Friday, April 13, 2007

The Pie of Doom

“Okay, you can have broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, cabbage and brussel sprouts.”

It’s my trainer and we are negotiating my diet.

“How do we feel about sweet potatoes?”, I ask.

“Okay, you can have one big one, but that’s your carbs for the day. Now, fish oil, olive oil or flaxseed oil… and oh, yeah, nuts. Walnuts, almonds or cashews.”

We are having this discussion because I had my flab measured. 18.2% body fat. I am aiming for 12%.

This has me thinking about my rather neurotic relationship with food. I realize coming from a man who is currently subsisting on protein shakes, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, brown rice and green vegetables this may seem a little odd. What one must bear in mind is that I came to this state due to my love of food.

I think back on wonderful meals as old friends, gone but not forgotten. One of the ultimate eating experiences of recent years was going out to dinner with C. at James's Gate, in J.P. and ordering fried oysters as an appetizer. Always a risky proposition. More often than not what you get when you order fried oysters is hot pencil erasers in greasy batter. What we got on this memorable occasion was a basket of light crunchy heaven in the form of fried batter with sweet juicy oysters hiding inside, waiting to surprise and delight anyone with tastebuds. I do remember that the rest of the meal was equally as well prepared and delicious, but C. and I have only to remind one another of the oysters to assume a far away look as though we are recalling some long ago love.

Several years ago, when the mommy state decided to ban unpasteurized cheese for our own good, Wahz and I headed out to the Star Market to buy the last of that bizarre concoction of Borden's, Liederkrantz. For any who do not remember, or never tried it, it was a cousin of Limbourg cheese on steroids. It, quite frankly, stank of cow barn and composting silage. It was heaven! We stood side by side at the dairy counter, looking sadly at our friend who was to be condemned and Wahz pulled out a box of it and said, "We have to eat it on saltines. That's really the only way."

I reached in and grabbed my own box. "I have no intention of sharing." I stated flatly. We stopped and picked up some beer on the way back to Chez Wahz, and then tucked in. We slowly ate an drank our way through a half pound each of incredibly lively cheese, and talked about smelly cheese we had known and loved. I have no doubt Wahz house smelled as though a herd of cows had been lifting their tales in there by the time we were done.

Catherine's Chocolates, is a tool of Satan. I do not share. On the rare occasions that I buy a pound of hand made chocolaty mortal sin, I dole it out in a way that allows me to savor the box in a way that is probably sexual to the point of perversity.

I have been trying to put behind me all that is good and fattening, but I am being sabotaged in my efforts by Italian women. They are a curse. I work with some lovely people and 2 of them are a mother and daughter team from the North End. Last week being Holy Week, Mom was cooking up a storm in preparation for the big family dinner on Easter. She likes me. She brought in some pizzagaina for me. For those not familiar with this holiday treat, to the uninitiated it is a brick of pure cholesterol. In fact it is a custard base with fromaggio fresca, provolone, parmesan and romano, and richotta cheeses, studded with mortadella capicola, prosciutto, pepperoni and sopressato. You gain 10 pounds if you stand in the same room as this stuff, and it is every bit as good as it sounds. Possibly better if you are lucky enough to have office Mom make it for you. I also found out from her daughter, the office Babe, that Mom has to really like you in order for you to rate a piece. I felt honored, I justified it by telling myself it was a holiday and no one keeps to a diet over holidays and I managed to make 3 meals out of the “little” piece she gave me. It was worth it. Okay. It was just worth every ounce I gained looking at it. Shut up.

A couple of days later, one of our grad students came in. She is a very nice young woman from a city just south and west of Rome on the Mediterranean. I had done her a favor so to say thank you she brought in a strawberry tart she had made. It was made with fresh strawberries. It involved pastry cream. It had a crisp, perfect crust that had more to do with a light toothy shortbread, than shortcrust. I am pretty certain it had enough butter in it to cause cardiac arrest in an elephant. It went down the hatch. When someone has baked for you, you have to say thank you and eat at least one small piece. I must have been unusually polite. I had 2 honking pieces.

The next day Mom strikes again, this time with ricotta pie. I won’t even start. Saying it was good would be damning it with faint praise. I did, in a combination of self interest and, I must admit, saintly generousity share the ricotta pie with my faithful student worker, the Montrealer.

And the end is not in sight. I was talking to the Office Babe about the fact that Italian women seem to have it in for my waistline. Her response was, “Hm! Well that’s too bad because I’m making goodies over the long weekend, so I’ll be bringing stuff in on Tuesday.”

I’m doomed. Got a napkin?