Category Archives: foodie

Monday Mind Hack: Some Grudging Gratitude

I was slow finishing this post, so now my co-blogger has not only beat me to the punch but also come off as far more high-minded than I. Well, that’s only fair, as she is far more high-minded than I am.

Gratitude can be a great mood-altering substance: change your perspective and feel thankful for what you do have instead of dwelling on what you don’t. When you develop the habit, it’s easy to feel suddenly grateful for everyday things like a game of cards with your kids, a pizza, or a perfect peach. (OK, perfect peach is not an everyday thing, but you see what I mean.) You can go all “Double Rainbow, All the Way!” without the acid and the resultant letdown.

I don’t really have trouble feeling grateful. I often go to sleep at night feeling grateful for my bed, knowing that many people don’t cuddle under fluffy blankets on flannel sheets and a soft but supportive mattress. The good fortune involved in such a happy circumstance does not escape me, even after something like 15,000 nights of doing the same over the course of my life (I subtracted a few hundred nights for summers at Girl Scout Camp and the last year of my futon.)

I just don’t like being told to be grateful. Consider: it always happens when you are in conflict, or when someone is telling you to STFU.

“Mom, my shoes are too small and I’m starting to lose circulation from my mid-calf on down.” “Just be grateful you have shoes!”

“Cleaning coffeeshop toilets feels like such a waste of my Master’s degree.” “Just be grateful you have a job.”

If you’re on Facebook, you know that November is the month when your friends begin listing the things they are grateful for in their status updates, kind of like February is the month when NPR starts featuring blues musicians. (Kidding! I love NPR—some of my best one-sided friendships are with NPR hosts.)

I would by no means suspend any pleasure of theirs, and I enjoy the little peek into the thoughts and feelings of my friends. (I admit, I am one who does not mind reading what people had for breakfast as their status updates; I am weirdly voyeuristic curious that way.)

Reading them every day for two weeks now has me edgy, in that pouty “don’t tell me what to do” way triggered by the “just be grateful you aren’t a shoeless hobo” superego in my head. But I know it’s good for me, so here goes, and now I’ll be all caught up.

1. Online friends: I talked to one of my first online friends to go “IRL” with me on the phone yesterday. She reminded me how accessible joy can be when you’re receptive and curious, which made it a lot easier to make the rest of this list.

2. My gas stove, which merrily spits fire if I get too wild in the kitchen, making me feel temporarily like a real restaurant chef.

3. Chocolate cookies from Rustica, which are truly better than you can imagine. You may think you have had a cookie just like this, but if you haven’t been to Rustica, you have not.

4. Peaches: obvious. Best. Food. Ever.

5. The musicians in my family, because letting my music education go was one of the hardest things I ever did, and now it’s all right back in my house again.

6. My southern roots, which I embrace by making grits dressing and banana cream pie and creamed greens and sweet tea and biscuits and gravy. And peaches, obviously.

7. Grad school, where I met my people. I don’t see many of my people anymore, but grad school was the first place where it seemed I might actually have a people. Had a best friend who just Got Me. And got a husband too.

8. Coffee. My other best friend.

9. Learning to knit, which makes me feel competent in a way that a PhD and 500+ published encyclopedia entries do not. Turning a heel on a sock makes me feel like a magician. Also, knitting means always having an excuse to fall out of a conversation.

10. Cocktails: my favorite part of having cocktails is when someone else makes it and hands it to me. We like to drink something we call Tuccis, after Stanley Tucci, and they bear a strong resemblance to the Parisian Cocktail.

11. MPR, my constant kitchen and car companion.

12. Computers, without which I could not have my job, could not stay home in my little hidey hole office, could not have those Facebook friends.

13. My light box, which keeps me marginally sane.

14. My bed, where in the encroaching cold of November I burrow down under several blankets and still try to steal body heat from my beloved, who is—thankfully—only mildly grumpy about that.


Today in Chocolate: Sizzling Bacon Bar

I like chocolate, but I am not a Chocolate Lover. I don’t like things marketed to women that presume we all start tossing our 36Ds at whoever presents us a with a Hershey Bar. I will not buy a book called Chocolate for a Woman’s Soul, simply on principle.

At a restaurant, I’d be more likely to order something lemon or caramel. Given my choice of the ultimate food, it would be a perfect peach.

Still, I’ve learned that some days call for chocolate.

If I thought I was controlled by hormones in my teens, wow—they got nuthin on my 40s. Teen hormones were something more like a ferris wheel: highs and lows. Forties hormones are like a roller coaster built by spiteful demons: nauseating highs, terrifying plummets, and lots more curves. And at certain hormonal times, chocolate is required.

It’s so required that my husband will go get it late at night, when I have that certain hysterical gleam in my eye. My husband who works from home and often wears pajamas until dinner will gladly get dressed and get us a soothing nibble of something just a touch less dark and bitter than my mood at the time.

So it was that my daughter—after a lengthy crying jag that covered death, pollution, and swimming—said that she needed chocolate, and I decided to heed her call.

After searching the local fancy candy shop, this is what she decided to come home with.

Sure, Vosges has had a bacon bar for a while, and bacon has become old news as a fusion food. What made this bar interesting to us was that:

1. Apparently Christopher Michaels is the chocolatier for the Academy Awards,
2. He is originally from Brainerd, Minnesota, and was inspired by Minnesota lake and fair memories,
3. Not only does it have bacon, but it has Pop Rocks! (or generic equivalent)

That’s right. So when you eat it, the popping candy pops in your mouth like sizzling bacon. Hello! Is that not happy-making food when thoughts of beaches you love and your eventual departure from the earth is overwhelming you?! It’s like the bacon is fresh and hot and the little fat bubbles are still popping as you snarf it down—with chocolate! Just when I thought bacon-as-trend was completely played out.

One downside: the bar cost freaking $8.75. When I told my daughter she could choose any chocolate bar, this possibility had not occurred to me. “A one-time treat,” I made clear as I drove home, barely able to stop myself from pulling it out of the paper sack and ripping it open en route.

Is it my top chocolate for Cacao Alert level day? Perhaps not. But it was worth a try, maybe more than one time.

Rating: 4 eggs out of 5, partly for novelty factor

Do you have a chocolate you’d like to submit for review? Sans bacon, please.

Waiting for Monday

Personally, I would like to lose some weight. The chance of breast cancer reoccurring is reduced if I lose some weight, exercise and eat healthier. You would think that would be a huge motivator but some days it just isn’t enough.

I want to alternate running and lifting weights six days a week but not a week goes by that I don’t get too busy. Recently it seems like just getting enough time to walk the dog is an accomplishment.

I also have a goal of keeping my calories under 1500 most days of the week, but it is seriously difficult when you’re eating on the road or feel like you only have time to pick up something fast for dinner.

But, even on a good week, when I don’t really have any excuses, I give into cravings for a donut or something sweet with my afternoon joe, and instead of adding years by exercising, I actually subtract years by sitting on my butt surfing the net.

One of my problems is that if I make a bad choice during the day, like treat my daughter and myself to some ice cream after lunch, then I feel like “Well, I ruined today, I might as well go for it.” and have a bowl of buttery popcorn and a beer after dinner.

Another problem is my “Monday” fix. I always tell myself I will start my new diet or my new workout regimen on Monday. Monday just seems like the right day at start something new. Then, to get ready for the “deprivation” I will be experiencing come Monday, I eat whatever I want over the weekend.

What am I waiting for? For exercise to be easy and smaller portions of healthy food to not only fill my stomach but fill my emotional hunger too? I have a feeling that can happen. Actually it sometimes does. I have experienced runners high and I love salad more than burgers. But waiting for healthy living to be easy isn’t working. I’ve packed on a dangerous amount of weight waiting for Monday.

I need to realize and remember that each day is a new day to make better choices. One cone of ice cream at lunch doesn’t mean I’ve ruined the whole day. And, even within each meal, I can make a better choice than the worst choice, even if it is not the best choice. For example, I don’t have to finish the whole cone or “lick the platter clean.” Each moment is it’s own moment. Maybe just narrowing it down to moments will help me.

that takes the cake

Okay, I have a question. How do we celebrate special occasions beyond food? Or even, without any special food.

We have cake for every birthday. Cake for weddings. Pie for the birth of America. Turkey to give “thanks.” Ham and pies for the baby Jesus. BBQ for the soldiers and laborers. Cupcakes for baby showers. Chocolate for love. Beer for five o’clock. And don’t even get me started on the Jewish holidays, it seems like all of them revolve around special foods, except for that one that is about fasting.

I am trying to lose weight, but I can’t think of anything to celebrate my ending this seven month long ordeal except eating. Was it always this way? When I was a kid I used to like to have a party and have all my friends around me, but I also really looked forward to the cake. When I was a teenager I liked to go to clubs and dance and drink coffee and have a smoke. Hmm. . . sounds good but not a very likely way I am going to celebrate these days, with my ten year old daughter.

What is there to do? The next thing that comes to mind is to buy stuff. But I am not so much interested in that, for other good reasons. What did the ancient people do? Has it always just been about food? Maybe celebrating with food is instinctual and that is why we have a hard time being more creative.

Maybe I need to do some research and see if other people of other times and cultures had other ways of celebrating (besides sacrificing goats and burning wicker men). I need a good sustitute because a lot of the fat around my middle is celebratory fat, I am sure. And I would really like to celebrate reaching a healthy weight some day.

What are your ideas?