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What I Ate On My Summer Vacation

Posted Sep 12 2008 4:33am

I was absent from the blogosphere for most of last month, and I have a good reason: I am co-producing/directing a documentary and there was much work to be done. My partner and I spent a week in DC at George Washington University doing some filming. It was a great time, and I'll absolutely return to do some sightseeing. But oh, the food. The food. I hadn't truly realized how good I have it working from home until I was faced with mass-produced dormitory catered to the needs of a predominantly vegetarian/vegan crowd.

Egads. Talk about a carb fest. It was noodle and rice-a-palooza. Nothing like being a low-carbing gluten/soy intolerant gal at a vegan buffet. About all I could eat were the napkins.

My partner fared no better than I. She can't eat wheat, dairy or refined sugar, and has a host of other GI issues. She doesn't control carbs, but she (like me) needs her meat, dammit. The first night we were overjoyed to see chicken wings. We gorged, and then hoarded a bunch just in case. Good thing too - the next day lunch was some sort of noodle dish. I actually made a meal of peas and salad, with copius amounts of Italian dressing to add some fat and tide me over. For dinner, I ate leftover chicken wings and more salad. I then proceeded to inflate like a gigantic parade balloon. Who the hell knows why? I am guessing the salad dressing was primarily soybean oil. Fantastic.

Luckily, we discovered a Safeway within walking distance. I lived on salami, proscuitto and melon, rotisserie chicken, macadamia nuts, hummus, baby carrots and corn chips, and dark chocolate. Our camera guy was superfantasticallyawesome enough to hit up a Trader Joe's and bring us other supplies. I am now convinced that Canada's biggest problem is that we have no Trader Joe's. I miss it. I keep thinking about it. It's painful.

We did get a couple of good meals in, thankfully. One night we found a little hole-in-the-wall Chinese place called The Little China Cafe. Normally I don't bother with Chinese anymore because of my gluten issues, but I decided to throw caution to the wind and eat whatever I could. I had my trusty Triumph dining cards, and I showed the Chinese one to both owners. They were interested, and went to great lengths to understand what I needed. We ended up with two amazing dishes: beef with green peppers and onions, and Happy Family, a dish of shrimp, scallops, chicken, pork, beef, broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, snow peas and napa. Both are normally served in a brown sauce, but the chef left out the soy and made a delicious white sauce instead. My fears that Chinese food without soy sauce would be bland and pathetic were unfounded - it was delicious. I will now be hitting Toronto's Chinatown with renewed vigor, like King Leonidus hit Xerxes. Tummah! Prepare for Moo Shi!

Our last evening found us weary wandering around Geogetown, craving meat. We collapsed in to the window seat at Red Ginger. I ordered a glass of Spanish Cabernet Sauvingnon and practically snorted it. There's something about a long week of shooting in soupy, mucky heat that makes a girl just wanna get drunk. I held back - the menu was intoxicating enough. Meat, meat, and more meat. My partner ordered Walnut Crusted Duck Breast with Quinoa Pumpkin Salad and Blood Orange Chipotle Sauce; I, heeding the call of my entire digestive system, chose the NY. Strip Steak, Shiitake Mushroom, Vidalia Onions and Spinach with Three Herb Chimichurri. A million other items called to me, but my body craved rare beef. The chef served our table personally (okay...he served all the ladies only tables), and brought us a surprise starter: Jamaican Jerk Chicken Lollipops with Potatoes, Vidalia Onions and Fried Cabbage Hash. Good thing too, because I was about ready to eat my own hair. I'd love to write a rave review of the dishes, and they were absolutely fantastic, but I was so desperate and protein-deprived and tired and crabby and half-drunk at the time that I have no recollection of the details. I did, however, take a picture of the main course:

I do recall that it was juicy, tender, and beefalicious. It vastly improved my mood.

So what did I learn from all of this? That I am spoiled working from home, because I can eat whatever I want. That travelling may prove a challenge for me nutritionally. And that I'd better learn how to make pemmican, so I always have something good to eat.

Note: people have asked me why the dorm meals were primarily vegan/vegetarian. We were filming at a training week for young environmentalists/social activists, and the myth that meatless eating means eco-friendly eating is still alive and well. Apparently, it's okay to eat the products of Big Ag and chug Coke along with your Boca burger...but that's for another post.

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