Food Fight

Food Throwers: Begun usually by estranged couples, once this victual flinging starts, everyone will do it...

- J.P. Donleavy

Fighting in relationships is normal.* Conflict will occur; things will be said that are hurtful and painful. In the heat of a passionate argument, it’s hard to step back and detach ourselves from the situation long enough to think about what we’re saying before the words come out. Once words have been released, they can’t be taken back. Only once we’ve calmed down and relaxed can we understand the true impact of our words.

When it comes time to say we’re sorry, how do we determine where to start? In most situations, both parties will alternately feel regret and defiance that they were right – leading to the awkward moments before one person steps up to begin to make amends.

Imagine a situation where in an argument, we hurl food instead of insults. How much more willing would we be to stop and think first? It’s easy to toss degrading comments…but how easy would it be to toss food in someone’s face?

Food fights, just like verbal arguments, end in a messy pile. They require cleanup afterwards – be it physical or emotional. It’s necessary to pick up the pieces…throwing away the things that aren’t salvageable and accepting the notion that our energies and contents have been emptied and wasted.

Apologizing can happen over a meal more enjoyably than without. Food allows us to bond over what we enjoy, while bringing a sort of solace to an unpleasant and uncomfortable situation. It broadens our senses and our abilities to relax and react more favorably. Next time you find yourself in the wrong, mend the fences with a meal.

*This is not inspiration from a fight, oddly enough...despite my hormones, I'm surprisingly mellow these days.

(Photo courtsey of www.gigglepoetry.com)


National Popcorn Day

Of course life is bizarre, the more bizarre it gets, the more interesting it is. The only way to approach it is to make yourself some popcorn and enjoy the show.

- Unknown
Today is National Popcorn Day. For me, that requires celebration. Popcorn is by far my favorite snack - I could eat it daily and never tire of it. Over the years, I've tried every variety I can get my hands on - and I have finally narrowed my favorites down to the following:

Pop Secret Homestyle is my pick for a basic microwave variety - it has the flavor of real butter, not that fake orange stuff most brands have. It's lightly salted, and each bag pops perfectly, without burned pieces or extra kernels at the bottom.

When I'm in the mood for something sweet, I go for Moose Head Kettle Corn - slightly sweet, slightly salty, airy and crunchy - this stuff is addictive.

White cheddar popcorn is probably my favorite flavor - I buy Cousin Willie's microwave variety, and Smartfood air-popped for road trips and on the go snacking. My husband complains they both smell like feet, but it doesn't deter me one bit.

When I want to make popcorn the "real" way, popped on the stove, I use the Whirley Pop that my sister-in-law bought me for Christmas a few years ago, combined with Orville Redenbacher's Popping & Topping Oil.

It's no wonder popcorn gets its own National Day.


Comfortably Numb

Food is the most primitive form of comfort.
- Sheilah Graham

Rainy days require a special sort of planning and essentials to make it through. For me, it takes an amount of willpower and strength (and repeated “You are going to make us late, GET UP”-type comments) before I can even put one foot on the floor. The temptation to pull the covers over my head, sleep til noon, then spend a day on the couch with my grandmother’s quilt, watching crappy tv and eating equally crappy foods (think: potato soup followed by chips and queso followed by cupcakes followed by French fries) is far too strong.

But let’s say you do get out of bed. That leads to the shower that isn’t long enough, the tea that isn’t strong enough, and the clothes that aren’t comfy enough. Figuring out what to wear on a rainy blah day is tough. The pants can’t be too long or they’ll stay damp all day. The shoes have to be safe so you don’t slip and fall (and trust me on this, I don’t own any of said shoes). When all you want to do is curl up in a ball, comfort is key.

Comfort is also key when it comes to rainy day cuisine. I have found, after years of living in Nashville, the most exceptional collection of comfort foods that are best suited to gloomy days…be it due to weather, breakups, mood swings, or any combination of the three.

First we have Amerigo's, and the smoked chicken ravioli. It’s served with a cream sauce that has the perfect balance of depth and lightness, with tomatoes and scallions, accompanied by a flash fried artichoke.

Along that same vein, I urge that Demos' Steak & Spaghetti House is next on the list. They have two stuffed potatoes, one with seafood in a Newburg Sauce and diced tomatoes, onions, peppers, and mushrooms, and one with blackened chicken and a spicy Cajun cream sauce. Both are served with soup or salad, and are just the right amount.

On the days where it’s rainy, yet warm, I prefer a Fried Green Tomato BLT from
Jackson’s. They have a covered patio, perfect for protection from the rain and people watching. A glass of fruit tea or wine, and I forget whatever foul mood I’m in. Another great rainy day sandwich is found at The Yellow Porch, an intimate setting with exceptional food. I have never been there where I ordered anything other than the White Cheddar and Tomato Panini.

My husband wants nothing more on a rainy day than to go to
Noshville and have Matzah ball soup. Regardless of the time of day, I’m hard pressed to steer from the French toast when we go there. It’s perfectly cooked and exactly what I search for in comfort food…warmth, texture, and above all else, filling.

On days where I don't want to get out of the house, I rely on beef stroganoff to get me through...this is one of my all-time favorite dishes and there's nothing better than tender beef and creamy tangy sauce to soothe what ails me.

Beef Stroganoff

Beef filets, cut into cubes
Fresh sliced mushrooms (optional)
Butter or margarine
½ small onion, finely chopped
1 cup of beef broth, or 1 beef bullion cube
1 16 oz container Sour Cream
Rice or egg noodles for serving

Salt & pepper to taste

Heat 2 tbsps. Butter or margarine in medium saucepan until melted but not brown. Add onion and sauté until tender and transparent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, mushrooms, and cubed steak, and cook until mushrooms are tender and beef is browned throughout (about 5-7 minutes). Remove onion, garlic, and beef from the pan, reserving the liquid.

Add a tbsp of flour at a time to the liquid, until mixture becomes thick. Slowly add hot beef broth, a bit at a time, until fully absorbed. Once it has become slightly thick and creamy, add a dash or two of Worcestershire to the pan.

Return the cooked beef and onions to the pan, stirring into the sauce, until fully mixed. Add the sour cream and serve over cooked rice or egg noodles. Top with green onions if desired.


Resolutions & Revelations

There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.
- Mark Twain

This is the time of year when diets are all the rage…when everywhere I go, everywhere I turn, I listen to friends, family, old coworkers, and strangers discussing their resolution to eat better. If I took the time to write it all down, only to go back to those same people 2 months from now, the number of people who fell off the diet wagon would surely be astonishing.

I’m not a believer in diets…nor am I a believer in resolutions. Maybe it’s because I know I can’t stick to them, and I refuse to believe in something that for me simply doesn’t exist. Maybe it’s because I’m too stubborn to deny myself the foods I want when I want them. Maybe it’s because so far, I’ve been fairly blessed in my ability to simply cut back, as opposed to cutting off. Chances are it’s a combination of the three. Regardless, I don’t do it.

It dawns on me every so often that I’ve taken things above and beyond…that I’ve eaten lunch out every day in a week, that I haven’t been to the grocery store in two weeks to buy fresh produce, that my dinner last night consisted of cashews and wine. When that happens, I turn it back a notch. I get a grip, put things in perspective, and slow down. It seems like an unhealthy cycle, but I appease myself by saying that it’s no crash diet, no harsh criticism, and no worries.
As I get older, I realize it won’t always be this easy. My metabolism is slowing, and the pounds will get more stubborn with age. I balance that with the knowledge that as I get older, I’ll get smarter. I’ll take notice of the increasing frequency of heartburn and sour bellies that I induce on myself by eating poorly….I’ll speak to myself with a voice louder and more insistent than the one I use now.

The fact that I'm rapidly gaining weight due to this ever-growing baby makes the food fight within me all the more frustrating. Every bit of food that passes my lips is met with guilt - less so when I'm following a nutrient-rich regimen for the benefit of the baby, more so when I'm indulging the new sweet tooth I've acquired since I became pregnant. It's easy to worry about how I'll take the weight off, and easy to get upset with myself for putting on too much weight as a result of poor willpower.

But for the time being, I’ll enjoy it. And if that means sitting down to this cheesecake inspired by one of my favorite desserts, Nutty Buddy ice cream cones, so be it.

Nutty Buddy Cheesecake Pie

12 sugar cones, crushed
1 stick butter, softened
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 package Cool Whip
¼ cup sugar
½ cup chopped peanus
½ cup melted chocolate

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Combine crushed sugar cones and butter until just moistened and fully mixed. Spread mixture in bottom of greased springform pan and bake 5-7 minutes, or until crust is browned.
- Meanwhile, beat cream cheese, Cool Whip, and sugar in medium bowl until light and fluffy.
- Once crust has completely cooled, spread cream cheese mixture on top of crust. Drizzle with melted chocolate and chopped peanuts and freeze until firm (25 minutes).