We were traveling back from Los Angeles to Chicago on New Year’s Day and found ourselves on the night of January 1, 2014 without having yet traded New Year’s Resolutions. Will said that he would make a list over the weekend. I requested that we do them right before going to bed. Being an indulgent husband, Will agreed. (I think he secretly enjoys our New Year’s Resolutions Tradition…)
I told Will that I’m going to eschew the “usual” impossible resolutions: Don’t procrastinate, waste less time and money, exercise more, etc. Instead, this year, I focused on some very do-able food resolutions. In part, it had to do with the fact that we found ourselves in very good shape after we were finished walking the Camino—only to find ourselves in much less good shape at the end of the year. Obviously, we could not replicate walking 32 days at 15-17 miles per day. So, how could we modify our diet and exercise so that we could get healthier again?
Eat Healthier Breakfasts
In the January 2014 issue of Bon Appetit, editors suggested that we might look to Asia for a healthier new eating style at breakfast. That idea quickly resonated with us because we had—independently of each other and of the magazine—started thinking the very same thing. In part, it’s because we decided we needed to cut down on our baked sweets intake. This move was especially painful for Will since he usually did the baking for those sweets and would miss the chance to create wonderful pastries for our breakfasting pleasure. But, as we both acknowledged, we didn’t need all that refined flour and sugar.
Our cultural experiences should help with this transition. Having grown up in a Korean family, I was used to eating Asian breakfasts. In most parts of Asia, there is no clear distinguishing between what one eats at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (In a way, that makes sense, right? Why should there be uniquely differentiated “breakfast food” vs “dinner food”?) One might have less elaborate a meal with fewer items at breakfast, but the type of food one consumed didn’t really get impacted by the time of day. When Will lived in Japan while teaching English, he discovered that breakfasts were the most culturally alien of the meals he had to acclimate to since he was used to boxed cereal and coffee in the morning. He eventually got used to those breakfasts, and we’re confident that we can make this work for a few days at least.
Eat Less White Rice
We’ll see how long our “healthy breakfast” experiment actually lasts. On Jan. 2, we had brown rice, a fried egg (and a soy-sesame dipping sauce for the egg), and miso soup. This morning, we had brown rice, Cuban black beans, guacamole, sour cream and salsa. We’ll either get really tired of brown rice, or decide we’ll need to acquire stocks in a company called Seeds of Change that makes individual pouches of organic brown basmati rice that is microwavable—for those mornings when we cannot find any leftover brown rice to heat up.
Because, finally, we’ve decided that in addition to ditching white bread and its refined flour, we should also cut down on our white rice intake. With so many Asians suffering from stomach cancer—including some aunts and uncles of mine—and with the diabetes-inducing qualities of starchy steamed white rice, it might be time to opt for brown rice more often. Our pantry is now stocked with quinoa, couscous, and Trader Joe’s “Brown Rice Medley” (which also includes Black Barley and Daikon Radish Seeds) in addition to the Seeds of Change microwavable brown basmati rice. We can hardly make the excuse now that it takes so much longer to cook brown rice.
Eat Healthier Desserts
You wonder if that’s possible. Isn’t “dessert” synonymous with “fattening”? Well, our desserts usually are. However, we’ve also traveled enough to know that many cultures offer pieces of fruit as dessert. In Sorrento, Italy, after a lovely meal of Caprese salad and fried seafood, we saw that really the only dessert on offer was fruit. We decided to order it. We were surprised but still also charmed when they brought out a plate of 3 pieces of fruit—unpeeled and not cut-up—and a knife! On many days of the Camino, the “dessert” offering was sometimes the least interesting. After foregoing the offer of plain yogurt with a packet of sugar, we often decided on the other option: one piece of fruit.
So we decided that we would attempt more fruit for dessert, or at least fruit-based dessert that didn’t include a lot of refined sugar and flour. (Alas, cobblers and pies seem to be on this banned list for now.) I got Will for Christmas a Dessert of the Day cookbook from Williams-Sonoma. While many of their 365 desserts are indeed fatty and carb-heavy, a good many other desserts are fruit-based. You can see that the orange sliced chilled with a caramelized sauce looks appetitizing—even without the sweetened Mascarpone-Cointreau topping we put on top later…