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It's Complicated

Posted Sep 14 2008 1:27pm

My life has been one long love-hate relationship with food. I love how food tastes but I hate that too much of it or the wrong kinds make me gain weight. I've finally realized that I need to treat food as fuel. Period. Food is not going to help me get over a broken heart, prop me up when I'm lonely, or soothe my hurt feelings. I still love how food tastes but I no longer let that love of taste take over my rational side. The love-hate relationship has also led to lots of yo-yo-ing in my weight. Food for me is very closely tied to weight and health. My love of food has definitely taken a back seat recently to my efforts to lose weight and get healthy.

Man do I love food. I love to eat it, cook it, shop for it, read about it, look at pictures of it, and smell it. If I had to choose one favorite food, cheese would win hands down. There are so many different types of cheese that I could eat a different one every day of the year. My current favorite in Cypress Grove's Humboldt Fog, which is a soft goat cheese with a vegetable ash running through it. Spread it on a nice baguette slice and it's just about perfect. When I was a child, I probably wouldn't have gone anywhere near a goat cheese. I was a funny kid with very bland taste buds. I hated anything spicy and didn't even like black pepper on my mac and cheese. And I hated clams.

As I've grown older by tastes have grown and changed as well. I don't remember when I had sushi for the first time, but I know I fell in love with it. I've also been won over to the awesomeness that is clams (and oysters and mussels). I also LOVE spicy foods, the spicier the better. I even order my Bloody Mary's extra spicy. I love trying new foods and finding new things that make my mouth and my healthier side happy. I completely remember the first time I had soba noodles, and now I eat them whenever I can. I had a roommate in college who took me to her favorite Vietnamese restaurant, order me a gigantic bowl of pho and then gave me a hard time when I wasn't able to finish it. This from a girl who was a toothpick but ate almost twice as much as I did on a regular basis. I'm sure that there are plenty more culinary experience out there for me to have and I'm looking forward to each and every one of them, even the ones that are spectacular disasters.

I really love going out to eat, but I also love to cook. It's almost like a game for me, taking things and transforming them into something completely different and delicious. And I like to think that I'm a decent cook. I have a few things that I do really well and many things that I do decently. What I really would love is that innate knowledge some people have for just knowing what will taste good together. When I first started I was a nervous cook and would follow a recipe to the letter. Thankfully I've moved past that state and can know throw in a bit of this and a bit of that and come out with edible meals. Every once in a while something will be bland, but it's been years since I made something that I took a few bites of and then threw out. I've really amazed myself recently with the use of blenders in making soups. I was scared of blended soups for a long time, and I have no idea why. But these days a nice potato leek is on my regular recipe rotation.

Food Porn is a big part of my life. I love looking at pictures of food, going through recipes, and even reading food memoirs. Ruth Reichl has several memoirs based around food that I really enjoyed, especially Garlic and Sapphires, which details the disguises she used as a food critic for The New York Times. Tom Sietsema of The Washington Post is also a favorite. He hosts a weekly live chat that I find greatly entertaining, despite living nowhere near Washington and being completely unfamiliar with the restaurants he reviews. Taking pictures of food before it's eaten has become such a big thing that several establishments in New York have banned the practice. That's really a shame I think.

Comfort foods are something I know everyone can relate too. As I mentioned before, cheese is my absolute favorite food. A grilled had and cheese sandwich is one of my favorite meals. But I've found a way to adapt it to my healthier eating habits. I use Cabot's 75% reduced fat cheddar (which melts like full fat cheese), a low calorie whole wheat pita for the bread, and Canadian Bacon for the ham. And I make it on a grill pan so no butter or oil is needed. It makes me very happy that I've found a way to make this favorite a little lighter. I've tried to lighten up other things with varying degrees of success. Cupcakes are a good one. Instead of the water, eggs, oil, or whatever else the mix calls for, I just use 12 ounces of diet soda. When the cupcakes bake I can't tell the difference and I've not added and fat or calories to what's in the mix. That is, of course, if I don't frost them. But what fun is that?

Food for me can be a very social endeavor. When I get together with my friends, food is usually involved. We go out to dinner, someone is hosting a dinner party or a sporting event party, and sometimes we spend hours tailgating before a football game. Yeah, food is most definitely a part of my social life, as is alcohol. I do wonderfully making healthy choices when I'm at home and cooking but I'm still working on making healthy choices when I'm in a social situation, especially one when where alcohol is involved. I get a few drinks in me and then I forget all that my rational side knows about proper portion sizes and ceasing to eat when I'm no longer hungry. It's something that I will probably be working on for the rest of my life.

Food is such a complex being: it's fuel, it's comfort, it's social, and it's fun. The food itself isn't anything but fuel. Everything else is what I associate with food and what I will work the rest of my life to control and conquer.

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