Wednesday, August 26, 2009

No Substitute for Bad Food When it Comes to Good Taste

Today is a bagel day in the office. We have those sporadically and they're rather unpredictable. Bagels either just mysteriously appear in the break room or we have these slightly weird gatherings to welcome new employees. The reason the gatherings are slightly weird is because we're summoned to the conference room by our president or vice-president with very little notice. Then we go sit in the conference room and end up chatting amongst ourselves. The new person sits there awkwardly, trying to talk to people around him or her. We all wait for the president to introduce the new person, to welcome them. It never happens. Eventually after we chat and get loud and eat our bagel, we're told to 'get back to work' and we all leave, wondering, exactly, what the point of that was aside from having a bagel.

Either way, we often have bagels. I'm not a huge bagel fan. Most mornings when I'm at home and can eat breakfast, I don't because I don't like to eat as soon as I get up. I have to wait a while. Sometimes I bring fruit so I can eat when I get to work. Yet, on mornings like this where I wasn't hungry when I left home but am ravenous by the time I get to work, they're a good way to stop my tummy from growling.

I suppose I should worry about calories. Bagels aren't exactly good for you especially when you load them with regular cream cheese. Usually, if I have the choice, I will opt for light. Cream cheese is one of those things that I'm not that picky about. It's tasty but unless it has chives in it, isn't something I really seek out other than to just take away the dryness of the bagel away.

There are some tastes that I'm just not fussy enough about to care that it's a 'light' product. Salad dressing is one of them. I tend to like the lower fat dressings.

However, maybe it's my new found love of cooking but I am recently realizing that there are some things that just shouldn't be compromised for 'diet' purposes.

I suppose it's easy for me to say that; I was born with a good metabolism. Until recent years, I could eat almost anything and not gain any weight. As I've got older, my metabolism has slowed and I do have to watch what I eat. I weigh more now than I've ever weighed and while sometimes I wish I was still skinny as a rake, it's really not that bad to have a few more curves. It's taken me a while but I'm beginning to accept it.

Of course, my newfound addiction to the Food Network is probably to blame for some of those curves but, also, for the fact that I am beginning to not mind that I'm not so skinny anymore. The thing that I am learning is that there needs to be a balance between deprivation and over-indulgence. There are just some things that I think life is too short to not eat.

I have a coworker who is constantly on a diet. Over the years, it seems, I've always had one coworker like this. It doesn't matter if it's WeightWatchers, Low Carb, Protein Diet, Fat-Free, SlimFast...there's always one of them.

I salute these current and former coworkers. Diets are hard to stick to but these die-hard dieters manage. Unfortunately, it many cases, they're the types who like everyone around them to know they're on a diet and they make remarks to the rest of us about what they're eating so that we're supposed to feel slightly guilty that we too aren't depriving ourselves.

Don't get me wrong, there are times when I get on kicks where I try to be healthy. It's not a diet per se but I watch my calories and I'm careful not to go overboard on anything that's bad for me. However, for the most part, I'm lucky enough to enjoy healthy food. I'm a vegetable lover. Many of my 'creations' in the kitchen are centred around vegetables. I enjoy some meat too so I don't think I could ever go vegetarian. Yet because I like vegetables, it helps me eat healthily.

I think, as my good friend over at RadLinc Crafts said, I've become a Foodie.

Foodies are people who...enjoy food. They love to eat good food, they care about ingredients and I think it's fair to say they don't compromise for taste. If a fat-free product will detract from the flavour and/or preparation of a dish, it won't be used.

I watched an episode of Iron Chef America last night. I noticed that there's never a pause from the chefs to stop and consider calories. They're making dishes based on taste. There is no compromise for taste. This is why they have the finest ingredients with which to cook. The judges are an assortment of Foodies and never once has a single one said, "I can't eat that. It's deep fried!"

And they deep fry a lot on Iron Chef. It's interesting; no matter what they deep fry, it seems gourmet. According to Alton Brown, the host of the show, deep frying is popular on the show because it's the quickest way to bring out flavour in food and given the hour time-frame the chefs have, they need quick methods of making food tasty. No longer does deep-frying seem like a crime because it makes things fat-laden and greasy but, instead, it's a way of cooking a side dish, a way of adding flavour.

What it really comes down to is moderation. There's a big difference between going to a fast food restaurant that deep fries everything to cooking a side of sage-filled potato rounds, ala Mario Batali. It's ironic really; you go to McDonalds and order a side of fries with your hamburger and you know you're committing a diet-crime. Yet, you go to a gourmet restaurant that serves pommes frites with your steak or "shoe string rosemary fried potatoes" and the guilt isn't there even though, technically, they're still cooked in a deep fryer.

That's where the moderation kicks in. If you eat everything deep-fried, yes, you're going to turn into a bad-skinned hippo-like creature. Yet if you're eating a balanced meal where the deep fried portion is only a small part of the meal, it's not so bad. I'm not saying it should be every meal either, just that if you're cooking to enjoy the taste of food, sometimes it seems a stop and pause and think "I can't cook that because it's bad for me!"

And again, there's a compromise to this too. There's no substitute for butter if you're making sage-butter sauce but there are 'light' butters out there that are still butter but not quite so bad for you. I admit, I use light butter sometimes just for the fact that it still is butter but it's also a nod to the fact that I know it's bad for my cholesterol. However, if I thought it detracted from the dish, I'd use real butter instead...I just wouldn't make the dish too often.

This is all just my personal philosphy; please keep that in mind. I have friends who diet who have lost a ton of weight and changed their lifestyles to be healthier. I definitely salute them while appreciating and admiring them. It takes a lot of discipline. Yet the thing I've noticed about my friends who have had the most success is that they don't completely deprive themselves of the things they love. They treat themselves once in a while; they're not fanatical about everything. They know what they should and shouldn't eat and every once in a while they 'cheat' with a chocolate bar or a small order of french fries.

In contrast, I've noticed that some of the coworkers I've had are fanatical. They won't eat a single thing that's not on their diet but allow themselves a 'cheat' day. This day usually entails eating about 3,500+ calories in one day.

I'm not judging but it seems like it would be better to more frequently give yourself a 'small' reward than binge like that.

Yet, again, it's not me. I'm hoping that my new "foodie" status doesn't mean that I'm going to have to consider going on a real diet in the future. It would be hard. There's just no substitute for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese or fresh baked bread.

Maybe I should watch the bagels though.

Happy Wednesday.

1 comment:

Fe said...

Thanks for the shout out, Capt. Monkeypants. :-)

I agree, good ingredients should not be substituted.

And... mmmm fried things. ;-)