Thursday, July 3, 2008

Day 105, When Carbohydrates Are Scarce

Felt very strong and limber today. Maybe because I had one of those perfect sleeps where you lay your head down, fall into a deep dreamless sleep, and wake up the next morning totally clear headed and ready to go with no jostling around in the night to pee or open the window or anything.

I've been really cruising with my evening meals, especially letting the extra carbs slip through. The truth is that it's very hard to have anything resembling a familiar meal when you only have 50g (I piece of toast's worth) of carbs to work with. Pretty much any kind of tortilla, bread, or pasta based dish is out as the required vegetables and protein will swamp the measly carbs.

So I'm working on figuring out entirely different meals that don't require a starch to hold them all together. One of the easiest ways is to stuff something. Stuff a zucchini or a bell pepper and you're doubling your vegetables with the same bite. It's funny though, because most of the stuffed recipes ask that you fill your outer vegetable with rice or bread crumbs, which gets us back into carboland. So I'm working on various vegetable mixtures that will hold together without being like baby food.

One thing that does work is rice paper. Because the stuff is so thin but strong you can put a ton of veg in them with very little carbohydrate. But the fine chopping and rolling take time.

So most nights I end up eating a big bowl of steamed vegetables over a little pasta or rice with some kind of fish. I alternate between 3 or 4 low calorie dressings (radish, basil, sesame soysauce, tomato vinegar) to put on top.

Did you ever see Castaway? Like in his first week on the island he's all cooking the fish and stuff, and then they fast forward 4 years later and he's spearing and eating live fish right on the beach, with a wordless 200 yard stare the whole time.


That's kind of where I am with these steamed vegetable meals. They are my nutrition source and beyond that I don't expect a lot from them, either in taste or presentation.

I know most people will feel this is kind of a sad state to be in, and in a way it is. But it's also incredibly liberating to be free of the idea that every meal will have some kind of big flavor sensation. Our overly spiced and complicated modern foods are very out-of-sync with how people ate for thousands of years (those agricultural based thousands of years themselves being out-of-sync with the millions of hunting and gathering before them)

As I have lived in the developing world I have noticed the local people getting very excited about this or that feast coming up, or that this or that fruit is finally in season, and I also got excited. But when we actually sat down to eat this special food, I found it unremarkable and not really worth all the fuss. I realize now that we were operating from a different palate. For them, used to blander and less varied diets, it really was a treat to have, say, a marinated sheeps gonad (real example). From my McDonalds and Pizza Hut upbringing however, it was just some more odd and slightly gross food.

I'll never forget the time I visited a family in Turkmenistan and with pride they offered to cut me a piece of meat from a rotting goats leg, sticking straight up in the air with flies buzzing around it. For them it was a real honor to serve meat to a foreign guest. I made some excuse about how I couldn't accept such hospitality and was already full from visiting so many people that day, but what really took away my appetite was the enormity of the economic gulf between our two countries.

Every single day in America is a feast, and if you think about it, that's a little messed up. Our bodies also don't know what to do with such culinary overload, and it's making us sick. So, maybe something is lost with my rather bland and predictable dinners these days, but something is also lost when every meal is an extravaganza.


Iann said...

Totally! I am often just fine with steamed veggies and rice, easy and nutritious. While my boyfriend thinks he needs a whole "rounded" meal complete with a starch, meat, and veggies. Maybe is what he needs but I'm just fine with something simple and easy to make and digest. We should give our bodies a break sometimes and eat simple. I also think we are desensitized when it comes to food and have a hard time appreciating something simple.

Iann said...

I should have said x-boyfriend. hehe

alfie said...

Hi Patrick - I think you might be able to take it up a notch with raw foods and juicing. I've just recently started juicing every day (carrots, beets, ginger, lemon) and I cannot believe the crazy, balanced (seemingly opposite, I know) energy I have. I'm also doing my best to have at least one raw meal a day, which has produced similar results. There are so many raw food web resources... here are two for starters:
(I'm sorry this is longer than a comment should be)
Pros: The recipes are ridiculously flavorful and creative.
Con: Often outrageously expensive kitchen appliances are required (dehydrator).
Since this is my first post to you I'll leave it at that. Give it a try!

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