As I wrote on a previous post, I have been working on my novel, it was an unexpected project and going very well. And at first, I really didn't eat well, just my earthquake kit and general bad food, but in the last few weeks, I have improved so much, but haven't been blogging about it.
Mostly I have been eating noodles, ramen, soba, udon, with Shabu Shabu meat, pork usually, but occasionally beef, and different vegetables. If I am using Shabu Shabu meat, I always have Ponzo sauce to dip the meat in, and sometimes add to the noodle soup. I scroll through different things, all the time, daikon radish being the best base, if I remember I always put that in, nappa cabbage being another staple, but otherwise I will have fresh shitaki mushroom, brocoli, corn, lotus, eggs, roast pork, fried chicken, onions, dumplings.
Each one adds another flavor to the food. Sadly, I hadn't taken any photos, I really should have as they were different every day.
Today, I did make curry, which you can see below and of course made cookies for Christmas.
The month of November has an esoteric call to authors and wannabe authors everywhere called NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is to write 50 000 words of a brand new novel within the 30 days. I heeded it, I signed up for it, and achieved it. By the end of November, on the last day, I had written 88,081 words (300 printed pages) all together, and 52411 words (168 pages) actually in use for the novel I am currently working on.
There are so much more writing and editing to do. It's daunting and I am really tempted to just spend all my free time working on this, especially since I have set the goal of submitting the first chapters to publishers by March 2016.
And thus this is the test for me, whether I will simply subsist on premade food, restaurant food, and take out, as I have done for the last few weeks in order to achieve my word goal, or I will be able to work out a balance between working on a project that is personally long due, and feeding myself and my son well, along with keeping up with this blog.
But even though I made the commitment to finish the novel this time and take it to the end point which is sending it to publishers, I also made two other commitments. One is the write this blog for six months, and take stock, and if it's working well, make it a project that lasts one whole year. The other commitment is cooking for myself as much as possible. As I always say, it's a lie to say cooking for yourself is easy and simple because it's not. It takes time and work, to have a healthy life for you and your children if you have any.
These few weeks I have had a never ending stream of Coca-Cola, (including accepting refills), restaurant food, skipping lunches, eating processed food for subsistence, mainly a general bad diet, and have to live with the consequences. My hair is stringy, in need of washing more frequently, it's ends have dried up, at the same time the oil and chemicals I have been ingesting are filling my pores, giving me bad skin, breaking out so badly that I have a pimple on my lip that from a distance looks like a sexuallty transmitted disease. I feel bloated and am sure I am a little fatter. I definitely no longer sleep well.
This is not how I want to live. For a while I had been so good at being healthy that I wanted to write about it.
It's going to take a while to get this right again.
So this is my test, instead of being home, concentrating on recipes and daily life only, I now work everyday. Just like most people, making this blog more honest.
The first meal I made in ages, was Chicken Adobo, a Filipino dish, Except instead of it taking 40 minutes, I made a cheat version that took 10. I won't write about it right now, as my phone is so full of things that I can't even take a photo, but I will.
So a new phone, a second draft and reseting my habits.
Part of this blog is about the commitment to eating well. Making the extra effort for yourself and your children, being able to foresee the future instead of the convenience of the present.
But currently, I am on survival mode. Around the same time I started this blog, I made another commitment, to writing a novel in a month.
I need to get 50 000 words down, in 30 days as part of the National Novel Writing Month. So the last week or so, while my son was with me, I made simple meals. Pasta with sauce in a jar, sausages, and some fresh bread where I just put jam and peanut butter (ergh) for snack.
However my son is with his father this weekend, and I am using this time to catch up on the 16000 words, as I am behind the schedule. I am just eating crap. I forgo fruit in my table, instead of eating chocolate chips for making cookies, straight out of the bag. Although last night I made a chocolate chip, pecan, walnuts and banana chip batch for dinner. I also made the last of my Fresh and Easy pre-made pasta I had put in the freezer and heated up, plastic and all for three minutes in the microwave.
Since it's thanksgiving week, and I always open my earthquake kit to check for food that's nearly expired. I have subsisting on protein bars, instant noodles, some snap peas chips, and coca cola.
All I want is to catch up on my words, and make it to the goal. NANOWRIMO is like a triathlon for writers. You write a little here and there, and then you make a commitment to see if you can make this really difficult journey.
I haven't cooked for a few days, and I don't really plan to either.
But I know once this is over, I will stop, look into my fridge and start again, because just like this book, it's one thing I have committed to for life. As I say, I think it's a lie to tell people that cooking is simple, eating well is easy. It's not in this day and age, when not eating healthy is the default.
But like writing a novel, sometimes even when there are things you rather be doing, once you've made your commitment, it's something to follow through.
My son and I were invited over to a friend's last minute. While there, we decided to have dinner together. Despite there were many reasonably priced and healthier options (Mexican, Italian, and Japanese)
I said, "Well... I don't really want to spend any money, how about KFC?"
I held my breath, I didn't know if the other person even ate fast food and when she answered in the affirmative, I spontaneously erupted with a joyful, "YES!"
I don't remember, but I am sure she looked at me strange.
On the way to her place, I had already drove past the red and white logo. The light box with the letters "KFC" wasn't flashing, but mentally, in my mind, it was a giant balloon engulfing me.
'I am having this for dinner,' I said to myself.
While we walked there, I repeatedly said, "I am so excited, I never eat there, I love KFC," and probably did a little dance. No, seriously, I did.
When we arrived and I ordered, I chose the 12 piece fried chicken option that the menu said fed six people, when there were only 5 of us and three were children. I couldn't bear to think there wouldn't be enough.
When that giant tub arrived, I didn't pay that much attention to the kids and took the first piece. I tore off the chicken skin first, putting it in my mouth, crunching down. When I finished, I slowly peeled the chicken flesh off eating with my fingers, and sporadically wiping the oil off my hands and mouth then balling the napkins up afterwards.
I ate two chicken legs, 3 sides, and a small container of coleslaw and corn.
I was happy, bloated, and a little sick.
I think I felt that way for a few hours.
Scientifically, if there were about 10% fat added to food, it was likely people would consume 10% more food than they would usually do.* This is something fastfood companies found out and started to add hidden fat in all its food.
Unless it's something as obvious as KFC, we don't even know it, and even if we know it, and know it's bad for us, like having pooling fat on our hands, we don't always care.
I once saw a documentary on the fattest man on earth, and watched him and his wife consume an 18 piece tub of KFC between the two of them. That was really disgusting and I couldn't stand what they were doing to their health, and yet, there I was, a few months later, ripping the skin off the chicken.
Meeting someone now and having a conversations about food, he or she might think I don't like junk food or fast food.
It's not the case, I love both, and could easily eat that stuff for days on end. Knowing me, I would feel sick afterwards, but it tastes so great, it is so cheap, and so easy to get, that I would just negate the consequences. Sporadically I lived like that and when that was going on, I just didn't step on a scale, or when I did, felt terrible about it, and did nothing.
So it's disingenuous for me to say, that we should eat healthy, and act if I am above eating crap. I am so very suspicious of health "gurus" who say they always eat healthy and how easy it is once you do it.
Maybe after years of training, and maybe by some quirk of biology, they actually don't like to eat food that is manufactured to not only taste good, but give you physical pleasure.*
Eating healthy, avoiding junk food, processed food or fast food, is not easy, it's hard.
There are days when I want that gross fat in my body, and I want to experience of the pleasure of the extra fat in whatever packaged food, that makes me eat more than I should.
That stuff is manufactured purposely by chemists and experiments so it's really difficult to eat in moderation.
Therefore I just try and avoid it as much as possible. I make calculations when I have a craving, whether I can stay away and do something else.
I make the first choice alternative from fast food, to cooking myself. I make myself think about the time it will take me to get out of my apartment, strap my son into the car seat then get into my car, and wait in the drive through or line, and drive home. Then off set that to the simplicity of making a quick meal.
If I am out, I think how much I rather be home soon, how much my son would rather be playing with his toys, and how wonderful it would be to have a shower, and how much quicker I can do that if I went straight home, instead of hanging out in some badly lit, concrete environment.
At other times, I think of the health issues, imagining my blocked arteries. I access my vanity, and tell myself I don't want to be fat again, and even remind myself there is no need for me to give more money to organizations that doesn't pay taxes.
It works a lot of times. In fact most times.
For some people, that might seem a lot of thoughts just to prevent myself from eating Taco Bell's Crunchy Taco Supreme, or a Fillet o' Fish.
But then I only eat at KFC three times a year, and probably at a fastfood place, once a month. Not because I don't want to more, but I found a strategy to stop myself from doing so.
These beautiful salt shaker and pepper grinder are made out of full dark wood, carved into shape. Outside of the small stopper at the bottom of the salt shaker there is no plastic anywhere.
I have no idea how old they are, they could be old or could be a vintage styled design made more recently. I found them in an consignment and donation store to help wealthy old people downsize when they leave their homes. There are always beautiful items there.
I wanted these because they are like the shakers and grinders from restaurants I went as a teenager with my parents. For birthdays and special occasions, we would dress up in suits jackets and skirts, proper shoes, my dad may have worn a tie, to go to restaurants that were dimly lit, with wooden panels separating the tables, and booths with faux leather seats. We ordered steaks, pastas, and one dish that stands out in my mind to this day -fried camembert with cranberry sauce.
Those were days when nice restaurants were still formal, waiters wore white collared shirts and they didn't make small talk. What they did was grind pepper for you.
I off course don't need either of these items. There are all-in-one salt and pepper grinders from the supermarkets in little plastic bottles that are tossed when they the contents are used up.
Having a working kitchen means the kitchen is somewhere you like to be. A comfortable environment. And if you are like me, new things, beautiful things inspire, motivate and well.. make me happy. Shopping makes me smile.
So as you start out, or as you go along to making a full kitchen, buy a treat once in awhile: a pretty ceramic 60s salt shaker shaped like a rabbit at a thrift store, an expensive piece of equipment at a fancy kitchen place or just a new wooden spoon at the supermarket.
Don't buy more than one or two pieces. When you buy everything at once, not only is it overwhelming, you won't have the opportunity to experience the pleasure when you slowly build a nest you can go to.
After cooking a lot, you deserve a present or if you haven't for a while, maybe a new item, a new toy will motivate you to return.
When I lived on Venice Beach in the 90s, there was a health food store that made tofu sandwiches with avocado and lettuce and tomato. After I moved away, I tried different ways to marinate tofu for eating cold, and this is what I came up with.
A tasty salad, that takes 5 minutes to make.
To marinate Tofu.
Cut a grid into the tofu
Pour one table spoon of soy sauce, one table spoon of mirin, and one table spoon of sesame oil over the sliced tofu.
Let it sit for a a few minutes while you make the salad and move the box so the oils mix. You will see the tofu will soak in the colors of the oils.
Taste, see if you like the tofu tasting strong of the marinade or not.
If you like it light, take it out quicker. For a stronger taste leave it in for longer.