(photo: grilled and baked zucchini with breadcrumbs, parsley, and grated Grana Padano)
Let’s face it you can’t always eat what you desire to eat. For example, I crave salt more than any other substance on the planet and if it was up to my primordial brain I’d consume it primarily through cured pork products like coppa, mocetta, and prosciutto. There are nights when I dream in salted and cured pig. But, alas, if I ate what my right hemisphere told me to shove in my mouth then I’d most likely suffer through a series of heart attacks caused by sky high blood pressure and ultimately concede to an early death.
So, in the interest of living longer than my Italian ancestors in Calabria I take a fairly stringent approach to poorly fried foods, sugary items / sweets, and overly salted food items. On the processed food side, I take a monastic approach; namely, I refrain from all products made by the devil himself (so, yes, I’m not a big fan of the big box supermarket and wildly decorated boxes containing calorie laden substances made in a factory). I do have a high metabolism (equivalent to humming bird, some say) and I’m currently a slave to my favorite activity (i.e., tennis) so I’m blessed in minor, physical, ways, but lets just say if I wanted to gain weight I could easily do so.
One of the key aspects of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is to eat tasty foods (there’s no way around the basic fact that humans desire flavor in whatever they put in their mouth; whether it comes in the form of salt, fat, or sugar). I like to cook foods that are seasoned well, contain great variety, and have very high nutritional value. As an example, take last night’s dinner:
The chicken was tender and had great lemon and garlic flavors, plus it filled me up with lots of good protein. The zucchini satisfied my cheese fix and the baked breadcrumbs were hearty. The cous cous was light and packed with flavor from the vinegar, sun dried tomatoes, and parsley. All in all, it was a very satisfying meal with relatively low fat and salt (there are food critics who are telling folks there’s nothing wrong with salt and fat; to this I say listen to your body and not the critics). I also consumed a glass of red wine.
My point above is not to gloat about a recent “healthy” dinner rather to convey that eating well is all about choice and culinary perspective. If you’re a wage earner in the United States you have access to some of the cheapest food on the planet (fresh food included and independent of fancy labels like local, organic, etc.). If you’re a life long citizen of our great country then you probably don’t have culinary perspective and the ability to improvise and cook great tasting food that isn’t firmly situated in the tradition of using abundant salt, fat, and sugars. This isn’t meant as an insult to the average American it’s just that there our culinary tradition is in the stone-age compared to other parts of the world. Recent immigrants have culinary perspective, for example, and even with little money most new arrivals in the United States put tasty food preparation and the center of their existent and you should too!