‘To eat good food is to know God.’
Primo, Big Night
Years ago, when my daughter was still tiny, and I worked early mornings and every holiday in pastry, I made a friend in my kitchen who was training for a half marathon. Her goal was to drop her excess weight fast, then work on building lean muscle to finish with a great race time. The plan, which she explained to me in detail as I piped icing beaks and chick feet on hundreds of Spring sugar cookies, included a menu which honestly sounded like a fate worse than death: boiled chicken breast, steamed broccoli and carrots for three meals a day, seven days a week. No salt. No seasonings of any kind. Six weeks of lean, plain and simple. It sounded awful. It sounded brutal, tragic, and miserable.
Naturally, in my desperation to lose lingering post-baby weight, it sounded like the perfect plan. After all, if it wasn’t extreme and painful, it couldn’t possibly work, right? I came home that day and shared the plan with Badge, informing him he would be joining me since married couples supported each other, and well, couldn’t he stand to lose a few himself? (the poor guy had gone from ‘starving student’ to living with an avid foodie, gourmet, and chocolate addict; it was really only a matter of time before his metabolism lost the fight.)
Being the incredible man that he is, he agreed rather than telling me to take a hike.
So the next day we boiled our chicken, steamed our commonplace vegetables, and sat down to lunch. We chewed. We drank a lot of water. We talked a little. Dinner was quiet and serious. We couldn't even look at each other during breakfast the next day for grimacing through the dry swallows, and lunch was depression on the verge of tears. Emotions were raw as each of us contemplated six more weeks of this life, abandoning the joy and pleasure that accompanies great food in the name of better health.
We didn't make it through dinner, or at least the chicken and boring vegetables didn't. We chucked the plan, sautéed some garlic in olive oil and made a rich white sauce to drizzle over the tragedy left on our plates. We laughed for the first time in what felt like years and remembered that we liked being together. We swapped stories about our day and vowed that if being skinny required these kinds of sacrifices we would happily choose to remain slightly ‘fluffy’ while eating something delicious.
Time has passed and I have, fortunately, learned much more about finding a balance between health and pleasure, discovering a multitude of ways to add flavor while trimming down the unhealthy fats, empty calories, and added sweeteners. All of this is leading up to me telling you I've decided to share a series of tutorials over the next few weeks on adding healthy flavor without the fluffy extras. We’ll talk cooking methods, herbs and alliums, citrus and spices, ingredient substitutions, and other simple techniques to make your time in the kitchen work for you and your goals rather than against.
And, of course, some shoot-the-moon-delicious recipes with it all, so stay tuned!
Turns out boiled chicken and broccoli isn't the only way to a fit physique. I know Badge is pretty happy about that, though he still brings up the twenty-four-hour chicken and broccoli diet from time to time when he wants to call in a favor. I’m inclined to think he’s entitled.