I admit it. I think about food pretty much all the time. Always have. Probably always will. Much as I envy those lean, food-nonchalant aliens who look at the clock in surprise and declare their sudden hunger because gee, they haven’t eaten in hours, this has never happened to me. No matter how busy I am, I tend to be perfectly aware that it’s 11:30, 11:45, 11:50, 11:55, 11:56…oh good, noon, time for lunch!
The silver(ware) lining is this: Where I once thought constantly about food in a less-than-healthful way, like a plump raccoon frantic for scraps — what can I nibble? what can I nab? how many calories? is this a “fat” day in which I can’t eat much or a “normal” one in which I can? — now my food-think is calmer, happier, healthier.
Because I’m more focused on the food.
Take Saturday. I lounged in bed half-awake dreaming of my morning oatmeal until a wrenched back caused me to drift into oversleep. So when I finally got up it was more like brunch. I imagined a spinach-tomato omelet until the moment it materialized on my plate, with amazing wheat toast, all super fresh and worth the missed oatmeal. Then it was time to do the marketing. Time to survey what’s in season and plan dinner accordingly…the planning, buying, daydreaming about and then preparing of which pleasantly occupied thoughts straight through the afternoon.
Oh, that dinner! “Fast”-recipe risotto (above, which is still kind of slow, if worth the wait) with chives, parsley, and of course fresh grated Parmesan. Poached sea bass cooked with spinach, arugula, and chopped heirloom tomato. Wheat bread with walnuts and cranberries (not homemade this time, though that’s another post for another day). Fruit tart, with berries and peaches.
Just real food. Real easy. Real good. Reeeeeaaaaalllll good.
I credit spending a lot of time in the San Francisco Bay area this past year for this change of heart (er, stomach, and brain). I came there for work but discovered the food scene among its many bonuses (the others being the weather, the scenery, the great outdoors, and love, in no particular order). The markets there are full of farm-fresh produce with the farm name and location often written right on the sign under the price and the name of the variety. Local menus do the same thing, a practice I once thought of as precious but now see is borne of pride. We see corporate brand names all the time. Why not farm names? I’ve tasted, for the first time, blood oranges, persimmons, heirloom tomatoes (pictured below), Irish soda bread, slim Mediterranean cucumbers, champagne grapes, goat cheese, fume blanc, and the above pictured Acme Brad Co. walnut-cranberry levain bread (my favorite!)….
Back home in North Carolina, I can replicate the general idea (if not the exact breadth of the bounty) at farmer’s markets and produce sections of certain stores. Basic real food, fresh and unprocessed and seasoned with the tasty simplicity of sea salt and butter and herbs and honey, oh my! Not all at once, of course!)
Because it tastes better, I really taste it. Because I take the time to taste it, I want to spend more time anticipating it — and then savoring it afterwards. And if you’re going to think about food all day anyway, that’s a nicer way to do it.
I still never miss lunch. Or dinner. Or snacktime. But this new food-think has replaced my nervous whatcanieatnow noshing with a whole different set of questions — questions my ancestors closer to farm life would have found familiar: What’s in season (or what’s in the garden now?)? What’s on hand? What looks good? What goes with what? Which taste am I hungry for? Which combinations will look pretty on the plate? (The better the starter food, the less you have to do to it, I’ve discovered.)
Lest I sound too virtuous, let me make clear — as backed-up by my previous posts on peach cobbler and granola — I’ve not lost a sweet tooth. Don’t want to. I still snack. I eat dessert. I just figure if the starting ingredients are wholesome and good, even a less-than-perfect-for-you treat can’t be too terribly bad for you. As a result I still have “fat” days and “normal” days (and rare “thin” days), but thinking about my body this way is more hopeless cultural conditioning than the determining factor in whether I’ll let myself eat well on a given day. Amazing how much better you feel as the result of having overdone it on good bread and good fruit tart, compared with too many Wheat Thins and M&Ms. (Moderation another matter for another day.)
For you real farm girls, maybe none of this is a revelation.
But for somebody reared on Wonderbread, fried bologna, and everything in cans and boxes from the middle aisles of the supermarket, well, the fact that food is my friend is all a happy discovery.
Guess what’s for lunch? Leftover risotto, leftover sea bass, another heirloom tomato and some of the prettiest rainbow carrots….
…and then chocolate for dessert! That’s one thing they don’t sell at my local farmer’s market that I must have every day. Oh well, those beans grew on a farm somewhere, didn’t they?!
What’s for your lunch? (Moreover, what’s for dessert?!)