Tuesday, January 4, 2011

In Training

I don’t know how I let my sister-in-law talk me into training for a half marathon this spring; I’m quite sure alcohol must have been involved. Anyway, if you want to find me I’m probably one of the two or three gazillion people hoofing it down Belmont Boulevard in the morning or afternoon. Yeah, I’ll be the lardass doubled over, clutching her side and gasping for air.

It’s been, oh, around 10 years since I last ran a marathon. And I just have to say: this shit just gets harder as you get older.

You know, it’s that time of year when we’re inundated with diet ads on TV and news stories about fitness. That’s all very well and good but I just have a few questions.


• How come whenever I go to the grocery store, giant bags of Lay’s potato chips are always on sale, buy-one, get-one free? How come I can never get that deal on broccoli? Or a bag of apples? Just wondering.

• How does KFC manage to sell its 20-piece Family Meal, including four sides plus biscuits, for under $30? While half a free range chicken (roasted with lemon, Provencal herbs, and vegetables in a demi-glace), costs the same amount at Miel, a rather pricey eatery in West Nashville?

The KFC meal is enough food to feed two adults and three kids and still have plenty left for everyone to have lunch the next day. It’s also enough sugar, starch, sodium and fat to fast track your entire family to diabetes and heart disease -- and don’t even get me started on the hormones and toxic crap in their chicken. The Miel dinner, while healthier, will feed just one for dinner -- maybe with enough left for a snack the next day.

So, why is this? Why is crap cheap and plentiful, while wholesome food is not?

• Why are there hormone-disrupting toxins in our drinking water? Why did a ban Bisphenol A (BPA) not make it into the food safety bill, even though it’s banned in Canada for causing impotence and various other endocrine-disruption sins? (And by the way, if you haven’t voluntarily removed all the plastic from your kitchen, well, now might be a good time to start).

• Why (thank you, Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice) have scientists found that it’s not just people getting fatter, but our pets and the animals who live with us like mice and rats? Could it be that we’re all eating and drinking from the same hormone-laden, chemically-engineered banquet table?

• Why do we wonder why the nation is getting fatter and unhealthier when the very reasons are staring us in the face? Why, whenever the media discusses America’s “obesity epidemic,” do we never discuss any of these other issues? Why don’t we talk about the farm policy that favors overproduction of corn, or the toxins and endocrine disruptors in our food and water supply, or the factory farms and agribusiness and genetically modified frankenfoods which the people hawking at us claim to be safe?

Just wondering.

I love to cook, it’s one of my great joys in life. I’d no sooner eat at a fast food restaurant as I’d pluck out my own eyeballs and fry them up for dinner. Packaged and processed food just doesn’t taste good to me -- I need food to stimulate something other than the salty and sweet tastebuds in my mouth. I cannot imagine coming home from work and popping something frozen in the microwave for dinner. The idea that this is how so many Americans live just makes me sad. And I can’t imagine that this food is good for you.

I hope Americans will get a clue and just say no to the crap we’re being sold by the food industry. It’s not food, it’s a manufactured food-like substitute. Try making just one thing from scratch this week (or one new thing) and see if it’s really as hard and inconvenient and awful as you think.

You can start with salad dressing: it’s the simplest thing in the world, and it can be used as a marinade, dip, drizzled over steamed veggies, over cold pasta, or on your salad. Here's one of my favorites:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar: the basic formula is 3 parts olive oil to two parts vinegar. Play with it and adjust to your own taste.

1 shallot, chopped fine
About a teaspoon of honey
About a teaspoon of oregano
Salt & Pepper to taste

Put all of this in a blender or small food processor (or whisk it up in a bowl). Voila, you now have a basic vinaigrette. Now comes the fun part. Use it as is, or play with it a bit. Make it creamy by adding some Greek yogurt, or add some gorgonzola cheese, or half an avocado. Or substitute red wine vinegar for the balsamic. Or add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. It’s easy-peasy and way better for you than that Wish-Bone crap that contains “xanthan gum” and “maltodextrin” and something scary called “calcium disodium EDTA.”

Take care of yourself, America. You're worth it.