Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Food-Related New Year's Resolutions

Oh, how I love to resolve. I've got some serious all-American self-improvement tendencies, coupled with a dose of old-school Catholic self-deprivation-is-good-for-the-soul. I like to give things up for a while - television, coffee, alcohol, food (not really, but I've fasted a few times), non-local food (I did the Eat Local Challenge three years ago after reading Gary Paul Nabhan's book, before I knew that there were other crazy folks out there doing the same thing) and even once, reading. I lasted a whole week without reading anything (except the automatic reading of signs and so forth) and it was pretty much the hardest thing I've ever done in my life.

So, new year. New resolutions.

Except that I've begun to believe that negative resolutions - no this, no that- are the least effective. I think the Eat Local Challenge, for instance, would be more popular if it were promoted as a challenge to eat as many different local foods as possible, rather than a challenge to eliminate as many non-local foods as possible. Resolving to do without something completely can shake you up, improve your awareness of how much a habit has infiltrated your life. But resolving to do something actively usually has longer-term benefits. Adding something to your life, that's the way to go.

I'm pretty sure I starting making stock regularly as part of a resolution a few years back. That was a positive change that improved my cooking, saved my money, and decreased my sodium intake (while possibly increasing my calcium - I put a little acid in the water to help leach the calcium from the bones).

So, what this year? Vegetables, I think. I want to pay more attention to my vegetables. I like vegetables, but I tend to give them less attention then I should. I roast 'em, or steam and lemon juice 'em, or braise 'em, and that's about as far as it goes. Sure, I'll stuff a pepper now and again, I'll make a sweet potato gratin, but do I lavish the attention on the nutritious darlings I do on the meat or even the starch? No, I don't.

Now, one of the issues here is the limitations of my companion in eating. The husband is not exactly going to make the cover of Vegetarian Life. He doesn't like a number of vegetables - some based on what I suspect is hearsay (beets), some on experience (dark cooked greens). There are others he just can't eat because of his Crohn's, including all the cruciferous vegetables, like cauliflower, broccoli, etc. That said, he probably eats more vegetables than most Americans, so I should really count my blessings. And he does try new things in small amounts, which is nice - he now likes fennel, which is great, and he didn't mind celeriac or parsnips. But my basic vegetable list looks like this:

Peppers (green or red)
Sweet potatoes
Winter squash
Raw baby spinach (in small quantities, because of the Crohn's he can't have a lot of anything raw)
Parsley (which I throw in everything, since it's one of the only dark leafy green things he eats)
Maybe parsnips, celeriac, green beans, peas or artichokes (if prepared well and not in large quantities)

Throw in some dairy and a couple boxes of cereal, and that's most of my shopping basket most weeks. I consider radishes, avocado, fennel and cucumber optional, and I buy winter squash and sweet potato in rotation, but the parsley, carrots, peppers, onions, and mushrooms are there every week, like milk and eggs. I'm getting so I can't look at a red pepper.

Really, it's not a bad list, though it's missing some of my favorites - zucchini, beets, kale, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, cauliflower, cabbage. I'm just tired of the sameness of it all. But it's a new year, and I am aiming at positivity. It can be a good thing to have limitations. I shall be forced into creativity. Or at least, into really using the resources of my gazillion and one cookbooks. This year, I am going to find out how many ways a person can prepare a sweet potato. And, as a small, secondary resolution, I am going to try to put a little more effort into making some vegetables just for myself. It's hard to get up the energy to decide to do more peeling, chopping, etc., particularly when I already have a vegetable ready for dinner. But for my own good health, I should really be revisiting my old friend kale.

Happy new year.


Jonathan said...

For the record, I like orange bell peppers too....

Culinary School said...

oh you are so right. vegetables can really help you on your diet, and its healthy too. goodluck and i hope you succeed.

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