Friday, June 26, 2009

Food as Fuel

There's no question that we must eat to live, and so eat we all do. But there's also no question that the time set aside for planning, preparation, and sharing of food is a privilege. Never is this so apparent to me as when I'm working. When I say 'working,' I mean working; I mean 10 hour days on the Mountain, hiking, say 8-10 miles, carrying hand tools, clearing downed trees, setting rocks, building bridges. And what follows these work days? Evenings of eating and eating and not feeling full. Then waking to a pre-dawn alarm with my stomach grumpy, hankering for a bigger breakfast.

And so my diet must change. With half an hour for lunch that often turns into less when the clouds hang low and I've gotta keep moving to stay warm, food choices are weighed according to a simple ratio: # calories consumed/# minutes required to consume. Similarly, the shorter the time lapse between dragging this tired body home and food in my bowl, the better. Needless to say, salads are out. Carrot sticks are a complete waste of time. Meals become simpler, and deliberately larger so I might take leftovers the next day. Carbs and protein, carbs and protein. Rice and black beans. Rice and lentils. Rice and beans wrapped in tortillas, or scooped onto crackers. Pasta with stir-fried veggies and soy protein. Pasta with lentils. Open a can of tuna, or fry an egg, and toss it over some rice. I want to be full, and fast.

Now, I still try to use the dried beans and soak them the night before, and I certainly haven't sunk to that culinary nadir called minute rice. But I do mourn the loss of diversity and creativity in my eating habits. Which begs the question: how do I manage to fuel my body-as-engine while still eating how I want to live?

One key, I think, is planning ahead.

I once met a woman, the busy wife of a missionary doctor, who painstakingly organized her family's meals a month in advance. She purchased all the necessary ingredients and spent one whole weekend cooking and freezing each dish. Every day then, each meal was defrosted and served, according to schedule. Her kitchen consisted of two freezers and a microwave. Patently anathema to any and all spontaneity, I know, but it left her the rest of the month to do as she pleased.

While Mimi's way is not for me, I think, I can certainly take steps in that direction. I'm already adept at making big meals to last half the week. I can make granola. I could . . . dehydrate things!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sale-ing Season

Summer is happening to Seattle. She is a city transformed, ripe with bare skin, generous smiles, and fair-weather fitness enthusiasts. Best of all, people hold yard sales. Yard sales, garage sales, tag sales, rummage sales, estate sales, moving sales, all energetically advertised - signs written in sharpie on neon paper and taped to telephone polls - as "huge," "gigantic," and my favorite, "multi-family."

Probably a holdover from my childhood - many a Saturday morning spent chasing sales around Worcester County - I love yard sales. I find something both comforting and exhilarating in the tables crammed with other folks' junk. Each collection of books, records, board games, china, or tools offers pieces of a narrative about their soon-to-be-former owners. I learn a lot about my neighbors by perusing their recycling. And best of all, I always find something I can't life without.

In the last twenty-four hours, my household has acquired:

an antique coffee grinder - $7

a 1900s 10" drawknife (log peeler) - $18

a hatchet - $5

a swiss army knife - $2

a set of japanese carving tools - $5

a paint-spattered but functional boom box - $5

a copy of Clearcut, an "erotically atmospheric" (Kirkus Reviews) novel about the PNW by Nina Shengold - $1

Strangely, I haven't found what I actually need - a toaster for my kitchen - but I have a good feeling about tomorrow . . .