Eating to Live or Living to Eat

Part of my job as a father of two young children, is to dispose of perfectly good peas.

As a general rule, I loath waste and though my wife professes to as well, she is also very skittish about any food item that could have possibly come in contact with an individual mold spore or, God help us, was over a week old. This is a personality trait that often times come in direct, diametric opposition to my own edible food criteria. For me, so long as it’s not trying to escape or is three distinct shades paler than it was when it was newly made, I’m pretty much game for eating it.

The root of our individual viewpoints comes, I believe, in the way we view food in general. Though I can appreciate, even wax poetic, about some meals (an octopus soup enjoyed in Belgium, springs to mind), I tend to view food as fuel. Though I prefer delicious fuel to cardboard flavored, I’m of the mind that both will get you where you want to go, so it’s no big deal to say… eat the exact same peanut butter and honey sandwich for sixteen days straight or to simply go for the english muffin with peanut butter every single morning for four years. It’s fast, easy, and fits the bill, though I do tend to go though a hell of a lot of peanut butter. I call it being practical. She calls it, “Eeeaugh”

Not so, Action Girl. She is of a different sensibility. She would rather go with out rather than eat the wrong thing. This is manifestly, a bad idea and though I love my wife with all my heart, if there is one thing that will transform the bubbly woman I’m married to into a blond haired, blue eyed hand grenade, it would be “lack of food”.

Action Girl is one of those individuals whose attitude toward the word is directly connected to the contents of her stomach. If it is filled with a fine meal, delicately made and thoughtfully assembled, then she could pretty much shrug off the house burning down. Let her skip lunch and then be foolish enough to enter the room, and the best you can hope for a swift and moderately painless death.

I have two sets of photographs to back this claim; both taken over seas when eating patterns were erratic and unpredictable. The first was taken on a trip to Bavaria where we were staying in a small village, nestled in an Alpine valley. When we discovered that bicycles could be rented and that you could pedal to Linderhof, a palace built by Ludwig II, we jumped at it. It wasn’t a hard ride on paper, only about ten kilometers. What they didn’t point out was that it was all up hill. Not a huge incline, to be honest, perhaps only about three or four percent, but it never once let up. Couple that with less than optimal bikes, a somewhat rough gravel path and you get a tougher than expected ride. We weren’t creampuffs when it came to biking and did manage the ride without having to wuss out and take breaks, but it was harder work than we had anticipated doing, fueled only by a light breakfast. Once we arrived, we immediately toured the palace and grounds, partly to beat the bus loads of camera toters that we saw in the parking lot but also for the sheer joy of walking on our own feet and giving our beaten-up our behinds a rest from sitting.

By the time we had exited the palace and seen the famous gardens and grotto, it was well past lunch. I had been nibbling on granola bars and though Action Girl had one too, she opted to wait for a proper lunch.

Bad plan.

Here’s where the photos come in. The first I took is of my lovely wife sitting on a bench in an amazing garden. If you look very, very closely, you can almost make out the black cloud that is hovering inches over her head. There might have even been flickers of lightning in there. In short, she does not look like a person enjoying things. Only the most inept and unobservant pan handler or pigeon would attempt to beg something from her. Not doubt with dire consequences. The next photo on the roll is of Action Girl again. This time she is swinging, one armed from a lamp post a la Fred Astaire. A joyful smile spreads across her face and the rain cloud is nowhere to be seen. Between these two photographs… was a hardy and delicious German lunch.

The other set of photos, this time taken in Alsace, lacks the “before” black cloud picture that so perfectly bookends the no-food / food equation. They are, however, very telling as well. To anyone who doesn’t know my wife, in these two pictures, she just looks like a happy traveler, walking towards me and wearing a smile. To those of us who know her well, we notice two things. In the first photo, you can see that she is just leaving a chocolatier’s shop. In the next picture, she is closer in the frame and you can now make out two important things. First, the yellow bag containing something like forty Euros of fine, hand made dark chocolate, clutched lovingly to her chest. Second, her enormous smile, possibly visible from space, which was put there by the anticipation of getting into that bag.

Food is heavenly to her and it needs to be done right or not at all. Very French of her, I’d say, which is odd since I’m the one with the French and she’s mostly Irish. All in all, our two ways of dealing with food match pretty well. Being a gifted cook, she routinely makes meals that would be at home in the best restaurants and kitchen stadiums. I firmly believe she could easily win “Iron Chef”. On the other hand, once the apple roasted chicken is more than a few days old or the raspberry torte is getting a bit stale, she is all for pitching it and starting anew. She’d rather make something else than warm up a plate of less than perfect leftovers. So, since we don’t have livestock at our house and I hate to see what I view as “perfectly good food go to waste, it has fallen to me to hoover out the fridge in an effort to keep up with the wonderful bounty of foods that we didn’t finish the first, second or third time around. Now with the addition of kids, my job and diet has expanded.

Short Stack’s attention to his dinner plate can be less than laser like on any given night. If food items are easily stabbed with a fork, he does pretty well, all things considered. Peas and chopped carrots are another matter though. The cooked carrots, though delicious, are hard to keep on the fork and tend to slip off the tines en route to his mouth. Peas, ever the tricky vegetable, are all for going on brief and exciting excursions across the table, into his lap and eventually, onto the floor where they find a final resting place under his chair or crushed flat under our feet. Because of their inherent difficulty, they tend to be eschewed and purposely forgotten. That’s where dad comes in.

Initially, I would simply clean off his plate and dump the forgotten peas down the drain. The waste bugged me a bit, but it was high summer and fresh vegetables were plentiful. Autumn is now heavily upon us, and with the changing of the season, so had come a change of my attitude. It’s almost as though I view these once frozen vegetables as bits of the warm, bright summer, and I cringe at thoughtlessly dumping them in the sink. As I walk away from the table, holding a ladybug shaped, plastic dinner plate, I scoop up the lukewarm leftovers with his miniature fork and shovel them in. Though some of the peas might have been dribbled with ketchup or a few of the carrots, marinated in soy sauce, I don’t mind. It’s all good fuel.

Tonight Acton Girl is making a roast and there will be leftovers-a-plenty. I will no doubt eat the loin’s share of this wonderfully prepared meal, but that’s okay. She won’t want more than two servings of it any way.

I bet, in the following week, it will go very well with cast off peas.

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12 Responses

  1. Sounds like a match made in heaven really – I could identify with quite a bit of this. A tip for you – if you have leftover mince, make a burger. If you have LOTS of leftover mince, make a GIANT burger… and invite the boys round.

    Have a look at http://discoverunearthed.wordpress.com to see my attempts at a gargantuan burger…

    Thanks for the comments and link!

    Woo-Hoo! That’s quite the undertaking! Flipping that baby must have been a challenge. I’ll have to spend some time poking around your blog and see what’s good for the eating. Like I said, I can appreciate good food, but I can also deal with okay food. Sometimes, it’s important to just “git it in ya” and move on.

    -TP

  2. Food as Fuel. You are singing to the choir here! Although, I’m all for Good Fuel if someone else is making it.

    Mmmmm. Fuel.
    I’ll take mine “unleaded”, please.
    -TP

  3. Damn you Prawn! You let the cat out of the bag! Octopus soup, the secret second Belgian national dish after mussels and French fries. I vaguely remember Craig Ferguson making a joke about Belgium and octopuses. What’s with you guys?!

    The soup was FANTASTIC! Really! The chef’s area of concentration was in seafood and he did NOT disappoint. As I recall, we was South African, so he was bringing the magic of octopi to the Belgian country side. It was seriously the best soup I’ve ever had in my life.

    When you stated that your wife was larger after the visit to the chocolate shop, I envisioned another scenario… All I can say is that I hope she does not read your blog (otherwise no nookie for you!)

    I know! I KNOW! I tried writing that sentence about three different ways and each one had a double entendre! To clarify, she was walking towards me and THUS moving into the foreground! Aw, screw it. I’ll change “larger” to “closer”. Sheesh!

    I can eat cereals morning, noon and night as long as I alternate between Cocoa Puffs, Frosted flakes, and Apple Jacks. I love junk food. I’ll die young.

    Aw, man! I haven’t had Apple Jacks in years! I loved those!
    -TP

  4. Haha, I’m on your wife’s side here, food is just TOO good – as, I’m sorry to say, shows a bit, now when I’m no longer 25…

    Was that ‘loin’s share’ freudian slip accidental? 😀

    Well, I have to say that I definitely come out happy with this arrangement. She keeps making wonderful meals and I get to enjoy them. It’s just a matter of keeping up with what’s in the fridge! I better not stop being active or I’m going to turn into a blimp!

    -TP

  5. I’m in the same category as your wife. Life is too short to eat crappy food. As a matter of fact, life is too short for anything crappy!

    I’m really looking forward to my cycle trip in Germany next year. I envisage cycling for 10kms or so and stopping for a cake and coffe and then cycling for another 10kms or so more and stopping for a cake and coffe and so on, ad infinitum.

  6. razzbuffnik, and then stop for a schweinebraten and a beer 😀

  7. hildigunnur

    I’ve never eaten schweinebraten so I looked it up on the net and I found a recipe for it. Sounds delicious!

    I’m drooling as I write this.

    I’ll be making it for dinner tomorrow night because it would drive crazy to wait a year before I try it.

  8. You two are killing me! I was just telling Action Girl last night that I wanted Schweinebraten! Well, wienerschnitzel, actually… to be perfectly honest.

    But I did have a Spaaten with dinner! It was pizza. Sigh…

  9. As I read this post I thought “oh my god. this is almost like somebody describing me!”. I think we have a photo or two of me with a hoovering black cloud because I DID NOT GET my lunch in time. Well, first of all – I love to eat good food and if I don’t get a proper meal at a suitable time, my patience starts to diminish rapidly. And also – I love chocolate! 🙂

    The thing is… it seems that our son has inherited his mother’s “no food = dangerously not happy” affectation. At least she gets to experience the thrill of trying to feed a cranky person to defuse a touchy situation. 😉
    -TP

  10. I love food, especially really GOOD food, but will eat for fuel if I have to. Your post made me hurgry.

    Like your special Halloween banner. Well done.

    I am to please! Or, at least, make hungry.
    Thanks!
    -TP

  11. A slight correction of casmerelady’s comment – we do have a few incriminating photographs but they are of giant black clouds. When you look closely enough, you can sometimes see a person standing beneath it.
    There were also times when taking photos wasn’t an option 🙂

    Heh! I know what you mean. If I took a picture of Action Girl when she’s really cranky, I think I’d pay with my life.

    BTW, congrats! I think you two are the first couple in real life who’ve commented here. I think that’s kind of neat!
    -TP

  12. I made the schweinebraten last night for a dinner party with friends.

    Everybody loved it!

    So melt in your mouth and tender without being dry.

    I’ve decided that it’s the “dark-side” of food. So delicious, but bad for you.

    I’ve never eaten such delicious fatty food before and it was a revelation. Suddenly I understood a side of meat eating that I’d never encountered before.

    Thanks Hildigunnur.

    ………. now where did I put those anti-cholesterol tablets?

    Hellllooooo! Raz! Where’s the recipe?!?!? My turn to have a go at it!
    -TP

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