olive oil, walnuts and other pleasures

26 March 2009

Food has been an obsession with me lately, since I started a “get healthy / lose excess ‘baggage’ program” at Christmas.  The obsession is all good; I’ve dropped roughly 20 pounds and I’m happier with my body, and feeling generally really good, inside and out.  It’s amazing what a healthy diet can do for one’s mind, body and soul.  And when you think about people who live in poverty, it’s bad enough their bellies are empty.  But what the lack of food and nutrition must do to them mentally and spiritually must compound the problem in ways the lucky among us couldn’t possibly imagine.

This obsession has extended to money spent on magazines about food, and a few new cookbooks, which I often take with me to read on the commute to work.  A number of new recipes have been tried, with general success, particularly for my new slow cooker, another purchase in support of the culinary fixation.  I’ve always loved one pot meals, and a big pot of something will keep me in lunches for a week. 

And salads.  The world of salad is much improved over the last 15 or 20 years – with the array of fresh, washed greens in recyclable containers that take all the former nuisance out of making this beautiful and oh so healthy staple.  Mine are usually based in spinach, or lately arugula, with fruit, and cheese or chicken or nuts or toasted sunflower seeds and olive oil with a nice vinegar.  One could stock a cupboard with the variations on the oils and vinegars found in grocery stores these days.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  

Last Sunday I went out to my sister’s in Mississauga for my favourite meal ever, and fortunately a semi-regular one at her house (and my cousin Mia’s), steak barbeque.  After picking me up at the GO train station Cathy and I have a good catching up while we go to her favourite (and quite lovely) grocery store and pick up dinner stuff.   Chicken is a great price, so I get a package of breasts for Stan to cook up for me on the grill and take home. 

More catching up at her place over glasses of Guinness.  Later Mom comes, and we solve all the world’s problems while looking over the woods behind the house, willing spring to come and talking wistfully of sitting on the back deck in warm sunshine over similar barbeques.  Old man winter is taking his sweet time leaving us; it’s a bright sunny day, but there’s still a bite in the air. 

The steaks, lusty and fragrant, are laying gently together in their juice as Stan sets them down on the table.  The meat is accompanied by green beans, potatoes (also done on the grill in foil) and the salad of which I am currently eating obsessively: arugula, walnuts, asiago cheese and pear tossed in a simple oil and champagne vinegar with salt and pepper.  And wine.

There is, quite simply, nothing I’d rather do than have dinner with good company.  Never am I more at one with the world than when I am sitting at a table sharing food with people I care about.  Last Sunday, it was only the carnivores of the family at the table, but it doesn’t matter who, or how many or what is on the menu (although that steak meal is tops in the pleasure category). 

I feel sorry for people who have unhappy relationships with food, who don’t (or can’t) enjoy the act of sharing in it.  The meal is an essential part of living, but for those of us who are fortunate enough to have it; it is also one of the most wonderful pleasures.  I certainly am one of the lucky ones.

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