On Decadence, and Moving Forward…

IMG_3999I am still running a bit amok in my new kitchen; here are the pies mentioned in the last post. Also on tap is homemade ice cream (very popular here in the house), and because ice cream leaves behind a lot of egg whites, an angel food cake is upcoming. I bought Meyer lemons on impulse last week; they are not long keepers, so a Meyer lemon sorbet is in the works too. A slice of light, airy, slightly sweet angel food cake with a scoop of bright yellow sweet/tart Meyer lemon sorbet will be quite effective in chasing the winter doldrums away.

At the risk of being predictable, I warn you; this is a “what have we learned/New Years’ Resolutions” blog post. I normally don’t make New Years’ Resolutions, because I am not into throwing myself into a pit of guilt for not keeping them, usually in the middle of February, the most depressing time of year in New England, when the winter seems endless and unyielding. Life is already grey enough without that.

What has changed my mind this year are the lessons I learned about myself and food during my personal long, dark teatime that was the kitchen renovation. What did I learn that is so remarkable?

1. Quantity: I can live on a lot less food daily than I believed. Having my choices limited by available prep space and cooking method, as well as being busy and tired, meant I ate less throughout the day, and when I did eat, I wanted to eat something worth eating, satisfying to the heart, soul, and stomach. Sometimes that was simply a well-made sandwich, or a bowl of rich, flavorful soup.

2. Flavor: I now understand, for real and for true, that for me, it is all about FLAVOR. We were limited to microwaving our food if we wanted it warm. There are a lot of microwavable food options to choose from, but most of them suffer from a lack of complex flavor, or no flavor at all, except for that frozen-food flavor that we all recognize but can’t put our finger on to describe it. You know it when you taste it. Un-freshness.  So when I did pull together a hot meal from the freezer section, I always looked for ways to spruce it up. When I am really jonesing for something to eat, texture is interesting, but it’s flavor that gets my crank turning. Even if a food is low in fat or salt, if it’s rich with spices, herbaceous, earthy, fresh, pungent, insert-your-favorite-flavor-word here, I feel satisfied, head-to-toe, heart-and-soul, FED. The week the range was installed, and I was finally able to roast some beets, I made Ottolenghi’s Beet Salad. It was the most flavorful dish I had eaten in weeks, and I reveled in it.

3. Delight: With my new appreciation for quality-over-quantity, I have made a resolution to consciously choose to eat what delights me, and only what delights me. I know there are people who are translating this into a statement of hedonist overindulgence, but that is not how it works with me.

When a food is complex and rich with flavor, I am happy to eat less of it, because my mental, emotional, and even intellectual hunger is sated just as my physical hunger is. The foods I mindlessly stuff into my face when I’m bored, depressed, or stressed out are neither complex or rich, and they don’t really satisfy any hungers I’m feeling when I eat them. They certainly don’t delight me.

So, for the last week, I have made a point of really thinking about the answer to the question, “What do I want to eat?”, and always trying to answer, “Something Worth Eating!”. It has gotten me thinking more creatively about my meals and snacks, and has stopped me in my tracks more than a couple of times, as I reached for the bag of chips, or the box of crackers. The real work here is going to be keeping the pantry populated with all the bits and bobs necessary to make my food “Something Worth Eating”. Fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, and ethnic condiments, paired with the willingness to do a little chopping and mixing, make even the simplest meal a more fulfilling one.

Frankly, I put on weight easily and have difficulty taking it off again, so if I’m going to eat it, it better be worth it. Decadence has a time and place, but it’s not what I crave from day to day. Flavorful, fresh, fantastic food is what I’m aiming for in the weeks and months ahead.

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