There are lots of methods that folks evangelize about in terms of eating better. I don’t like to listen to evangelists, I learn from modeling and mentors. I learned some good things this summer that have helped me eat better and they’re pretty basic, so I wanted to share. Not evangelize. I don’t expect these things to work for everyone, but some of the ways of thinking about food may help change habits.
My family is all in Indiana. They eat like basic Hoosiers. Lots of meat and carbs. Basically everything from this cookbook would be right at home at one of my family’s dinners. The only vegetables likely to appear are a salad and green beans. But the salad is a seven layer salad drenched in ranch and cheese, and the green beans are in a casserole. I started making fruit salads to bring to meals a few years ago. I can tell whether my friends or my family posted something on Pinterest based on a glance at the photo. If it’s super unhealthy it was posted by my family.
When I moved to Cleveland, I took a fancy to cooking. I enjoy it. But for years all I knew how to make was Hoosier home cooking. I slowly grew fatter. This year, after topping out at 205, I decided to lose some weight. I’m down to 185 now, and here’s how I did it.
- Portion control. I put my meals on salad plates and only fed myself as much as I fed my son.
- Tactical willpower. Instead of having to exercise willpower at home all the time by avoiding junk food, I just used that willpower at the grocery. Don’t buy it there, you won’t have to resist it at home.
- Easing into better choices. I didn’t just go all veggies all the time. I started buying avocados, and eating half of one with a meal. I’d roast carrots and broccoli. I’d make the easiest salad imaginable: a handful of spinach, a small splash of balsamic vinegar, a dash of Parmesan. All easy, tasty, and un-intimidating.
- Learning by example. I learned a great many easy things to do with rice and vegetables in a very short time by being in the kitchen with someone who knew how to do things I didn’t. Finding a friend or making a new friend with someone who is handy in the kitchen in ways that you aren’t is great!
That’s basically it. After awhile I started craving my now daily salad. I look forward to making an avocado, beet and goat cheese sandwich. Hell, you just have to steam, peel, and slice the beet. It’s not hard. The flavors take care of themselves. And because my portion sizes are smaller, and vegetables slowly increased in percentage, I’m eating significantly less carbs and meat. I’m not becoming vegetarian, but my diet is much closer to a vegetarian diet than it was. I don’t disdain junk food, the Pop Tarts I just had are proof against that. But the four little changes I made have added up to a big difference.
Food evangelists demanding a sea change in eating habits did not affect me. Being around people who were good dietary models but not preachy about it and making my own small choices has made much more of an impact.
Das Schnitzel Haus
East Coast Original Custard
Korea House (The Bibim Bam is as awesome as I remembered)
Punk Rock Softball
Caveman Diaries/Megachurch CD Release (more to come)
- Paint upstairs apartment
Eat southern-roasted turkey, polenta and roasted red onion & avocado salad with neighbors
Jack Frost Donuts (I’ve had the donuts plenty of times, but never actually been there)
I need to hang out in Parma more often. All kinds of great places to go.
This was the opening weekend for the eponymous Bắc, the new Asian food place in Tremont. I’d spent most of the day yesterday tramping around Cleveland in the snow, so it was a welcome change of pace to spend some time in a warm room with great atmosphere and cute wait staff. The change in the space from what used to be La Tortilla Feliz is remarkable. Gone is the yellow-orange paint, and the stuccoed walls are now a soothing green. All of the decor was picked by somebody (I’m assuming Bắc himself) who understands that classy looks, comfort, and utility do all go together.
When I met Bắc at the Velvet Tango Room a few months ago, he said that his goal was to create a place where you can get an appetizer, a drink and a dinner for around $20. He did a good job. The menu is structured in such a way that you’ve got an array of options that meets this goal, and an equal array for a diner who wants to shell out a bit more. There’s even a custom cocktail menu (most run around $7), and $2 PBR’s that are $1.50 during happy hour.
I wanted to get everything on the menu, but whittled it down to the Banh Mi sandwich ($8) or the pad thai ($11). The Banh Mi sandwich sounds delicious, so I’ll get that next time I go there. I got the pad thai, “family-hot”, and since Bắc’s family is in the kitchen making the food, this was hot. Also, since Bắc’s family is in the kitchen, the hotness was such that it enhanced rather than overpowered the flavor of the pad thai. The spring roll appetizer ($5) was also amazing. Fried just enough, but not greasy, the internal bits were chopped finely enough that you didn’t pull them all out when you took a bite, and the roll had enough tensile strength that it didn’t disintegrate once one end was bitten off.
Look, I can’t emphasize enough that Bắc’s family is in the kitchen making the food. So we’re talking generations-old family recipes here.
Since today is Chinese New Year, we were even served complimentary coconut jien duy (a sesame seed dumpling) after dinner.
Bắc hits all of the restaurant sweet spots. Go there.
This Christmas season I have made:
- 4 batches of Art of Darkness Brownies
- 3 batches of chocolate-dipped pretzel rods
- 12 pounds of fudge (soon to be 16)
- 4 batches of 7-layer bars
- a dozen Best of 2009 CDs
I have this ridiculous idea for a gimmick restaurant. This is not the hostile takeover of Grumpy’s in which everything with “cajun spice” would be removed from the menu (which would allow us to basically write a whole new menu), all wait staff would be forced to wear floral print aprons and the place would be renamed Frumpy’s. No, this idea is even better.
The place would be called The WTF BBQ. It would serve trompe-l’œil food. Mexican spaghetti made with corn noodles, chorizo meatballs and chipotle tomato sauce. Mediterranean tacos made with kibbee and fattoush. The pulled pork is fish. Cheeseburger pizza. You get the idea.
I am a genius.
Over the last few weeks I’ve eaten at a couple of new [to me] Cleveland-area food places. My favorite aspect of Cleveland is the ease with which one can go to an authentic ethnic restaurant and never run out of such places to attend. I made it to Sterle’s Slovenian County House awhile back and had a great time. The murals on the walls made it seem like I was back in Slovenia, and the live accordian polka accompaniment and old folks dancing was awesome. It is right around the corner from Empress Taytu.
Brown Bag Burgers near Great Boredom Mall is another tasty little eatery with a mural on the wall. Although their burgers aren’t the Best in Cleveland, they are the exact perfect size for eating, leaving you full but not stuffed, satiated, not begging for more. That’s a hard balance to strike.