Archive for the ‘Food’ Category


Crossfit workout today. In my Vibrams.

I completed an 800 meter run.
5 medicine ball throws.
55 squats
17 pull ups
15 burpees
800 meter run

about 27 minutes.

The gym’s been going to more of a calisthenics / high repetition phase in teams. I prefer heavy weights, myself.

Yesterday I ate a meat sauce over spaghetti squash; for dinner chicken marinated in a onion, garlic, salt and pepper, cinnamon, garam masala, and cumin blend with sauteed vegetables (squash, spinach and onions). Oh yes – and a bottle of wine. There were three of us, and we did in four bottles, actually. And I feel fine. Must be the Cuban cigar.

Categories: Crossfit, Diet, Food, History Tags:


March 10, 2010 1 comment

I’ve been off the strict Paleo phase for about 17 days now. I’m still feeling strong and making different food choices. The thirty days were very effective in breaking some habits.

I’m still in a “try it to see how it feels” phase. I had a couple beans in chili recently. I made banana bread, but I replaced 3/4s of the flour with almond and coconut; I replaced 3/4 cup of sugar with 1/3 cup of maple syrup and an extra banana. It turned out dense and a little crumbly, but delicious. Not exactly paleo, but it confirmed my suspicion: I don’t need a lot of sweet; and there are suitable alternatives to white flour.

But now I’m shopping at a greater variety of places in order to eat “clean.” Where can I get grass finished beef? Where can I buy pasture butter? Are there price differences in Spaghetti Squash? Why can’t I find canned Icelandic fish? Where’s the best place to get high quality Sardines? Shiratake?

I will spend a good three minutes reading a label like I was a Sanskrit scholar translating a verse from the the Upanishads. I ponder the phrases “organic” when I read them. I consider the meaning of “fed a vegetarian diet.” Not grass fed, but no risk of Mad Cow, I think. Corn is bad, but not many options at this grocery store.

I get veggies from the cheap Asian market: my spaghetti squash, mushrooms, and yams. Whole Foods is expensive in some things, cheaper in others. I’ll go down to Fairway in the city to find less expensive, but organic, meats. Trader Joes has 6 dollar Spanish Olive Oil.

Wild caught fish will be expensive everywhere. So will heritage geese. There’s a greater difference between flours and nuts. Occasionally I find an amazing steal: my Asian grocer sells domestic prosciutto for $10 a lb. Not every grocery store has my fascination of the day.

And I do get canned ingredients – especially in the winter. I had baby corn and bean sprouts in the stir-fry medley of “mixed vegetables” in my pantry last night for a generally paleo thai chicken dish I concocted. It’s a rule I have: use whatever canned vegetable is in your kitchen pantry.

It is probably a rule I’m going to change.

Categories: Diet, Food Tags: , , , ,

My first foray into sugar

February 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Yesterday was my first foray into some serious sugar, aside from my reentry into the drinking world.

Fan and I went into NY to see a play. She’d gotten tickets for free due to cancellations to the play, Mr. and Mrs. Fitch. It was entertaining and smart, if vapid and soulless.

Before the play my first cheat at “New York’s best” diner: half the hashbrowns with my avocado / jalapeno pepper omelette. I chose no cheese with the omelette. I accidentally put half and half in my coffee. Just one, however, and it didn’t make the coffee taste better. The coffee was pretty bad, with or without cream. The company was fabulous, and the diner was fine, but I’m spoiled.

After the play we went to City Bakery. I first went to City Bakery about four years ago, and since then I gave up hot chocolate. Because there is no other place else that could compare to the luscious, creamy liquid pleasure they served.

And I had a chocolate chip cookie.

We took an extra long walk back to the train station, but that evening I went to a wine tasting for a friend’s 50th birthday party, a distributor of high quality Australian wines especially from the Margaret River. As it happens, a well known pastry chef made a buttery cake. I’d resisted successfully until I was led by hand to the cake itself.

I’d been good around the appetizers. No cheese. Some prosciutto. I’ve been around enough cakes to have experienced the mediocre, dry, plastic in a box birthday sugar fest. Once led to the chef who was receiving plenty of praise from adoring fans, I decided to have a bite. If it were a cake of exceptional quality, I’d consume. If not, I’d leave it.

As it turned out, it was pretty amazing.

I do not feel guilty. Although I completed the challenge on Tuesday, Saturday I had my first bite of sugar. I believe that I’ve successfully changed my habits. Today, I’ve remained sugar and alcohol free, but I think I enjoyed the cheats more than before – precisely because they are rarer and for special occasions.

I don’t think I failed in these choices: they were deliberate, thought out, and even planned. It wasn’t a matter of me “slipping.” I even brought an extra piece of cake back for my brother and lady.

And I didn’t even slip a bite for myself.

Categories: Diet, Food Tags: , , , ,

Going forward

February 26, 2010 2 comments

I completed 30 days.

I’ve discovered lots of great things:  I can replace foods that make me hungry with lots of alternatives.  I have been cooking at home.   I’m in the habit of saying “no.”

I’m sure, of course, some butter has slipped into the food that I’ve had in restaurants. Refined sugar has also probably crossed my lips as an additive and preservative. And once, I accidentally ate a mint. I did not seek to make the lives of my food handler’s crazy, but consistently made good eating decisions. I needed to practice that, and I believe I now have a discipline.

It wasn’t easy, but I had prepared with small steps over time.  Over the last 5 years I’ve given up processed sugars such as High Fructose Corn Syrup, all fast foods (with the occasional exceptions).  The bread I bought was fibrous. However, I did have some bad habits: booze, rice, waffle fries, and the occasional pizza.  And chocolate chip cookies.

What will I do now?

My diet will remain predominantly unprocessed.  It will be generally sugar free, with occasional tastes of honey, cane sugar, and maple syrup in a way I currently use salt. I intend for this to be permanent.

Now is the testing time. 

I’m giving up sugar, although I’m sure there will be exceptions.  A close friend’s birthday party may require a bite of a piece of cake.    When I go to the Fat Duck or Alinea, I will most likely try one of their desserts. But it will always be a cheat.

I think I’ll continue the way I did my first evening without the rules: I had some bread which was instead made with almond flour, rice flour, and molasses. It was still flavorful. It was fluffy and dark, between a cake and bread. And especially made for me. How could I resist?

Instead of potato chips, I’ll buy sweet potato chips and Terrachips. I’ll snack on Larabars (which I now consider delicious). Sweet Potato fries instead of fries. If I do order a dish with fries, I’ll insist that other people eat them.

After cutting out bacon in the first week of Paleo, I’ll now add it. In two weeks I’ll be getting whole raw cream and pasture butter, using it infrequently, now that Coconut oil is my mainstay. And I’m going to continue having my coffee black.

I did do one 24 hour fast, which wasn’t as hard as I thought. This will be my primary way of doing calorie restriction. Over the next month I’m going to focus a bit more on overall calorie intake.  I didn’t care about how much I ate over the last 30 days.  Sometimes I just felt like I kept eating.  But I was satiated more quickly.

I’m going to consume less salt this month and drink less coffee.

And finally, I’m going to focus on getting more sleep, which will allow me to continue my rigorous exercise regimen.

Categories: Crossfit, Diet, Food, Uncategorized Tags:

Almost Finished

February 22, 2010 2 comments

I’m almost finished.

Last night, after salsa dancing I picked up my brother at Sala. Of course I resisted having my normal glass of Rioja. I was both glad I resisted, but looking forward to a glass this week.

Over at Mark’s Daily Apple, Mark highlights the importance of sleep. For that reason this night owl is going to be in bed before midnight during Lent. Ideally I’ll be in bed before 11.

The second goal is to celebrate my 50th Crossfit WOD by April 5th. I’m halfway there.

And last, I’m continuing the low sugar, low carb lifestyle.

A quick review over the last month:

I’ve consumed no refined sugar intentionally. No chocolate chip cookies. No juices. No ice cream. However, I do suspect it was in a couple dishes and sauces I ate.

No bread, potatoes, oats, or any other grain, although one time I had to pick several crumbs off the meat of a sub sandwich from which I removed the roll. Indian food was with cauliflower, not naan or rice.

No beans.

No milk, cream, butter, yogurt or cheese. No half and half in my coffee. However, I suspect I ate food that was cooked butter.

And no alcohol.

I discovered coconut oil, spaghetti squash, mashed cauliflower, Trader Joe herring, almond flour, applesauce and coconut cream.

I feel like I was once an addict. And now I know what it’s like to taste freedom.

It ends tomorrow at 1:00pm. I’ll write what my final observations are, and how I will add what I’ve learned from Paleo into my lifestyle.

Categories: Crossfit, Diet, Food

The Feast Day

February 17, 2010 3 comments

Yesterday was Mardi Gras, “Fat Tuesday” or “Shrove Tuesday.”  It’s about clearing out the larder and finishing all the food that won’t keep.   It means breakfast for dinner.  Sausage, ham, and cake.  Pancakes.

I don’t eat pancakes often.  My father used to make them every weekend, so I’ve usually reserved them for special occasions.    I have never made them from a mix, and always with real maple syrup.

But I’ll probably not consume them again for a long time.

It would be penultimate cheat day.  If I decided to return once a year to a strict Paleo diet, Lent would be the season.  It just so happens that this year I started Lent a few weeks early.

So until I find a suitable replacement recipe, perhaps made with almond flour and applesauce, no buttermilk blueberry pancakes with maple syrup.

Pass the fruit salad.

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll have dinner for breakfast.


February 15, 2010 1 comment

“Hey Michael!”

Michael is a trainer at the Y.  He’s a former semi-pro basketball player, and very fit.   A woman is shouting at him, trying to get his attention.   He’s obliging and addles over to the treadmill where she is walking.

“Guess what!  I decided to get healthy.”  I’ve seen her a lot at the gym, and like many of us, she is struggling with finding effective ways to get healthier.   “I bought a juicer!  Didn’t you say getting a juicer was the way to go?  My whole family’s doing it.”

Michael smiles.  “Well, Juicing is alright.”   He’s agreeable, and doesn’t want to disappoint.  “It does get nutrients into the body fast.  But…” He pauses for a second.

At one point, Mike probably juiced.  But he’s realized that this was now questionable advice.

“The benefits are that it goes into the bloodstream quickly.  But the fiber is also useful.”

“Oh.”  She thinks about the consequences of this.

“So…” he’s tries to find a way justify her expensive health food toy.  “If you can find a way to use the fiber, save it somehow, you know, because it’s also good for the body….  But juicing for some people isn’t a good idea.”


“Well, for some, juicing isn’t good at all.  Without the fiber it’s not great for diabetics.”

She looked perplexed.  “So perhaps I shouldn’t juice. At all?”  She need just a little empathy.  She was so enthusiastic.  And now the disappointment of not getting a health fad right.

“Well,” he smiled sheepishly, “if it helps you eat vegetables, then that’s a good thing.”

“I do love vegetables.”    Most likely, she’ll put the juicer away in a cupboard, and in a few years she’ll have a garage sale, and some other person looking for a way to get healthy quick will buy it for a Jackson.

I do use one of those juice extractors for cooking.  A good cook always has a handful of lemons and limes around; and it seems that if you want to have orange juice it merits putting a little elbow grease for it.    Once in a while a v-8 juice hits the spot.

Even with the salt, it’s better than a Snicker’s bar.


February 10, 2010 1 comment

Last night I had a dinner meeting at a board member’s house.  I was excited, because she’s a great cook.

This is a foodie family.  They love good food and wine – and there was plenty. For our casual meeting, she provided several appetizers.  Tomatoes and mozzarella in olive oil, garlic and basil.  Small dogs in bacon.  Goat cheese the size of quarters,covered in chives.  Stuffed mushrooms, with sauteed bread.  Sopressata.   Jim asked me if I needed any wine.

“Oh no.  No drinking for me.”


Nope.  I usually provide a bottle, and also drink it.

So I ate sopressata, picked out the tomatoes and tried a couple of the dog/bacon bites.  I’m sure it was probably processed or cured with sugar, so I decided, after a couple, to stop.  I’ve been having trouble finding bacon without sugar.

We then sat around the table.  Dinner.  Penne and Vodka sauce.  Before me, a challenge to all I knew about civility and manners.  Because there is one rule I’ve almost always followed:  eat what you’re served.   Maybe not all of it, but some of it.

I didn’t know what to do.

Sit there and not eat anything?  Should I give it back?  Everyone else began to eat.  They all began to murmur:  It was soo goooodLaura, what did you put in this? Cream?  Wow.

Within five minutes one person had gone back for seconds.

I picked up my plate and took the hostess aside, who wasn’t sitting down.

“I’m sorry, Laura.  It looks fabulous.  I’m not eating pasta.”

“Oh!  I totally forgot!” She said.  “What do you eat?”

“The normal.  Filet Mignon, Truffles in a light saffron cream sauce, Southern Bluefin Tuna.  I mean, meat, vegetables, nuts and fruit.”  I smiled.  “I’m not hungry.  I’ll have some of the sopressata.”  She was quite apologetic.  I shrugged.

After we finished, I sat next to her in the living room.  I wanted to assure her that it was not her, but me.  She apologized.  “No, I should have reminded told you,” I said.

“Yes, you should have!”

Normally, if I’m in such a situation and on a restrictive diet, I would have a little.  I wouldn’t finish it, but consume the amount the size of my hand – Zone quantities.  But not on these thirty days.  I might make that a rule:  pasta only when forced to, in extreme circumstances, for the sake of social harmony.  Not at parties, where people don’t care and there is a variety of hors d’oeuvres, but when people are watching.    Then a small amount of pasta may be endured, if it doesn’t kill you.    This time, however, for 30 days, I’m remaining obnoxious as an extreme social and physiological experience.

Fortunately, I wasn’t hungry.  The benefit of the paleo diet is that I’m hungry less.  My eating seems to be habitual, merely because food is present.   Yet, I’m still losing weight.

Later, she brought out dessert.  Key lime pie.  Chocolate chip cookies, all home made, still warm.  I’m sure if the chocolate chip cookies could talk they’d say, “hey you.  Stop staring.”

Trusting in my own discipline, I wrapped some up and brought some home.  For my brother.   Resisting kindles more resistance.

But on this cold day, a part of me dreams of Hot Chocolate, especially as a reward for shoveling.


February 9, 2010 4 comments

One thing is for sure.

The Cheesecake Factory is not Paleo.

It’s everything wrong with the American diet.  Even the salads are a thousand calories.

It’s delicious.

And I couldn’t find anything.

The wild mushrooms I thought would be tasty were served as a little pizza.  The wings were breaded.  Everything was served with fries or mashed potatoes.  Most of the sauces were made with cream.

The servings are large enough to feed a small village somewhere where people eat reasonably, like Botswana or France.   Instead, vegetables and meats breaded, cooked in butter, and served with cheese.  No sweet potato fries.  Most of their salads had Parmesan cheese.  Only seared ahi tuna and Salads were available for the paleo inclined.  Salads if you wanted to pick out every grain of cheese.

I ordered a Kobe burger without the bun with a salad on the side.  It was covered with mushrooms and onions.  I drizzled a little oil and vinegar on top of the salad.

Delicious.  I didn’t ask if the chef made the burger with butter.  But I’m getting used to the problem, and handling it through avoidance.

It might be that the 30 days is simply practice for the rest of my life.  Chances are, paleo will not become the standard fare for most people.  Carbs taste good; they’re everywhere; and they’re cheap.  But by lasting thirty days and enduring these moments of frustration, discovering what I can handle, I can map out a clearer future, stetting up reasonable rules for me, myself and I.

Perhaps that’s success:  learning how to be frustrated with my food choices, but making the right ones anyway.

First frustration, then distraction.

Categories: Diet, Food Tags: ,

The Bar

February 4, 2010 1 comment

I had promised myself I wouldn’t go back until April 8th.

But I usually have a discussion group, once a month, and the Lazy Boy.  I’d forgotten to change the venue.  The minute I walked in a few acquaintances cheered.  “Father, what’s up?”  Stanley, a chef, said, “they’ve got some amazing brews, a few wonderfully heavenly hoppy concoctions.”  He smiled and stretched back, eager to share this discovery.

“Sounds amazing.  Unfortunately, it’s seltzer and a lime for me tonight.  I won’t be tasting for a while.”  And for a long while.  Beer is off limits until the 8th of April.  “Got a meeting and I’m off the hooch for another 20 days.”

“Really?”  He was intrigued and amused.  Clearly I’ve spent way too much time here.

“Yes.  I’m undergoing a cleanse.”  That’s the only way I’ve discovered I can describe the diet without horrifying people.  “No alcohol.  No sugar.  No dairy.  No grains.  No legumes.”

“Well, that’s cool.”  This is code for, you’re crazy and I’m not sure if I want to talk to you any more.

My co-leader arrived, and I said goodbye to the barflies as we made our trip to a table.

I had expected to find it difficult.   I’m in a familiar environment, one that gives me warm feelings, one where there is society and friendliness, one that has plenty of visible pleasures (I’m thinking of the beer, not the bartenders).

I’ve got a long relationship with beer.  When I’d come back from college, my dad would fill the refrigerator with a six pack of Sam Adams as a sign of affection.  My cousins were both beer distributors for microbreweries in the late eighties, so when I was in my twenties I went to a fair number of beer festivals, and poured at a couple.   I’m an accidental connoisseur.  Paleo asks me, “is it worth it?”

There is a greater issue at stake.  I’m an admirer of civilization.  If our culture is derived from agricultural society, then there are some practices worth keeping.  For some, beer is why there is a civilization.  Someone accidentally discovered the enjoyable properties of mead and decided to cultivate the ingredients for a more consistent state of mental bliss.  After all, that is how early bureaucrats got paid.  In beer.  (I’ll let someone else to the fact checking on this).

Actually,  being there wasn’t bad – I’m habituated by this point, to say no to everything.    I’m also seeing results.  The other evening, a friend said, “your face looks thinner.”  She was the type who is fairly … obsessed with bodies and body images, so I took it seriously.    I admit, there was some mental preparation I was doing instinctively.  There was no question about what I would do.

I ordered an Angus, grass fed burger with sweet potato fries.  It was the first time I’d ever willingly substituted sweet potato fries for regular fries.  But like the other replacements I’ve been using, it has been easy to make that switch.  Sweet potato fries will never be like Belgian frites, but it will do, and it will do permanently.

I’d asked them to keep the bun, but they still served it to me, not because they wanted to sabotage my diligence, which could be the desire of some, such as grain worshiping vegans or shills for ConAgra, but because they were not in the habit.  I pushed the bun to the side.  I used to take the bun off but still eat it just because it was there.  I’m training myself otherwise.

I did write the owner the other day, “consider paleo!”  He wrote back saying he’d look into it.

I shared my experience with Crossfit with my colleague’s husband.  “Stamford?”

“Yes, it’s not easy, but it’s worth it.”  I gave the outline:  high intensity; bodyweights; pure exercises.  It’s not a gym, but more like a dojo.  It’s like a philosophy.  “It’s a cult,” I joked.

Let me be careful here.  I’m using this word in a very technical sense.  For most people “cults” are where there is a charismatic leader that leads people to kill themselves.  It’s pejorative.  But the more precise definition is, a cult is a religion that requires initiation and commitment.    Granted, there’s no worshiping, except for the ideal of a strong healthy body.  Still, in order to join, you need to be dedicated, and those who are more committed will be invited into learning more of the faith’s secrets.

It’s nothing like being an Episcopalian.  We’re like, “hey, come whenever.”  We don’t care.

Crossfit is “Look, if you really want to be strong, you have to go through the ritual.”  The ritual, in this case, is the WOD.    Crossfit asks, do you want to be like the all the lazy, unhealthy schlubs in the rest of the world who can’t save some one from a fire, pull themselves up from the edge of a cliff, or who can’t run from bears? Do you really want to be like that?  Really?    Well, that’s OK.  We’re for motivated people.

And I, padre old stone, want to be part of that.  I’m realizing it’s clearly not for everybody.

“You should join,” I said.  “It’s been great.”  He’s strong and a good athlete.

“I’ll go!  Take me.  It sounds like my kind of workout.”

“I  think you’ll need to get in touch with them yourself.”  It’s his journey.