Archive for the ‘non-fiction reading’ Category

Jason outside of Cafe Hans in Cashel -- I think this was one of our very favorite lunch spots in Ireland

Lunch in Port Magee, Ireland: Seafood Chowder, Brown Bread, Hot Whiskey, Guinness

I’m very proud to state the following: I love food.  I love wine & hot whiskeys.  I don’t ‘diet,’ and therefore don’t count calories or fat grams. I don’t do anything fad-oriented such as no-carb eating.  I’m not vegan or even vegetarian.  BUT…I do put a great deal of thought into what I put into my body.  No question about it, health is one of my #1 concerns in life.  I love to eat (and drink!) and I love to feel good physically & mentally.  I eat for pleasure & sensuality, I eat for energy, I eat for life.  And a good wine can help with all of that too.  🙂

In August, 2009, the Riley-Rigby-Rooney clan embarked on a journey to & around Ireland.  A truly momentous trip…one of the best of my life.  At the airport, Jason & I purchased two of Michael Pollan’s well-known bestsellers: the Omnivore’s Dilemma & In Defense of Food (subtitled: Eat Food, Not too Much, Mostly Plants).  Jason read the former, I read the latter.  The irony here is that I spent a good 7-8 days eating my way through a very NON-plant-centric diet in Ireland, which was truly fantastic!   Lots of shepherd’s pie, Guinness stew (with beef or lamb), seafood chowder, brown bread with butter, the occasional fish ‘n’ chips, etc., etc.  Oh!  And porridge with Irish Mist or Jameson in the morning!  Garnished with milk & sugar, of course.  The Irish know how to cook, that’s for sure (quite opposite, I might add, from my & J’s culinary experience in Scotland, which was unfortunately horrid to say the very least).

Anyway, I’m not interested in giving a book report on In Defense of Food, but there are a few poignant morsels of information that I’ve carried with me these last few months.  Basically the main idea presented in the book is that, historically speaking, people who have followed ‘traditional’ diets (for most of us this means our ancestors and/or those who probably grow their own food, and consistently don’t consume processed foods with 500 ingredients, 99% of which have names we can’t pronounce…said foods wouldn’t have been around for our ancestors anyway) are by far the healthiest people on the planet.  (But processed food aside – I mean, really, did our ancestors do the no-carb thing?)

Anyway, I think a lot of this is common sense, but it’s always nice to have guidelines….Some of these are mine, some straight from Pollan’s book, more or less…

1.  Buy local food when possible (i.e. Farmer’s markets & such)

2.  Eat LOTS and LOTS of fruits & veggies, preferably organic.  Especially leafy greens.

3.  (Try to) stay away from refined flour — this was not about to stop me from enjoying the freshly baked baguettes from our December dinner excursion with Bert & Noel (see below for info on their amazing books) at L’Ecole, the restaurant of the French Culinary Institute on Broadway, btw. Broome & Grand.  Such a fabulous dinner!  We went home with FOUR baguettes.  🙂  🙂

4.  (Try to) stay away from refined sugar (This & #3 went out the window over the holidays and I do very occasionally indulge with a sugary treat such as candy corn or gummies).

5.  (This is more my own tip) Cook when possible, i.e. don’t go out so much…this is also economical!  And you know what’s going into your dinner.

6.  Try not to pig out.  This is a biggie for me since I find myself feeling like I have the appetite of a 16-year old boy.  Maybe because I’m so active???  Not sure, but I absolutely hands-down know how to EAT.  Alas, try not to pig out…even if you have run 6 miles that morning.

7.  This is obvious: stay away from processed foods, which for me is no problem since I’ll eat pretty much anything BUT chef-boyardee, cheese whiz, & wonder bread.  I do, however, like marshmallows.

8.  Don’t do fast food (sadly, I really think this includes a great deal of the food at places like Starbucks – even their fruit cups are pitiful.  Thumbs down to that, though I will give them credit for telling people the INSANE number of calories in one of their little muffins or cookies.  Sheesh.  I don’t count calories, but I’m not about to buy a 400+ calorie muffin from said coffee purveyor).

9.  I don’t have an exact number in front of me, but Pollan talks about purchasing foods that have very, very few ingredients, so I’ve been paying more attention to that.

10.  Last but not least, stay away from high fructose corn syrup.  Read the book for an explanation as to why (try not to let your eyes glaze over), but it’s nasty stuff for your body and the production of it has all sorts of seriously negative environmental implications.  I was shocked when I discovered that Special K with berries has corn syrup in it.  I haven’t had cereal in probably 4 months, though apparently Kashi makes a good health-conscious one.  I opt for oatmeal (but no, I don’t put Irish Mist or Jameson in it).

Ps — This isn’t hugely pertinent to New Yorkers, but try to stay in the perimeter (i.e. away from the center) of the grocery store.

Foodies abound in my family, I’m happy to say.  Another book to check out!  My “uncle” Bert Sonnenfeld (really my second cousin’s husband…I think that’s right) wrote the English edition of Food: A Culinary History (Penguin Books, 1999).  And Bert’s wife, Noel Riley Fitch, wrote Appetite for Life: The Biography of Julia Child and also has a gorgeous book with amazing photographs entitled The Grand Literary Cafes of Europe. She another gem entitled the Literary Cafes of Paris.  Thanks to Bert & Noel, I got to sit right across from Julia Child at a dinner in my freshman year of college.  Julia was giving a class at BU, so I think it was a student prepared meal perhaps???  I have a vague recollection of her forgetting to put the lobster in the soup, so I’m sure she was assisting the students.  I believe I also remember her talking about what a lovely person Yo-Yo Ma is.  🙂  What a memory!  Truly special thanks to the Riley-Fitch-Sonnenfeld pair!

I truly feel food should be good for you, yes, and enjoyed to the absolute fullest.  Food should be savored, shared, ritualized into our lives for health…and hedonism!  And I say this mostly for (what I think) are the crazy dieters — the no-carb eaters, the vegans, the macrobiotics — I don’t think some slices of baguette with yummy Saint Andre triple cream (in moderation) is going to kill you, particularly if you’re an active individual and you care about what you put into your body.

Best wishes for health, hedonism, & happy eating in 2010!  Let’s hope it’s a good year for wine as well.  🙂

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