Foodie Tuesday: A Balanced Diet

Photo montage: Fun with Fruit & VegetablesI appreciate good health and all of the dietary elements that can determine whether I’m healthy, and if so, just how healthy I am. I know that diet includes not only the things I eat but how I combine them, when I eat, how much I eat, and many more factors that interact to create the ever-changing state of good health I seek. I realize, too, that nutritionists and scientists and other dietary mavens are always learning new things, and nearly always getting new ideas, too, some of which they can prove and others, not so much. That doesn’t stop tons of people, including me, from becoming obsessed, however temporarily, with the latest dietary trends and tweaking our diets without always considering whether those new, however ingenious seeming, ideas have anything to do with how our own bodies operate best.

Huh.

Yeah, I’m always thinking of new and better ways to make my diet more seemingly ideal for me, and I have some goofy thoughts on the subject at the best of times, and that’s the truth. What I can say in my defense is that among the relatively few things I have managed to learn in my lifetime thus far is that there is a whole lot more involved in my health and well-being than food.

I love when I can find the balance I need in any day by eating when I’m hungry, stopping when I’m no longer hungry, and focusing on getting not only a reasonable apportionment between protein and fat and carbs and vitamins and minerals and all of that dandy stuff. I love when it’s satisfying to my taste buds as well. Most of all, I love when that’s all fitted into a balanced diet of being with loved ones, going wonderful places, learning new fun things, and not least of all, of making art. There are always going to be theories, guides, charts, Rules and expectations about what constitutes the ideal way to eat, from the old spa cures that had people eating nothing but blandness or drinking rather large quantities of vinegary-dry white wine to the FDA-approved Food Pyramid, to the various independent dietary regimes from Scarsdale to South Beach, from Paleo to the Perfect Health Diet. I’ll outlive some of them, and many more will follow me. My budget and schedule, my taste preferences of the moment, and the company I keep, will continue to change my dietary wants and needs as well.

As long as I can keep listening to music, writing and drawing, and surrounding myself with great and interesting people, I will feel well fed.

Photo montage: Another Balanced DietI need to tell you that there’s one sure way to have just the right diet, at least if you happen to be me and visiting Vienna. You just wend your way down a couple of funny little narrow byways and find the welcome that waits for you behind the door of the Gösser Bierklinik. That’s right: a clinic dedicated to beer. If that doesn’t make you feel better, you don’t know a healthy diet at all, wink-wink. Hail, Austria! It’s really a lovely old, old restaurant—don’t miss the neatly labeled Türkenkugel, the cannonball reputed to have been shot into the place in 1683 and still enjoying the pride of place where it sticks out of, or into, the wall.Digital illustration: Bierklinik Highlights

But don’t get hung up on ancient history too much, or you will miss out on one of the best Wienerschnitzeln I’ve had anywhere, and I am a fan, so I’ve enjoyed a few. The Bierklinik’s is tender inside, lightly seasoned, crispy on the outside, and unadulterated with anything other than the requisite lemon wedge for squeezing a drop or two of extra sunshine on it. Fabulous. Combine that with some ordinary but blazing hot fries and a bracing drink of anything from water to the titular beer, to what our server assured me was the ‘ladylike’ way to have a beer, a Pfiff mit Schuss, or beer spiked with elderflower cordial—I can’t speak to the waiter’s assertion, not being so incredibly ladylike myself, but it was a light and sprightly accompaniment to the Schnitzel, and given the perfectly convivial group with whom we were dining on the evening I tried it out (my husband and I were with three delightful friends, but also joined eventually in conversation with the marvelous German couple and his parents who were sitting at the next table), it was no more, and no less, effervescent than the conversation. Schnitzel, fries, a good drink and excellent company. Sounds like a perfectly balanced diet to me!Photo: Gösser's Schnitzel

 

Chocolate is Half-inch Caulking for Cracked Moods

When I worked for my uncle’s construction company, the lead painter and I would look at something shabbily built and laugh that we’d been sent in to fix what the carpenters evidently couldn’t, with a mythical substance and/or application process we sometimes referred to as “half-inch caulking.” While a good job of caulking the edges and cracks around trim and other carpentry is an important step in preparing a built object or room for its paint, any gap as large as a half-inch would in reality need more serious care than mere caulking—perhaps even rebuilding—before it was worthy of being painted, and there’s no such thing as caulking truly made for such massive applications. Curing, caulk would soon enough shrink and pull away from the trim and leave a gap nearly as visible as the one it was intended to fill, and no amount of daintily applied paint would make it as pretty as if it had been assembled and prepared properly. Still, on our best days, we amused ourselves with the notion that whatever the previous workers had failed to build or fix nicely, we painters with our magic powers could doll up sufficiently to save.

I think that I am even less fooled, nowadays, by the idea that a vigorous application of fine chocolate to my innards by means of cheerful ingestion can cure anything that might ail me. But I am no less pleased to entertain that myth than the aforementioned one, and don’t mind that any proof in the positive results of chocolate-eating on my attitude is likely a placebo effect, psychosomatic or flat-out delusion. Whatever the truth, I continue to fill in the gaps of my frayed moods with chocolate, and it nearly always helps to smooth over the flaws better than nearly any other restorative out there.

Casa Cortés ChocoBar, our fantastical find of an eatery in San Juan, not only offered a plethora of chocolate treats for the repair and maintenance of body and soul but had a wonderful wall tiled with antique chocolate molds that may well have been used to cover a multitude of sins in the building construction itself. That makes the place, in my estimation, extra potent and all the more inspiring. I may be on the hunt now for chocolate molds with which to tile my next kitchen wall, but I won’t want decommissioned molds, preferring to fuel myself with the contents as I install. It seems the respectful thing to do.Photo: I can Fix It with Chocolate

Foodie Tuesday: Pleasing Paternal Palates

photoFather’s Day 2012 arrived on a date when we were both in the same state as our respective fathers. How about that. So it was our pleasure to gather up both sets of parents and the one sibling in close enough proximity and have a meal together.

I know that you all love food, and most of you love cooking and entertaining, too–especially if it’s for loved ones. You’ve told me so on many a Tuesday, not to mention with many a blog post of your own heralding the glories of your hospitality. I appreciate these wonders more than I can express–and the insufficiency of my words to do so is still mitigated, I think, by your awareness of my good intentions when it comes to these things. But being ‘on the road’ and having no kitchen to call my own, I knew it was the better part of valor to find a good meeting place that would supply the edible, drinkable provisions and let us all sit back and do the eating and drinking unencumbered by such worries.

Since all seven of us in the party are fans of various kinds of seafood, we opted for the Father’s Day Brunch at a local waterfront eatery well known for such stuff and let it go at that. Not a bad choice. Buffets are often a dangerous no-man’s-land of dining, to be sure, but a very popular and well-attended one is virtually guaranteed not to have the infamous nastiness of those foods that crepitate tragically on the serving board until petrification or putrefaction begin to gain ascendance over them and everything gets that creepy sheen of something that may or may not have been prepared using automotive lubricants and plumbers’ tools. Father’s Day is clearly one of the Top Five when it comes to holidays associated with hauling the parental units off to an eatery, because of course even the worst cretins among us know at some level that it’s not very polite to ask Dad to cook up his own celebratory treats and not a lot of us have the time, talent or gumption to do the deed ourselves. So we were not remotely surprised to see our restaurant of choice, and all of those we passed en route to it, jammed and jiggling with crowds of hungry visitors.

The buffet was not particularly unusual or even, probably, more sumptuous than many we’ve seen or heard others describe, but it was certainly lavish enough and varied enough to keep all of us from trying very hard to converse in the noisily crowded dining space, but rather left us making cheerily knowing winks across table at each other while cramming yet another tidbit of roasted or sugary whatsis onto a fork and into our grinning mouths. The weather was far more cooperative than predicted, so we enjoyed sunny views out through the expansive windows straight across the Sound to the big city, gulls parked on the old piling remnants of the piers adjacent to us, scudding clouds that failed to reflect in the increasing chop of the water and a few water taxis and ferries cutting through the chop to zigzag from shore to shore.photoWe ate lox and blackened salmon and hot-smoked salmon, fried shrimps and steamed prawns and seafood chowder, crab legs and crab Benedicts and crab salad; fruit and greens and vegetables and pickled goods. We ate roasted potatoes and hashed and steamed and whipped; roasts of beef and lamb and pork, and sausages and bacon; pasta and bread, muffins and scones. Cakes and pancakes, crepes and rolls, desserts and cheeses and so, so much more. Bloody Marys and coffee and tea and liquid chocolate poured from a fountain over pretty much whatever you might opt to stick under the flow. Fingers included, if I judge correctly by the number of small persons hovering near said fountain. But who’s to blame them? It’s Father’s Day, after all, and without those little scarpers there would be no fathers to celebrate, eh.photo