Sunday, February 3, 2013

Food Is Like Brylcreem: A Little Dab Will Do Ya


Sally Albright is my hero


All the while I lost weight and during my first few years of maintenance, I was married. Larry supported me (still does…he’s a great friend), and even lost 20 pounds himself. I didn’t have to explain why I was ordering a salad with light dressing on the side or ordering an entrée with a to-go box on the side so I could put half of the meal in as soon as it arrived. He didn’t mind that I asked questions of our server about how the food was prepared or requested the chef to please go easy on (or omit) the oil.

I touched on it in “Throwing Out The 300-Pound Pitch,” but until last week, I never gave any deep thought as to how two people co-exist in Foodland. Dating again, I was more concerned with how to explain the past seven years. And thankfully when I met Steve a few weeks ago and I recited the whole weight loss thing, he didn’t run screaming in the other direction. What he said – with a great big grin on his face – was, “I love to cook.”

Turns out, Steve’s a foodie. And I mean hard-core. He reads Wine Spectator, and studies the cookbooks of Paul Prudhomme (“Chef Paul” from K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen), Anthony Bourdain (oft smart-ass chef and author of “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly”), Thomas Keller (award-winning owner of the Napa Valley restaurant, The French Laundry), Eric Ripert (world renowned French cook and owner of Le Bernardin in New York), and Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, whose restaurant in Pittsburgh – Lidia’s – is on Steve’s date list.

What I first knew about Steve was that he’s a union carpenter and owns a beautiful red Harley. He can match me song for song, artist for artist in music trivia. He wears cowboy boots; drives a pickup; looks smashing in a pair of Levi’s; holds every door open for me; loves his cat, Boo; and can drink a Starbucks latte as readily as diner coffee, and Budweiser as easily as 20-year-old Glenlivet. All of this I can deal with. It’s the butter, the cream, the Italian food that has my maintenance brain spinning. And not just any Italian food. “Good ‘country Italian,’” he said. “You know, that sort of rustic Italian.” Um…no, I don’t know. But I have a feeling I’m going to find out.

I talked to him about how I choose to eat and he assured me that wasn’t a problem….just before he said, with a devilish grin, “But you know I’m your food anti-Christ.”

I’ve loosened the chains a bit over the past two years, but other than using a bit more oil in my cooking and eating whole grain pancakes and consuming a few more sweets lately than I care to admit, I don’t stray too far from the plan that got me and keeps me where I am. When I go out, I order the safest thing on the menu: salad, or occasionally a garden burger, sans the bun. I haven’t ventured into many restaurants that employ several bona fide chefs, and I’ve certainly not dated a capital F Foodie who cooks with butter and cream and makes his own lemon sauce to pour over lemon cake:
Last weekend, Steve and I wanted to go out for brunch. We went online and looked at menus and chose The Cornerstone because it offered eggs Benedict with duck confit. OK, back up. HE chose Cornerstone because it offered duck confit. But I found something that looked interesting, too. A risotto made with wild mushrooms, butternut squash, and kale. After we were seated, I asked our server if the risotto could be made vegetarian. She said, “I’ll as our chef.” A few minutes later, she came back and said, “Why yes, we can make it vegetarian, but not vegan because the chef uses butter.” Not a problem, I said, and yes, I would like a fried egg on top. Toast? No, thank you.

The risotto was the first non-vegetable/non-egg-white focused breakfast I’ve eaten in more than 7 years. It was fabulous, but I felt a bit guilty, and I panicked about my plan for the rest of the day. Subsist on water, an apple, and some edamame for dinner? Walk five miles?

“Shut up!” I told my brain. “You can do this!”

And I did. I enjoyed the risotto, eating slowly and stopping before I was full. Steve didn’t care if I cleaned my plate. He only noticed because I pointed it out.

Remember how I said I was looking for someone who didn’t eat Doritos in front of me? Well let me tell you, Doritos have nothing on mussels sautéed in garlic and wine, bruschetta on French baguette, and bleu cheese dipped in honey. Steve eats these things, yet never pushes them on me. It is I who must be disciplined to eat one or two mussels, a bit of bruschetta, and a piece of bleu cheese. It is my challenge to taste all the flavor these foods have to offer without going crazy and consuming them all.

A few weekends ago, we went to Oakmont Bakery for coffee because What’s Cookin’ at Casey’s wasn’t open yet. I told Steve the story about how, when I was a little girl, my dad took care of my brother and I on Saturday mornings so Mom could sleep. He’d let us dress in anything we wanted (I was a stripes-on-plaid kind of girl) and he took us to the bakery for a donut before we went to the car wash. I always got a glazed donut with chocolate frosting. As Steve was paying for our coffee, he asked the cashier for a glazed donut with chocolate frosting.

My first thought? ‘OMG, I can’t eat that!’

My second thought? ‘Wow…that was really sweet of him.’

We took our coffee and donut to a table and I savored two small yet amazingly awesome memory-filled bites of glazed chocolate donut. I got teary thinking about those days and how much I love my dad. Not once did Steve say, “Come on. Have another bite.” He was just happy that he’d made me happy.

Food can be that conduit to memories, as long as we understand it is like Brylcreem: “A little dab will do ya.” Take the meaning and savor a bite. Leave the rest of the calories behind.

How do you navigate the really good, memory-invoking food waters?

16 comments:

  1. GREAT video clip!

    Oh my. I just don't know how I would do in that situation. I'm not a Brylcreem girl, and I don't know if I'll ever be able to convert! I sure do relate to your thought process, though.

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  2. A great comparison between Brylcreem and food. I think the same thing, enjoy it in a small amount and NOT on a regular basis. He made a very sweet gesture with the sweet treat and you did the right thing.

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  3. Steve sounds like an amazingly thoughtful guy. What a blessing!

    I am glad you are not letting his love of good food make you run screaming in fear. That would be my automatic reaction, at least right now. And I'd miss the good because of that fear of myself. I am so glad you are handling this well! I wish you lots of happy times :)

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  4. WOW..what a great introduction back to the land of food...One of my greatest accomplishments...to me...is when I realized it is NOT the food that triggers me but the feeling of deprivation and I can't. My enemy used to be Oreo cookies..binge city...NOW, I can make a totally blessed experience with one serving (3 cookies) so I SO UNDERSTAND your analogy!

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  5. This is a very thought-provoking post sure to garner an array of comments. I am a huge foodie who has gotten very uptight about food from years of dieting. My goal in 2013 is to do just what you've talked about here - stop stressing about every bite and to eat for health and well-being and also to enjoy some things, even if it's a dab. Amazingly enough, I lost weight in January.

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  6. I do enjoy a few bites of whatever the bf is eating, whether it is steak, chocolate cake, challah, or chips, but no more. He grumbles about my veg-heavy food (even if not vegetarian), but we're mostly comfortable with each other's food and eating. My exercisiness sometimes bugs him - early morning gym, walking instead of driving, etc., but he mostly accepts that at this point as well. I have a relaxed eating style, just very careful about overeating. It's easier that way, for me, anyway.

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  7. curious about Steve's cholesterol and blood sugar levels. . .

    and a whole host of a alarm bells going off all over my head. . .

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  8. I can so relate to this!

    I have to define "moderation" more broadly, since I suck at exercising it during any one meal. So I'd eat the whole donut, or the entire cheeseburger or whatever... but then would balance with a bunch of more healthy meals before the next splurge.

    I admire someone who can have a bite or two of something delicious and just set it aside!

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  9. This interests me very much. I found it easy to lose weight when I banished food but could never sustain the weightloss because you can not banish food forever. So I learned to set aside fear: find pleasure in bites and sips and equal pleasure in self-control.
    It's worked for over a year. By not being "afraid" of being around food, it lost it's drama; much of it's pull. I'm more proud of my control than I was of my fear; a postive rather than a negative.

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  10. Good tips and great way to overcome new food issues in a new relationship!

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  11. Just when we think we have it all managed, Life just has to throw something new in there to monkey things up. :) But the that IS Life, and we're meant to enjoy it. I have every confidence you'll find a happy balance here.

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  12. This all reminds me of the concept of "abstainers and moderators". Sounds like you are like me - you've tended towards being an abstainer, but are trying to be more of a moderator now.
    Whatever the case - best wishes, both with the food relationship and the personal relationship!

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  13. I sort of started to date someone in the new year. After our first date at a nice restaurant where he urged me to take bites of the dessert, I made it clear (on the second date) that I am very careful about what I eat. I told him that I used to be 50 pounds heavier and that I intend to lose 10 pounds more--and jokingly said that I didn't want him to "interfere with my weight-loss program." He was fine with that. Our dates so far have not revolved too much around food though he does not eat as healthfully as I do.

    In addition to being clear about my food and exercise program, I have been clear about other things that could be seen as "deal breakers." My thought is, "If you are not happy with me the way that I am (with my issues and all), then move on." And I think I basically said that to him after I revealed two very personal issues early on. Many guys couldn't deal with that kind of honesty, but I figure they aren't the right ones for me

    Ali

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  14. After having children and deciding to eat certain foods that I love with no consideration to portion control (wine, cheese, dips & chips, convenience foods prepared at the store that typically are not calorie friendly, all kinds of fresh bread in the bakery section of the grocery store, etc.) and without exercising is what caused me to gain weight over the years. I know I became stubborn and convinced myself I looked different meaning okay and acceptable until I saw pictures of myself and thought- that can't be me!

    I am at a time in my life where I don't have any health issues just yet, but I believe they will come in time if I don't do something about taking some weight off. This year I am taking care of myself. I am off to a good start. I talk to myself, nudging with a little give and take. If I choose to eat this, then I will plan to eat that. It is accountability to myself and finally feeling that I am in control and make decisions that don't have to be all or nothing. My husband has no weight issues and is understanding that I need to make choices for me. Whether at home or on the road, really all things in moderation are achievable.

    Good thing Spring is around the corner for those nice bicycle and hiking days.

    We love to cook in our house, seldom do we go out to eat. After time, there are only a very few restaurants that are really any good. Sounds like you have found a very nice man. Better a cook than the drive thru kind!

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  15. You are a really lucky person because of meeting Steve. I am not so lucky unfortunately. My partner really likes cooking and when she makes a dish, I have to eat it because she feels bad if I don't.

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  16. Oakmont bakery is amazing! We typically get treats from there for special occasions.

    my husband is a great cook and actually is the one who (nicely) nudged me towards eating healthier and more appropriate portions, so i'm very lucky in that respect. when we got married i was not making any attempt to control my weight and he didn't push me to, but after a few months i found i felt much better when i would eat what he prepared, in the amounts he prepared, and so it was fairly easy. good luck to you!

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