Bacon, will you please move over?

I’m generally a ‘to each one’s own’ type of person, but there is something going on right now…some sort of bizarre movement….towards something that I just can’t support. I don’t think I’ve been anti-anything before, other than anti-hate, anti-war or any other anti that makes you roll your eyes and go, ‘yeah, you and most of humanity.’ But here it goes. I am (deep breath), I am, (oh the bravery I muster), I am anti-bacon. This obsession that this country suddenly has with the fatty, thin slice of pork people so lovingly call bacon must end. I have but one word in retaliation: eww. 

OK, so I’m not really anti-bacon, I am more anti-bacon obsession. My personal history with meat, in general, has been spotty at best. I’ve gone in and out of different forms of vegetarianism and I didn’t eat red meat for a solid 15 years. In case you are wondering, I always counted pork, despite it’s marketing claim of being ‘the other white meat’ as red. I currently eat meat, but generally not bacon, which is suddenly useful, in my cry out against it.

I am not imposing meat-loving on the U.S, by any means. I lived abroad (Europe) for several years and was equally if not MORE disgusted there, not only by meat, but by all of the other parts that people were very willing to eat. I get it – historically, there has been argument for using EVERY part of the animal. And the Buddhist in me likes the idea of using every part to honor the animal that gave it’s life (though I can’t stomach that, myself). But I guess I just think that as societies evolve, some of those things could be left behind…kind of like, as we now all have indoor plumbing, we got rid of the outhouses.  Anyway, I’ve traveled to a good number of continents and the meat obsession is a popular one – Brazil and the Churrascarias, Argentinian steaks, the Middle East and the lamb. Meat signals prosperity and for many / most…it tastes good. My reasons for multi versions of vegetarianism have always been health and taste related, not animal rights related (HOWEVER, with the advent of factory farms, this has started to creep in too). But this obsession with bacon? I don’t get it.

The first time I really realized that bacon was taking a strange place in American’s hearts was when I was  at a high-end restaurant here in Austin. When we got to the dessert choices, one of them – a fruit crumble (always a favorite of mine) – was paired with a home-made ice cream flavor of bacon.  Excuse me??? As an ice-cream aficionado, I struggled for words through my horror and gag reflex. You want to take something sweet and creamy and melty and smooth and pair it with swine? With the general revolt I’ve often felt for pork, I’ve often said I must have been either Jewish or Muslim in my last life. I felt, then, that a line had been crossed and bacon was officially out of control.

Then my colleague sent me this: Not for the weak hearted . So, this was it – the nail in the coffin. Hipsters in San Francisco. Design folks. Those that are supposed to have and define taste for the rest of us – have gone off the deep end.  This is so unappealing to me, I cannot fathom using it as a home-page image. Clearly, I am not their target market (they are an agency, so they are SUPPOSED to know stuff like that). OR they might argue that it did make me remember them, but it’s kind of like how I remember the time my son ate too many grapes and….anyway. Or there’s the Train-Wreck theory – so horrible, it’s impossible to look away. Most likely, they jumped on the bacon band wagon (between you and me, I otherwise love their site). AND then when I was google-searching for this site again (for this piece), I actually found this one: http://www.consultbacon.com/. These guys are in the U.K -  it’s spreading!  From one marketing consultancy to another…guys, bacon and the words Fresh>Think? They Just. Don’t. Go. And the URL – consultbacon.com? I will not, thank you very much. Since when does bacon get characteristics like creativity and fresh? Since when has bacon come to represent anything but a heavy, greasy provision that even devout lovers know it is only good in small quantities? Since when does it evoke anything but laziness, gluttony and food comas?*

Alas, I have finally spoken my piece, but I am definitely losing this battle. Who am I to compete with rich fattiness that goes straight to the brain’s pleasure centers? Barley and Swine & Noble Pig Sandwiches are but two Austin sites with rave reviews. Even if I turn to the food Mecca, San Francisco, I find things such as the Bacon Bacon truck and the Bacon Dog Cart. But really, it was aready lost at the bacon ice cream.  If anyone else cares to join me in this bold stance AGAINST bacon, I’ve doctored up one of Bacon Bacon’s shirts here for us anti-bacon-culturites (below). And I’ll be seeing you in produce.

*author notes the irony that I am advertising for both firms, thus promoting the usage of bacon.

you lost me at bacon

Seriously, the Best Brownies

Let’s be clear, I’m not really a recipe-sharing type. So, when I offer one up, you best be pay’n attention. If you’ve ever read my blog before, you know I don’t like to cook. I purposely mention it often so in the event you end up at my house for dinner, your expectations are set appropriately low. Baking, however is another matter. I have always enjoyed baking, though I took a hiatus from it for quite some time due to a silly thing like trying to eat healthy. But with two small children, both now of an age where I have ‘let go’ of my sugar rations (Tae Kwon Don’t), I’ve reinvigorated my love of making confectionary goodies. One of the things I like about baking is that it’s necessary to follow instructions – measuring and proper ratios of ingredients are key to success. Unlike cooking, where a test of a good cook is the ability to cook without a recipe, or ‘to use one for inspiration’ as my good-cooking friends say, I don’t know anyone who bakes from the hip. This suits me well because a) it’s actually pretty hard to screw up when following a recipe to a T, and B) if something doesn’t turn out, it’s clearly a problem with the recipe, and not me. And follow instructions, I do. In this recipe you may notice that it tells you to stir vigorously. I work up a small sweat. It also tells you, after all else, to beat for 40 strokes. Oh yes, I do. In my head, not out loud. I do have some pride. Now that that this recipe has worked for me a few times, I might get crazy with the number of strokes – I may try less, if I’m feeling really zany, maybe more.

I should say that while I like baking, I have to be realistic about my constraints on time and complexity, given I am often baking with two “helpers” and don’t generally find a whole afternoon to devote to kitchen creations. So this recipe, which I am sharing today, is great for several reasons. First, it’s totally fool-proof. How do I know? I have made it 3 times. This is my test – if I make something once and it turns out, it’s “promising” – it could totally be a fluke, so I hold back the full-on optimism. That is saved for the second success. While improbable, planets could technically align twice for the same recipe. But if I can make it three times and have it turn out well three times, then it becomes “mine.” It is deemed one of the things “I make”. “I make a great cocoa brownie,” I might say. If I was in a group of domestically-gifted people, where I would be feeling really insecure and may need to say something like this.

The other reason it’s great is that you can actually do something else while you make it. I wouldn’t go crazy and wallpaper your bathroom, but I did manage to read a Real Simple article (I know, the irony is a killer, isn’t it?). You see, you basically put most of the ingredients on the stove and wait for everything to melt together – double boiler style, so there is even very little risk of burning anything. The trickiest bit (remember, I follow directions) is that you are supposed to stir from time to time (like after each page of the Real Simple article) “until … the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test.” I find this a bit moronic because if you test it after you’ve gone too far, well, burn by brownie batter probably doesn’t hurt any less, but like I said earlier, I’ve done this three times and it’s fool-proof. BUT if you don’t like licking cocoa batter off your finger, this may not be the recipe for you.

Finally, a note on the reason I like this recipe so much is that it’s the ooey-gooey kind of chocolate brownie and NOT the cakey kind of brownie because if I wanted cakey kind of brownies, I would just make chocolate cake.

So there you have it, something domestic on my blog! There is a first for everything, though it is likely to be the last. I have an aversion to all things ‘wholesome’ (more about this another time), and this is veering towards that path, so I’ll likely stick to less useful blather, but in the mean time, enjoy the brownies.

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Best-Cocoa-Brownies-108346

I love my kids more when I’ve had coffee

It’s true. Yesterday, with a combination of allergies and a lack of sleep this week (transitioning back from spring break/time change / some crazy flipp’n alignment of planets that has sent my family to crazydom and back), I was beyond dragging by 4:00, my usual slump time. Yesterday it was beyond ‘slump’ – it was terminally tired. I normally don’t drink coffee in the afternoon because it will keep me up at night, but with a couple more hours with the kids and a date night (even after 6 years of marriage, falling asleep on a date is just not good manners), I had to take the risk. I took the kids out for gelato and ordered myself an espresso. Oh, and gelato, of course, a nice salted caramel, but followed it up with an espresso. Gelato and espresso? It’s like an afternoon orgasm.

As the espresso raced down my throat and puddled into my tummy, a warmth came over me. No, I didn’t pea my pants, it was just the coffee…I lust over coffee. Slowly, my senses awakened, one by one. With a little wake-up call from the sugar now entering my system from the gelato, the coffee was like the back-up alarm…the snooze. The one that let’s you know there is no rolling over and going back to sleep. It is time to WAKE UP! I started joking with my kids. Their faces lit up with delight as I became, not only conscious, but silly! We collectively decided to go to a park instead of back home, so we hopped into the car for our next adventure. At the park, we opted for a hike instead of the playground, so we climbed over rocks, swung from tree branches and held silly singing talent shows on tree stump stages. In other words, we had a b-l-a-s-t. While I’ll take credit for being a fun mom for an afternoon, I have to give some credit to my partner in that lovely crime – the coffee. While it doesn’t make me love my kids more, it certainly did help me show it. Given my lusty-lovey relationship with coffee anyway, I could go on and on about how it improves my life, but I’ll keep this one short and just add ‘fun-mom generator’ to the list. Try it. You’ll like it.

feeling saucy

“Everything, in the sauce of life, boils down to Love”

- Bumpkin

The Big Three

Because I am breastfeeding a growing 9 month old who isn’t very interested in other foods, I have been feeling really run down, physically. I hate to complain because one of my first signals that something was off was that I have lost too much weight. Before anyone hates me, please let me just say that I do recognize how ridiculously lucky this is. And in fact, between the fact that I weigh the same as I did in High School (though I think this is not necessarily healthy) and I now have big (big is relative – for me, B cup is big) nursing boobs, I probably look better right now than I will again. Ok, now go ahead and hate me. But there is something not right about me weighing the same as I did in High School, and between that and the fact that I have not had a full nights sleep in over 9 months, I am very, very physically drained. So I recently started going to this Nurse Practitioner, who is ½ western medicine trained and ½ into the ‘alternative’ medicine. This suits me, as I am always looking for ‘the middle way’ (a Buddhist reference, for those of you who wouldn’t otherwise catch it). The appointments have been helpful in determining that I am, in fact, deficient in several vitamins and minerals, but this has led me down a path of a full-time supplement regime. I literally have 2 things I am supposed to take twice a day, 3 things I am supposed to take three times a day, and 3 more things that I only have to take once a day. 4 of these things I am supposed to take while standing on one leg, 2 of them while standing on my head and 2 more while I am on the toilet, simultaneously shitting out the prior six. Ok, slight exaggeration, but this how it feels. I am willing to try this for a short period as I am desperate to feel better. The other things that she ‘suggested’, I have been in denial about up until now. You can probably guess what they are, but she has suggested that I cut out the 3 pillars that get me through my daily life: coffee, sugar and alcohol. While there are 4 recognized food groups, these are my 3 recognized supports. Though they are maybe not really beautiful supports, like the columns in Rome, but more like the crooked, knarled tree branches that one sees holding up one of those make-shift tents on the desert. These things prop me up when I need it – coffee to wake me up, sugar to cheer me up and alcohol to ease me down. So, to remove these ‘props’, is more than a little scary, but I recently decided to give it a try – because I really, really, really want to feel better. Feeling desperate may be a call for desperate measures.

Coffee (must be said in a cookie monster voice the way he talks about his cooookiiiieeeeessssss). Like any addict, and I am one, I fully admit, I am putting myself on a mental program around this. I first out flatly rejected the notion of having to give it up. I didn’t think it was necessary and more frankly, did not want to. My 3-year old uses this argument all of the time: “Why didn’t you put your toys away Max?” – “Because I didn’t want to” – it’s a good answer – straight forward and honest. But often I reply with, “Well, sometimes we have to do things that we don’t want to, Max”. Yeah, yeah, I know. Since the supplements alone are not working, and to be fair and give this health-plan a fair shake, I am giving up coffee. I decided 2 days ago. I can still have caffeine in the form of tea, just not coffee, so this most certainly has made it easier. I like tea, I just don’t love tea like I love coffee – it doesn’t inspire me like coffee does. On my first day I actually made myself a cup of coffee and let it sit on the counter while I drank my cup of tea. The cup sat there, as a mental back-up. If any point I felt I could not handle it, I knew I could, at least, take a sip of that coffee. That was comfort enough, and I never did take a sip. On the second day, I didn’t make the back-up cup of coffee. Today, I am at a coffee shop. I started to convulse at the cash register to keep myself from ordering a cup of coffee and instead ordered a chai latte (yes, full of sugar). But in between convulsions, before I even knew what was happening, I ordered a huge cinnamon roll – the ones they place right next to the register so that the proximity alone produces a sugar trance. I effectively replaced one pillar with the other. But it’s a start, right?

Sugar (go ahead and use the cookie monster voice again). I have always had a sweet tooth. It’s so much a part of me that I honestly think that people who say they don’t like sweets are lying not only to me, but to themselves, and that this inner conflict will surface in some sort of heinous act involving, possibly, an axe. I have given up sugar in the past – cold turkey – and I know that if I get over a hump, I don’t crave it so much, but honestly, life is better with chocolate. And since my metabolism has been turbo-boosted due to nursing, I feel it’s a gift from the universe that I can eat chocolate, ice cream, cakes, and all sugary goodness in any quantity I desire without gaining a pound. I know, I know, sugar makes our system crash and blah blah blah, but I am Linus and my love of chocolate is my long blue blanket, being dragged with me everywhere I go. I have also vowed, in a rather uninspiring way, to “reduce” my sugar consumption this week to see if it makes a difference. That means that due to the cinnamon role I just inhaled in one very gratifying and satisfying minute, I can not have any more desserts today. Not any “real” desserts that is – I can still have my organic, all natural, ginger snaps because they are healthy and aid in my digestion. It says so right on the box. Before you worry too much about my children – we are a ‘minimum sugar’ household with our kids. My family felt sorry for Max because his first taste of ice cream was not until he was 18 months old. He only discovered candy, really, since last Halloween, when he was 2 ½. But I myself have to laugh at the parental advice not to say things like, “eat your broccoli and then you can have dessert” because it “teaches kids that dessert is better than broccoli”. If anyone has a child that needs to be taught this, then please show yourself and sign your kid up with the circus to travel with the bearded lady and 2 headed snake. I LOVE vegetables and broccoli is my absolute favorite – but I dessert is just better. My “poor Max” is being taught that dessert is a treat that we get after our bodies are well nourished. I know – I’m a real parental rebel.

Alcohol (no need for cookie monster voice, but do use your most refined British accent, to give this one it’s refined stature it has in my mind). I lived in the UK and hung out with tons of Europeans and then I moved to France for a year. I had a French boyfriend for 3 ½ years. I lived in San Francisco (close to wine country) for another 4 years. If these things don’t give me some license to pour freely, then what does? I am not talking about getting bombed, or even buzzed, every night. I am talking about a glass of wine with dinner. But let me assure you, stating that you have 7 – 10 drinks a week at the doctor’s office raises an eye brow (well, there is a glass of wine with dinner plus the couple of cocktails on girlie night, plus that one night where a second glass of wine was really necessary). This is actually the easiest one for me to give up, but like chocolate, I just feel life is better with wine. All of my European friends, and most of my American ones, agree, so there. And the Mediterranean Diet – hello, anyone? But, again, I am ‘cutting back’ for a couple of weeks to see how it goes. I really, really want to feel better.

Because I have been struggling with parenthood recently, I find myself living for these daily ‘rewards’. My other rewards are a workout, a 20-minute meditation session and a nice seared halibut with steamed veggies and rice (outside of my sugar addiction, I eat pretty healthy), so I still fall into a reasonable world of balance. I need water and air. I love chocolate cake and espresso. I also love big salads and a 5 mile run. Most of all, and I am working on this with my therapist, I love me. Since I am getting some help to cope, mentally, I can concede that my current state of diet-like things isn’t really working, and I am willing to start chipping away at a few of my pillars. Stay tuned for this could be the fall of Rome.