I’m always trying to improve myself. Usually, its by doing something to my diet; like my periodic raw eating, or counting calories, or eliminating certain food groups, like carbs. If I didn’t do this, I would weight 200 pounds. Having been close to that number in the not so distant past, whatever it takes to prevent the unhealthy rise in number, I will do. For a time.
Last week, I wanted to eat raw. At least part of the day. And something healthy for the rest. But it is freezing cold here; in the minus degrees farther inland, but hovering around 5 degrees here, closer to the lake. They say the lake protects us, but I don’t see how. Jim and I went to the beach the other day, the ice bergs pushing up on the shore were a sight. The last thing I wanted to eat when I got home was a cold salad and a icy smoothie. So I made a huge pot of chili, with beef in it, not turkey, instead.
My friend, Joanne, has been going to her local gym and working with a trainer. She eats what he tells her to eat, and then writes it all down and send it to him in an email. For the past week, he has her eating two fish meals a day. A day. Not a month, or a year. Two fish meals a day. I want to eat like her because regardless of the gag potential, she has lost over 20 pounds and is wearing a size 8 blue jean. Size 8. She is no spring chicken, either.
Because I had already had her quota of a weeks worth of fruit for breakfast, I decided to go ahead and have my salad for lunch, but then add tuna. Tuna is safe. I remember in the late 60’s, right after we got married, I went to Weight Watchers with my cousins’ mother. When I say I am always on a diet, I am not kidding. Anyway, back in those days, you could have five ounces of meat for lunch and five for dinner. It could be anything. A hot dog weighed an ounce, so you could have five of them, without a bun of course, or all piled into one bun. Spinach was a free food, as were green beans. Fresh vegetables were not yet in my repertoire however, so I ate a lot of canned spinach and green beans. To this day, even a picture of Popeye downing a can of spinach makes me ill.
Sometimes, just thinking about going on a diet makes me hungry. Knowing I have to do something about staying healthy inspires me to bake cakes and breads. I start inventing recipes, looking for new things to make, initiate food discussions with my mother, who loves to talk food. My mother was the original foodie. She cooked a full course, gourmet meal for us nightly for the years I lived home, and no one really appreciated it. All of her kids struggle with weight, which should tell you something about the food situation.
When she made pork chops, usually stuffed, she made at least a dozen of them. There were six of us at home. Always, a meat of some kind, I remember her Swiss Steak with mushroom gravy and mashed potatoes, oh my God. And another beef dish; Flank steak rolled up with stuffing, also served with some wonderful potato. Always a green vegetable and a salad. Her vegetables were swimming in butter. I’m telling you, to this day, the thought of a vegetable that is crunchy with lemon juice on it makes me want to throw up. I want them soft and dripping with yellow fat, just like my mother‘s.
City chicken, another dish that must have been a local favorite because in all the years we lived back east, I never saw it. It was ground pork and veal formed into what looked like a chicken leg, coated with bread crumbs and fried in Crisco. She would make homemade scalloped potatoes and usually either fresh green peas or lima beans. I can feel the roll around my middle expanding just thinking about this.
She made the best homemade soups and chili, huge pots of it, and it would be gone the same day. I don’t believe we ever ate leftovers in her house, and to this day, I can’t stand them. She also baked. Whole wheat breads and crusty rolls, crescent rolls and popovers. The smell of her baked prune whip with custard sauce was so fragrant; if she wanted to know where anyone was, she just had to stick that concoction in the oven and we would rise out of our teen-aged stupors and follow the scent.
We always ate on the run at our house, I remember her standing in a shirtwaist dress, trying to dish up this stuff as fast as she could, while the ungrateful spawn grabbed a plate, and went either in front of the TV or off somewhere, never thanking her or at least asking if she could use a hand.
My father was worse. He went on cooking binges; some of the most hysterical memories I have of him are him cooking lambs heads on a cookie sheet, neck cut side down, complete with eyeballs. Or coming home from a hunting trip to Pelee Island and cooking pheasants. Or rabbits. To my mother, a chorus of girl’s voices “ I’m not eating that!” He would laugh and say ‘ Just taste it.’
He also was friends with most of the restaurant owners in town. He would come home during the weekends with literal troughs of food. One place made the most phenomenal rice pilaf. To this day, I measure all rice dishes by that standard. And spaghetti. Angelo’s Pizzeria. It arrived in a gigantic restaurant sized baking pan, piled high with regular spaghetti, Bolognese sauce, sliced green olives, chicken, and cheese. Like clockwork, a bevy of cousins would usually arrive about the same time the food did. I wondered if there was a scanner that made periodic food arrival announcements.
Did I already tell you about the drowned bull? Since I am talking food today, this seems like a good time to repeat the story.
We lived on my parents farm in the old farmhouse while Jim was in college. My special needs sister, Sarah lived with us, as did my nephew, Aaron. We always had a house full of family and friends. Back in those days, Fowlerville was a respite from city life. The weekends found the house overflowing with company. I really loved it.
Feeding all of these people became a problem. My parents still lived in Dearborn, but they would drive out all the time, and my mother always had several bags of groceries for me. We managed.
One day my sister was out fishing in one of the two ponds on the property, when she saw something floating in the back pond. She came running up to the house, hysterically yelling; ‘Something drowned in the pond!!” I was alone in the house with my newborn, Jeni. What to do? As long as it wasn’t a child, I wasn’t going to do anything about it until either Jim got home from school or my dad arrive from the city. Eventually, it was discovered that my dad’s prized Angus bull had drowned. After a lot of tugging with a tractor and other things I don’t want to think about, they got the carcass out of the water, and butchered it with a chain saw. No point in letting all that beef go to waste, right?
However, I wasn’t going to eat it, nor would I serve it to my family. But the city slickers? All those people who came every weekend without bringing even a loaf a bread? Their feasts just got a lot richer. I would serve pot roasts, stews, braised beef, roast beef, chili beef, you name it. My dad would come in and pull me aside, shaking his head toward the stove. Whispering, ‘Drowned bull?’ I’d shake my head yes. ‘I’ll get McDonald’s for later’, he’d say.
Food. I’m a little sad about having to have fish for dinner tonight. We are going to a local restaurant to hear, of all things a band from Philadelphia! The Ann Arbor Folk Music Festival is this weekend, and Hoot and Hellmouth are making a trip to our town before heading back east. We haven’t been there to eat yet….So the music will be the attraction and not the food. Yeah, right.
I guess I was going to write this post about the yoga class I am taking and got sidetracked. All I can think about is food right now. I better go drink a glass of water.