Sep 18, 2011

Food. Again.

OK, yesterday's post came out of the blue. For you. For me, it was the result of a Friday at work full of carbs: Bread, fruit juice and two kinds of cake. And that was breakfast at work.

Still under the influence of all the carbs, I let myself take some leftovers home with me. I had tasted the carrot cake and it was yummy, and chocolate cake has always gone down well, too. But this, my dear reader, is what has changed and why I wrote yesterday: I have absolutely no desire for the leftover cake.

I find myself having to talk myself into eating it so that I don't have to throw it out. I woke up this morning laying out strategies for how to get to a point where I would want cake. My current plan is to have my two pieces in lieu of dinner; dinner itself will be eaten mid-afternoonish.

I was never a carbaholic, but I used to buy donuts, Danish, carrot cake, chocolate cake, brownies, etc., on a regular basis (i.e. 1–2 times a week). I would happily buy some cake to have at home for myself for the weekend or during a holiday. I used to love anything made out of flour! Waffles, pancakes, cold cereal, oh, man, best food ever!

The fact that I now have to talk myself into eating something made out of flour fascinates me. What a change in my body chemisty and therefore in my thinking! (I still keep chocolate in the house, though. I am a woman, after all.)

And this change is what had me typing yesterday. My current choice in diet seems to be quite beneficial for me on so many levels. And I find it funny that those slices of cake could probably live to a ripe old age in my refrigerator and not get missed, ever.

PS: Breakfast today, described yesterday. If you look closely, you'll see two shades of white in the food: The bluer one is the coconut cream.

Sep 17, 2011

A food post (with kale and rambling)

So I've heard of the wonders of kale (called "green cabbage" in Norway) and this time of year our supermarkets carry it. The plant is perfect for temperate climates because a bit of frost makes it taste better. It can be used in anything you would use (cooked) spinach in and has about the same nutrients.

I'd heard of kale chips and made a batch. They came out all brown because the recipe said 10 minutes (very crispy they were!). I tried again today. I tore the leaves into bite-sized pieces, dribbled olive oil over followed by a sprinkle of tasty BBQ-type spice mix ("grillkrydder"). I let them bake for 7 minutes at 150 degrees Celsius. For my oven, that was perfect. The kale chips were still green but now crunchy.

I ate the whole tray in one sitting, and I've realized that if you make kale chips just right, they're like all those other chips: You can't stop after just a few. These melt in your mouth! For that reason, I'm not sure I'll repeat this particular experiment again. But, boy, did they taste good!

I keep trying to make good food for myself. I have been low-carbing for almost 14 months, and have never felt better. I swear by Jimmy Moore's podcasts as a way to keep myself updated on research in the field and have learned that as we age, we all probably need to cut carbohydrates, because carbs seem to wear us out faster than proteins and fats do. As someone who swore by whole grains for years, I found myself no longer able to digest them. I had heard that we get lactose intolerant with age because our ability to produce the lactase enzyme diminishes with age. It looks like something similar happens with carbs; we seem to get more gluten sensitive as we grow older.

After a year of eggs (mostly) for breakfast, and no more bread at lunch or rice with dinner, I have shrunk 4 pants sizes (without additional exercise), nails have gotten stronger, and digestive problems have gone away. I sleep better and think better, in spite of perimenopause. I was having a bit of brain-fog (or meno-fog) and even some surprising joint pains earlier this week, which may be either due to too much protein or a potassium shortage. My body guided me to the right solution even before I googled it; I bought a large container of Greek yoghurt, hazelnuts and sunflower seeds. I also got fresh blueberries and coconut cream. Talk about a bit of luxury! It tastes and looks good and I really enjoy the variation from soft-boiled eggs.

I do find myself missing my old eating habits sometimes (thank goodness for this low-carb pancake recipe!). There are times when I wish I could be vegetarian again, or have a nice bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. But as I keep reading about food and the chemistry of metabolic syndrome, and also about gluten, I realize that I'd be asking for trouble if I started eating grains again on a regular basis, or giving up the best source of amino acids (meat). I think I'd be more satisfied with my current diet choice if I get more adventurous with vegetables in my diet.

You wouldn't know it from this post, but I don't really care much about food. I care about health. Food is a part of health; food is medicine. I do enjoy gourmet foods, the seven-course meals with seven wines, because my taste buds work fine. I'm just not interested in how that food is made. I admire those who do know how to put magic on a plate because I find it baffling. I never watch cooking shows for that reason; I just don't understand what's happening. (As a girl, I had to ask five times for help before I finally understood how to make scrambled eggs, the simplest dish in the world.) I also get bored and so will step away from the stove. I use a timer to keep track of seconds and minutes so I don't forget what I was doing. (You're not the only one suspecting I have ADD.) For these reasons, I love recipes where all the ingredients go into one pan or pot and cook together. One-dish meals. I can chop stuff (and that's when I listen to the podcasts). So when I pick through my recipe books, I'm usually looking for something that resembles a one-dish meal. Fry up the chicken while all the veggies roast together sort of thing.

Surprisingly, my food ends up tasting good. May not ever look photogenic, but it tastes fine. So that's a blessing. I do feel a need to be more adventurous, to get more variety in my kitchen. Something like gourmet cooking for kitchen klutzes who can hardly hold a paring knife.

I know what that means: Salads.

Hmmm… Time to use my new library card and get some recipe books on salads. I love salads!

Sep 4, 2011

Aiming for the smallest annoyance

My high school teacher told us students that we may not have anything to vote for, but we always have something to vote against. That statement has often been the only reason I have bothered to vote.

In the US it is easy to find who or what to vote against. Most questions there are yes/no: The Democrat candidate? Yes/no. A yes means the Republican candidate gets a “no”. I definitely voted against Jimmy Carter in 1980, and against Sarah Palin in 2008. I have no vested interest in the candidates who got my “yes” since all presidents annoy me (they just do), and since I know that politics – and the presidency – tend to be like farming: Hard to do without producing a pile of manure.

Now, the US does have more than two political parties and they often offer presidential candidates, but due to changes in how the presidential debates are held, you never hear from them.

In Norway, as with most European countries, there are several political parties. Norway has seven that offer the usual gang of idiots in our parliament, and a couple of minor ones that sometimes appear on a national level. There are also strictly local parties, like Bergen’s “The City Air Party”, formed this year specifically to deal with the ever-increasing air pollution that settles on us during winter months when we have high pressure systems and no wind.

My challenge, as a foreign citizen with the right to vote locally, but not nationally, is that I do not have the option of voting against anyone. There is no “against” in a system where the seven parties can form coalitions if no single one of them wins enough votes to rule alone. (Norway’s current national government is a three-party red-green coalition.)

Norwegians hold the idea of “secret ballot” very dear, to the point that no one will tell me exactly how they vote so it’s a bit hard to discuss politics with people outside of family and close friends. I therefore have to figure out who to vote for on my own.

The headache for a girl who likes to keep things simple is to find the party that annoys me the least. And who won’t enter into a coalition with a party that annoys me a lot. I am told by Norwegian friends that this is the correct way to approach Norwegian politics.

My lack of admiration for Bergen’s current right-winged government had me sniffing around the middle where I usually fall politically, but the parties that tend to occupy that space haven’t been impressing me, either. So I read the programs for parties that lean to the left. The one that offered concrete plans for Bergen and Hordaland (our province) in plain Norwegian got my vote. No, not the Labor Party. I am not swayed by this summer’s events here, so no sympathy voting for them.

Norway has managed to avoid the financial crises that have affected the US and the EU. Norwegians themselves have a lot of money to burn, and it’s a materialism I’m not happy to see develope. We’re turning into America, with an attitude that as long as the indiviual can enjoy a cushy lifestyle, who needs a competent government, let alone pay for it.

Inspired by Thatcherism, Norway has fiddled with privatizing certain public services, like home nursing and park services and snow clearing. Some parties want to privatize more. My attitude is that some things should never be run for profit (like schools and hospitals) and some services need to be available to everyone, regardless of income level (like schools and hospitals).

One issue that matters to me as a voter is that, as someone without a car, I want a viable city center and good bus connections to it. Norway loves to emulate the US, and Norwegians have a similar love affair with the car that Americans do. The result is that in a city center that holds half our city’s 250,000 population, there is no place to buy a sofa – with the exception of a few expensive designer boutiques and the Salvation Army. Everything’s been moved to suburban shopping malls. What stores are left in the city center are struggling. I hope for better and greener city planning. Dedicated bike lanes would be nice. I hate being surprised by cyclists on the sidewalk.

Election day this year is September 12, and on that day we raise the flag and our government-run liquor monopoly stores are closed. (Norway in a nutshell, that.) However, we have early voting, so I took my voter’s card to the local library last week and stuffed my envelope with the candidate lists for the almost-communist party. They are one of the coalition parties in our national government and I don’t really like them, but this election year they are the party that annoys me the least.