Foodie Tuesday: Sweets, Treats & Healthy Eats

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What’s good for my heart might be as much a spiritual question as a nutritional one, even at table. Mmm, BBQ!

I am one of those silly people who don’t think the title’s terms are mutually exclusive. Call me a cockeyed optimist (because, well, I am), but it also happens to follow a certain logic if I tell you that not only do scientists and nutritionists and doctors sometimes concede that what was once thought the epitome of healthful behavior and ingestion is now believed to be quite the opposite, or that things we once considered horrendously dangerous and likely to contribute to the destruction-through-dining of the entire human race might not be quite so terrible after all. Not to mention the recognition that each person’s body type, genetic makeup, chemistry, environment and so forth all make him-her-me unique in the ways we suffer or benefit from our diets.

So I will refrain from posting—on Tuesdays or otherwise—ruminations on what is Always or Never good for anybody. Besides which, as you well know on visiting with me even twice on a Tuesday, even my own two-person family household has vastly different ideas and tastes and preferences when it comes to what we simply like or don’t like to eat and drink. Thankfully, we can work out those differences in many ways, so the reality of our widely divergent food loves has relatively little impact on our love of being together.

This is, among other things, a reason that it’s nice to have something to amuse each member of the party at table, and let each choose his or her own combination of dishes, drinks and delectables. I am well aware that having no children in the family may be seen as a dodge of the most difficult issues in this regard, because as a supposedly responsible adult one might be expected to see that every child present is getting reasonable nutrition at all times, and hopefully, also building practices and habits that will lead to her continued healthy living. But of course one can point to numerous folk who have in various ways had the ability to subvert the rules and live and thrive. And of course, I live with an adult who has managed to do so despite having been raised to eat ‘right’ yet arriving at adulthood with a general dislike of much of what is, was and perhaps ever shall be considered ‘right eating’: he doesn’t like very many vegetables at all, and could probably survive on pizza, mac and cheese, hamburgers and fries, and those with little deviation from their simplest forms, especially preferred without annoying vegetable side dishes or icky sauces. While I enjoy nearly all of the foods he does like, I’ll also eat lots of other things gladly, including the veggies and sauces and many more things he would far rather not.

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Cucumber, all by itself, is refreshing; as a simple salad made with rice vinegar, honey, fresh dill and black pepper, it’s also delicious.

Does this in any way make him less intelligent or well-bred or good or admirable? It most certainly does not, any more than it confers sainthood upon me. It may be true that ‘the heart wants what it wants’, but baby, I’d say with ten times the conviction that the gut has powerful reign over our existence—stomach, tastebuds and brain in concert, that is. And I’ll bet you dollars to sugary, fat, wonderful donuts that this alone will not determine who among us lives well, survives long and dies contented. So I eat my vegetables, more often than not, alone even when eating at the same table as my beloved. He will order the same classic meat-and-potatoes food a bit more frequently than I will. We will both worry about our health and weight and shapes from time to time and each of us, occasionally, do some little thing or other to alter them, together or individually.

All I can say for certain is that I hope neither of us will ever lose interest in food and drink altogether or, especially, lose the ability to eat and sip much that we enjoy, because those tastes and those communal activities and shared experiences give us pleasure that is as beneficial to health and happiness as the nutrients themselves can ever begin to be. That makes Foodie Tuesday here a perfect day to celebrate a very special cook, hostess, family member and dear friend, whose birthday is upon us. Happy birthday, Mom Sparks! Your good cooking and your graciousness, both at table and all around, make you a Sweet Treat yourself—and helped to shape, unquestionably, the marvelous man with whom I am privileged to dine nearly every day, no matter what we choose to eat and drink.

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‘Green Banana’ Pudding: ripe bananas and avocado blended until smooth with fresh lime juice and zest, honey, butter (of *course* I’m not kidding), almond extract, and a pinch of salt. A few toasted coconut chips on top add just a hint of crunch. Banana-lime happiness in a spoon!

The Race Well Run

digital illustration from a graphite drawingAthletic prowess of any sort is a mystery and source of amazement to me. One doesn’t have to be an Olympian, by a long stretch, to appear nearly godlike to my unskilled and uninformed eye. While I have had moments of physical fitness in my life, they never amounted to anything notable beyond getting me from Here to There and back again.

I think my attention span tends to favor short bursts of intense action rather than sustained practice, just as my brain has always rebelled against both study and studio time over lengthy stretches. When I’m doing a renovation project, it reflects my past days of art gallery installation, which more often than not veered away from the sensible approach of using a full week for the job in favor of three 18 hour days in a row. When I’d end up at 2 a.m. leaning off the twelve-foot ladder to aim the last few lights properly at the artworks, it’s likely no wonder I avoided spending longer periods acting sensible and instead ended up doing everything in a crazy cram-course style.

I know perfectly well that this approach may be inappropriate for these pursuits and is definitely wrong for athletic pursuits, just as well as I know that attempting to draw only in 18-hour sessions for three days straight and then take a nice six-week holiday before coming back, literally, to the drawing board would be ridiculous. So, considering that I have such a direly miniscule attention span for anything but what I love the most, it’s no shock that something I’m truly lousy at and ill-equipped with the strength, speed or grace to perfect has rarely been (and is unlikely to become) a long-term pursuit of mine.

This–along with the few paltry attempts at athletic activities that I have made over the years–explains quite readily why I both admire great acts of physical prowess and art and find them completely alien, athlete and action alike. Yes, I have pressed a few weights, swum a lap or ten, leapt hurdles, rowed against the current, placekicked the pigskin, arm-wrestled, done pushups and pullups and situps, and run a fair number of miles in my time, among other things. But unless I have to do any of it again to save my life, I’d ever so much rather watch someone who genuinely loves being an Action Figure do all the work, and do it ever so much better than I ever could. After all, though I’m no athlete I am a very skilled and enthusiastic spectator, and all sorts of artists deserve a good audience. That way we all get a chance to rise to the level of our highest potential.