
E - I offer, but don't automatically garnish with sour cream. It might look nice, but like the breadcrumbs above, it's just extra calories and the soup doesn't need it for taste.
F - And the great thing about soup is that it fills you up so that you tend to eat less.
G - salt shaker on the table

A la Julie and Julia, I'm sure you wonderful babble followers have some great recipes -- even ones that you too have modified for dietary reasons. I would love if you would share them with me and the other babble readers. Please post them in the comment section at the bottom of this babble. If you can't figure out how to do that, send any recipes to my email address and I'll post them to the comment section so that others can see them too. Thanks and I look forward to cooking and baking some yummy and healthy new meals soon.

Quote of the Day: "We are who we come from as much as who we make of ourselves" Ariel Sabar, author of My Father's Paradise

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

#59 What Do Ed Rendell and I Have in Common?

What do Governor Ed Rendell and I have in common? A whole lot, it seems!!

First and foremost, we both love Starbuck's ice cream. I'm not sure which flavor calls his name, but JAVA CHIP sure screams mine. This is a smooth coffee-flavored ice cream with the most amazing tasting chocolate chunks. Cool and creamy used to be my "company of choice" when I had myself a personal pity session. Notice, however, that those previous sentences were written in the past. Thankfully [NOT!], Starbucks stopped selling their ice cream in pints. Although I didn't want to end my relationship with JC, I realized that there was no way I could bring a quart of Java Chip into my house. I mean, my poor heart couldn't deal with both the caffeine [it is REAL coffee ice cream] and the sugar in the amounts necessary to console myself. Plus, the screaming from the freezer would have been too much for me to ignore.

Second, we both have a weight problem. Granted, his is a little bigger, but a problem is a problem. As have I, he too has battled the belt buckle. In the Philadelphia Inquirer article, we learn that big Ed has been dieting by cutting his portions in half. It's obviously working, since he shares that he's lost 40 pounds so far. I think this is great. Sticking to this diet or any restriction of food can be really difficult -- so kudos to him! Who knows, by the time this babble comes out he could be well on his way to a 50 pound weight loss. I'd say he's a good role model for taking one's health seriously and for the citizens of Philadelphia. Although the City of Brotherly Love has dropped to #20 on the list of fattest cities in the country, it once had the dubious distinction of being #2. Which brings me to number three.

Three, we both live in Pennsylvania, and when he was mayor, we both lived in Philadelphia. Ok, so he's famous and I'm not, and he now lives in the governor's mansion and not a money sucking 250 year old constantly-needing-work-money-pit, but we're still in the same state. I wonder though, if his house has an elevator? I should tell him to read Babble #29 where he can learn about the caloric benefits of having to run up and down stairs. During the summer of '94, Ed and I both belonged to the same swim club. Let me be honest here -- I have never in my whole entire life said [or even thought] that I looked good in a bathing suit....ever. However, compared to Governor Rendell, and I can only speak for that summer, I looked amazing. Wow, that felt good.

Four, he loves his family and they love him. How do I know this? In the Inquirer article, he tells us that he decided to lose weight for them. He said his wife and son were dropping not-so-subtle hints about how they would like to see him stick around a little longer, and as his wife put it, [I'm paraphrasing] you don't see too many fat 80-year old men out there. Well, my family never gently nor strongly hinted that I needed to lose weight, but they could see that I was wearing some extra poundage. Although Eds family support was vocal, my family knew that a more quiet - we're here for you if you need us - approach would be a better way to support me. My response to, "do you really need that?" is not pleasant.

I guess the last thing we have in common is that we both no longer visit "that" freezer section at our local supermarkets. I can't be sure about by buddy Ed, but I can happily report it's been more than two years since me and my Java Chip have had a date. I do miss him though...

Quote of the Day: You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don't try. Beverly Sills

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

#58 Food For Thought

I decided to write about food, but instead of lamenting the issues that surround food, I am going to play with my food. I love word games, scrabble and crossword puzzles, so I decided to try and use food as a figurative enhancer in story telling. Thanks to those who helped me figure out my metaphors, similes and hyperboles. And for those reading this, forgive me if this babble is like a meandering stream of thoughts. It's meant to entertain.

* There is a lot of figurative language in this babble, however, I've highlighted the relevant ones. You know, the ones that have to do with food.

In his book, The Guardian, author Nicholas Sparks uses so many amazing descriptive sentences, that I got the idea for a babble. One sentence that has stuck with me like bubble gum on carpet, goes like this: her eyes were so glazed she could have flavored a dozen donuts. I have never heard boredom described so visually and yummily. This got my creative juices going. I think food is a wonderful choice as an expressive resource. Not only can you use food to describe boredom, but food has been used amazingly well to describe other things, like manliness, as in "real men don't eat quiche." Well said, but I disagree. I know lots of men who eat quiche, although, they'd otherwise be described as "meat and potato men." Ooh, this is fun.

I recently heard a debate on a television program arguing that humans are the only tear-producing species. That got me thinking about all the tears I've shed and seen in my 47 years. The ones that first come to mind are those of my daughter when she was a toddler. Sometimes (ok, many times) when she didn't get her way, she would start to cry. I knew she was acting and those were just onion tears, but seeing them still broke my heart. Once, when Erica and I were in the park, she found a companion and off they went. While they were playing, Erica and this adorable red headed string bean had a long-winded gigglefest. The nanny, who I had seen there before, approached me. She told me that my daughter was so sweet that if you tasted her tears, you would think of honeydew. Isn't that sweet...and a bit weird? Honeydew?

I'm not sure if you know this about me, but I am a bit shoe crazy. Because of my cankles and thick stalk-like calves, it's very hard for me to find shoes that (I think) flatter my lower leg as well as boots that I can zipper... all the way up. A couple of years ago, I walked into an Aerosole shoe store and bought the most comfortable pair of sandals I'd ever owned - still to this day. I was able to traverse a flea market that spanned 5 miles in the oven heat of August, and it felt like I was literally walking on marshmallows the whole time. Meanwhile, my flip flop-wearing girlfriend ended up with a blister that could have rivaled any grape in season. Alas, I wish I had bought two pairs.

I don't know if you know this about me either, but my husband thinks I was a dog (as in canine, pooch, and, I'm sure, bitch) in my previous life. First of all, I am very sensitive to too much acoustic stimulation; as in the radio blaring, the top down on the car, listening to him talk on his cell phone and all the other noises that having the hood up and windows closed would disguise. However, my sensitivity to noise isn't my only dog-like quality. Like my Iggy, I have milky white teeth [ok, I embellish, but it sounds nice], but they are far from chiclet-like. Furthermore, I also I have a keen nose. It ain't a beauty, but I can walk into a room and immediately tell that the Camembert living under my sofa is probably a rank pair of sneakers belonging to one of my kids. Even in my sleep, my nose continues to work. Many years ago, I was in a deep sleep when I was woken up by the smell of what I thought was burnt wiring. I jumped out of bed and yelled fire. I was running down the hall when our dog ran up to me -- I almost passed out. During her last pee of the night, she had gotten herself skunked. There are no food metaphors that come close to describing that smell, but that smell rivals one of the worst odors I can think of, boiling brussel sprouts. Yup, that's a smell right up there with eau de skunk.

Of course I can't end this babble without metaphoring or throwing about some sex similes -- so here goes (forgive me, mom and dad). A lot of men wish they were hung like a horse, but I'm sure most would settle for a medium sized banana ... the shape works too. And, I never understood why men called their penises "meat". I mean their neck could be considered meat too considering I've been known to take a nibble or two. While doing my research, I came across a blog whose sole purpose is to make lists. In discussing the show The Vagina Monologues, the blog listed different names for the vagina. The kebab vagina jumped out at me. Say what? Kebab? It seems a number of her readers wondered about this too. While reading through the comments, I learned that in the United Kingdom, their gyros are called kebabs, and the writer of the comment surmised that the shape, warmth and dripping juices of the kebab... not taste or anything to do with being skewered, was where that name was coined. How's this sentence for kebab vagina... having sex with "Lola" feels like being wrapped in a warm, moist pita. One last thing: People should be happy, and what they do in the privacy of their own home (as long as both are agreeable) is their business. You know this sex thing is a mixed grill, a buffet and a smorgasbord for all to enjoy. Of course it goes without saying, I like mine with chocolate!!

Bon Appetit!

Quote of the Day: "The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up" Mark Twain

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

#57 Dharma Schmarma

Sometimes kids say the smartest things...

During the 3 hour car ride to camp visiting day, I usually sleep and/or read. However, this year, we had company. One of Erica's friends, 15 year old Sam was hitching a ride to visit with his old camp mates, and another mom (visiting her daughter) were with us. Because I had a captive audience, I decided to read the babble that I was working on (#56 Smart Vaginas don't Cut Through Dark Alleys). Sam, other mom, and my husband all had some interesting things to say, but it was 15 year old Sam that made me stop and do a double think.

As we approached the noon hour, we talked about stopping for lunch. Sam told us that he's a healthy eater. I asked him if he eats this way because his parents are healthy eaters or because this is what he chooses. He told us that when he eats healthy, he feels good and looks good. Then he said to me, it's kinda like your babble. He was referring to the part about using the analytical side of the brain and not the emotional side. He continued by explaining that in choosing what to eat, he uses the analytical side of his brain because if he let the emotional side make his choices, he'd probably make a lot of unhealthy ones.

All righty then. Since this conversation took place around noon on Friday, I decided I had all weekend to test his method, or in other words, to see if I could make non-emotionally based eating decisions. I'll tell you right now, I failed. At every meal I started out with the best intentions, but sooner or later, I made non-analytical ones when I saw something that I wanted. I mean, who can pass up institution-style vanilla pudding? Obviously, not me!!

Each morning, I started out with my usual breakfast - my homemade quinoa muffin, PBII peanut butter (only 53 calories per 2 tbs) and a cup of decaf with a little half and half. By lunch, I was dipping my fingers into the bowl of potato chips, drooling over the assortment of peanut butter and jellies, and with something akin to lust, eyeing the amazing looking and smelling bouquet of breads. Oy, so many why nots, what ifs, and what the hells were silently argued in my head. If this was a real battle, and not one of my weak willpower, I'd be Bobbie Sue black and blue.

Recently, I read in a blog ( that the little voice in our head that says, I really want that chocolate cake, or I can't run another mile, is really the emotional side of the brain trying to take care of you, protect you, feed you. The blogger, a doctor who treats overweight people said, if you can push that voice away and tell yourself something that makes you think logically, non-emotionally, then you are a step closer to getting what you really want... that thin healthy body or another mile under your belt. Martha Beck, a well known life coach and author, says the fight between your cyber brain (analytic) and your beastie brain (emotion) will always be won by the more primitive beastie brain. She says you need to stop fighting your body's nature (wanting to stay nourished when it feels like your depriving it) and instead, develop a "normal relationship" with food. From her mouth to my brain.

Reading my Yoga ezine the other day, I learned about dharma. Dharma is "the path you follow towards the highest expression of your own nature - and towards the fulfillment of your responsibilities to yourself, to others, to your society, and to the planet". Although this word can actually have many meanings, the writer says that for most people, your personal dharma really asks, "What is the right thing for me to do now?". She also writes that conflicts we experience with our dharma can sometimes be the clash between our desires and competing responsibilities. Pertaining to this blog, I see this clash as me wanting something sweet and carby vs being responsible to my body by choosing something healthy. Needles to say, the emotional side of my brain says: Dharma schmarma.

Sunday morning arrives and visiting weekend is over. We check out of our hotel and head back to camp to bring Erica home. Once there, we load the car, collect Sam from the boy's camp, prod Erica and Sam along as they hug, kiss and cry their way to the parking lot, and finally off we drive. Around noon, we pass through this quaint little town and decide to stop for lunch. We find the town diner and as we walk in, I smell pancakes, or maybe it's waffles. Sam orders first and I hear him ask for an egg white omelet with cheese, mushrooms and wheat toast. I can't order waffles or pancakes now, so I decide to let my analytical brain do the ordering.... until the waitress asks, "do you want toast or a bagel with your scrambled egg whites?". The emotional side took over and the calculator that lives in my head added 250 more calories to my weekend's tally.

Sometimes adults do the stupidest things...

Quote of the Day: "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted"
Aesop (620 BC - 560 BC), The Lion and the Mouse