Tag Archives: food

Pressing Pause: The Morning Before I Finished My Book

late summer nightsAnother weekend day and I’m inside, again. It’s the push to complete my book. It’s been a very, very productive weekend and I can almost taste the conclusion.

I’m pressing pause, because in a few hours this emotion may never exist again. Last night I gave birth to my first-ever book cover. Self-designed. In fact, except for a few place-holder type stock photos I’ve purchased, 100% of my first book will be by me. Self-edited, written, photographed, tested, designed, published. I felt like a kid at Christmas when I finished my long day yesterday and I could finally see what my book would look like. It finally felt real.

All Is Not How It Seems

I can fake it till I make it like the best of ’em, but inside it’s a totally different vibe going on.

Truth is, I have had very low confidence when it comes to learning new things ever since I had my head injury a decade ago. When I say “low confidence,” I cannot convey to you how low it can go. It is the “limbo” dance of self-worth, honestly. But that’s not me per se, and is rather the head injury. It’s hard to logically fight that though.

I’ve had panic attacks and other disconcerting events when “learning new things” looms. This working-toward-self-employed thing better work out, because the idea of ever having to be new at a workplace again terrifies me.

That’s just how that rolls. I know it, I accept it, and the older I get, the more I understand it.

I also know the only way to get over a lack of confidence is to move through it. Do it, make it happen — even if it’s because of a head injury. My fears were crippling for a long time. What came first, the writer’s block or the crippling anxiety? Hmm, it’s like the ebook-writer’s riddle of the 21st century.

Long Time Comin’

When I moved to Victoria in 2012, this was already a goal — to do a cookbook. It’d been the “dream” for over a year at that point. The sad thing is, why I wanted to do a cookbook was because I lost my mojo with writing. Couldn’t think of something to turn into an ebook. Any idea I had didn’t seem to have teeth to it. And what did I really have to say, anyhow?

Unbeknownst to me, writing a cookbook was way more expensive than I expected it to be, with all the recipes needing cooking 2-3 times, and such. And then there was the redundant nature, having to return to the same thing repeatedly. I fucking hate redundancy. Oh, lord.

When I write, I write and I move on. I reread it a few times that day, but then I move on. With a cookbook, it’s back over the same thing in so many ways — photographs, retesting, tweaking ingredients, and so forth. Get something “off” and it’s not just a matter of re-writing a paragraph, it’s re-budgeting, re-shopping, re-spending, re-cooking, re-eating, re-cleaning, re-writing. It can be a couple weeks before resolving the one thing.

Once I finally came up with THIS theme of summer recipes in April, a more cohesive idea hit and I finally stopped feeling like I was flailing. Direction, at last, was a beautiful and motivating thing. And the food was all stuff I’d be wanting to eat in coming weeks anyhow. Brilliant. (Which is why I have a list of recipes to make as fall approaches, for volume two in this series. Ay! I’ve created a monster!)

“Just Did It”

As a kid, my mother used to tell me that every time a new thing got hard, I turned and quit. I didn’t have follow-through, she called it. And I’d need it, she’d say, if I ever hoped to be a success. Yes, Ma.

So here I am, at the start of a day where I hope to see myself finish the book off. A book that’s been in the back of my mind for three years, maybe more. Some delay through the fault of fear, some through laziness, but most because I’ve just been working too much for other people.

Now it’s time I work more for myself. I really owe a huge thanks to EVERYONE who has been encouraging me since 2010 to write some ebooks. I’ve got some pretty amazing friends and fans and followers. Hugely grateful. Y’all fuckin’ rock.

And hey, look, Ma. Follow-through.

My cookbook will be available on this site within a week — I’m waiting on an ISBN (number) and then it’s up for grabs! $5, 60+ pages, over 25 recipes, loaded with photos. This “fish and chips” recipe below is yet another one included inside — halibut baked with young kale and leeks. I’ll amend this post when presales are arranged!

Kale & Leeks Fish en Papillotte

A Carnivore Ruminates: Thoughts About Balance

Food. Some eat to live, others live to eat. Either way, it’s the source of life.

The Chinese believe in the Chi of food. Eat food from the place you’re from, and you get Earth-drawn energy to live upon the place you’re in. It’s a circle-of-life thing.

Me, I clearly live to eat. Lately, too indulgently and without balance. Sproing goes the waistline this summer, I’m afraid. And that’s no good.

Living to eat and doing it badly is an ironic way to embrace death. I’m certainly better than I’ve likely ever been as an eater, but it’s a constant act of re-education, and the more I learn and deprogram myself on the white-food-rules upbringing I had, the further I’ve yet to go.

I had a bit of a Twitter spanking as I tongue-in-cheek suggested I get great pleasure from seeing former Vegan/Vegetarian people going back to meat. I explained that it vindicates my belief that vegetarianism and veganism are somewhat unnatural.

Then again, entire cultures, like the Hindu, go their whole lives without food that comes of taking a life.

I get that. But I’m Irish and French. It’s just never gonna happen chez Steff. I mean, really. If we weren’t supposed to eat meat, it wouldn’t be so tasty.

It’s that simple.

But it’s good meat that’s tasty. Meat raised under ethical conditions, raised eating real food, not stuffed with commercial feed, who have access to pastures, live naturally, and are slaughtered compassionately, then processed with care by people who value the product and the life given to provide it.

Give me a steak by a grow-factory, slaughtered en masse without empathy, processed on a conveyor belt, versus a local farm-raised product, slaughtered the old-school way, and hand-trimmed, with both prepared and cooked the same, and I’ll tell you on the first bite which is which. Easy. Done. It’s right there. That je ne sais quoi of having been raised ethically and killed compassionately.

There are lamb in Spain who get walked — WALKED! — on a 650+ kilometre trek across the mountains, feeding on grass as they go, birthing, mating, living like they should, being sight-seers for many weeks before they meet their end. That’s something you taste. Real grass grown from valley to valley, by river and stream, under olive trees and by grapevines. It’s all there in that lamb.

The French believe in terroir and how it applies to not just wine like most people think, but to everything from meat through to oysters. You taste the land that the food comes from. Like where you’re born imprints you, so too does it to the meat and seafood and everything else we consume. Like those Spanish lamb I think would surpass any I’ve ever had.

Yum.

It’s a beautiful thought, that this interconnectivity runs through everything around us, and that we can choose to focus on more seasonal, local produce and it’ll not only be of better quality, but also of better Chi, of better terroir, and even just better for the environment, and ultimately more fulfilling for our soul.

As I reflect on food and what it means to me this week, I know where I’m going wrong with my diet is simply too many carbs and too much meat. I won’t go paleo or Zone or Atkins or any of those faddish diets. I just want to find a balance that works for me — ethically, tastefully, healthily, and financially.

I will never eat what I don’t enjoy, and I’ll never omit things like juicy steaks, cheeses, or other great food-of-love things that transport me when I eat them. Life’s meant to be lived, not survived.

There’s a perfect balance of finding flavour yet eating a diet that makes your body happy, and that’s the balance I’ve lost.

I’ll be eating less meat, less cheese, but when I have them, having far better quality. At the same time, I want to explore vegetarian dishes from around the world, particularly from places where they manage to go entire lives without meat, because clearly they’re doing it properly.

I’ve known people who’ve been extreme vegetarians, who did it balanced as best as one can, but who ultimately returned to the Meat Side when they ran into energy problems when being more active (like a boxer I knew, and a hardcore mountain cyclist). I don’t believe one needs to omit anything completely (except when allergic, obviously) to live an “ethical food” life.

Yet we as a society in the West eat meat to excess and a compromise would be good. I’ll attempt a 50% vegetarian week. I’m sure there’ll be weeks I fail, but I’m probably meat-eatin’ 6 days a week now, if not 7. That ain’t no good.

There’s one thing I can’t argue. That’s the issue that raising meat, farm or factory, creates a lot of methane, which is hugely responsible for global warming. If the world went vegetarian tomorrow and commercial meat production ended, we’d probably see a drastic difference in climate change quickly. This is true. Irrefutable.

So, mandate methane capture and conversion. Let’s solve that problem. Let’s have our cake steak and eat it too.

Because, to me, every cow is sacred, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want it salted and grilled.

Food: The Battle That Never Ends

One of my weekly addictions now, pun intended, is Extreme Makeover: Weight Edition.

It’s exactly what it sounds like: A person is ideally supposed to go from morbidly obese to, well, much less.

The most “extreme” episode I’ve seen spent the year with a man named James who began at 651 pounds and lost 313 pounds in 12 months. The first three months, the trainer, Chris Powell, lives with the show’s focus person. After that, the “contestant” is on their own but for the equipment they’ve been left, quarterly check-ins, and emails/phonecalls.

[Spoiler ahead.]

This week’s episode had 9 months invested in one morbidly obese man, who began at 490 pounds, lost 110 in three months, then 21, then gained 60 in the third quarter.

His food addiction came back stronger than ever.

The end of the episode had him checking into rehab 70 pounds below where he started, but 60 pounds over where he was after 4 months — and emotionally broken.

This is something I wish would shut all the cynics up who see weight-loss success on TV and go “Oh, but they had professional help, of course they lost weight.”

You know what? I don’t buy that. It works for a while, sure, but a show like this, it conveys that, left to our own devices, even with all the tools and means at our disposal, failure can find us because we’re our own worst enemies. Every person goes to bed alone in their heads.

Many people regain all their weight back, and even more, when life gets hard, because we’re usually heavy through unhealthy eating addictions that involve masking emotions or failed communications.

Enough About Them, Let’s Talk About Me

I’ve always been food-addicted, but I’m considerably less so in my old age. It’s still a problem. It probably always will be.

That I’m a pretty fucking confident cook sure as hell doesn’t help, but my ability to research and learn the science, well, that does help — a lot. I educate myself from time to time as well. Being a good cook means I take control, and I do so in an often-satisfying way with foods that are ultimately less addictive than fast food and commercial preparations.

Luckily, I somewhat like being active. If I weren’t so goddamned injured so often, I’d be unstoppable, and I’d probably get to keep eating the way I love but would continually lose weight doing it. Fortunately, I eventually battle past my distractions and usually maintain.

That’s me. And I know it’ll be a lifelong struggle. Fortunately, every year I get a little smarter about it, and have done that recently in the face of times that might’ve taken me down a more personally-destructive path in the past.

An Environment Created for Failure

The thing is, food’s an incredible struggle. It’s the hardest addiction in the world to overcome. It’s everywhere. Even skinny people drool over pictures like it’s porn. We even talk about the sexual ways we satisfy our hunger, we have “food orgasms,” we celebrate every holiday around a table, we communicate over tables, we have a national bacon dependency, and now we have sharing apps for cellphones that are all pictures of high-falutin’ drool-inducing food, and everywhere we turn is advertising showing the most sinful burgers and cookies and pastas and pizza (but read this about the dirty tricks photographers use to make that food look so yummy).

In this highly food-pornified world, losing 10 pounds is a massive achievement for some. Losing 313 in a year, no matter who’s helping you, even on a TV show, that’s absolutely mind-boggling — if done through weight and healthy eating, that is.

Add In Being Affected by Life’s Demands…

And putting a few pounds on in any given month or year, well, that’s human. Failing utterly? Also sadly human.

For me of late, I’ve not really been worrying about food, exercise, or whatever. I’m rehabilitating a back injury that scared me more than anything has in years. I had a week in April that was the darkest of my life. All I care about is NOT BEING THAT, and paying my rent. I’m rehabbing, getting my life under control, and that’s all the achievement I require right now.

In saying that, the last 10 months has included enough chaos that all I want to do is get into a routine where being active truly IS my lifestyle, and eating reasonably IS my way. That’s it. I want something I can follow for the rest of my life. I lost 70 pounds in a year doing it that way, I know I can get back to it, too, once my routine’s back.

Anyone who says weight-loss is easy during unemployment isn’t a stress-eater.

During my year of being often under-employed, I had pneumonia followed by a cancer scare that turned into a “dunno what that was, but it ain’t cancer” dealio, followed by blowing out my back. That I only gained eight pounds in two years since my drastic loss is fucking awesome, given my history of overeating for emotional reasons.

It is an addiction, and this has been the hardest year for fighting it. Have I won? No, but if this were a fairytale and the Big Bad Wolf was trying to get into grandma’s house, then I’ve been fighting that fucker back with a big-ass stick. He hasn’t gotten in, but I haven’t gotten around to doing much else with my time, either, time-consuming as fighting wolves tends to be, and all.

It Doesn’t Need to Stay That Way: Ebb & Flow

I’ve noticed in the last couple of weeks, as my stress has gone down, as my back injury has finally gotten to a livable place, that my tendency to eat excessively, and too often, has just naturally slowed down, as have my cravings. I’ve not been eating GREAT all the time, but I’ve really not had too much on the average day, either. I also find myself avoiding sweets or feeling compelled for pastries.

The effort now is to simply be more active in my food choices– making more effort in cooking it so I’m not just eating food but, if I overeat, I’m wasting my time and money. Instead of buying bread, the plan now is to make my own for a while instead of buying huge baguettes to indulge in. Every meal needs some kind of veggies with it, preferably more than half the meal being veggies. Using less fat again, I’ve cut back on cheeses, there’s no cheddar in my house (fact: “cheddar” is Canadian for “crack”). I had chocolate during my “girl time” but haven’t felt cravings outside of that.

I don’t care who might think I could’ve done more or I’ve somehow failed myself because I put a little weight back on instead of continually taking it off. I don’t think of it like that. I think of it as “success interrupted.”

What I know about myself today is, I can get through everything that’s happened in the last year (and that short “pneumonia-blah-blah” point there barely skims the surface, as we all know life’s more complicated than big talking points), and gain back only 12% of the weight I’d lost up till 2009, well, that’s not too shabby for an emotional-eating food addict when the odds are better that I should have gained it all back. I kept 88% off, yo!

I’ve been more aware, even in my failings. Now I need greater awareness. Thankfully, it seems to be rising in me, and the stressors seem to be falling.

That’s the ebb-and-flow of life. Like Rocky Balboa says, it’s about getting hit and knocked down, but keepin’ on moving forward.

When I see a man, in life or even a show like that, reduced to tears in his failures, knowing he’s let down his beautiful little girl and wife, checking into rehab and facing all those demons… well, for me, being knocked down but moving forward feels like it’s as good an accomplishment as I need.

We should all remember that. Setbacks are great, if we learn from them and treat them as practice against being defeated in the future. Welcome to life, where we don’t always get it right, but we almost always get a second shot.

Failure photo from Mindthis.ca.
Hand photo from Haley Bell Photography.

Sex & Food: Together Again?

I’m a foodie. Yes, I am.

And I got to tell ya, he prospect of regular sex has begun to loom, and this excites me considerably. Sets me all a-flutter, truth be told. But, you know, for all those strenuous hours of fun that potentially loom, one requires fuel. Enter food.

So I’m not sure what excites me more at this point — the prospect of regular sex, or the possibility of having someone to cook for again.

I’m a sensualist in every way. For example, my apartment is great and comfortable and is geared to stimulate every sense and look good whilst doing it. Loves me some music and candles. My food tastes run from down-home to exotic. I have a sophisticated palate, technical skill, and can invent food on a whim that’d blow your mind. I came damn close to going to culinary school back in the day but realized I didn’t want to work THAT hard for a living.

I’m also a Slow Food fan. I believe life moves quickly, and that food is important to us. I think we lose soul when we stop valuing food. I think we lose passion when we stop eating things that excite us.

I love the notion of Slow in all aspects of life — from sex to food to living. I’m present here and now in all areas of my life. I want my food to be of my time, I want to eat fresher, eat more clean food that I know I’ve prepared from scratch. I want local produce, quality meats and fish. I want artisan treats. That’s Slow.

But… when I’m single for too long, then a nice meal becomes the exception. I take shortcuts. I embrace things like Hamburger Helper and Sidekicks or sandwiches/panini or soups I eat for six days. I mean, it’s flavourful-functional, at best.

When I’m involved, however, I’m both a sensualist and a show-off. Perhaps a Moroccan chicken pie with organic greens? Maybe risotto and lamb? And while the lover of mine gets to enjoy the dividends… my life is richer for it, too.

Even better yet is when said lover is similarly a skilled foodie, because then we can tool around in the kitchen and spend the night nibbling fantastic things along with each other, and savouring good drinks. My god, does that titillate me.

There is absolutely nothing in the world I enjoy better than staying home with a lover and locking the door for a weekend, cooking fantastic food at lazy intervals between real-frequent and varied sex, napping when necessary, and catching up on movies during meals and lulls. The original rinse-and-repeat experience. And repeat, and repeat.

With the right company? Fuck, there’s no better time to be had. At home, anyhow. It’s the poor person’s vacation.

People who don’t think sex and food are intricately linked… y’all are doin’ it wrong.

It’s not a matter of taste. You’re just wrong. Flat-out. Inarguable.

(Sex + food) is like (peanut butter + chocolate). It seems like it’s always been a winning combination, and always will be.

Whether it’s Cleopatra feeding Anthony grapes from a silver platter in ancient Egypt, Adam enticing Eve with an apple, or you slipping your lover chocolate-dipped strawberries in the here and now with a champagne kicker, food hits a different kind of erogenous zone, but it hits, baby.

Besides, it’s fuel. Fill me up and watch me go-go. Sigh. Oh, the possibilities.

__________

*PS: Yes, I’ve lost about 50 pounds. I don’t feel like I’ve been dieting. I work out a lot. I could lose more weight faster by eating less and pretending cheese and alcohol don’t exist. But why would I do that? Fucking hell. Diets are for people who like to take pain. Just silly. Instead, make healthier choices and be aware of calories burned v taken in. Simple. I’m better at math than I thought. :)

If it takes me another year to lose the other 50 pounds (this 50 took 8 months) but I’m eating cheese, pizza, sausages, and drinking booze regularly, then fucking A. All the power to me. I’d much rather health-fully indulge (my choices are better and when I do go off the hook, it’s in moderation) and feel like I’m alive than feel like I’m cutting myself off from life with deprivation. I don’t do deprivation well. So, eat? I will. Might even have seconds. But I’ll deal with it the next day. See? Work ethic! :)

Things I Love to Do, and Can, ‘Cause I’m Single – #17

Leaving work early, like I have something important to rush off for, but, really, all I want to do is have a dinner date with myself: Get to a local Farmer’s Market before it closes, buy ingredients for a as-yet-undecided very in-season gourmet meal with fresh local Coho salmon, heirloom tomatoes, a bottle of wine, and some artisan bread. Then, cooking the best meal I know how, with my incredible just-harvested organic produce… and getting a little drunk. Hicc.

[I blogged about my culinary adventure on TLD.]

(Check the comments for the complete list, amended with the latest reader additions. Leave a comment with your own thing you love to do when you’re all alone, single or not. You never know, it might inspire someone you’ll never meet half a world away. Gotta love the Web.)

A Sexcipe — Balsamic Strawberries & Pepper

Had a long, doting visit with The Guy at the hospital. I’m good like that. 3-4 months of being on crutches, with limited mobility?Surgery to install a metal plate with four screws, at least? Bah.

What to bring someone in the hospital, especially a romantic foodie someone? Strawberries chopped into smaller bits, marinated in only a touch of balsamic vinegar with fresh-cracked black pepper. Beats the shit out of the mush they serve on those horrific little plastic trays.

If you’ve never tried it, you absolutely must. It’s one of the most sophisticated, delicious ways to eat strawberries, and I’ve never met a man who didn’t love them. The tartness of the vinegar and spiciness of the pepper serve to really bring out the sweetness in berries, even in the bland California ones that show up far too early in the season. It’s nothing like you imagine… fabulous.

Take a pint of fresh strawberries, chop them up into a bowl, add about a tablespoon or so of quality balsamic vinegar (if you’ve got a $3 bottle, just throw the damned thing out! Horror of horrors!), and about a half-teaspoon to a teaspoon of cracked black pepper. (Particularly good on strawberries is Black Tellicherry peppercorns.)

Let them marinate a couple hours, and serve just in a bowl, just like that. You can have some dark chocolate with it, or you can serve it with gingersnaps, that sort of thing. Almost anything works, and even alone is great. It’s a really great date dessert, and it’s never failed to get me action. ;)

The Guy loved them, although the nurse came up, leaned down and said, “You know he’s not dying, right? It’s just an ankle. He will live to see another day.” Yeah, yeah, thanks, babe.