Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fear of food

I like food. Some foods I like quite a bit. So the past three weeks have been extremely odd for me. I got the flu, and my stomach never really recovered. I'm fine as long as I eat bland foods (cereals, breads, bananas, yogurts, rice, a bit of mild cheese or an egg, poached or boiled meats, and that sort of thing). But anything spicy, or greasy, or anything like a raw vegetable, and I'm miserable and sick.

This certainly keeps me away from most restaurant food!

I'm taking lactobacillus supplements and gradually introducing small amounts of "real" (or surreal, in some cases) food.

This experience has given me a completely new perspective on food.

First of all, most of us are very rarely hungry, in the sense that we've burned up available fuel and are starting to draw on our bodies' reserves. But that happened to me a few times...I didn't get hungry, but I certainly felt exhausted.

I didn't get hungry because I have a pretty strong aversion to food after the flu experience. That was another revelation. I didn't realize that an active aversion to food could psychologically overpower years of liking food. Now I see certain foods (like tomato sauce) and cringe.

I am finding myself having to remind myself to eat, and to make sure I'm getting things like potassium and calcium.

By the way, if anyone thinks this is a good way to lose weight, it's certainly not. It robs you of the energy you need to work out and maintain fat-burning muscle. I have been able to do moderate exercise, but noticed at the dance festival this weekend that I needed to eat carbs and a little protein every two hours to keep moving. And even then, it seemed as if my balance was a bit off.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Whole foods

I was just watching Susan Powter talking about healthy eating and fitness on a NY morning news show. Susan was explaining the difference between drinking vegetable juice and eating ("mulching," she called it) actual vegetables.

This is particularly ironic because I came down with a stomach virus Tuesday morning and haven't been able to get near food for the past four days. I had no idea you could go this long without eating solid food, but, of course, it turns out you can as long as you drink plenty of fluids that contain sugar, salt, potassium and a couple of other elements. It seems inconceivable to me that I'll ever again want to eat something as fiber-y looking as, say, broccoli, but the doctor I checked in with yesterday assured me that this will happen. In the meantime, she suggested trying chicken and rice soup, which apparently has the magic sugar/salt/potassium combination. And, of course, there are those weird electrolyte drinks. Still, at the moment they sound much more appealing that something I'd have to mulch!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Culinary Improv: The Apple Basil Tart

Filo dough crust. Creme fraiche with cinnamon. Pink Lady apples and fresh basil. Citrus-marmalade-and-Calvados glaze.

It's a pretty assertive dessert!

My friend Tom said the idea for this pastry came to him in a dream. Yesterday I assisted as he transformed the inspiration into a first-draft recipe. Today friends are stopping by to taste-test my half of the final tart.

Some of their (and my) thoughts:

The creme fraiche base tastes amazing, but is a little too soft when the tart is at room temperature. How could this be made more substantial without losing the taste and smooth texture of creme fraiche? (I'm concerned getting ricotta involved would make the texture too grainy.)

The Pink Lady apples were a particularly flavorful choice. And they held their shape well, even when sliced thinly.

The basil (many leaves of it) gets stronger by hour. Which is fine, right up until I find myself chewing on a cooked basil leaf. How could you get the same intense basil element in the tart without having the whole basil leaves? Chop them? Puree them?

The marmalade-Calvados glaze (my contribution to the beta version) add a second savory element, the marmalade being a bitterish citrus (crafted by my friends John and Sally). But now I'm thinking that with the filo crust, the tart might be better with a sweeter, honey-liquor glaze.