It’s Not Summer & I’m not in Italy

Okay, okay. It’s February, not really summer time, although an argument could be made considering the weather here in Southern California and I’m definitely NOT in Italy… obviously,  having just said that I’m in SoCal… but! I just picked up a new cookbook, Recipes from an Italian Summer and I’m super excited about it.

I love to cook and I think recipes are a great way to start! It’s like dancing, you learn the steps first and then do what you want with them! You hope it turns out good but it’s always a little bit of a gamble. So every now and again, you’ll have to forgive me, but I’m going to ramble on about a recipe or two and hopefully they turn out tasty!

I pretty much learned to cook out of necessity. My mother was not big in the kitchen. And my dad felt that working was his contribution to our eating, enough said about that, otherwise, I’ll go off into a diatribe that isn’t really food related. Anyway… in order to eat decent meals, I had to learn how to cook them. Let me also say that between my weird messed up family and my sometimes weird messed up culture (American, it is actually a culture, but again, let me not diverge lest we end up with yet another discussion that has nothing to do with food!), I have always had a strange and sometimes hostile relationship with food. I’ve been through the “nothing with calories passes these lips” phase, the “feed the machine” phase, the “who really cares, whatever is easiest” phase, you get the idea. When I was an undergrad, I worked out between 4-6 hrs a day and could make a Snickers bar last a week, and not the giant size one either! I lived on Diet Coke. I remember a phase where I always carried around a box of Wheat Thins. It was all I ate – Wheat Thins and Diet Coke. I don’t even particularly like Wheat Thins. It was a weight issue and a control issue and often times a money issue. But I think the beast underneath the whole thing was the idea that food was not really a part of life, or at least, a good part of life. It was something to be concerned about. And in reflection, I did get that message growing up. My grandfather showed his generosity and his love through huge spreads of food. My grandmother revealed her control issues and her OCD problems with her peculiar food habits. My mother saw food as the enemy to looking good and looking good was how she gain credibility and value. My father treated food as the measurement of accomplishment, if there was expensive food in the house, all should be viewed as well. I think I do all those things. Well, I know I do. I gift food as love and affection rather than my time and attention; I control not only how my food is prepared but how it is presented; I fear that food will have a negative affect on my figure and I actually fear fatness; and, I keep a house with two people in it stocked  like there is a famine approaching.

I have realized that I have a bad relationship with food and with eating. I want to change that. I want to view food as one enjoyable aspect of life, something to be grateful for, to savor, to share, and to be able to walk away from without stress and anxiety. I don’t want to walk around with a baggie of counted out nuts or prunes and a timer reminding me to eat 13 small meals a day or a plastic jug of some sort of protein swill that smells of strange vitamins and aluminum. I don’t want to have to do calculations to determine what I can eat for dinner or need an app to tell me how to pick my side dishes and to remind me to have them steamed and without butter.

I prefer to go to the farmers market and see what is seasonal, to pick vibrant produce that smells like actual real vegetables, to ask the super cool guy behind the counter at my favorite Italian deli what kind of cheese goes great with what kind of sauce! I want to enjoy beautiful nourishment. Because you know what I’ve learned? My body wants to be healthy and it tells me how by asking for exercise, fresh air, sunlight, good food… it’s my mind, my poor reactions, by bad self talk that get in the way!

We have 206 bones in the adult human body and only one is not attached to a joint (that bone is in the throat, in case you were wondering), we were built to move. We were also built with an ability to see 7,000,000 different colors (not all with good results… still), we were built to be attracted to vibrant green herbs, brilliant red tomatoes, and indulgently sweet yellow bananas. We can detect over 10,000 types of scent. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Come on, be honest, you know that styrofoam box is not appealing! And the smells coming from a deep fryer right out the window of the drive-thru – ewwwww, yuck!

So off I go to change my mind and in doing so change my relationship with food. I’m looking forward to having fun with this cookbook, in the grocery store, in the kitchen, and in the dining room!

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