Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Woman in her Thirties Discerns

I made a New Year's Resolution this year to eat healthier. As anyone who is a teacher knows, eating well is very difficult to do in my profession. The whole 'three balanced meals' concept doesn't apply when you have 6 minute passing periods and 25 minute lunch breaks where you must supervise detention or plan for the next period. Nevertheless, I made myself a promise, and the bull-headed Taurus in me won't let me fail.

It has been a process. If I were smarter with this computer, I would create you a flow-chart. But since I'm not, I'll explain this way:

January, 2010: Read Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer
It is a well-known fact that I am sort of in love with JSF since Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. If I were single and Jewish, I might move to New York City to find him and destroy his marriage. I'm sorry, but anyone who can write like that is... wow.
Turns out JSF is a vegetarian, and while his book was not meant to push people into vegetarianism, he sure doesn't give a whole lot of reasons to keep eating meat. All-Natural? Organic? Cage-free? Vegetarian-fed? All tricks of semantics to keep you paying more for food, according JSF and his research. And I don't care how much open space a cow has had in his life, the idea that a large percentage are skinned alive does something to the psyche.
But while the idea of vegetarianism is appealing to me on some level, the woman in her thirties that I am knows that it's not feasible. Number one-- I like meat (well, some of it), specifically fish. In my book, God exists because She gave us sashimi. Number two-- the real love of my life loves meat the way that middle school girls love Justin Bieber. I'm not cooking two meals for dinner every night. No way. And Number three-- I tried vegetarianism for a year (the Catholic kind-- the kind where you can eat fish) and I was never unhealthier or fatter. Sure, I could do it healthier. I could avoid the mac and cheese on the dinner menu. But who am I kidding? I won't.
Solution: While I'm overwhelmed with the complexity of this dilemma, a woman in her thirties finds a happy(ish) medium. I'm going to try to cook one vegetarian meal a week. L doesn't know this yet. So, L, when you read this, please try to remember all the reasons that you love me.

January, 2010: Gave up the crap
When I think of the food that defined me in college, I think of these things: Coffee (thanks a lot, K), Cheese puffs, Pasta Roni, Cheese-Its, Easy Mac, Taco Bell, and microwave burritos. I think you know where I'm going with this.
I gave up caffeine last year, and while it was hard (and I do have the occasional relapse), I have felt pretty good about not depending on a chemical substance--albeit a delicious chemical substance-- to get me through the morning. But now that I'm 'eating healthier', I've also given up Coffeemate (Try reading the ingredients on the side of that bottle. I dare you.) and diet stuff. No diet soda, (no soda in general, except for the shui kind), no diet juices, no 'Zero-Calorie' anything. While you might think this would be incredibly liberating, it's actually quite frustrating. Just try buying yogurt (and NOT yucky Greek kind) without some kind of fake-sugar additive. And no cheese that comes in powder form or has a shelf life of over a year.
Solution: I'm a busy woman in her thirties, and it's annoying to have to go to two-three different stores to get the stuff I want to eat. I also don't know if it's worth it. But what I do know is that butter is a million times more delicious than 'I Can't Believe it's Not Butter', and I think that's because it's real.

February, 2010: Read In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollen
Michael Pollen is the Lady GaGa of the food world. I'm only about a third of the way through his book, but here's what I've learned so far:
1. Shop the perimeter (a very posh term nowadays), meaning avoid shopping in the center aisles of the grocery store and all the crap that's found there.
2. Eat mostly plants, which is really, really hard.
3. Eat things that your great-grandparents would recognize as food (which takes Flamin'-Hot Cheetos out of the grocery cart).
I am struggling with this book but remain riveted by it. Everything he says makes sense, especially the parts about eating food, as opposed to food-like manufactured things. But I don't know how to cook kale without making it taste like dirt, and I barely knew my grandparents, let alone my great-grandparents. Michael Pollen has made grocery shopping a stressful situation.
Solution: A woman in her thirties faces tough choices. She also must pick her battles. So instead of whipping out my iPhone to research the nutritional content of a red potato versus a brown potato, I'll just use that silly little thing called common sense that does not get its own chapter in any book, ever.

Which I think is the key. If I had a flow chart here, this part would be the part that meets back up at January. A woman in her thirties uses the all-natural noodle between her ears and eats logically. And, because I never knew them and I like the idea of it, not because they should dictate how I live my life, the next time I go to the grocery store I'll be taking Matilda, Frank, Carmela, Francis, Jean-Pierre, and Jean-Marie with me. They loved chocolate, I just know it.


  1. What are you going to do when you visit Optimista in the Lone Star State?

    Uncle H

  2. Interesting. I'm going to have to check out In Defense of Food.

    (By the way, I was wondering where "fire Cheetos" fell... I didn't see them referenced early on. Those were a STAPLE back in the day.)

  3. Good for you! You have inspired me to refocus my view of food. I read the ingrededients label on EVERYTHING. It is scary to see what's in there. So, I try to eat things without labels (fruits and veggies).