You Know What They Say, “You Are What You Eat.”

 

“You are what you eat;” that’s what they say, at least.  Yet, I never really took heed to what some consider an ominous warning.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have always watched what I have eaten.  I’m not a glutton.  I do not scarf down gallons and gallons of ice cream, nor do I over indulge in cookies or candies.  Nope.  I try to eat sensibly, and even though in the course of my lifetime, the food pyramid has been updated seven times, changed entirely in 2005, and then altered to “MyPlate” in 2011, I have tried to be sensible about my choices (Harvard School of Public Health).

Recently, however, I came across something startling that through me for a loop.

It is not uncommon knowledge that fast food isn’t good for you.  I know that.  You know that.  Who doesn’t know that?  Assuming we are intelligent human beings who will not eat fast food three times a day for thirty days and throw our bodies so out of whack that a doctor warns us we might die (If you haven’t seen SuperSize me, click the title and watch it, and you will know what I am talking about.), I have always felt like an occasional Burger King Chicken Sandwich or Big Mac is not that big of a deal.  Sure, they are chocked full of calories and fat grams, but I am not talking about eating said sandwiches every day.  I am talking about occasionally, and that means not even once a month.

Well, I thought it was all right and forgivable up until two weeks ago.  Two weeks ago, I walked into my friend’s classroom to ask her a question, and she had a McDonald’s bag on a chair near her desk.  The contents were exposed.  I looked down and I saw a small soda, a cheeseburger, and a small fry.

“What’s this?” I asked.  “Lunch?”  I giggled.  It was only 8:30 in the morning.

Her eyes widened.  I could tell she was excited I asked.  “Class,” she said to the room.  “Could anyone tell Mrs. Huffer why this is here?”

“You are what you eat,” one boy shouted from the third row.

I felt totally confused.  What is going on here.  Jen teaches English not health.  Why does she have McDonald’s in the room?

“Look at the date on the receipt,” she said to me.  I moved closer to the food and picked up the receipt: October 6, 2012.

I did a quick calculation. My mouth dropped open as I spun and looked at my friend.  “That can’t be real!” I said incredulously.  You should have seen it.  It looked virtually perfect.  The fries had not shriveled.  The bread was intact.  The meat patty seemed fine.  I did not detect even the faintest odor of decay.  I did not detect the faintest sight of mold.

“It’s real.  I read an article about fast food a few months ago and decided to do my own experiment.”  By this time every single eye in the room was staring at that bag of food.  “I have this here to remind these students, ‘You are what you eat.’   Food that does not decompose or rot cannot be good for you.”

I left her room without even asking her what I came to find out.  I was flabbergasted.  I was disgusted.  I was horrified.  Not only do I indulge in fast food, but so do my children.  When on a road trip or at the mall, when everyone complains they are hungry, the easiest way to satisfy hunger has always been fast food.  Oh, it’s every once in a while, I told myself.  I justified it.

But what was I justifying?

I came home and told my girls about her experiment and they told me to take a picture.  I had every intention to do just that, but wouldn’t you know, Jen threw out the meal because she was going on maternity leave for the rest of the school year.  Needless to say, if you Google Image “McDonald’s Meals Do Not Decompose”, dozens of images will appear.

Image borrowed from "Can a McDonald's Burger Last Forever?"

Image borrowed from an article titled, “Can a McDonald’s Burger Last Forever?”

 

The girls and I Googled it, and they were so horrified, even Lizzie who loves Chicken Nuggets, said she did not want to eat fast food anymore.

As we perused the images, Carson added on, “Even the supposed healthy food has to have chemicals.  I mean, in a Happy Meal, you get apple slices in a bag, and they don’t brown.  When you cut us an apple, Mom, if we do not eat it, it is brown in less than an hour!”

She’s right.  My friend’s tiny experiment was a wake up call.   Fast food is officially on the forbidden foods list in our household, and as for the present, no one seems to miss it!

 

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Food Brings People Together

Growing up, I loved Mrs. McIntyre’s homemade apple pie.  She did not make it very often because it was labor intensive, but when she did, I always seemed to find out; you know, I did live directly next door and her son was my best friend.  Patrick would happen to mention that his mom was baking and my ears would perk up.

“Oh yeah, what’s she baking?” I would ask.  I would put my hand behind my back and cross my fingers.  Please say apple pie.  Please say apple pie.  Please say apple pie.

Usually, it would be cookies or some kind of cake.  However, every once in a while, my dream would come true.  The finger crossing would work.

“Apple pie.”

Later that evening or the next day, I would saunter over to hangout with Patrick.  But, I never did hangout with Patrick on these days.  I would go into the kitchen and talk with Mrs. McIntyre.  After a few minutes, she would say, “Honey, would you like a piece of pie?”

My mouth would water just hearing her say the words.  “If it’s not too much trouble.”

She would smile and pat my head, then she would slice a piece and place it in the oven to warm it.  I could already taste it just by the aroma coming from the oven.  When she put it in front of me, I would eat it slowly, savoring each bite.  The apples were crisp, the crust was perfectly flaky, and the hint of cinnamon mixed perfectly with the sugars.  It was the most delicious dessert I have ever tasted in my life.

***********************

My mother was a wonderful cook and she had many good recipes, but my favorite was her jambalaya.  As my mother got older, she became more experimental with heat, and she liked to add spicy sausage to this recipe.  The first time I tasted it, I could not believe the flavor explosion in my mouth.  It was spicy, flavorful, and hot.  I always had to drink two glasses of water while eating it, but I didn’t mind; it was that good.

My mom put most recipes on a monthly rotation.  When I moved out, I gaged when I thought she would be cooking jambalaya.  I would call her to complain about not having groceries, and she would say, “You can come for dinner if you want?”

I was expecting this response.  She always said this, but I still loved to hear it.  “Thanks, Mom.  I would love too,” I would say.  Then nonchalantly I would add, “What are you cooking?”  Again, I would cross my fingers hoping that I had picked the right day.

“Jambalaya.”

“Well, if you don’t mind.”  Unbeknownst to her, I was high-fiving myself in my kitchen.

Those evenings, I would enjoy a good meal and a few hours with my parents.   Upon leaving, I would be handed a Tupperware container full of my favorite meal.

“Mom, are you sure?”

My dad would chime in.  “Oh you know how your mother cooks.  It’s just the two of us, and she still cooks for an army.  Take it so I don’t have to eat it for the next three days.”  He would wink at my mother.

She would roll her eyes.  “Oh, Richie.  I don’t know how to cook any other way.”

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My husband does not cook often.  He makes a mean pork loin, and he can grill with the best of ’em.  However, his best recipe is his chili.  People love his chili.  Whenever we have parties, Tom makes it, and people will go back for bowl after bowl.

This past weekend, I was at my friend’s house, and somehow, Tom’s chili recipe came up in conversation.

“I love your chili,” Scott said to me.

“Oh, it’s not my chili,” I corrected.  “It’s Tom’s recipe.”

“Well, it’s delicious.”

“It is odd that you brought it up.  We were just at the grocery store today.  We bought the ingredients for Tom to make a batch tomorrow.”  I truly did think the timing was uncanny.

“What time is lunch?”

The next morning, Tom got up and started the laborious process of combining the ingredients.  (At this point, you are expecting for me to tell you what is in the chili, what makes it so good, but I am not going to do it.)

Around noon, it was ready.  I jokingly texted Scott from Tom’s phone.  Here is the succession of our conversation:

Me: The chili is ready for pick-up.
Scott: What, no delivery?
Me: Pick-up only.
Scott: What about dine-in?
Me: Sure

The conversation came to an abrupt holt.  No response, so I assumed he was just playing around, but something deep inside of me said, “He might just show.  He might come for chili!”

After washing the dishes, I decided I needed to run to Target.  You know, being low on toilet paper is never a good idea.  I ran up to the store and picked up a few items.  When I turned on my street 45 minutes later, Scott’s truck was in the driveway.  I was elated.

“You’re here!” I said walking into the livingroom.

Scott was watching the Ohio State game with Tom, enjoying a bowl of chili with Fritos in it.  (Okay, really?  You have never put Fritos in your chili?  It is heaven!  You can thank me later.)

“I heard you had a dine-in option, so I couldn’t resist,” he said.

Not only was he going to enjoy lunch with us, but he purposely brought a plastic container so he could take some home as well.

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Today, Tom told me that Scott asked him for the recipe.  I said, “No.”

“Why?” Tom asked.  I think he thought I was being selfish.

If you cook it, they will come, that’s why.”

Tom laughed on the other end of the phone.

“I mean it.  It is something people enjoy, and it is something that makes people want to come over and hangout with us.  So no, you cannot give the recipe away.”

When I hung up with Tom, I called Scott.  I told him the same thing.

“Okay,” he said.  “I would be happy to be a guest whenever Tom cooks it.”

Perfect.

Day 374: Will the New Julia Child Please Stand Up

I do not make New Year’s Resolutions.  I know that I should.  I know that they might offer me a goal or a focus, but I find that I am so busy in January (and all subsequent months, except for half of June, all of July, and half of August) that I break them before I ever really commit to accomplishing any goals.

However, this year I was forced to make a resolution.  We were having a traditional pork roast New Year’s Day dinner, and all the girls were talking about resolutions.

(By the way, Tom and I argued about when we were supposed to eat pork.  He said it was New Year’s Eve; I said it was New Year’s Day.  We were in agreement about not eating chicken, although something tells me that old wives’ tale is a bunch of malarkey– all of those tax credits expired, and man, I feel like we took a pay cut, and I definitely feel very scratchy!  Oh, but we compromised about the pork– we had it both days!)

Resolution conversation:

“I want to get two new dolls and a new stuffed dog.”  Maggie misunderstood the concept of a resolution; she thought it was more of a wish list.  She clearly is the materialistic one in the family.

“Maggie, it’s not about what you want it is about what you plan to improve about yourself.  I am going to help more around the house and keep my book bag cleaner, ” Carson said.

“And be nice to your sisters?” Tom asked sarcastically.

“Oh definitely,” she said politely.   Two weeks in? Her room is a pig sty; she has been more verbally abusive than she was in 2012; and, oh,  the clean book bag?  That lasted less than a week.

“What about you, Lizzie?  What resolution do you want to make this year?” Tom asked.

She tapped her chin with her index finger and stared for a moment at the revolving ceiling fan.  Then, in a ta-da fashion, she threw out her arms and made jazz hands.  “Nothing!  I’m awesome,” she declared.   We laughed and left it at that, although Maggie and Carson rolled their eyes.  You know in their heart of hearts they also resolved to knock their baby sister down a peg.

As for me, I decided on a resolution I actually think I can keep.  My goal is to prepare one new recipe a week.  You know how it goes when it is a two-parent working household, the menu starts to get repetitive and mundane.  Over the course of two weeks, we usually alternate the following dinners: tacos, pasta, chicken pot pie, chicken breasts, pork chops, and pizza.  Of course, I throw in the occasional homemade chicken noodle soup or lasagna, and Tom likes to make roasts on Sundays, but pretty much we have been stuck in a rut since it got cold and we stopped using the grill.  I promised myself that I would try one new recipe a week, and hopefully, I will add 52 recipes into the mix to flavor up the way we eat.

Last week, I made a pork cutlet and rice meal in the fry pan.
6 pork cutlets                                                      
1 T. oil                                                            
salt and pepper to taste                                       
10-3/4 oz can French Onion Soup
1-1/4 c water
1/2 c celery chopped
1/4 t thyme
1/5 cup long-cooking rice uncooked

Brown pork chops in oil.  Drain; sprinkle to taste with salt and pepper.  Add remaining ingredients and cover.  Cook for 20 minutes or until rice is tender.

Of course, Maggie and Lizzie hated it, but we forced them to eat what was “edible” to them.

Tonight, it was a broccoli fettuccine dish.  Not the lightest meal, but man was it delicious!
2 T oil
1/2 t. garlic salt
1 cup broccoli flowerets, chopped
2 T butter
12 oz pkg fettuccine pasta, cooked
1 cup chicken broth
2 egg yolk, beaten

Heat oil and garlic salt in skillet and stir fry broccoli over medium heat for several minutes.  Add remaining ingredients.  Cook and stir for two additional minutes.

Two weeks into the new year, and I am successfully following through with a resolution.  If anyone has a super easy, super yummy recipe they want me to try, let me know!  I might be the next Julia Child!