I Am That Girl Now

Friday, April 15, 2005

Food time!

Since I babbled about exercise last night, today I will ponder food.

New Food

According to the family myth, back when I was very small, I liked every food I was ever exposed to. Never said "yuck". Ate like a bottomless pit. (You know, you'd think they would have seen the impending eating disorder coming a MILE away.) My mother blames elementary school for having introduced me to the concept of various foods being "yucky", but considering that a) this was Nebraska in the 1970s, b) my mother is the queen of bland cooking and c) little tastebuds are notoriously sensitive, it's possible that elementary school was just the first time I was exposed to more potent forms of taste.

I'm pretty sure I was never the model of all-inclusive palate that my parents claim, but in the spirit of the myth, I have a goal. By the time I am 40 years old, I want to like everything.

Yeah, I know. It's never going to happen. There's just too much food out there, for one thing, and some of it is never going to cross my path. Some of it may only cross my path once, and might be completely beyond my ability to handle it. Still, I have so many friends with endless lists of foods they don't like (and often the reasons behind this strike me as very stupid) that I felt compelled to go the exact opposite direction. No matter what, I want to be open to the new tastes.

There are four ways I go about this, at least one of which has been snagged from advice on how to deal with picky children.

1) If I can try it fifteen times, the likelihood is high that I'll get used to it. This got me back into eating fish.

2) The "no thank you" bite. If I've never tried a dish before, or am still within the fifteen-times rule, then I am obligated to take one bite. (This is much easier with access to my husband's plate and his wider taste horizons.) This is part of what got me into olives-- more on that in #4.

3) If I don't like a food prepared one way, that doesn't mean I wouldn't like it another way. I first made this discovery regarding green beans. I was convinced that I hated green beans because my mother's version of them (and all vegetables) was to grab a can or a bag o' frozen, and either way they would be served waterlogged and with the option of salt, pepper, and butter for flavoring. My husband, on the other hand, deals with canned green beans quite differently-- involving cooking them on the stove with lemon juice and/or balsamic vinegar, and chopped garlic. Then we discovered that we could steam 'em.

In this way I have rediscovered lima beans, sweet potatoes, and beets. It helps immensely that the Hub is a damn good cook.

4) If I hate the flavor, I should try the "no thank you" bites of that food paired with another flavor. I hated olives. HATED THEM. The Hub said "here, try one," and I would, but I despised the process. The one day he brought home these big green olives stuffed with garlic cloves. I ate my obligatory olive and then found myself mysteriously drawn to the jar again. A few weeks later I was buying jars of the things myself (although only the garlic-stuffed ones). Eventually I got used to the olive flavor and grew to love it, and expanded my love to "all green olives", and from there eventually learned to embrace black olives as well. Yum.

Sushi, for me, started as a way to get my wasabi fix. I didn't particularly care for the sushi, but I discovered quickly that I loved the sinus roller-coaster ride of wasabi-laced soy sauce. I stuck to the blandest stuff first-- veggie sushi and California rolls and tuna-- and drowned each piece in condiments. It's been five years now, and I can safely say that I'm no longer using the sushi merely as a way to consume wasabi. I'm still moving into more adventuresome territory, but I love it for itself.

Packing Lunch

We pack lunch almost every day. We have settled into a routine-- Lean Cuisines or leftovers, plus a side of frozen vegetables (which, upon nuking, are fit to eat if not fantastic), plus fresh fruit. Anything more complicated than this-- assembling sandwiches or cooking special food-- is just not something we're capable of on the mad rush to work. One of the joys of waking my husband up at 5:20 AM instead of letting him sleep until 7 AM is that he actually has time every day to "put the lunches together" (which is really too important a phrase for what is, essentially, grabbing two sets of three different things and putting them in a bag). Ahh, continuity.

We didn't used to include the fruit and veggies on the side, but problems developed. For one thing, it was sort of depressing to have this one little container of food. It's small, it's often uniform, and (although they are working on this with the Spa Cuisine meals) too often it was meat plus starch plus sauce, or starch plus cheese plus sauce, and all too few times veggies plus starch plus sauce. Also, we eat fast. (More on that later.) It has been shown in psychological studies that it's not a question so much of how much you eat as how long it takes to eat it, and once we'd blasted past those little meals we were psychologically unsatisfied.

We added fruit. This helped. Eventually, in a fit of brilliance, we started bringing vegetables. Thus balanced, and with adequate fiber to give our stomachs something to contemplate well through the afternoon, we do pretty well.

I had another fit of inspiration yesterday and, before leaving the house, I took out the little plastic bowl containing our day's portion of lima beans. I grabbed another bowl, and threw in some chopped-up sun-dried tomatoes and chopped-up garlic, along with a splash of chicken broth. Nuked that little bowl for a minute or two, then added it to the lima beans with salt, pepper, and a little more chicken broth and sealed the thing up. At lunch, we nuked it and it was delicious. The Hub is jealous he didn't think of this himself. I sense a new trend for Casa de Veres in morning food prep.

More to come, I think.


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