about bliss

Sunday, March 26, 2006

eating zen

Last night I challenged myself to eat mindfully--that is, without music AND, most significantly, without reading. I sat, alone, with my bowl of food and concentrated on eating. Lucky me, I created a tofu-broccoli-carrot-ginger-garlic-stirfry (a reprise of dinner a few nights ago), and ate every last morsel using my polished bamboo chopsticks, which aided in my zen-like venture. Eating with new utensils entails learning to eat in another way, finding the rhythm of the meal change with the awkward slick and slip of the chopsticks. I’m improving!

I was inspired to use my lovely chopsticks (purchased at a boutique in Auburn that I dearly miss) last fall when I went to eat with M and S, who are both adept at using them (M having lived in Japan for a year, and S a devoted Buddhist). Now whenever I create a stirfry, out come my chopsticks, and each time I’m that much better at trapping vegetables and bits of rice and transporting them to my mouth. The rice remains a challenge, but it’s one that increases the pleasure of the meal, slows down the pace, and allows me to truly taste each bite.

As friends would tell you, I’m a silverware freak, using utensils to eat pizza (which seems almost prissy, I know). My rationale has to do with the heat of the pizza, and not wanting all the hot cheese and toppings to slide into my mouth at once. I like to prolong the pleasure of cheese in each bite. Now, when I’m home alone, I’ve been known to eat a bowl of steamed broccoli with my fingers, popping the delicious stalks into my mouth like sweet treats. So my silverware use depends on the food and the moment
Last week I shared dinner with an Irish bloke, and noted his distinct silverware usage, the fork held completely differently in the left hand, rather than in the right. How much we learn of cultures as we sup with one another!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

good food day

You know how some days are good hair days, which makes the whole day simply pleasant? Today was a good food day...

Breakfast: Pancakes “from the pantry,” a recipe from my Aunt B for a dry mix, which includes oats, whole wheat flour, and cinnamon. I added some applesauce and pecans, and topped the finished pancakes with maple syrup. Add my usual half a ruby red grapefruit, a glass of orange juice, and a cup of coffee with milk and sugar, and the breakfast was perfect.

Lunch: My favorite winter salad of red leaf lettuce, oranges, shaved parm-regg, shallots, balsamic vinaigrette, ground black pepper, and sea salt; home-made oven fries; and a red pepper and red onion frittata. Two squares of Michel Cluizel Concepcion chocolate.

Between class snack: Whole wheat banana pecan muffin.

Dinner: Crispy Tofu stir-fry with carrots, broccoli, scallions, ginger, garlic, and a tamari/wine/red pepper/brown sugar/orange juice glaze. Served over brown rice. Eaten with chopsticks.

Post-prandial snack: Hot chocolate with Bailey’s and a cream biscuit.

Ahhh....amidst a busy week and a messy mind, I locate a spot of bliss and carve out a bit of calm in a few simple, delicious treats.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

comfort food

One of the major tensions I see between foodie culture and the culture at large seems to be the role of food and emotion. Foodies openly profess a genuine affection for food as emotional sustenance, pleasure, and spiritual transcendence. In much health, fitness, and self-help writing, food and emotion has a negative connotation of “emotional eating.” And certainly, like any substance, food can become an unhealthy obsession in a variety of ways. Nearly everyone I know has a complex relationship to food, and these relationships are all valid and need to be honored.

I’ve been thinking of this lately, because several of my dear friends are facing challenging times, and I wish I could sweep away their suffering. And in some situations, there are real limits to what one can do, and so I find myself speaking the language of comfort through words, which seem to fail me at these times, and through food, a language of care and sustenance. A homecooked meal shared with friends creates a space to share the suffering and sustain the soul. A basket of homemade biscuits and jam communicates a moment of assuagement. Or so I hope.

This is the real meaning of comfort food, more so than the ubiquitous Ben and Jerry’s in the face of heartbreak, or my personal favorite, homemade mac and cheese on a day when the world seems an amalgam of the blues and what Holly Golightly calls “the mean reds.” I hope that when I speak food, others can sense my compassion, my desire to share their suffering and offer even a moment of comfort.

Friday, March 17, 2006

hot and spicy in hotlanta

Last weekend I journeyed to the blooming landscape of the South to escape into the woods with J and M, and to revisit some of my old haunts. While the culinary adventures while hiking are somewhat limited by one’s inclination to avoid unnecessary weight, I did manage to sneak a few of my favorite goodies into my food bag: a hunk of parm-regg to grate over pasta and dehydrated veggies; another chunk of cheese, a dry jack, to add to our black bean salsa couscous burritos; and my personal stash of chocolate, including a Vosges Barcelona bar, Vosges Black Cat bar, and my default fave, the Michel Cluizel Concepcion bar.

The backcountry adventures were bookended by culinary delights in the city. On Friday, we ventured to an old standby from grad school days: Mellow Mushroom. I delighted in warm, soft pretzels fashioned out of pizza dough and brushed to a glistening sheen with butter and then sprinkled with grated parm. I drank two huge glasses of Southern sweet tea, and enjoyed my pizza with green peppers, spinach, and feta. I wish I could’ve taken my leftovers home with me!

And Monday, due to a complexity of factors of changed plans and mysterious trails (“what happens in North Carolina stays in North Carolina...”), I was back in Atlanta by noon, and by 12:30 I was drinking in the fragrance of thai spices at Tamarind, my favorite Thai restaurant. I ordered my usual: iced tea (unsweetened), spring rolls, and mixed vegetable curry. My body was shivering--a combination of air conditioner shock and the lingering chill of the woods--while my mouth was shimmering to life with the gentle heat of the spring rolls and accompanying sauce, and then sweating with the more pointed warmth of the red curry sauce. Yummmmmmmmmmm.

I glanced at my watch, and with 3 hours left before I needed to be at the airport, I decided to drive around Midtown in search of Jakes, an incredible ice cream place I had been two years before. After 15 minutes of navigating the one way streets, I found my spot, pleased with my memory recall. Though there have been some slight changes in the ownership, the dessert itself was as delicious as I remembered. Shivering once again, I settled in with a dish of half ginger (a nice lingering finish to my Thai meal) and half cinnamon coffee, replete with flecks of espresso and spice...

A quick trip up to the shopping mecca known as Lenox Square mall completed my tour de Atlanta, and I hit the trifecta of favorite shops: Sephora, Bloomingdales, and Anthropologie, before steering the rental car through late afternoon traffic and back to the airport. I soaked up the last bits of sunny Southern warmth, before slipping on a jacket over my tank top and changing my flip-flops to running shoes. I stepped into the airport, and awaited my return to the great lakes, where winter still reigns, though Spring tenatively throws out an occasional invitation, like the tease she is.