April 27th, 2010eating
When I was a little girl, my parents had two rules for me: Don’t eat the cat, and Try three bites of everything. Not eating the cat wasn’t a big deal—his skin condition made him dandruffy and unappetizing. But three bites? Three bites of salmon, venison, chicken parm, lima beans? No.
My parents said that when I was a little kid—the first of their two—they didn’t want to burden me with a ton of rules. They let me upend the furniture to make forts whenever I wanted. But, not wanting the household to be completely lawless, they plucked one important dictate from the show Alf: Don’t eat the cat. I took this rule very seriously and never did snack on Ziggy.
The other rule, the Three Bite Rule, was my parents’ invention, a product of my refusal to eat not only deer meat and lima beans, but, as my dad told me, “generally, anything we had.” I wouldn’t eat meat (except hot dogs in mac and cheese), didn’t want to try new things, and was usually too busy playing to sit at the table or make time for meals. Halloween candy would sit untouched in a pillowcase until Easter; Easter candy remained nestled among green cellophane shreds in a basket till Halloween. My lack of interest, my dad tells me, wasn’t really food-specific: I didn’t have an interest in any food all that much.
In an effort to introduce good nutrition, cut down on the number of different dinners my mom had to prepare each night, and get me to eat something other than mac and cheese and casseroles, my parents introduced the Three Bite Rule. They didn’t find it in a parenting book; they just used common sense. One bite wasn’t a fair sample, and any more than three would be pointless.
I asked my mom and dad, Did it work? Did I ever decide I liked whatever was for dinner? Ever keep eating?
No, they said, they didn’t remember that happening more than a couple times.
I’m a grown-up now, and I eat salmon. I broil it (fail), slow-roast it (low pass), or cook it for 13-15 minutes at 450 degrees (A plus!). I also have no trouble eating three bites of anything, even foods I don’t like—I know I hate mushrooms, but had three bites of a portabella last weekend, just to check in and see whether my tastes had changed (They hadn’t. No way). The dinner table still makes me uncomfortable. Mine, a beautiful assembly of sturdy pieces of stained, matte wood, functions as extra book storage now that I’ve filled all my bookcases.
And, like many grown-ups, once I have my three bites, I have a hard time stopping. In fact, when I googled “three bite rule” to see whether any other parents had tried it, I found that there are people out there who are indeed following the Three Bite Rule: adults, including Posh Spice/Victoria Beckham (I grew up in the nineties—she’ll always be Posh to me), who attempt to curb overeating by stopping after the third bite. The idea is that three bites is all you need to be satisfied.
This sounds nice, until I think about it a little more—then it sounds like torture. After three bites of my last “cheat meal,” a sludgy chocolate baby bundt cake ala mode, saturated near-black cake showing off while vanilla ice cream drizzled with some kind of pink syrup sweetly vied for my attention, I was damn sure I was going to finish the whole thing. Mindlessly? Maybe. If you’d asked me to pass it around the table and watch everyone else pick at it, I might’ve cried. Three bites would have been just enough for me to be sure that the dessert was awesome, but not enough time would have passed to allow the feeling of fullness to kick in. I know that I don’t get full until a little bit of time has passed after the meal, so three bites might only be enough thirty minutes after I have them, and until then, I’ll be craving bites four through twenty.
What about you? Did you follow any food rules as a kid? Do you now? Let me know in the comments.Tags: New Jersey
Thanks, but I don’t eat anything that was first introduced into the human diet during or after the Neolithic period.0April 24th, 2010eating
I mean, in theory, I don’t. That includes (deep breath) dairy, beans and lentils, sugar, potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams, peanuts, and grains. Nothing processed. No alcohol. Amp up consumption of animals, vegetables (especially root vegetables that are not potatoes or sweet potatoes), and fruit (especially berries). Try new things. Variety is the spice of life, and the right spices will make the variety even more delectable.
In practice? The Washuta version of paleo: Coffee, in huge quantities, with one tablespoon of half and half per eight ounces. Tea anytime. Small amounts of sugar, flour or bread crumbs in recipes that insist. Three “cheat meals” per week, sometimes fewer. Occasional buckling at such societal pressures as that inflicted by a package of stale grocery store cookies on my desk at work tagged, “Please Take!”, because I can’t ignore double chocolate for that long, especially when I find that the turkey breast piece I brought for lunch is undercooked—translucent-inside-undercooked, I screwed up that badly—and inedible.
I prefer to focus on what I can, and do, eat: strawberries, Fuji apples (my favorite food since the switch to paleo), blueberries, blackberries, carrots, unsweetened shredded coconut, salmon, scallops, nettles, cod, almond meal, fennel, steak, pulled pork, almonds, grape, walnuts, scrambled eggs, pineapple—
Paleo is full of possibilities. Choosing to avoid some foods that used to be staples of my diet—salt bagels with butter, Cheerios and soy milk, peanut butter on wheat toast, macaroni and cheese—means opening up lots of space for trying new things.
People think I’m nuts. I agree. My friends have known me as a vegan, vegetarian, whole foods enthusiast, eater of mostly empty carbs, South Beach dieter, avoider of certain sickness-inducing foods as I blame my phantom gallbladder. Now I won’t eat anything a caveman wouldn’t have eaten. It’s socially awkward to have to say I don’t eat beans/dairy/wheat.
Paleo is the favorite diet of CrossFit. I’ve been working out at Level 4 CrossFit Seattle since December. At first, I resisted going paleo. After having my gallbladder removed four years ago, I’ve had digestive problems I associated with eating animals and animal products, and eating any of it before evening would cause trouble.
At the end of March, I entered the Spring LEANing Challenge at the gym, which involves before and after photos, food logs, and going paleo. So I tried it. And I like it. Curiously, I went from constant stomach pain to long strings of pain-free days.
I won’t be paleo forever. I know myself. Eventually I’ll screw up enough times that I’ll decide to forget it and eat six salt bagels in one sitting, then give up on myself. I always return to the salt bagel.
Tonight, though, I was good. I made some un-photogenic food: Roasted Fennel and Cauliflower (ugly and delicious) and coconut chicken breasts.
For dessert: grapes so sweet-tart and delectable I feel like my face might launch into space. It’s weird, but raw plant food is starting to kind of taste pretty good these days. There’s gotta be a catch.Tags: coffee, crossfit, paleo, white bread
April 23rd, 2010food
The good people over at Serious Eats polled their readers: Do You Take Photos of Your Food Before Eating? At the time of this writing, 11% said they always do, 22% say never, and the rest take shots sometimes, or just when the food is photogenic. I’m in the “sometimes” camp, sometimes taking photos of ugly food I’ve made, just to keep a record. I pause while cutting or mixing, stop stirring to capture the transformation of fruit and flesh as it’s heat-broken or -firmed or -liquefied, and then right at that moment when doneness comes, I halt. Snap snap. Adjust the exposure. Adjust the angle, getting out of the way of the ceiling light. The stuff is so pretty, sometimes, glistening and all. I won’t use flash, so sometimes I can never capture the beauty of a berry’s flesh or the evidence that I got the salmon done just right. Sometimes the food is nearly “too pretty to eat,” as my mom always says.
Then, when I’ve exhausted everything I can do to capture the food’s prettiness, when it’s nearly at the point where it’s too pretty to be food at all, I eat it. Really fast, usually, at my desk, while watching Colbert Report on the computer, and then the food is gone before I ever take a hard look at it. I try to remember to look at it, for sure: they say you don’t really get full unless you see what you eat.
Foodies love food, but I am not a foodie, and I do not love food. I used to find most food repulsive. Whole wheat bread and peanut butter made up most of my diet senior year of college. I lost thirty-five pounds on the “Don’t Eat Anything Because Food Is Terrifying and What Is Maybe a Wonder Food and the Key to Longevity could Possibly Actually Be the Worst Thing You Could Possibly Eat” Diet. I don’t remember a time when eating was a simple or purely pleasurable thing.
Since moving to Seattle, I’ve learned to try new things, like elk burgers, brie (seriously, I’d never had brie), red wine, and lobster. In January, at age twenty five, I had steak for the first time. This week marked my first samplings of pheasant, oysters and clams, and my first time cooking scallops. I picked nettles from my friends’ backyard, survived the single sting I incurred, and made pesto.
Eating is the most important task in life, you know. It’s gotten very complicated. So I’m trying to keep it simple. I take it one berry at a time, and try to figure out when it’s time to start eating, and time to stop again, and once in a while my belly quits its tyranny and I remember to taste nettle and mint, orange versus pineapple, the marriage of rhubarb and strawberry, or the distinctive defects of decaf beans.
I’m on my fifth week of teaching myself to cook. Being on my latest diet kick (sorry, I meant lifestyle change), I need to prepare my own food to make sure I get it right. Every day I print out new recipes, flag some in my binder, buy pretty food and cut it up, prepare according to directions, toil for hours to try to get it right, try to learn to love it, all of it, the cooking and the foods and the eating, work on loving it for the right reasons, and to never ever too much.Tags: paleo