Food compatibility and relationships

4th August 2010

Food compatibility and relationships

by Rachel

Could you stay seriously romantically involved with someone who didn’t care about food the way you do?

That’s the question posed over at the CNN blog Eatocracy and surprisingly, the majority of respondents say that it is indeed a dealbreaker in a relationship.  The gist of the post seems to be aimed more at epicurean foodies who look for like-minded palates in a mate, but it’s worth exploring other aspects of dietary discordance too, like sustainable food or vegetarian/vegan diets.  I had been vegetarian for a little over two years when I met Brandon.  Our whirlwind relationship moved quickly and I seriously think that the first inkling I felt that hey… this could actually be the one started when I looked in his refrigerator freezer that first weekend and saw at least five different varieties of Morningstar Farms veggie burgers lining the shelves.  Brandon wasn’t vegetarian then, but had undergone a kind of mid-life crisis months earlier and had ditched his fast food diet for veggie burgers and taken up running again.

Food played a large role in our budding relationship those first few months.  I was on the tail end of my recovery from an eating disorder and Brandon was a bachelor who cooked most of his meals in a microwave.  I turned him on to sesame rye crackers and hummus, veggie taco salads and homemade healthy pizza.   He reintroduced me to chocolate, bread and ooey gooey cheesy pizza from our favorite local pizza parlor.  I tried not to evangelize vegetarianism, but since we planned meals and grocery shopped together, our meals tended to be vegetarian.  In fact, I can recall only two instances after we met in which Brandon ate meat — once when he and his brother dined out together and without me and again when we dined out with friends at a restaurant with a very limited veggie-friendly menu.  Within six months after we moved in together, he went completely vegetarian.  My mom, who was slow to understand my vegetarianism for the longest time, chided me for “making” Brandon give up bacon.  “Let that boy eat some meat already!” she’d scold.  True, I didn’t exactly relish the idea of kissing Brandon after he’d eaten charred animal flesh nor did I want to see it in my refrigerator, but what my mom didn’t understand is that I didn’t force Brandon into anything; he went vegetarian because he loves me and knew how important it was to me.

Vegetarianism, however, is the point in which our shared taste in food ends.  I’m both health- and environmentally-conscious and also try to follow a relatively low glycemic diet for health reasons.   Brandon?  Eh, not so much.  I love green vegetables — kale, spinach, broccoli, okra, Brussel sprouts, salads…  The only vegetables Brandon eats are the “bad” white ones — corn and potatoes.  He can tolerate certain vegetables in things, like soups and stir-frys or on pizza, but you will never find him digging into a plate of freshly steamed vegetables on their own.  Here’s an example of our different palates: Neither of us are foodies nor do we even really like to cook.  One evening I was busy with work and other things and left dinner up to him.  After a half hour of rooting around in the cabinets and refrigerator, I asked him if he had any ideas.  “Veggie chicken nuggets?” he suggested. “And….?” I asked.  He shuffled his feet.  “Uhh, French fries?”  “How about Quorn chicken with a baked potato and steamed broccoli?” I asked.  He wrinkled his nose.

We try to prepare dinners that both will like and find satisfying, but often times we’ll also each fix our own dinners, too.  A veggie burger or chicken patty for him; a veggie burger or veggie chicken and a side of steamed veggies for me.  It may seem odd to some, but it works for us.  How about you?  Do you and your partner share similar or completely different dietary tastes?  Could you ever be in a relationship with someone who isn’t on the same page as you when it comes to food?

posted in Food Culture, Rachel, Vegetarianism | 30 Comments

31st March 2010

Peep show

by Rachel

Speaking of food art…  The Washington Post announced the winner of its fourth annual Peeps Show Diorama Contest.  Public voting is still on for the People’s Choice award from among 38 entries, culled from the more than 1,100 gooey submissions received.  Here’s a few of my favorites:

For their winning diorama based on the Pixar flick “Up,” Michael Chirlin
and Veronica Ettle of Arlington constructed a miniature Victorian house
from plywood and Popsicle sticks, and placed it atop salvaged mattress
springs to give it an airborne quality. VIDEO: A closer look at ‘EEP’


In their diorama “Easter at the National Peep-Thedral: A House of Prayer
for All Peeps
,” District residents Andrew Martin, Christine McCann and Julie Avetta
used photographs of Washington’s National Cathedral to create the backdrop, and added
a Darth Vader head from a Pez dispenser as a nod to the carving on the northwest tower.


Margaret Cooney and Adam Matuszeski of the District were inspired by Maurice Sendak’s classic book
for their “Where the Wild Peeps Are” creation. The husband-and-wife pair notes: “Each of the
Wild Peeps has a teddy bear or bunny Peep body with either a bunny, teddy bear, or a chick Peep for
a head. The eyes are thumbtacks while arms, legs and snouts are made from Peep parts or finger puppets.”

I admit it… I don’t really care for the taste of Peeps, but who can resist their sparkling sugary cuteness?  And it seems that many have succumbed to the marshmallowy madness — self-admitted Peep freaks maintain websites  featuring everything from Peep haiku, to Peep-inspired multimedia art and sculpture, to Peep science and research and even an inventive online movie called “Lord of the Peeps.”  Peeps are, in fact, the number one selling non-chocolate Easter candy, topping even jelly beans.  The iconic Easter candies are hatched in Bethlehem, Penn., by Just Born, a firm named after founder Sam Born, who immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1910 and built a candy empire.  Just Born began manufacturing Peeps in 1953 when it acquired a rival candy company (for more on Peeps’ history, read here).  The Just Born factory now hatches more than 1 billion Peeps’ per year, with 600 million Marshmallow Peeps and Bunnies consumed by Americans on Easter alone.

So, how do you like your Peeps?  Fresh or stale?  Do you bite the heads off first?  Or do you prefer to violate your Peeps, dress them up and take pictures?

posted in Food Culture, Food History, Rachel | 6 Comments

30th March 2010

Fun with vintage advertising

by Rachel

Hungry?  You won’t be after you check out these absolutely stomach-churning vintage food advertisements.

Hold the anchovies.  How about some tasty tuna pizza?


There’s a reason why Mom’s Fish Loaf never caught on.


This tomato soup-covered charred frisbee is somehow supposed to be a pizza?


Radioactive mac-and-cheese, anyone?


Child abuse, 1960s housewife-style


If Ohio ever legalizes civil unions/gay marriage, I’m totally making this for my friend Ryan’s bachelor party.


Answering the question of what zombies would eat if zombies ate Spam.


Sack O’ Sauce in a Can O’ Meat?  No wonder it was such an “exclusive” — and no doubt, short-lived — invention.

posted in Food Culture, Food History, Rachel, vintage ads | 33 Comments

19th March 2010

Feel Good Friday: Food as Art

by Rachel

The Art of Food

The Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center here in town is winding down its The Art of Food exhibit next month.  Brandon and I haven’t had a chance yet to attend, but I’m hoping to make it before its April 2 close date.  This is the fourth year for the exhibit, which showcases food as art, art about food, and food as the inspiration for art — and the works are as eclectic as the medium.  Artist Eric Bass, for instance, has recreated famous paintings with candy and junk food.  This year, he recreated Van Gogh’s “Potato Eater” using — what else? — potato chips.  Photographer Bruce Frank manipulates the colors and forms of food in works such as “Fruit salad mandala” (pictured), while other artists such as Pam Kravetz chose to make her 8-foot tall food-themed puppets and towers of cupcakes artwork about food and our relation to it.

As a photographer and digital artist myself, I’ve been drawn to golden fields of swaying wheat and corn, but never have I made food itself the subject of my art — unless, that is, you consider cake-decorating to be an art, in which case I am a total food artist.  The Art of Food exhibit pays homage to the days of early modern Europe, when orate edible creations and sculpture were often created for celebrations in cities and courts as both a feast for the eyes and a taste experience — read more on that here.  Now food art is enjoying a resurgence again among the creative class looking for new and unique ways to express their vision and creativity.  Just check out some of the amazing works featured here, here or here.   Among my favorites are the eye-catching “foodscapes” of photographer Carl Warner, who uses fruits, vegetables anything else he can scrounge up in his kitchen to make his fantastical landscapes made entire of food (well, and glue and pins).   Simply amazing!

Carl Warren foodscape

Do you have a favorite food artist?  Have you made food art?  If so, show off some of your creations!

posted in Arts and Music, Food Culture, Food History, Food News, Rachel | 4 Comments

9th March 2010

The selflessness and selfishness of altruism

by Rachel

Meet Stella.  She’s the gorgeous bloodhound who spent an hour happily slobbering on a bone in the backseat of my car on Saturday as part of an animal rescue transport operation I volunteer with.  An owner-surrender to an animal shelter in northern Ohio, Stella eventually reached her destination later that night with a nonprofit bloodhound rescue group in Tennessee, who will train her to work with law enforcement.

I’m passionate about many causes, but grad school really ate into any free time I had to volunteer the past couple years.  After I graduated last year, I, in typical ADD fashion, wanted to immediately throw myself in an avalanche of causes.  Part of successfully living with ADD is realizing that your zeal and enthusiasm often exceeds the grasp of your limitations and so these past few months I’ve thought long and hard about what it is that I’m most passionate about.  Yes, I’m very concerned about poverty and homelessness issues and this blog is evidence of my commitment to eating disorder awareness and promotion of healthy body images, but what I’ve been most passionate about since an early age is animal rescue.  Our house was always overflowing with both kids (there were four of us) and animals and our pets were all very much beloved members of our family.  I rescued my first animal at the age of six — a box turtle slowly meandering across the street I lived on who found a new home in the woods behind our house.  My mom worked as a 911 dispatcher at a police department and through it we adopted a black lab puppy some cruel boys tried to kill by cinching it in a plastic garbage bag and throwing in the dumpster (Bear lived to the ripe old age of 15), and a Irish Setter mix puppy, abandoned with his litter mates in the snow (all but one of the seven puppies found homes within the department).

Our family menagerie has included cats, dogs, fish, hamsters, rabbits and even a trio of baby Lovebirds I tried to nurse after their mother died.  A family who lived down the street from my childhood home had a mini-farm with cows, goats, chickens, a turkey and even burros and they’d hire me to “farm-sit” whenever they went on vacation.  The hours I spent there at the farm, laying in the hayloft with only the quiet cooing of speckled chickens insulating their eggs, are among my favorite childhood memories.  My mother sometimes referred to me as Dr. Doolittle for all the time I spent with both our critters and various wildlife and indeed, as a fat kid who was taunted and harassed virtually every day of the school year, I often preferred the company of animals to that of other kids.

Just months after moving into my first apartment, I defied my no-pets lease and rescued two kittens I’d found on the side of the road.  Word must have spread, because I was soon “found” by a succession of stray cats, none of whom I could resist.  A few years later my eating disorder struck and I went vegetarian, originally because it offered me a convenient excuse to exclude large swaths of foods from my diet.  Later, I saw a flier for a local Earthsave chapter that held monthly potlucks and was amazed to find that there were actually other vegetarians in Porkopolis.  It was then that I began to learn about the horrors of animal slaughter and the often brutal and inhumane treatment of the animals and I soon realized that I couldn’t very well say that I was for animal rights so long as I continued to eat them.  As I learned more about factory farming and animal abuses and progressed in my own personal eating disorder recovery, I became an ethical vegetarian, a lifestyle I remain firmly committed to today.

Our furfamily now consists of two rabbits, six cats and a foster-who-am-I-kidding-I’ll-probably-keep-cat and I will be picking up several bunnies this week to foster until I help them find their forever homes.  We recently got involved with rescue animal transporting, which some have called kind of like an Underground Railroad network for dogs.  The way it works is this: dogs are rescued from high-kill shelters and/or abuse and neglect and transported by volunteers to shelters or adoptive homes waiting for them.  States like Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia are considered non-adoptive states for the high numbers of unwanted/abandoned animals, so sometimes these animals can only find temporary or permanent homes in regions like the Northeast where there are more adopters than adoptees.  The transports are broken down into legs of about 60-90 miles one-way and volunteer transporters — or pet taxi drivers –  then hand off  the animal to the volunteer taking the next leg of the journey.  Sometimes these travels can be two- and even three-day long events.  We transported three dogs a couple Saturdays ago that were coming from the Midwest and going to Canada!

Volunteerism is supposed to be altruistic, undertaken selflessly in the name of helping others without the expectation of personal gain, but I have to admit that I’m a selfish volunteer.  What do I get out of animal rescue?  Joy. Pride. Laughter.  Confidence.  For me, helping animals is not only the right thing to do but I find the gratitude of a fast wagging tail and sloppy kiss rewarding beyond measure.  I get to meet lots of like-minded people who don’t think I’m crazy for the number of cats I keep and get the chance to indulge my dog fix (I can’t have one of my own as our lot isn’t suitable for a dog and Brandon is adamant that he doesn’t want one).  I also do rescue work as a tribute to all the pets who have immeasurably enriched my own life and for those I was unable to save.  But perhaps  most of all, helping animals helps me feel better about myself.  Knowing that you’re needed, that you’re making a difference even if only in the life of one dog or cat is one of the biggest self-esteem boosts I’ve ever found and the animals never gripe that you’re doing it wrong.

How about you?  Are you involved with any causes, organizations or activities that you find enriching and rewarding and help you feel more accepting of yourself?

posted in Personal, Rachel, Vegetarianism | 12 Comments

19th February 2010

Fun During the February Blahs

by charlynn

February is not my favorite time of year. By this time, I am beyond bored with winter, yet it’s still kickin’ strong as ever. Yet another day of looking at snow dunes, bald trees and brown grass makes me nauseous, but it’ll be at least a month and a half (if not longer) before that changes where I live. Oh yeah, and by now I am so.incredibly.tired of freezing my arse off every single day that I’d do just about anything for a sun-soak in Phoenix.

These are desperate – and depressing – times. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is no joke, and if you experience it yourself, you probably relate to my point of view, which I admit, is a downer. That’s why I do anything and everything possible to make the month of February fly by.

Aside from an already chaotic life as a full-time student with a part-time job, I have somehow acquired a new obsession: I’ve been spending my “free time” literally feeding my obsession for apple chips. It started a few weeks ago with these babies; my taste buds became addicted to the golden delicious chips and I plain and simply couldn’t get enough of them. Several trips to Safeway later, I realized that not only was I spending quite a bit of money on these apple chips, but they contained sugar and corn syrup, which completely defeated the goodness of eating dried fruit, which I think is quite good on its own. Why screw up a good thing?

My husband quickly came up with a solution: as an early Valentine’s Day gift, he got me my own food dehydrator so I could make my own apple chips. Before you rip on me for being a major nerd for obsessing about apple chips, let me say that a food dehydrator is now one of the coolest kitchen gadgets I own*. Okay, now you can rip on me. :)

Experimenting with this new machine has been a blast. I’ve made apple chips to my heart’s content in a few different varieties: plain, with a squirt of lemon juice (to keep from browning) and cinnamon. The lemon juice adds a nice touch of tart, and the smell of cinnamon chips has the same amazing aroma as baking a dutch apple pie. I made each variety with fuji apples and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the results thus far.

I’ve also had a blast playing with combinations for fruit rolls. These are fantastic for someone like me who doesn’t have much time and needs snacks on the run – aside from apple chips, of course. :) The end result of these babies is a cheaper, natural, preservative-free alternative to the Fruit Roll-Ups I remember eating incessantly as a kid. And again, the only sugar in my version is the stuff that’s in the fruit. Nothing else.

I have played with a few different flavors, and I am learning that texture is just as important to creating an awesome fruit roll as flavor. What’s wonderful is that combinations of fruit complement each other in this capacity. For instance, the mandarin orange fruit roll I tried was way too sticky, even after dehydration – too much juice and not enough binding fibers. Combined with something thicker, such as strawberries, and without having tried it (yet), I can say that’ll be a safe bet for a beautiful fruit roll. Another example: although blueberry and raspberry taste awesome together, the combination is a little too grainy for my tastes. Raspberry and peach, on the other hand, was a huge hit with my husband. :)

You don’t have to use fresh fruit if it’s not in season – canned and frozen fruit work all the same in a food dehydrator, and this is especially convenient for fruit rolls since all you have to do is puree the fruit and spread it evenly on the tray. Although it takes some time for the dehydrator to work its magic (about 10 hours for fruit rolls), preparation time is minimal. Anyone can do this, including crazy-busy college gals like me.

Not only has this been a cool, new experiment, but it has helped me increase my fruit intake by leaps and bounds. I’ve noticed a change in the amount of energy I feel in the morning after eating dehydrated fruit as a part of my breakfast, which is awesome (and needed) since I am running around on campus for most of the day. Anyone interested in eating more fruit, enjoying fruit in a different way, or just interested in a healthy snack should seriously consider a food dehydrator. Not only is this kitchen gadget well worth the price, but it’s delightfully fun as well. Not a bad way to let February speed by. :)

* Food dehydrators are considered nerdy only because of this infomercial from 1991.

posted in Author, Charlynn, Food Culture, Food Finds | 10 Comments

9th February 2010

Food Finds: UGLI fruit

by Rachel

Food Finds is a semi-regular feature in which I channel my inner Andrew Zimmern to experiment and try exotic and new foods — sans creepy crawly bugs and bull’s testicles, of course.  Have an idea for my next food find?  Post your suggestions in the comments below!

It is a testament to the marvels of modern technology that I am able to savor an UGLI fruit while gazing out my window at steadily falling snow in my corner of the American Midwest.  What exactly is an UGLI fruit, you ask?  It’s the trademark name under which Cabel Hall Citrus Ltd. markets it brand of tangelos from Jamaica (pronounced there as “hoo-glee”).  The fruit was found in the 1920s growing wild on the island nation, and is believed to be a hybrid of grapefruit, Seville oranges and tangerines.  It’s available from December through April, and sometimes in the fall.   The company’s slogan for the fruit is, ““The Affliction is only Skin Deep so the Beauty is in the Eating,” so while a name makeover might make it more palatable to consumers, it’s a perfect food find for this blog.

As its name suggests, the UGLI fruit is indeed a rather unattractive fruit — it’s slightly larger than a grapefruit with misshapen, dimpled wrinkly green-yellow skin.  I bought mine at my local grocer for 99 cents, a price comparable to a grapefruit of similar size, and not knowing anything about the UGLI fruit, selected one with a bright Kermit-green colored rind.  The skin is easier to peel than a grapefruit or orange and sheds to reveal an orangey-yellow, pulpy, virtually seed-free citrus inside.  I later read that the green surface blemishes turn orange when the fruit is at its peak ripeness, so mine was perhaps a bit under-ripe for the eating (they can be stored for up to two weeks in the fridge). The UGLI fruit is much juicier than an orange and even a grapefruit, so make sure you aren’t wearing white, like I was.  Better yet, wear a bib.  For those of you raised with manners, Cabel Hall recommends cutting the fruit in half, loosening the segments and eating with a spoon.

I found the taste to be somewhat of a weak orange with a slight sour zest of lemony citrus.  In reading other accounts of people who actually waited until their fruits were ripe, the taste at its peak is comparable to a juicy naval orange.  I’ll probably stick to oranges and grapefruits for stand-alone fruits, but I think the UGLI fruit would be fantastic in a fruit salad or smoothie.  Check out these other creative UGLI food and drink recipes:

Are you an UGLI fan?  Have a recipe to share?  Post your comments below!

“The Affliction is only Skin Deep so the Beauty is in the Eating “™

posted in Food Finds, Food History, Rachel, Recipes | 3 Comments

2nd February 2010

What We Missed

by Rachel

A new study of 1,000 American girls between the ages of 13-17 by the Girl Scouts finds that 9 out of 10 girls say they feel pressure from the media and/or fashion industry to be skinny.  More than 80 percent of the girls polled said they’d rather see natural photos of models than digitally enhanced or altered photos.

Specialists calculate life expectancy for people with anorexia to be 25 years shorter than average.  Patients who recover however, may expect full lifespans.

A Chicago mom and grandmother shares her story of finally overcoming anorexia after 25 years of battling the disorder.

Remember the mental health parity law that passed in 2008? The The U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury jointly issued new rules this week governing the law.

The Website tracked cosmetic surgery trends by region and even city with some surprising results.

New “groundbreaking” study shows abnormal brain function in people with body dysmorphic disorder.

Eve Ensler: Girl power can save the world.

The New York Times reviews Michael Pollan’s new book, “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual.”

posted in Anorexia, Body Image, Book Reviews, Eating Disorders, Fashion, Food Culture, Mental Health, New Research, Pop Culture, Rachel, Recovery | 8 Comments

7th January 2010

If we are what we eat, what do the contents of our refrigerators say about us?

by Rachel

You’ve heard the aphorism, “You are what you eat,” right?  Well, here’s an interesting project that seeks to expose our innermost selves.  In a creative exploration of hunger, photographer Mark Menjivar photographed the contents of strangers’ refrigerators and posted them to his website along with a brief description of the contents’ owner.  From the virtually empty refrigerator of a person living on a meager fixed income (image 2) to the refrigerator of a female short order cook who can bench press 300 pounds with a coiled snake resting on the top shelf (really! it’s image 15), it’s certainly an interesting peek into the lives of diverse people from different regions and backgrounds.  In his artist’s statement, Menjivar explains:

For three years I traveled around the country exploring food issues. The more time I spent speaking and listening to individual stories, the more I began to think about the foods we consume and the effects they have on us as individuals and communities. An intense curiosity and questions about stewardship led me to begin to make these unconventional portraits.

A refrigerator is both a private and a shared space. One person likened the question, “May I photograph the interior of your fridge?” to asking someone to pose nude for the camera. Each fridge is photographed “as is.” Nothing added, nothing taken away.   These are portraits of the rich and the poor. Vegetarians, Republicans, members of the NRA, those left out, the under appreciated, former soldiers in Hitler’s SS, dreamers, and so much more. We never know the full story of one’s life.

My hope is that we will think deeply about how we care. How we care for our bodies. How we care for others. And how we care for the land.

So, what would the refrigerator of a eating disorder-recovered, vegetarian, health-conscious 30-year-old journalist from the Midwest look like?  Here’s a peek into my own fridge.

If we are what we eat, what does your fridge say about you?

posted in Class & Poverty, Food Culture, Food News, Rachel, Vegetarianism | 26 Comments

28th December 2009

Open Post: What are you reading?

by Rachel

When I was younger, our parents would have us fill out our Santa wish lists weeks before Christmas.  As the sole bookworm in the family, I, of course, always requested a long list of books — Oliver Twist in the third-grade, Shakespeare at the age of 9 and later, in my teen years, Stephen King.  My list must have not made it to the North Pole because instead I got things like a makeup brush kit or a t-shirt screenprinted with a picture of a black labrador.  One of the joys of marrying a man who used to do all his Christmas shopping at Walgreens on Christmas Eve is that now all I do is fill out my Amazon wishlist and know that most, if not all, will be wrapped and waiting under the tree.  I’ve already devoured the two fiction books I received — Stephen King’s new book, Under the Dome and The Strain, coauthored by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro — and am now ready to dig into my non-fiction gifts.  In no particular order…

So, what’s on your reading list?  Any recommendations for the rest of us?

posted in Book Reviews, Class & Poverty, Eating Disorders, Fat History, Feminist Topics, Food History, Race Issues, Rachel, Recovery | 30 Comments

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