Sunday, November 21, 2010

Confessions of a Part-Time Vegetarian

A couple of years ago, I stopped eating meat.  I did it for the same reason that I run my car on Biodiesel.  I wasn't trying to make some grand statement about animal cruelty, although for the record, I'm against that.  I try to have a smaller carbon footprint.  I recycle, I have a composter (although it doesn't work that well) and I have about a dozen reusable shopping bags that I actually use.  I feel good about not being wasteful, or at least trying not to be too wasteful when I can help it.  This means I save my recycling at work as well and bring it home when it starts to overflow or cause a smell.  I enjoy doing these things and they make me feel good, but they don't make me a better person.

Here's the thing.  After a couple of years without eating any meat, I found I was craving some bacon.  Right, pork, which clearly is meat, but specifically bacon.  I just wanted a bacon sandwich.  If I thought about it enough, my mouth would start to water.  For awhile I ignored this craving.  I shouldn't be craving bacon, and it made me feel weak.

I gave this a lot of thought.  Should I not eat what I want?  Whose rule was this that I couldn't eat any meat?  I certainly didn't want to start eating loads of meat, but frankly, I felt like I had painted myself into a corner.  I was always careful to correct people when they called me a vegetarian.  I would tell them that I was no such thing, but everyone just ignores my protests and indignation.  It wasn't as if I was offended by this, it just wasn't true.  Even when I wasn't eating meat at all, I did eat some fish.   The last time I checked, fish weren't considered vegetables. 

So where does that leave me?  I gave in to my craving, and ate a nice bacon sandwich.  The bacon was of a specific kind, not that nasty Hormel crap.  Back bacon is the thing.  Proper British.  Couple of rashers, fried or broiled, slap 'em on some white bread, bit o'butter and maybe some tomato ketchup or HP sauce.  There's nothing like it.  That's led me down a slippery but delicious slope, as occasionally, such as a recent trip to NYC I had some lovely tapas that included Iberian ham.  Just a bit.  The thing is, I didn't feel that bad about it.  I wasn't giving in to a crack habit, after all. 

I'm not going to dole out advice about what everyone else should eat, but I think it's important to eat things that are good, and think about what you're eating.  Does anyone think about where that meat in your Taco  Bell taco comes from?  If they did bet they'd never eat one. 

As for me, I've become a part-time vegetarian, but to be honest that's what I already was.  And by the way, that bacon/heirloom tomato/avocado baguette I had yesterday was fucking delicious.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Back in Action!

I'm not a quitter.  More of a delayer actually.  Hence the gap between my last post and this. 

I went to Dallas you know.  Yes, the Dallas in Texas.  I've never been to Texas.  It's extremely flat.  I'm not exaggerating.  To be precise, I stayed in Frisco and visited the aptly named Plano.   I never saw one hill, not even an incline.  Everything looked brand new in a kind of Stepford-wives way.  The storefronts looked like a studio backlot, brand new but made to look old fashioned.  So many restaurants and shops but no one around.  Kinda creepy.  I went there on business, so not much time to explore, but I did go out to dinner one night.  Now this is where the adventure begins.  Let me remind you, dear reader, that I don't eat meat.  This anecdote means absolutely nothing to anyone in, say, Southern California or Seattle, but alas in Dallas it's an affront to everything they believe in.  They shudder with the very fiber of their beings when you utter a phrase like, "I don't eat meat".  So it is with some trepidation I walked into a restaurant called Twin Peaks.  Should have been safe enough, I'm a big David Lynch fan.  Surprise, it's actually nothing like that.  My first clue was that the hostess was dressed like a skanky lumberjack.  While for some this would have been a good sign, like people that eat at Hooters, but for me it's a sign that the food can't possibly be good because no one coming here would care about the food.
My co-worker, a nice Missouri farm boy, politely told he hostess that we needed to see the menu because, "she doesn't eat meat".  The reaction is cartoon-like:  Jaw drops to the floor, eyes bug out.

"You don't eat MEAT?"
The manager is called over. 
"She doesn't eat MEAT!"
The manager turns to me, "ma'am, you don't eat MEAT?  How about some chicken?"
My co-worker interjects, "chicken is MEAT"
The hostess pipes in, "you sure?"
Then comes the accusation, with the accompanying stink-eye.  "You a VEGETARIAN?"

No, I was not chased with pitchforks from the restaurant, it all ended well.  They had fish tacos on the menu.  You see, I am not a vegetarian, I do eat some fish.  The technical term for this is "pescatarianism".  But I don't really eat that much fish so perhaps I'm about 3/4 a vegetarian.   The meal was actually not bad and with a "girl-sized" wheat beer I was happy enough.  I would give it two stars, mostly because of the skanky outfits and lack of cherry pie.  Surely a restaurant named Twin Peaks should have cherry pie.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cured fat belly? Gettin' there.

Two weeks and a bit on the Fat Belly Cure Diet.  Beginning weight, 160.  Current weight, 152.  So, not the rapid weight loss predicted in the book (4-6 pounds a week) but a somewhat slow albeit steady weight loss.  I have to say the diet is easy enough to follow, and the sugar cravings have faded.  I hadn't been home for two weeks, and my husband remarked that he could feel my bones.  Yes, that's right, I've got bones.  It's the inches lost and not actual weight loss that makes a difference in how your clothes fit.  I'm not ready to buy new pants, but I will be putting on a belt.

As long as I have your attention, I thought I would mention a few things I've noted so far:
Portion sizes - they are huge.  There is no way you can go on this diet and still be hungry.  Take for example, the "First Class French Toast" recipe.  You get 4 slices of Ener-G Foods Light Brown Rice Loaf (made into proper French Toast of course by dipping in the usual egg batter seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg) plus 2 eggs-scrambled, 2 slices of bacon and two sausage links.  That's like and iHop pig out breakfast.  Ridiculous. I don't eat the meaty sides, but even without those it's a hearty portion.

Taste - recommended products and recipes are yummy.  I had my doubts, as there are many substitute condiments, etc that you have to purchase if you want to eat "normal" tasting food.  On the aforementioned French Toast, you can pour some sugar free maple syrup, brand name Joseph's.  There is a big section in the back of the book listing all the "carb swap" products you can purchase and what products they replace (belly-bad, belly-good!).  Nature's Hollow Sugar Free Ketchup is delicious.  I haven't done a side by side comparison, but you could easily not miss your Heinz.  I'm really fond of the Ezekiel bread, it's full of whole grains but not too much fiber, which can be a problem for some.  It toasts up very nice and if you can make a sandwich, you've got yourself a nice, filling meal. Seriously, who can't make a sandwich?

Sugar substitutes - the diet uses sugar replacements such as stevia and sugar alcohols, or sometimes both.  Stevia is an herb that naturally sweetens without calories.  Apparently, it was recently approved by the FDA for use in food and drink products.  I've been using stevia in my coffee for some time.  It's sweeter than sugar, so you need less, but I wouldn't say it tastes exactly like sugar.  It does the job, and now soda made with stevia is on the market, a brand called Zevia, which is widely available and as good as any diet soda on the market.  The other sugar substitutes include Maltitol, which is a type of sugar alcohol, a non-nutrative sweetener. Another you may recognize is Xylitol, which is often found in sugar-free chewing gum.  Sugar alcohols have fewer calories than sugar and don't cause cavities (hence, the gum!).  The problem with sugar alcohols is that if you consume more than 100g in one day, you may suffer from bloating, gas and diarrhea.  My mother found this out the hard way after eating more than a cup of Clemmy's ice cream at one sitting.  We now know why Jorge mentions that a serving of ice cream is 1/2 cup.  If you feel this is a measly dessert portion (and I would agree with you there), plop that ice cream on top of a Vitalicious Sugar Free Velvety Chocolate VitaTop which you've zapped in the microwave for 20 seconds.  Scrumptious!

Labels - you'll have to start reading the nutritional labels on everything you buy, and eat out a lot less.  The book teaches you what to look for on the label, but what about eating out?  Food served in restaurants is packed with sugar and bad carbs. It is possible to make good choices even when eating out, but it's certainly a lot more difficult than preparing your own food.  You might want to take a rest from eating out for awhile, and with the money you save, you can buy more "carb-swap" products, which can be on the pricey side.

There are many products listed I haven't tried, so I will keep you posted.  Evey product I've searched for has a website that lists where you can purchase them.  It doesn't appear that there is any product featured in the book that isn't readily available, unless you live in the middle of nowhere. 

Monday, January 25, 2010

Start your celebrations now, haggis is back!

That's right, haggis.  It's been banned from the USA for 21 years.  What is haggis?  I'm glad you asked.  Basically it's offal and oats stuffed into a sheep's stomach.  Offal.  Not awful, offal.  Well, actually, awful.  But that's not the point.  It's utter genius to take a sheep's heart, liver and lungs, chop it up with onions, suet, spices, salt, pepper and shove it right back into that sheep's own stomach!   Like a round little handbag stuffed with offal goodness.  Folklore suggests they were carried by Scottish cattle drovers on their long treks to take their herds to market.  Perfect packed lunch.  Here's a nice photo of a whole lot of them, note they appear to have belly buttons, creepy!

Haggis is fascinating stuff.  It's history dates back to at least 1520, the first record of a poem written about it.  Never before has a food item inspired such devotion.  Poems have been written about haggis ever since, most famously by Robert Burns, known as Scotland's national poet.  On Burns Night, traditionally held during the week of January 25th, poems about haggis are recited, songs about haggis are sung, everyone will be expected to eat the haggis, either before or after a lot of whiskey drinking (preferably after, so you forget what's actually in the haggis).

You may be asking yourself right now, why do I say haggis is back?  I'm glad you asked that as well, good question!  Haggis was banned from the US in 1989 at the height of so called "mad cow" disease hysteria.  All offal was seen as possibly infected with mad cow disease.  Presumably, sheep would have been fed other sheep, indeed perhaps they were even fed haggis, which would result in "mad sheep" disease.  This was never proven, but pretty much all meat from the UK was suspect.  What's truly sad about this is that we American's were robbed of not only eating haggis, but also haggis hurling (sorry, that's not actually what happens after you eat it, but competitive throwing of haggis), haggis eating contests and indeed, Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner, the fusion of Burns Night and Chinese New Year (brilliant!).  

The World Organization for Animal Health recently ruled that sheep's lungs are safe to eat.  Which is good news for anyone who was really hankering for sheep's lungs, because as a result, the US Department of Agriculture is currently drafting new regulations to allow the UK to import haggis into the US once more. 

As good old Robbie Burns said himself, in his "Address to a Haggis":

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.

If you'd like to read the whole thing, try to make sense of it, and get a translation, go here:

I couldn't have said it better myself.  Really, I couldn't. I have actually eaten haggis, and all I can say is that it was kind of bland and crumbly.  Since I no longer eat meat, I wouldn't touch the stuff with a ten foot cattle prod, but it's still fascinating.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dear California, I will miss you...kind of

I will certainly miss living in LA, it's been very unique.  The quirky local characters, the acceptability of shopping your pajamas, what's not to love? The locals are generally friendly, plenty of hellos, especially if you're walking a dog, even a surly Chihuaha.  In Arizona, passers by usually view you with suspicion, and neighbors can be outright hostile, especially if they're unsure of your political leanings.  The only folks here that don't return a smile or hello are the celebrities spotted at the nearby upscale grocery store, clearly annoyed at having to do their own shopping.  Ron Glass, probably best known for Barney Miller but lately for the underappreciated Firefly, why so glum?  Pictured is exactly the look I got when I gave him my "I'm a fan" smile.   Bob Odenkirk, funnyman and other half of David Cross, what's the deal?  So they're not following the number system properly at the deli counter, you're next in line after me dude, you can wait.

Everything changes when the locals get behind the wheels of their large automobiles.  Driving a small car, I quickly fell into a kill-or-be-killed mentality.  Survival of the fittest was never more evident than on the streets of LA.  Want to change lanes?  Just do it.  Don't signal beforehand as that will give them time to speed up and close the gap!  One morning I missed being t-boned by inches as a giant SUV raced through a red light at Franklin and Argyle. Who could be in that kind of hurry?  Funny thing was, by the time this happened I had experienced enough other close calls that it didn't even phase me.  No butterflies, nothing.  I just continued my drive to work as if nothing had happened.

I will really need to dial it back when I get home.  Need to have a road rage detox or something.  The only thing that even remotely compares to driving in LA is crossing the street anywhere near the Fashion Square Mall in Scottsdale.  Remember, if you see a luxury SUV approaching the crosswalk to turn right, don't assume that car will stop.  She's rich, in a hurry to shop, talking on the phone to someone really important and will not notice you.  She's had so many plastic surgeries, she probably can't even turn her head. I'm sure there's no one like that here.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Not the fat face diet, but it should be

Greetings from LA. Yes, my profile indicates I'm located in Mesa, AZ, however by strange twist of fate I find myself temporarily in LA. To be specific, Hollywood. I'm typing away from my mother's apartment on Beachwood Drive. It's probably the road you're most likely to run over a tourist on. They just stand in the middle of the road, trying to get that perfect photo with the Hollywood sign behind them.

Back to diets. I normally do not succumb to diet mania. Yes, I have some extra flab. I am American after all. The thing is, diets are a waste of time. How long do I want to eat grapefruit? Surely even a so called "cookie" diet would get old quickly (and I do love cookies). You're doomed to fail because you haven't made a lifestyle change, you're just denying yourself what you truly want, a sort of punishment really for letting yourself get podgy in the first place. We beat ourselves up all the time for the weakness that gets our bodies looking like the Michelin Man. We take horrible care of ourselves in this country. Constantly bombarded by images of fattening food and lolly-pop shaped actresses, the mixed messages are maddening. Anyone watching the Golden Globes from outer space must have wondered why Ricky Gervais didn't stop the whole thing and just passed out some sandwiches. Some of those actresses looked like they hadn't eaten in YEARS.

But I digress. I am not a dieter. I try to eat healthy, but I have a sweet tooth. I gave up meat about a year or so ago. No, I'm not a vegetarian. The technical term is pescetarian. Tell someone that though, and they'll look at you like you have 3 heads, or worse, think you said Presbyterian, or want you to explain why that differentiates you from vegetarianism. I prefer to just say I don't eat meat.  I've lost all patients with these people. You know, the ones who ask loads of questions, but do not listen at all to the answer you give them, preferring instead to just ask more inane questions.

Still, I haven't gotten to the point. I'm staying here with my Mom, quality time you see. She's a bit of a shut in, due to the fact she's going gray and has gained some weight after triple bypass surgery in 2008. No happiness can be had until weight has been lost. She constantly frets about her weight, trying various diets without success. Some were pricey home delivery of pre-prepared foods, one called Susan's Healthy Gourmet, cost per month, approx $900. Another, the Zone diet from Fresh Direct, cost per month $1000. Adkins diet, this one also got pricey as well, as she ended up eating loads of Parma proscuitto. Susan's Healthy Gourmet had tasty salads (I tried one myself), but the rest of the food was pretty horrible. Bland. I didn't try the Zone (again, don't buy into these fad diets), but according to Mom, the food was pretty good. Adkins, well don't get me started on that. No one stays long term on any of these diets, especially one where you eat loads of proscuitto and end up not being able to poop properly.

This is where everything goes in a surprising direction. Mom has a new diet book. I feel myself overcome with the urge to mock it, why another diet book for your fat belly?  No one wants a fat ass cure diet, that's for sure.  Fat asses are very much in demand, except by lolly-pop shaped actresses.  What about the fat face diet?  Many of us suffer from the fat face, head like an orange, etc.  The back boobs and/or back fat?  They are rampant.  What about the dreaded cankles?  There is a serious lack of diet books targeting these areas, not sure why.  With only a couple of weeks to go before Mom is in NYC and I'm back in AZ, I figure, have a look at it, don't be so judgemental. It's called The Fat Belly Cure Diet. A fellow named Jorge Cruise is grinning mercilessly on the cover. He looks kind of buff but has a strange hairdo. I do notice the book is spiral bound, which I like. I've always thought more books should be spiral bound.  Nothing more annoying than forgetting to mark your page and the non-spiral bound book shuts itself (just to spite you), losing your page.  anyway, Mom starts telling me about the book, how it has easy and tasty looking recipes, easy to follow, and then, she starts talking about what you can eat on the diet. Clearly the diet has been based on the glycemic index. Whole grains, good carbs, strict limits on sugar. I'm instantly interested. Could this be a diet book that actually encourages a healthy eating plan? I've been trying to turn Mom on to these concepts already, so I immediately volunteer to go on the diet with her. Everyone knows that a true lifestyle change only works if you get everyone in the household to go along with it.

We've just finished the first week. I am 4 pounds down, Mom a couple. She's not convinced it's true weightloss from the diet, as she's also had the squits a couple of times this week. Not connected with the diet, I assure you.  Only one problem so far, I think I have lost 4 pounds from my ass.

So, dear reader, I am sharing with you our progress on this so called diet, which I hope it will be a life-style change.  Here's a link to aforementioned book, and stay tuned: