Freedom to Cook

Dieting taught me to appreciate machinery-measured and packaged food with detailed nutritional labels.   Why?

It made the math easier.

I didn’t have to weigh things.  I didn’t have to dig out a ruler or measuring spoons.  Calories, carbs, protein — it’s all there, neatly printed, and totally uniform.  Sure, I had a few recipes memorized:

  • An omelet with 1 slice of cheese and 1 slice of ham chopped up.
  • Two Ritz crackers with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter.
  • A sandwich with 3 slices of ham, 3 of turkey, 2 slices of cheese, 1 tablespoon mustard and 2 slices of whole-wheat bread.

I used them over and over, too.   I ended up in quite the food rut, because it was easy.

What got me thinking about this?  Making breakfast Saturday morning.  Instead of “what recipe to follow” I poked around the fridge.  I scrambled eggs, diced red pepper, diced onion, bacon bits, green onion slices, and cheese together to go with toast and jam and coffee.  I ended up comparing this to my last few diets and how nice is was to be able to just cook whatever I thought would be tasty and not be limited by carbs or fats or what-have-you.

Am I eating more food?  Very likely, since I’m not trying to limit carbs or calories.  But I’m also eating more varied food and arguably healthier food.

13 thoughts on “Freedom to Cook

    • Hi Kitty –

      Just wanted to let you know a lot of folks who read my blog aren’t pro-losing weight or dieting, so you may get some flak for talking about it. (I actually almost didn’t post this post because it does touch on dieting.)

      I’m not trying to lose weight at the moment, and generally think there’s some pretty serious cons to doing so. I understand there are “pros” to losing weight, and I’m not saying YOU should do anything differently.

      As I understand it we are both working on getting into shape, but I’m focusing on exercise and you’re focused on losing weight as well.

  1. The way you approached that breakfast is pretty much the way I approach cooking most of the time. This looks good, that smells good, hey a bit of this might be tasty…cook it until it’s done. When I do it that way, I almost never find myself wondering whether I’m getting enough of this kind of food or too much of that, because it all winds up pretty balanced.

    Ironically, I’m trying to do one new actual written down recipe every week for 2010, but it’s more about learning new techniques and stretching myself to try ingredients I haven’t worked with much than it is about ‘learning to eat well.’ I’ve discovered making ice cream at home and learned that despite all the terrifying tales I’ve heard that choux paste came very easily to me. I’ve also found a way of making up a big batch of the bitter greens I adore that makes Mr. Twistie yum them up, too. Now when I start pulling out random stuff and trying to make a meal out of it, I have some more options for how to make it happen, and that makes cooking and eating more fun.

    Overall I find that opening one’s self up to play with food is the fastest way to discovering the foods that make you feel your best, both physically and emotionally.

    • I’m trying to do one new actual written down recipe every week for 2010, but it’s more about learning new techniques and stretching myself to try ingredients I haven’t worked with much than it is about ‘learning to eat well.’

      Interesting. I know I was trying new techniques more often when I was watching the food network more ;)

    • I agree. Part of me was wondering if I shouldn’t have mentioned the “arguably healthier” because that isn’t a major determinant of what I eat (if it were I wouldn’t eat so much frozen food for lunch). It’s more about what feels good….I don’t go for things with protein and fiber instead of Krispy Kreme in the morning to be “healthier”, but because the donuts are generally too sweet in the morning and they don’t stick with me AT ALL. Forget “hungry again in an hour”, I’m hungry again immediately — talk about a waste of money…! Yet at the same time, “food that helps me feel alert and ready to work for the length of the morning” could be considered one meaning of “a healthy breakfast”.

      I think we get so used to various interests all pushing their definition of “healthy”, that they all get combined into either no meaning or completely unattainable. ;)

      • Yeah, I get what you mean by that. I think “healthy” is probably like “Sexy” when it comes to marketing. If on subliminal level you can convince people it makes you immortal and gets you laid a lot you can sell it.

        I do think “healthy” involves enjoying a treat sometimes, too.

        • I think “healthy” is probably like “Sexy” when it comes to marketing.

          *giggle*

          No wonder they push that if you’re healthy you’re sexy — it’s twice the enticement!

          I do think “healthy” involves enjoying a treat sometimes, too.

          Certainly. Feasts are traditional in most cultures for a reason.

          I’ve also noticed that when I’m really craving foods commonly known as “treats” I’m either really stressed, sick, have missed a meal, or missed out on sleep. I think that’s my body’s way of saying, “HEY! Yo! We’re using up lots of energy here!” :)

  2. You might like a book called ‘Ratio’ by Michael Ruhlman. Most cooking is a chemical reaction in one way or another, and to feed the necessary reactions you need the right volumes of one thing to another (simplifying a lot). Often it’s easiest to remember, as you demonstrated, the ratios of one thing to another rather than specific weights or volumes. For example, you make a roux with equal amounts of butter and flour (by weight), a mirepoix with a fixed ratio of one vegetable to another…Ratio is a very good book full of practical examples of how these things all fit together. And it’s the sort of stuff that allows you to experiment in the kitchen with confidence that you’ll get something that works in the end.

    At the same time, two of the best investments in the area of kitchen gadgets are a set of digital scales and a digital probe thermometer. Digital because the analogue versions are nowhere near as accurate and often way more expensive. You should be able to get both in a restaurant supply store or an electronics hobby store.

    With accurate tools you take out guesswork. Now, while people with experience will tell you that they can do a better job by eye, or by feel, they are mostly fooling themselves. The only way to tell a roast has reached the right temperature is with a probe thermometer. Judging flour by volume is hopeless.

  3. I love eating whatever sounds good! Sometimes it gets me some odd looks, like when the only thing that sounds good is garbanzo beans and quinoa, but whatever. Making up recipes on the fly has become a joy (when I have time) lately. I’ve become especially fond of experimenting with spices.

    Not that tonight is terribly experimental…but sometimes I just want something tried, true, and delicious. I’m baking a whole chicken with onion, sea salt, pepper and rosemary. Yummy!

  4. It really does feel so freeing to be able to just unleash your creative side and add whatever you want to your meal as you cook it. Dieting kills that and sucks all of the pleasure out of the experience of a meal.

  5. I grew up without a microwave and hardly knew anything but homecooked meals, so counting calories always seemed like this nigh impossible feat based on inaccurate science to me and I had no idea how anybody could possibly think it made sense. If I had known that there was such a thing as bottled pasta sauce, I might have understood …

  6. Pingback: March Round-Up « Living ~400lbs

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