For the past four days I've made my own dinner from the equation of salad + potato + fish + some kind of seasoning to make everything not taste like crap. Tonight I steam-baked half a filet of randomly seasoned rainbow trout wrapped in a foil pouch in the oven while boiling weeny red potatoes. When those foodstuffs were heated long enough for optimum chewability, I arranged them on my plate in a semi-pleasing manner and spooned seasoned melted butter chunk sauce on everything. The end result was pretty good...largely because of the butter chunk.
I was happy with it. My meal had a high ratio of tastiness-to-effort-exerted, in that it took very little effort. These are the things you strive for when you're lazy and an incompetant cook. Also, I'd say it was somewhat healthy. ...Until I stuffed my face with Terra Spiced Taro Chips (my favorite food to come in chip form) and chocolate covered cashews from Life Thyme.
I think I mentioned it before, but if not (or for anyone who needs reminding), I'm on a fairly lax "no wheat or dairy" diet. Butter is derived from dairy, but neither my mum or I find it a problem since it's mainly fat. Wheat isn't too hard besides that it cuts out all bread and baked goods (yes, I ate the Balthazar bread basket as a final blow-out type thing), which are things you can definitely live without. Kinda. I'll also admit that I've eaten some milk chocolates lately, but...damn, whatever.
In addition to my diet, I'm eating out less. Obviously it's a lot easier for me to control what I eat when I put the ingredients together myself. Also, it's hella cheaper.
I'm sure I mentioned why I'm dieting, but some people have been aghast at the idea that I would go on a diet. My history of dieting for health is probably more extensive than most people's, so I'll try to sum it up while explaning myself as clearly as I can.
I'm full of wheezes. My lungs make an unnatural sound when I breathe.
"What's that rumble?"
"Oh, that's just the vibration of my unnaturally resticted airways."
"Ohh, okay! I thought it was my cat. Dying."
There's a nice lung tube diagram at wikipedia that shows the effects of asthma. It's nice to know that my airways look like mutant four-fingered hands whose tips have curiously exploded with cotton poofs, all wrapped in tight rubber bands. But it's actually a good depiction of what asthma feels like.
Up until I made drastic changes to my diet, I relied on my rescue inhaler for any sudden attacks, which didn't occur very often. That didn't mean I didn't wheeze every now and then, just that the wheezing didn't feel bad enough for me to use an inhaler. Every winter morning during 9th grade that I walked from the student parking lot to school resulted in minor asthmatic symptoms where I'd just have to wait in my classroom's non-freezing temperature for my lungs to return to their normal, un-rubber banded state. It was only when I was very young (I figure I've had asthma since before I was 5 years old) that I had the most problems requiring my face being hooked up to an uninviting tube, except it was pretty awesome when it turned out the face tube let me breathe more easily.
The only time my asthma went away for a long period of time was when I was on a raw food diet during 12th grade and freshman year of college. While many people knock the raw food diet (hell, I do sometimes) as trendy, ridiculously drastic, or just stupid, it really does help some people. I'm not saying it should be exalted (which is what I probably did), but it shouldn't be blown off either. From my knowledge of raw foodists, most people who get into the diet are pushed by a health problem. Too fat, too skinny, bad digestion, bad skin, and a gazillion other things. Unless you're interested in the raw food diet, it's unlikely you've heard of Raw Family, also known as the Boutenkos. I haven't found any reason to believe that their support for a raw food lifestyle isn't genuine, so read about them if you're interested.
...Where am I going with this? Well. I'm not going to go over what I ate every day, even though people frequently ask me that. (It's kind of self explanatory: my diet almost entirely consisted of raw food. For some reason, a frequent question was whether tofu is raw. Nope.) The physical effects of the diet were clear. Almost no excess mucus, no asthma, overall better physical endurance, weight loss, clearer skin, less need for sleep, and maybe other things. (Keep in mind I wasn't the healthiest person to begin with, so I couldn't have gotten much worse.)You would not believe how much excess mucus I had the summer before I started the diet. At my worst, I used a neti pot and flushed out nightmare-inducing globular things.
Of course, it's hard to stay on the diet. I mentioned the positive health effects, but what about the psychological? Um. Same state. Or worse. In my case, adhering to a diet where you cut out most of the food that normal people eat takes a weird state of mind, almost like
following a religion (not that I'd know much about religion since I don't practice any...it's just an example) being a religious extremist, in case the other thing I said didn't make sense. There are "normal" people and "extreme" people in religious and dietary circles; obviously most people are normal. It would take me too long to explain all the possible psychological reasons that cause one to stick to a restricted diet, but if you're interested in finding out more I highly recommend Health Food Junkies, which was actually the book that made me realize I didn't want to be a raw foodist in the long run. I wasn't majorly depressed, but I wasn't very happy either. My mum keeps telling me that diet alone didn't make me unhappy. Well yeah, there were other factors...one of which was diet, the subject that was constantly on my mind and gave me an excuse to eat nearly every meal during freshman year in my dorm room by myself, even if I didn't have to. The raw food diet made me feel healthier, but not happier.
During the summer that I ended my diet, I shacked up at Vassar College (which was where I studied freshman year, only to decide during my first semester that I wanted to transfer to NYU, although if you want to ask me about Vassar I think it's a great school) and worked in a summer media program of about 12 students. One of our supervisors asked if anyone would volunteer to help do some work on a house her family was renovating. Only I and one of my housemates stepped up to the vague job. I had absolutely no idea what the job entailed; I just needed money. (Also, the supervisor was really sweet.)
After being given heavy duty gloves, face masks and goggles to protect us in addition to the head covering she had instructed us to wear, we (four of us including her daughter and daughter's boyfriend) got to work. Work entailed tearing shit out of the walls, ceilings, and floors. Seriously. Whacking concrete-ish walls with hammers, ripping out dusty wooden panels, throwing planks studded with long, sharp nails (which thankfully had no effect on our heavy gloves) out the window onto a tarp on the ground for god knows how many hours. I took a few photos during the destruction that with the flash just looked like huge clouds of dust...since that's what we were surrounded by. It was probably the most intense labor I've ever done in my life.
I distinctly remember thinking a few things at the end of the day. First off, I'd never do that again. Second, we snorked up disturbingly black crap from all the dust. Third, I didn't get asthmatic. Amazingly. I got tired, but I didn't wheeze, nor did I even feel that achey despite whacking things with hammers and whatnot. Although I don't remember exactly what I ate, I know it couldn't have been much because I had to walk to a nearby gas station for food (and you know how gas stations are teeming with raw goodies) when there ended up only being pizza and snacks for lunch.
As of late, things like stepping out into the humid air is enough to constrict my airways. Walking down the stairs slows my pace down to an elderly hospital patient on meds as I gasp for breath. Talking on the phone also has a tendency to make me asthmatic, although that's happened for years. (If some of you wonder why I don't like talking on the phone, that's a major reason. Yeeaah. Once I had an awkward conversation with a friend where I was mainly silent since it took too much effort to actually say anything.)
Obviously, there's something wrong here. This academic year has been my most food filled ever. Or consciously food filled. Right now I'm at my heaviest weight ever (don't scoff; do you know how skinny most Taiwanese girls are?), although that's not what bothers me so much. It's the asthma...thing. The not being able to breathe. The dependence on an inhaler, which I've already used twice today, not so much because I needed it, but because I wanted to get rid of the residual "sound of a dying cat" wheezing.
I'm sure someone by now is wondering why I don't just take medication to get rid of asthma. Because...I don't think I need it. My mind is generally very malleable, embarrasingly so, but if there's one thing you can't get me to change my mind about (although you could make me angry by arguing about it) it's medicine. I'm not against it if you truly need it, but surely many people take drugs they wouldn't need if they were more cautious about their health. Call me crazy, but in my simple mind doctors would be needed for emergencies, surgeries, incurable diseases, epidemics, etc, while nutritionists would handle general health problems and help prevent the more serious diseases from happening in the first place. Have you heard the saying "Early detection is the best prevention"? Have you ever wondered how weird this sounds, or is it just me? If you can detect it, that means you already have it. Maybe I'm being too picky with semantics.
Um. ...Man, if you're still reading this, I hope you don't think I'm insane. I don't claim to be anywhere near a perfect vision of health or harbor vast nutritional knowledge (so it's probably best that you don't ask me for advice). One thing I learned from "Health Food Junkies" is that there are a gazillion views about what's best for health. In a way, it's comparable to religion. There's no reason for me to believe in one dietary tenet for all people; I'm just doing what I'm comfortable with. The more I learn about food culture around the world through my studies, the more I want to eat and experience all of it, figuring it won't kill me.
But it's summer and I'd like a break. I suppose this is a time to find activities that don't involve food. ANYONE WANNA GO TO A CONCERT? As my fooding has increased, my concerting has hit an all-time low. I'm scared. And it seems like I'm too young to see Mew, which is...grr...gah...[lets out some kind of distressed moan only Danish bands can induce]. Jason Lytle is also playing two shows on Sat, July 22nd and Monday, July 24th. Wooo?
Back to the food/health thing. People have asked me if I've seen any doctors about my recent asthma problems. Mm...nope. If you've gone to doctors for most of your life without having made much progress, you're not going to feel compelled to continue the cycle. Another thing people ask me is if I have a food allergy. I don't think I have a direct allergy. I'm going on a diet because what I eat affects my health, which in turn affects my asthma. People are mainly concerned with immediate effects, not what will happen down the road in a few years or even decades.
Another thing I may not have mentioned (or maybe you missed it) is that I'm studying abroad next semester in Paris (no subject in particular, just for the hell of it). Will I diet there? Hells no! I can deal with four months of baguettes and chocolates, asthma be damned.
If anyone wants me to explain something that I didn't touch upon in this too-long entry, feel free to ask.
Yes, it's time for a new topic.
- oh, how I love Japanese things
Have any Californians been to Famima!!? No, the extraneous exclamation marks aren't my doing; the name of the store is really "Famima!!". And what the heck does that name mean? It's the Japanese shortening/bastardization of Family Mart. (There are a bunch of shortened English words adapted into Japanese that would sound odd to non-Japanese people, but make sense once you figure out what it is. My ineptitude has resulted in the inability to come up with any examples right now.) It's a little different from FM, so I guess using the same name wouldn't have been appropriate. And if you excitedly shout, "Who wants to go to FAMIMA!!?" it won't sound as insane as going, "Who wants to go to FAMILY MART!!?" Kinda.
(In Taiwan there was a Family Mart around the corner from my apartment that I frequented in search of steamed buns and onigiri. It was the first place where I tried a neon green slushie to quell the mystery around the infamous foodstuff and subsequently decided that anyone who drinks a slushie more than once out of gustatory satisfaction is a frightening human specimen. God, I loved that place.)
Update (7/4/06): Colleen reviews Famima!! with photos and whatnot! I wanna goooo.
What is brooklyn.no? The official website of a Brooklyn-themed (the period of 1950-1960 to be more specific) restaurant in Norway, of course! ...Yeah! I find it interesting.
Since people have a tendency to give me book recommendations, I'm going to make a list of what I've already read, amazon associates style. I wonder if that'll pay any of my bills? Hm. I'll let you know when that's finished.
A totally non-food related question for ya. Have you ever abruptly cut a friend out of your life for no apparent reason (at least, not to your friend) without giving any signs that you never intended on speaking to them again or telling them that you moved or got a new life or maybe a new name or joined the circus? Why would you do that? Is your "friend" just a naive moron for thinking there was ever a friendship? Maybe the friend is too stupid to let it go, but the picagram of confidence they had in thinking they knew what a friend was has been replaced by a feeling of inadequacy and possibly being hated for unknown reasons along with a bundle of wasted time and stress. No decent person would wish such feelings upon another, but you couldn't think that they'd respond to being ignored by feeling like happy fuzzy baby bunnies frolicking in a field of wildflowers.
Yeah, I feel like a million grams of awesome. Stop the madness.
I like The Hungry Cabbie's latest post about dancing in a soul food restaurant in the Bronx, among other things. It sounds like something I'll never do, although I wouldn't mind. ...Well, I don't dance, but I'll eat the fried stuff.
I've also decided that Ken Jennings is very cool. Cos. He's funny. Funny in a non-silly way. The funny bits pop up randomly and make me happy, like thinking you've reached the end of a bag of chips before discovering one last unbroken perfect chip! Or something. Okay, not really.
In his latest post he mentions Wordplay, which I just watched last weekend at IFC. As someone who never does crossword puzzles, I really enjoyed it. Pumped up with crossword puzzle energy, I pitted my noggin against little white and black squares soon after watching the documentary. Turns out I just suck at crosswords. Will I give up? Yeah. Those little squares can suck it. But I'll try to do something else that's just as productive as crossword puzzles.
(On a totally unrelated note, HOLY SHIZZ, The Phantom Tollbooth is playing at IFC. Drag someone to go, I will.)
I'm glad you guys enjoyed the Ayun interview! I updated it later in the day with links to places that she mentioned. Thank god for google.
To answer Jeffrey's question, there aren't many perks in the way of free handouts from writing a blog. The mainly perks are meeting/interacting with cool people who love food, having a reason to try new things, and hopefully increasing my writing and photo-taking prowess. I did just get an email from the Country Pancake House thanking me for the reviews I wrote, which was completely unexpected and appreciated!
The only free food sample I've received through this blog is from Sweet Riot. Obviously, they're awesome. I like their chocolate and the cute container it comes in. The only problem is that you could easily stuff a whole container in your mouth; this stuff doesn't last long.
Being invited to the Chocolate Symposium was a pretty awesome perk. I don't see myself being invited to many related events since my blog isn't about any specific food, but...I wouldn't mind. [cough] After my asthma gets better, at least.
If you want free stuff for blogging, start a music blog. You don't even need a lot of readers; listening to some "cool" stuff is enough to make marketers fling stuff at you. I got a CD in the mail the other day and I didn't even remember giving out my home address. Odd. The marketers probably give up on me after I fail to review anything they send me (hey, it's my choice!), but those marketers...they're always lurking around. If only food could be so easily distributed.