My mom is a fantastic cook.
Her baked macaroni and cheese makes angels cry. (Laugh if you want; it’s true. Or maybe that was just me crying because I can’t eat it anymore.) Swiss steak, baked chicken, swedish meatballs…all amazing. And all really well balanced meals, too – almost every meal had a grain, dairy, vegetables, and protein.
Unfortunately, my early food education was not something I followed into my adult life. I used to make a meal out of things like (and former roommates can attest to this):
cucumbers drizzled with salad dressing
graham crackers with frosting
Really, I would sit on the couch with a box of graham crackers and a container of frosting made out of things like polyzorbate flugornium and brown dye 58 (word to the wise: if you can’t pronounce most of the things listed in the ingredients, you probably should not be eating it) and load those graham crackers up with about ¼ inch of frosting (sometimes more) and eat, then repeat.
Until a voice in my head started screaming WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD IN THIS WORLD PLEASE PLEASE STOP, followed immediately by the sounds of uncontrollable weeping. Or maybe that was a voice in my stomach, come to think of it.
Anyway, back to the point: my mom. She taught me some great things about eating and food in general that I don’t always follow, but should. And as I was thinking about those things this morning, I thought, “Hey, why don’t you share those with the internets?” So here you are, internets. Enjoy.
- My mom always served ice cream in teeny bowls. Seriously, teeny. Enough to accommodate two or three little scoops of ice cream. In my brain, this is always how a bowl of ice cream should be sized – anything bigger looks weird to me. Now, in the past year I’ve often broken this rule because I have to buy specialty ice creams made of coconut or soy that already come in little cartons (eating out of the carton makes more sense when you’re the only one who eats the stuff), but I’m going to try to go back to the teeny dish rule. Because coconut ice cream and regular ice cream have something really horrifying in common: GRATUITOUS AMOUNTS OF SUGARRRRR. So in summary – teeny ice cream dishes.
- Vegetables are YUMMY. The thing that usually bars my eating them is my boundless laziness. You know, because they require preparation, which requires effort. But the truth is, I really like veggies. Green beans, yellow squash, zucchini (so if you have some to unload this summer, give me a call), cucumbers, Swiss chard, beets, cooked carrots, spinach, radishes, basically all kinds of salad fare. Mom was big on veggies, and most of what I just listed she and Gram grew fresh in their garden. I don’t know where vegetables got that “yucky” rep, because it isn’t fair. They all have their own unique flavors and textures, and when combined, some of them are completely amazing. If you find yourself unable to identify with and understand that, try cutting some processed foods out of your diet, because your tastebuds might be seriously out of whack. And since my mouth started watering while I was typing out that list, I guess that means I should pick up some today when I go to the store. And so should YOU. Ha.
- Juice, like ice cream, should also be served in teeny containers. Every morning, mom (or dad) would pour orange juice into these micro juice glasses. We’d down them like shots on the way out the door. I actually poured myself a teeny glass this morning with breakfast – the old habit is still with me. If you’re sensing a theme here, it’s this: if it is a sugary item, serve it in a small container. And to that, I add this advice: if it is a sugary item that you find yourself pigging out on uncontrollably, THROW IT AWAY. I did that this morning with some coconut ice cream and Hershey’s syrup. Mercy. The truth is, though I love sugar, it’s crack. So ease up and buy some veggies.
- Let’s talk coffee. My parents drink it black with maybe a little sugar in it. Most of us drink it with several pounds of sugar dissolved in it in some form, in a $5.00 paper cup with a mermaid on it (myself OH so included). Now, I’m not suggesting we all boycott our local places of worship coffee houses, but I’m suggesting that we stop having dessert for breakfast all the time. We need to cut down. This message brought to you by the workout pants I put on this morning that were not quite this tight last January.
- Eat a balanced meal. Try to include different types of food. Mom did this on a regular basis. Not much else to say here, except that it requires more effort, yes, but there are easy ways to do this: frozen veggies, for example. They even make steam bags you can just throw in the microwave. My advice regarding dairy, though, would be to keep it to a minimum. No, this is not just my vengeful suggestion to a world that can digest something delicious that I can’t; it’s just my advice to a world that is obsessed with cheese. You don’t notice how ubiquitous it is until you try to avoid the stuff. It’s highly caloric and fatty, so treat it like sugar. A little is good, a lot is bad.
I should add here that mom is not, and never will be, a health nut. She sometimes eats too much sugar and, as I wrote at the beginning of this post, makes baked macaroni with more cheese in one serving than anybody should really consume in the whole course of their natural life.
But as I was thinking about her this morning, I realized that she really did give me some good parameters for eating. So I’m going to try re-adopt some of those old good habits.