Category Archives: Cooking

Inedible Tongue-In-Cheek

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Worse than hearing about another person’s views is the blathering many men exhibit when boasting about how rare they prefer their meat -as if superiority or bragging rights are somehow conferred based on the observable blood volume of what’s being consumed.

Liking raw or rare meat is a bias based on arbitrary and variable individual human preference and therefore is covered by the “Food Opinion Edict.” (Summarized as, “All food is opinion.”)

 

Note: I’d rather lick the toilet in a bus station bathroom at noon on Saturday than eat under-cooked flesh.

Nasal Spelunkers and Weight Loss

Personal story. My apologies if I fail to express my ideas in a way that doesn’t cause consternation.

This one started with a new oven, all because I wanted one which would accommodate the pans I already possessed as I changed my eating habits. Living near the best produce market in Northwest Arkansas helped motivate me, too.

No, it really began when even stretch-waistband slacks began to scream as I tried to put them on. Shrieks of pain from one’s clothing is a sure sign that your bathroom scale indicating, “One person at a time” is no accidental aberration. As I joked when I made badges of dishonor a few weeks ago, you know you’re getting large when you sit down in the bathtub and the water rises in the toilet.

(Another one of my favorite self-deprecating jokes is that I was so large that it took 2 dogs just to bark at me.)

Luckily, a co-worker of mine was finally ready to stop jawing incessantly about needing to stop looking like the ‘before’ picture in every weight-loss ad. He knew his gut instinct (pun intended) to drop major weight was correct when Goodyear contacted him to rent ad space on his back. So, after months of cajoling and bitching, he agreed to form the now-infamous 2017 Invitational Blubber Loss Challenge with me and one other v̶i̶c̶t̶i̶m̶ friend/participant. The rules were simple: meet monthly goals or face a creative backlash of penalties, ones rooted in public acknowledgments and perhaps embarrassing requirements. I created a Facebook page to post the goings-on and updates as we passed each monthly milestone. Or millstone, as has been the case for one unlucky participant. Here’s the link: 2017 IBLC Facebook page.  This group challenge was the perfect catalyst for me to frame my overwhelming urge to change some things. Today, I challenged my 6-month goal 3 months early – and won.

My love affair with potato chips and “no thought” foods had won the skirmish, battle, and war with alarming decisiveness in my life. I could feel the impending knock at the door, a rap executed with folded skeleton fingers emerging briefly from an ancient black smock. Weight is a much different issue at 50 than it is at 20 – and only partially because we’ve become so adept at the rationalizations which permit us to slowly transform from elliptical in shape to circular. Example: any container with only one opening is in fact just one serving, no matter how large it might be.

Statistics tell me that this recent win against obesity will be short-lived. Almost all weight loss is followed by a sharp walk back up the valley wall. It is almost a certainty that those pounds I divested will come back to visit me. None of us like to admit we’re human with voracious appetites. And bad judgment. We like to ignore the warning light on our dashboards until we see smoke.

But I’ll shake hands with a temporary win. It is enough to sustain me for a while. I pick up four one-gallon jugs of milk, knowing that the heavy weight of these 4 jugs is how much of me I’ve sloughed off in 3 months. It doesn’t seem possible. That I should lose another amount equal to the first is a bit debilitating if I think too long about the implications.

Even as life conspires against me with a buffet of delights I know that I’m not done. Even though my recent success was couched in a competition with others, I’m really at war with myself. Those kinds of wars aren’t won: they stay within us, intermittently coming forth to remind us that nothing remains as it once was.

Part of my own admonition was the prohibition of gyms or workouts. Instead, I decided to move a lot more and to walk more. I didn’t care about FitBits, counting calories, or elegance. There’s too much process in the way we spend most of our lives already. Instead, I focused on working to spend more time in the kitchen and eating differently. I allowed myself to eat things that fall into the forbidden zone on diets, even if I did eat them with considerably less frequency. Much to my surprise, I discovered how much I had missed seeing places right in my own backyard, across town, and in between. I’ve walked hundreds of miles in the last 3 months and learned just as much in those miles as I’ve been rewarded with weight loss.

(Note to self: it is amazing how many people think they aren’t visible to onlookers. Whether you are a nasal Spelunker or secret smoker, chances are that strangers are seeing you, whether they wish to or not. People walking slowly tend to have time to really see what’s around them.)

I apologize to my wife and neighbors as I’ve experimented with exotic spices and foods, some of which may or may not be featured in “Poison Quarterly.” I’ve eaten such a variety of delicious things lately. It’s a lot of work thinking instead of devouring. Even though I’m a vegetarian at heart, it’s a lot more work to even try it seriously.

I don’t want pats on the back. The brutal truth is that I allowed myself to get way too fat. At 250, there’s a lot more going on that simply eating potato chips. To lose 12% of that in 3 months has been worth it and I’m not saying otherwise. But come see again in 3 months, 6 months, or a year. Will I be less than 200 and holding? Or will I be swimming in bacon-filled deliciousness?

I should have never allowed myself to get above 200. It’s easy to look back and slap myself mentally. As with all problems in life, the real meat of the question is, “What do I differently so that it never happens again?” I’m working on that answer.

Meanwhile, I’m going to go cook something which will probably smell like burned pigeons to innocent bystanders. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’d like to thank the Springdale Fire Department in advance for their service if they are called to my house.

The Spices of Life

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Over the last couple of months, I have eaten a lot fewer calories but have paradoxically tried so many new flavors. I’ve always been a spice and sauce person but it’s been amazing ingesting a metric ton of new flavors. Only in the presence of fresh french fries have I felt slightly cheated; otherwise, I think of all the people around me who aren’t trying all these crazy spices and flavors – and feel pity. Eating differently has opened my eyes to an entire buffet of weirdness.

My friend Jackie gave me a jar of tomato achaar, an Indian condiment made with a base of tomatoes. I paused for a moment of silence when I tried it, reflecting on the part of my life I lived without knowingly trying its deliciousness. This led me back to variations of tikka masala and curry and experimenting with my own versions of pico de gallo, which is quite possibly the closest approximation to the gods ever devised. There are a couple of local Mexican restaurants which probably want to ban me for picketing for more pico de gallo. They can keep the entrée or throw it out if they’ll just give me an entire bucket of pico.

Hidden Valley makes a sauce mix flavored as spinach & artichoke which is incredible on almost anything. Weirdly, I’ve never used it as directed. It could be a floor cleaner for all I know. McCormick expanded its selection by a factor of 10. There are so many versions of wasabi, horseradish, chipotle, garlic and lemon and lime spices that I’ve often started weeping with joy, which startles other Wal-Mart shoppers.

My wife Dawn either says, “Mmmmm” in admiration of the smells wafting through the house or “Gross,” as the concoctions I’m ingesting causes her eyes to water or her nose to collapse in on itself in horror.

At this point, I can only assume that some of the neighbors are convinced I’m perfecting a new recipe for meth, one punctuated by new flavors. Since I bought a new stove with a different oven in part to be able to cook more conveniently, it is possible that if the police are using thermal imaging to surveil me in my alleged drug lab, they too are convinced. During the hottest parts of summer, I’ve used the oven almost every day, even when the roof was about to spontaneously combust.

Until a large hole opens in my abdomen from the complex craziness of all these flavors, I’ll take it as a sign of optimism.

By the way, I’m still a terrible cook with a vulgar palate. But I’m smiling. I can see why people risked getting in boats attempting to find shorter trade routes to India.

The spice must flow, indeed.