Written by John on January 5th, 2010
January is the time of year when everybody’s thinking about food. While some savor December’s holiday feasts, others lament their yuletide excess. And for many, the New Year brings with it a steely resolve to “eat better”.
It is thought that over 100 million Americans set New Year’s resolutions. Sadly, most are abandoned by February, victims of weighty aspirations. Too many resolutions focus on improbable dreams of “losing this” or “quitting that”, instead of smaller, easier-to-keep lifestyle changes that might actually survive Ground Hogs Day.
Recent research into longevity has uncovered simple things everyone can do to live longer, better:
- Switch to 10” plates and skinny glasses
- Put healthy options in plain view and hide the junk food…even in the refrigerator
- Stop eating when you are 80% full
- Avoid mindless munching by turning off the TV when eating
- Take a short walk after dinner
These incremental changes are relatively painless and can have a profound effect on our wellbeing. However, they won’t become habit overnight. It actually takes five weeks of practice to make a new behavior a habit. So resolve today to eat better in 2010. Just make you’re still practicing until the next national food holiday…Super Bowl Sunday!
Written by John on December 23rd, 2009
My daughters made Christmas cookies last night. Not the “heat and eat” frozen dough variety, but the kind that leaves a light dusting of flour on the counters and the crunch of sugar sprinkles under foot. This was significant because:
- it was their idea,
- they planned far enough ahead to allow for the dough to chill,
- they cleaned up everything (almost).
Achieving this milestone was appreciated almost as much as the first time we left them without a sitter.
Food experiences abound during the holidays. In my family, Christmas brought a mix of old world Italian traditions and Midwest sensibilities…tortellini and broth chased with Tom & Jerry’s. The actual menu was less important than reserving a place at the table for traditional holiday fare: JoAnn’s trifle, Ginny’s caramel corn, Norma’s turtles. I once carried a marzipan fish across eight time zones to deliver a holiday tradition from my Italian aunts to their brother in Minnesota. It was worth the Interpol APB to see my father’s face when that “fish” showed up on Christmas Eve.
Today, however, too many of our food traditions have gone the way of the Tofurky (really…tofu “turkey”), pushed aside by a new tradition of acquiring “must have” toys from China. These new traditions are available at big box stores that lure shoppers to the glow of $400 flat screen TVs and then offer a complete holiday meal as a $20 impulse item.
I submit that we should not allow retailers’ deference for high-margin electronics to interfere with our ability to bake real memories for our friends and family. My wish this year is for everyone to spill some flour making a holiday food tradition. Nothing fancy or expensive. In fact, the best traditions are made from scratch. Bake some tonight.
Nana’s Sugar Cookies
- 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
- 2 cups white sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
- Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely.
Written by John on October 9th, 2009
What if an apple a day really did keep the doctor away? Not apple juice or an “all the nutrition of an apple” fruit snack, but a ripe, juicy apple. Ideally you’d eat more seasonally from the local orchard (but that’s another blog). Would it really change people’s eating habits? Of course, it’s not just eating the apple that keeps the doctor away. You also have get a little exercise and avoid other self-destructive behaviors (e.g., smoking, over-eating, etc), but you get the point.
So with all the talk about health care, why doesn’t someone write this simple prescription: EAT BETTER! Given the link between the food we eat and our personal well-being it seems pretty obvious. It’s even more apparent when you consider the following: in the 1970’s we spent about 5% of our GDP on Health Care and about 15% on Food; today the numbers are reversed. Think about it…over the past four decades our addiction to cheap calories has willingly led us down a path to obesity, heart disease and childhood onset of adult diseases. It makes you wonder if that $1 Value Menu is really a value!
Why do we eat poorly? Supposedly we’re all too busy to cook, although how then do you explain the celebrity chef phenomenon on Food TV? Seems we have plenty of time to watch other people cook…just don’t ask us to put down the remote long enough to actually prepare something healthy for ourselves.
I propose a home version of Iron Chef, where family and friends compete to create healthy, fresh meals in under 30 minutes. Sure, the appliances won’t be as fancy as Kitchen Stadium and you won’t have Alton Brown doing the play-by-play, but the final result will a satisfying and no-doubt healthier alternative to our current meals. The first theme ingredient can be an apple.