There are certain clear and unbreakable rules regarding food… rules that must never be broken. Some people say that these rules are mine and mine alone, that no one else sees that food even needs to be governed by any standards at all. But they’re wrong; very wrong. Why, my friend Mary, were she not so averse to the spotlight, would stand right here beside me, defending every rule… and adding a few of her own. What are those rules, you ask? Those of you who have known me very long at all could recite several of them with me. Who the first person was to think my ways so entertaining, I don’t know; but it’s really caught on. Oh, wait… no, I’m pretty sure it was —you know who you are!
What was that? Oh, yeah. The rules. Ok. I must begin with a disclaimer. If you ever watch me eat, you’ll know how I’m doing emotionally by seeing how my food looks on the plate(s) and the way in which I consume the food… in some cases, even the food itself. I’ll try to walk you through it, although I haven’t always been aware of many of these myself. At the height of my painful bipolar days, food was the only area of my life I felt I really had any control over. At that time, my ideal plate was very specific. Green vegetables at 6:00, then working clockwise around the plate: other bright-colored vegetables, potatoes or bread at 12:00, corn or other light vegetables at 2:00, and meat at 4:00. If there was anything sweet, it was right at the center… but only if there was no liquid involved. And none of this food ever, ever, ever, ever touched! I liked to have a variety of bright colors—“aesthetically pleasing” was a phrase often heard in my home. Everything was eaten in clockwise order, starting at 6:00, and NEVER going counter-clockwise. This is one I wasn’t aware of until eating out with friends one night. My friend Katie ate some food off my plate. Another friend commented that she was surprised it didn’t bother me. Katie said, “oh, no, it’s ok… when she eats something and moves onto the next thing, she never goes back.” I thought, “what? oh, my gosh, it’s true! I never DO go back!”
Other rules are not as complex. Never, ever, ever, ever fruit in chocolate. There is never any situation that allows for wet bread. Fruit is sweet. It is a dessert. It has no business hanging out with the meat or the salad or the vegetables or any part of the regular meal. Textures are there for a reason—there’s no cause to go mixing them all up and confusing the mouth. I’m sure there are more that I’m not remembering, so feel free to comment if you know of any I’ve missed (or have any of your own that I should incorporate?).
In the last few years, the specificity required in the actual plating of my food has diminished somewhat, only to be brought out again at times of great need. It’s true—from time to time, food on my plate sometimes touches other food on my plate and there are times I’ll even roam all over my plate grazing like I haven’t a care in the world. Some of the others, however, are hard and fast rules that are not to be trifled with. For example, there really is never a situation that calls for wet bread. Bread is supposed to be dry—that’s why you bake it in the oven instead of soaking it in the kitchen sink.
And now, well, the times, they are a’changin. It started when my friend Mary convinced me to try dark chocolate lava cakes with port. Alas… I loved it! Now I regularly enjoy dark chocolate with a good dark red wine. I’ve even introduced friends to the concept, including my friend Jenny—check out her fun food blog. And then, once, at a sports bar, I was offered hot wings with a mango-chipotle sauce. It was really good! I’m afraid it’s all gone downhill from there… and that brings us to today…
Ok, so you know that I’ve been eating better so that I can lose some weight and get healthy again. I’ve been eating a lot of salads, which I’ve really been enjoying. I’ve been making my own salad dressing with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), apple cider vinegar, and whatever herbs and spices appeal to me—the fresher, the better. Mostly, my salads are made of greens and a few crunchy vegetables. Today, a friend called to say he was in the neighborhood (of my office) and wondered if I wanted to have lunch. I told him I had enough to make salads for both of us and invited him to join me at my office, no need to pick up food on the way, I had plenty… really. Like a good little hostess, I went to the kitchen to prepare our lunch. Uh oh, I misjudged my resources. I used what I had—baby spring greens, spinach, jicama, red bell pepper, tomato, brined artichoke heart bottoms, canned hearts of palm—and then started to rummage. I always have a variety of food at the office so I don’t have to eat lunch out. I found some Greek olives, some marinated mushrooms, and some deli turkey and cheese. Here’s where things deviate from what I have always found to be right and true. I found a Granny Smith apple. Yes, you guessed it—I chopped it up and added it to my salad. At this point, if there had been ANY caution left, I’d have thrown it all to the wind. I added imitation crab and sliced almonds. By this time, there wasn’t enough of my salad dressing left… so… I stirred in a little red pepper hummus and a bit of orange-mango juice. By the time it was all together, it was so pretty I just had to take a picture.
Do you know what? (And I realize I may lose some readership here. Mary, please don’t give up on me; after all, you started it!) That salad tasted fantastic… all those different flavors? It was amazing! 🙂
In Him, Joni