Tag Archives: food

Weight loss hygiene Part III: The company we keep

When I was at university, I had about a hundred different jobs, one of which was tending bar in a karaoke bar that sat alongside a Chinese restaurant in Oceanside.  We had these two regulars, who I’ll refer to here as Dave and Sam.  They came in absolutely every night.  The nights I worked, the nights I didn’t – they were there.  They always sat at the end of the bar, about two seats apart, Sam nearest the exit so he could go out and smoke.  My boss was this knock-out Filipina single mom in her late 30s, and I’m pretty sure they and every dude in that restaurant were head over heels for her.

Sam was really smooth – almost like something out of a movie.  He smiled, but never too much, and was only really nice after he’d had one too many, so usually quite late in the evening, when he’d started buying rounds and killing my tips (he was a very bad tipper).  He was in his late 50s or maybe even early 60s by that point, and he was always well-dressed, in slacks and a button-up shirt, never jeans – I doubt he even owned a pair.  He drank something classic – martinis I think, or maybe old fashioneds – and he didn’t talk too much.  He’d go crazy when I’d sing “My Funny Valentine” – that was how I won him over, actually – and though he was reserved, he was a good guy.

Dave, however, wasn’t reserved at all.  He was one of those guys who just exudes generosity and kindness.  Dave was heavyset – probably weighed just under 300 lbs – and didn’t drink a drop.  He was in recovery.  He didn’t smoke, either, as he’d quit that not long after he gave up booze.  So nobody gave him any trouble for chowing down on as much deep-fried bar food as he fancied…Dave had already made some very difficult decisions in the name of his health and wellbeing.

Here’s the thing:  Dave was a recovering alcoholic who spent every single night (except meeting nights) at a bar, and never drank. Still, he was addicted to food – maybe before he gave up drink too – I wouldn’t know – but I imagine it got a lot easier to eat too much after he gave up drinking and smoking.  Meanwhile, Sam was also most definitely an addict.  Don’t get me wrong – he was very responsible with his addiction, always handed his keys over when he needed to and was never disrespectful to anybody.  But he was in that bar every single night. And every night he put back at least 4 or 5 of whatever highball it was he drank.

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Get the body you want in only 2 1/2 years!

When Jamie Oliver famously (and somewhat successfully) tried to convince Britain via his preferred medium – the television documentary – that they needed to improve the quality and nutrition of school lunches, the reaction from some bordered on hostile.  People called him out for trying to tell them how to live their lives, how-very-dare-he and all that.  The media showed images of mothers passing fried chicken and chips through school fences so their little preciouses wouldn’t have to eat what someone else found good for them (though to be fair, the media probably jumped on those photo ops, and it was probably far less widespread than they’d have had us believe).

Food is a damned sensitive subject.  It is for me.  I’m betting it is for you.  It defines us culturally, socio-economically, and ethically.  It forms the foundation of almost every ritual we share amongst friends and family (particularly if we add drink into this equation).  We cannot live without it, and yet it kills far too many of us every year.  Corporations have corrupted it beyond recognition, and activists the world over have dedicated their lives to rescuing it (and consequently us) and bringing it back to the nourishing, life-giving thing it was meant to be.  Food.

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Second time’s a charm: Compote 101

Wintertime in (this part of) rural France is marked by many things:  coats and gloves, but more importantly scarves; apéros in more often than nights out; alternating wind and rain and snow; and food…lots of food.  France is a foodie country…I know – lots of countries can make that claim, but a few are just a little more so than others.  Ethiopia, Italy, China, Morocco, Mexico…these are countries known for their food.  France is right up there.

As a vegan there are, of course, all sorts of French nibbles in which I happily do not partake.  But there are two staples in near enough everybody’s fridge and freezer I could eat year-round if they’d let me: soupe and compote.  Now I realize that I could have spelled soup without an “e” and left the italics off it, but la soupe of which I speak is not something eaten by the average anybody-else, and it is eaten with a nearly religious reverence – it’s not quite borscht (borsch?), but almost.  Incidentally, there are those here who fervently hate la soupe.  Chris is one of them.

But la soupe is for another post.  Chris is coming back tomorrow.  And he does not hate la compote.  In fact, he’s usually (read: always) the one to make it.  I tried once.  It was going to be wonderful.  The apples were soft, but I was off to lunch at the in-laws.  I turned off the stove – swear I did – and came back a couple hours later to find the flat filled with smoke, my compote, and my – ahem – our Le Creuset pot ruined.  A scary, bad afternoon, that was.  But apples were 1€/kilo at the market last weekend, so I thought I’d give it another go.

This isn’t, ladies and gentlemen, your ordinary ol’ apple sauce – non!  Because you make it at home.  Because it’s hot before it’s cold.  Because you literally put sugar and spice into the pot.  This is compote.  I had no idea what I was doing in terms of quantities or timing, but it turned out perfect.  Which leads me to believe it might be pretty hard to mess it up.

Makes 2 big mason jars’ worth.

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Killer B Anti-PMS Vegan Super Salad

People constantly ask, as soon as they’ve learned I’m vegan, “But where do you get your nutrients?” as if fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes were devoid of nutritional value.  The truth is, as the years have gone by, being a vegan has become so easy, and although I did indeed struggle at first to eat properly, that had a lot more to do with bad eating habits and less to do with my ethical decisions about what I put in my mouth. Nowadays I find that I almost never worry about getting the right vitamins or enough calcium, iron, omega-3’s and protein.  I just have to eat the right things.

Still, I must admit that I struggle to get enough vitamin B.  I always have.  And, in spite of the myth many omnivores have spread prolifically that B vitamins are not accessible in plants, that is nowhere near the case.  B vitamins are quite easy to find in the vegetable kingdom, particularly in raw, dark green veggies.  And that is my problem.  Give me broccoli steamed, stir-fried, or boiled and I’ll eat it up greedily.  But raw has always been a bit tough for me. And, as most of the ladies reading this will know, a lack of B vitamins can lead to a number of annoyances, among them PMS-ier PMS.  In particular, it’s B1, or thiamine, and B2, or riboflavin, that we lack most in the days leading up to and during menstruation.

This month as that dear visitor started peering in my window and knocking at my door, I thought it was high time I put some of the stuff I’ve learned about food to the test and see if I could stave it off. To that end, please find herewith a delicious recipe I invented last night, and that everybody – man or woman, vegan or omnivore – would do well to eat once in a while, because it is good for you, but also because it is downright yummy.  Fiddle with the ingredient amounts to meet your needs and tastes – the amounts I’ve given are a bit of a shot in the dark because last night I prepared for one.  And bear in mind that every single ingredient (with the exception of the olive oil, lemon juice and pepper) is brimming over with B1, B2, or both!

Killer B Anti-PMS Vegan Super Salad (serves 4)

Ingredients

For the Salad:

6-8 green asparagus spears, chopped finely

1.5 cups peeled and finely chopped broccoli

2 zucchinis, shredded

2 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped (much more so than the broccoli and asparagus)

4 tbsp almond slivers

For the dressing:

6-8 tbsp olive oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon

4 tbsp nutritional yeast

Pepper to taste

Directions

Here’s the easy part:  put all the salad ingredients into a salad bowl.  Whisk the ingredients for the dressing in a separate bowl and pour it over the top of the salad.  For a bit more flavor (not that you’ll need it), you can throw in some fresh cilantro or basil.  Toss well and serve!

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Winter Vegetable Goodness (with a couple cheeky summer veggies for color)…

One of the things Chris and I have agreed is that in years past, while there are lots of things we’ve been proud of, eating locally isn’t always one of them.  Brixton Market was packed with vendors from all over the world – the Caribbean, South Asia, Southeast Asia, even Latin America – so while we indeed tried lots of new-to-us veggies from England, like parsnips and celeriac, we also sometimes found ourselves taking a few of those cute little mangoes from Sri Lanka, a couple chayotes (or cho chos) from Jamaica, or an avocado or three from Spain…

Living in the Philippines gave us an excellent idea of how much eating locally matters – not just to the environment, but also to the quality of the food.  The only comparable disparity between an apple bought in London and one bought in Manila is the reverse scenario including a pineapple…or mango…or banana.  At any rate, you get me.  The point is this:  we would really like to make eating locally a bigger priority, and to that end, I’ve created this entirely haphazard, mostly local (depending on your definition/location – some might say totally local, or not at all!) recipe I put together…it’s so incredibly easy, it’s ridiculous. Serves 4+.

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Tourists again…part one

So, many of you know my BFF, J, who has spent most of her life somewhere mid-flight between Ninoy Aquino and Los Angeles International Airports…OK – a bit of an exaggeration, but the truth is that my deep love for this crazy country is embedded in my deeper love for that girl, who has been my best friend, my bosom bud, my pain-in-the-ass and my confidant since the ripe old age of ten-and-a-half years old.  When I made my way to this side of the globe the last time, we were super sexy 18-year olds, and J had already found the man she would marry 12 years later.  Knowing my BFF as only a BFF can know another, and – as any of my dearest girlfriends will telly you – bearing in mind that when it comes to my girls’ men I can be as fierce as a momma lion, I can say beyond the shadow of a doubt that I loved G from the moment I met him, and could think of no man who was more deserving of the second-most important woman in my life.

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