Archive for the 'Food' Category

Excuse #4,561: My indoor plumbing is making me fat

September 17, 2008

Our friends at Freakonomics, one of my favorite sites, are always thinking:

Is it possible that the availability of good plumbing has contributed to our national weight gain? This may sound ludicrous, but think about it for just a moment. Very few people have to trek through the night to use an outhouse anymore; furthermore, restroom facilities are readily available just about everywhere — which means you don’t have to worry about getting rid of your waste, which frees you up to consume as much as you’d like.

This is certainly original. Could it also be the reason why there are such enormous toilet facilities at our local all-you-can-eat restaurants? (Not that I ever go to any of them, mind you. Um, the restaurants, I mean.)

Most of the respondents to the article agree — and I concur — that it is modern technology (including improvements in plumbing) that is the real problem: too much ease, too many sedentary distractions and too much available — and right tasty — food. It’s cheap and safe and plentiful — and there are even wonderful people out there who will bring it right to your doorstep!

But I do admit that, faced with a long drive across the barren desert, I rethink what I’m eating and drinking. The Spouse thinks a successful road trip is one with ABSOLUTELY NO STOPS.

(And now msmeta returns to logging in her daily caloric intake, which is probably why she has dieting on the brain. How many calories are there in a Snickers Bar? Okay, then, how about a piece of lint?)

Update: Freakonomics also has the best, most concise explanation of the current financial meltdown of any source I’ve read.


Diet Wars: Toughing it out — for what?

July 28, 2008

The always-excellent Tara Parker-Pope in the NYTimes has been dealing with a high reader response to a diet-related post that ran last week about a much-ballyhooed NEJM study. Among other things, the study sadly indicated “that dieters can put forth tremendous effort and reap very little benefit.” Well, du-uh.

Long-story-short: while the NEJM study favorably compared the Atkins low-carb diet with other plans (a good thing, since Atkins funded the study), the poor participants who stuck with the TWO-YEAR study lost a whopping 6 to 10 pounds. Total. I lasted about two weeks on Atkins and three weeks on the similar South Beach Diet, and felt sick most of the time on both, so I can’t imagine toughing it out for two years! How grim! Read the rest of this entry »

Your Girl in London: Harrods

May 19, 2008

Knightsbridge today, and Harrods, “the world’s most famous department store.” I took a bus, but then just walked back to the flat, it was so close. I can’t possibly afford anything in Harrods, and I mean that sincerely. I sometimes think only the Saudis can afford to shop there, particularly in its “Rooms of Luxury,” and there were plenty of them there today. (Harrods actually charges you to use the loo!)

No, I go to Harrods for its Food Court, which I think is one of the wonders of the world. The store has moved some its food operation across the street since I was here last, but the original one is still pretty spectacular: Rows and rows of gleaming counters and food bars, with all kinds of meats, seafood, cheeses, breads, sweets and all kinds of delicacies, including a caviar bar and — EGAD — Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, which was doing a booming business!

I discovered a fascinating corner where you can buy really interesting kinds of oils and flavored vinegars, which they will decant for you in special vases of all sizes. I’ve never seen anything like it.

I picked out two kinds of quiche and some lovely rolls for our lunch as well as fruit scones for breakfast, and will likely go back for some sushi next week. I also got some little candies, meringue dipped in dark chocolate, nice and light. When I handed the clerk my Visa card, I was given the option of paying in dollars or pounds, a first for me.

Harrods’ distinctive dark green shopping bags remind me of Chicago and Marshall Fields — RIP, another distinctive shopping experience that is now only a memory. (When I lived in Chicago, I couldn’t afford to shop at Marshall Fields, either!)

Your Girl in London: Living

May 16, 2008

A few observations from Across the Pond:

Our neighborhood in South Kensington has a lot of schools. There’s the Ecole Charles de Gaulle a few streets over (surrounded by French bookstores), with the Imperial College of London just a stone’s throw from that. And I’ve walked by a lot of smaller language schools and even an art school on Queen’s Way. So we have a lot of students, and the neighborhood is quite relaxed, with lots of coffee shops where the students congregate — and smoke like chimneys! (Do American students smoke that much?) Our building is run by an outfit called FIE, which rents flats to various university programs. We have at least four schools represented in our building, including Boston University, and several others are supposed to show up next week.

This is first time I’ve been to London when I’ve actually felt like I LIVED in London. I’m still trying to do my job, with help from my well-flogged slaves highly trained interns back in the office, so I spend about four hours a day on the Web. We’ve been to plays and museums, including a really interesting trip to Temple, which is the heart of London’s legal world and has some great Knights Templar history surrounding it. I’ve been buying groceries at Waitrose and Tesco, with my little recyclable shopping bag, and I’ve been reading and trying to find something interesting to watch on the telly. (No cable, just public channels, and Four and Five run a LOT of American television series.)

Food is fun here, with lots of ready-to-eat ethnic choices in the supermarkets. The scope of the British Empire can best be seen in its cuisine, which outside of fish-and-chips, clotted cream and the occasional Yorkshire pudding, is pretty global: chicken tikka, moussaka, samoyas, hummus, cous-cous and pita. Today for lunch we had onion bhirgy, sort of a knish. Delish. The deli counter at the local Waitrose is a thing of beauty, with its assortment of REAL cheeses, meats, salads and prepared meals. Although the dollar has made a few gains in the past week or so, we’re not eating out much because of the cost, and I’m not missing it.

I am relieved to report that there is no super-sizing in London, at least that I can see. No Big Gulp mentality here. (My sons think the definition of a great restaurant is all-you-can-drink refills.) It’s definitely made a difference in my consumption. Smaller portions and all the walking you normally do in the city has helped me lose probably ten pounds, so I’m going to have to rethink my American lifestyle.

The Brits are definitely more green-conscious than we are. Nearly all the washing machine soaps at Waitrose were rated “bio,” and there’s a real push for recycling even in our little building.

There’s a bank holiday next weekend, and the students will be gone, so we’re planning a trip southwest to Cornwall, which is supposed to be very beautiful and pastoral. This weekend we’ll go to the National Theatre for a production of “Fram” and I aim to stroll over to the V&A Museum for a few hours.


The perfect vinaigrette and other musings

February 7, 2008

images1.jpegI love perfect, simple food: a plain bread pudding, my husband’s grilled salmon (aluminum foil, a little oil and lemon pepper are the key elements), crusty French bread, steamed vegetables, a made-from-scratch salsa. The NYTimes has a great ongoing column/blog, Bitten, by Mark Bittman, a terrific minimalist chef. He shares his perfect vinaigrette:

Vary this however you like: with herbs, with garlic (roasted is very nice), with a tiny bit of soy sauce and sesame oil, with lemon juice in place of the vinegar, with hazelnut oil, with spices . . . you name it, in moderation it will work. You can also just beat the ingredients in a bowl with a fork, or shake them in a jar; it won’t be as creamy, but it will still taste delicious.
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons or more good vinegar — wine, sherry, rice, balsamic, etc.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 large shallot (about 1 ounce), peeled and cut into chunks
1. Combine all ingredients but the shallot in a blender and turn the machine on; a creamy emulsion will form within 30 seconds. Taste and add more vinegar a teaspoon or two at a time, until the balance tastes right.
2. Add the shallot, and turn the machine on and off a few times until the shallot is minced within the dressing. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve. This is best made fresh but will keep a few days refrigerated; bring back to room temperature and whisk briefly before using.

I pretty much agree with this one, although I would probably skip the shallot (too hard to find around here), increase the dijon mustard to about a tablespoon and use only a good red wine vinegar. It makes a pretty indispensable dressing/marinade, and it has a mysterious fresh, alive sense about it that bottled dressings lack. (Is it the preservatives? The shelf life? There’s something that makes Hidden Valley taste, well, dead to me…) Read the rest of this entry »