Food: October 2008

by jkatejohnston

I’ve been editing my defunct food blog into a tiny book.  Here’s a sample.

Food & Fat

You know that book French Women Don’t Get Fat? Well I know a French woman, and she is fat. So there. I also know an American woman who is thin. She eats nothing but cigarettes, and she looks wonderful in clothes. Where does that leave the rest of us? I have no idea. 

These thoughts are brought on by the fact that I turned 40 and instantly gained ten pounds. It’s not like I had fun doing it. It’s not like I ate a bunch of great food and had to pay the price. It was just age. And I realized that I could spend the second half of my life in bunker mode eating hard boiled eggs and fiber pellets and maybe stay my usual size. Or I could cook and eat and live life and be fat. Is there another way? I doubt it.

I went to the library and read Fight Fat After Forty. It’s about three hundred pages, but I can get it down to six words: lift weights, eat fewer carbs, relax. The relax part comes from the notion that you overeat because you’re stressed. For me the take-away message was: nap. (The book recommends yoga and meditation, but yoga makes me anxious about whether I’m relaxed enough, and meditation is just torture.) So I started napping every day, and it’s wonderful, but I’m still fat. Then I started lifting weights twice a week, and it’s the most boring thing I’ve ever done in my life. And I’m still fat. That leaves the carbs. Oh dear. 

Of course I’ve been on the South Beach Diet—who hasn’t?  At least I’ve done my personal variation of the South Beach Diet, which is pretty much what it says in the book (almost no carbs) but I add quite a bit of fat to cheer myself up. The real South Beach Diet has you eating a lot of non-fat ricotta and egg whites and ground turkey. I might as well go in the back yard and eat grass. It is just not going to happen. Instead I make fabulous little crustless quiches with sautéed chard and onions and goat cheese. And I eat salmon and artichokes and leeks and eggplant, and deviled eggs and little roll-ups of ham and Swiss cheese and crunchy lettuce. I eat steak. This costs a fortune, so it’s a good thing that the longest I can stay on the diet is about three weeks. I usually lose about seven pounds. And yes, I gain the weight back, but it usually takes about six months, and I’d probably gain that weight anyway, so by losing the weight first, I break even.

The problem with any super-low carb diet is you can’t do it from late spring to late fall or else you’d miss cherries in the spring, peaches and plums and tomatoes and corn in the summer, apples and acorn squash in the fall. And what about strawberries? It would be mocking Providence not to eat those things in season. You do not reject the gifts of the gods. But in mid-winter, you can go a few weeks without carbs without sinning against nature.

We’ve all heard the advice that you shouldn’t go on a diet, you should just start thinking like a thin person. How do thin people think? I suppose thin people can live with a bag of chocolate chips in the pantry for months on end and never eat them because it simply doesn’t occur to them. Are they brain dead? When I have treats in the house, there’s always a loop playing in my head that goes: chocolate chips, chocolate chips, chocolate chips, not right now, chocolate chips, not right now, chocolate chips, not right now, chocolate chips, CHOCOLATE CHIPS, RIGHT NOW. And then I eat half a bag of chocolate chips. And they’re wonderful.

So, like Chief Joseph, I will fight no more forever. And I will be a little fat. And right now I’ll go to the Farmer’s Market to get some Japanese sweet potatoes. They taste like a cross between yams and chestnuts. I’ll cook them in the slow cooker while I’m at work. When I come home the house will smell warm even if it isn’t. Enzo will eat his plain, right out of his hand—they’re long and skinny, easy for a two-year-old to grip. I’ll eat mine sliced with walnuts and maybe dried cranberries, a touch of olive oil, a tiny splash of balsamic vinegar, a little salt and pepper. I’ll put a gob of peanut butter on Enzo’s plate, and he’ll mash the sweet potato into the peanut butter and eat it, and I will look proudly as his peanut-buttery face and think: he’s cooking!