Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Defending French Cuisine...

I've been mulling over this topic for awhile now, but would finally like to address the very common opinion that cooking/eating a lot of French food is categorically a bad idea. I've felt this way at times myself, as I dump tablespoon after tablespoon of butter or cream into some delectable sauce that I then enjoy immensely, and I actually haven't cooked any recipes out of Julia's tome in the past several weeks--partly due to lack of time, but partly due to my slight fear that I really am setting myself up for a heart attack if I keep enjoying my food too much.

But then, I did a little research...

First thing's first. Julia Child lived to just shy of 92 years old, and plainly stated that her recipes were for those "who can be unconcerned on occasion with . . . waistlines," but she clearly lived by the principle of enjoying all things in moderation. Enjoy fine wines and the decadence of your food, but don't stuff yourself to the point of gluttony, and make sure to eat healthy things too, and get your ass off the couch sometimes. Makes sense, right? And from my experience with French food so far, it's so rich and flavorful that you don't end up eating the huge portions that are, in my opinion, really at the root of the obesity problem in this country. Leah Zerbe, at Rodale.com (a green website), says it better:

It’s no secret Julia Child loved butter, and she used it liberally in her meals...But fat, used in the right way and in the right quantity, is a good thing. "Take a tip from the French. The better the food, the less you need to be satisfied," says Judith Hill, food director at Prevention magazine. "If an extra tablespoon of butter makes something so good that a small portion is satisfying, you’re ahead of the game in taste and waist size." And by savoring every bite, you're relishing in one of the joys of life—and you’re avoiding the weight-gain trap of eating so fast that your appetite can’t keep up with the volume of food your eating.
Well said.

I also appreciate what Jennifer Huget, writing for the Washington Post, has to say about this whole thing:

Whether those heavy sauces in fact pose much of a health risk remains uncertain. The "French paradox," in which it was observed in the early 1990s that French people stayed slimmer and were less likely to die of heart disease than Americans, despite the former's high intake of fat, has not turned out to be much of a mystery, Bachmann says. Instead, it's now believed that the French consume fewer calories overall than we do and burn more through greater physical activity such as walking, both of which contribute to their better cardiovascular health. We've also learned that consuming dietary cholesterol (as in egg yolks) in moderation doesn't necessarily elevate levels of "bad" cholesterol in the blood (though saturated fat, as in cream, cheese and many cuts of red meat, clearly does). And many nutrition experts now say that eating small quantities of really satisfying, lightly processed foods (even if that means more fat and calories per bite) may be better for us than pigging out on processed and packaged foods. (Think: a few slices of full-fat cheese instead of a jar of Cheez Whiz.)

So what to make of "Mastering the Art"? Well, there's this: At the end of her year-long experiment, Julie Powell noted that she'd gained some weight, but she wasn't willing to attribute that solely to Julia Child's cuisine -- especially since her skinny husband remained skinny throughout, despite eating his wife's French food.

As for Julia Child herself, nobody would accuse her of having been skinny (not that she was fat, either). But she lived to within a whisker of her 92nd birthday. And, by all accounts, she enjoyed just about every minute.

Finally, I stumbled upon an article by British celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, who I think is kind of the JC for our generation (though I don't really know much about her--I plan to remedy this by getting her first cookbook, Nigella Bites), from the NY Times in 2002. The article is long, so I'll just include a few snippets here. I suggest reading the whole thing, though, if you're interested--I feel like she hits the nail right on the head, at least from where I'm sitting:

I have never quite understood why there is among us such disproportionate fear of fat and dairy. For one thing, the jury is still out on whether these foodstuffs are indeed harmful to us. (I rather suspect that if we were such fragile creatures, so minutely susceptible to the fuel we choose to run on, we would have fallen out of the evolutionary loop a long, long time ago.)

And for another, the crucial element must be portion size. Ever notice how chic Parisiennes eat pastry for dessert and still fit into their size 6 tailleurs?

They eat a slice of cake at dinner and that's it. They do not, as many of the rest of us do, skip dessert and then, back at home, mooching about the house at midnight, devour half a cake.

Meanwhile, a recipe stipulates a quarter of a cup of heavy cream and every non-Fran├žais has a fainting fit. But this recipe may make enough to feed eight ? and really, how much harm could a couple of teaspoonfuls of cream do?

So, after doing all this reading, and accepting that, damn it, I like good food, I think I'm comfortable with cooking and eating rich foods and enjoying every bite. Besides, I do have that gym membership on hand to cancel out some of that butter!

What do you think, dear reader? I'm really interested in what people think about this, so please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

COGNITIVE-DISSONANCE DAY: Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook

If you're my friend on Facebook, which you most likely are if you know about this blog, you know that I have a problem, and that problem is Bejeweled Blitz. I am addicted to it. I love it, and I hate it, and I need to write about it.

Alright, so Bejeweled Blitz is this little game exclusive to Facebook in which you race the clock to clear as many sparkly colored gems as you can in 1 minute. Whilst doing this mindless task, a deep-voiced robot man tells you you are "Awesome! Excellent! Spectacular!" and you get to see how much better you are than your internet friends at smashing up little cartoon gems really fast via the handy-dandy scoreboard. That's it. That's the whole game. I have spent many valuable hours of my life, often when I should be advancing toward my degree, playing this game, and have come to the conclusion on various occasions that Bejeweled Blitz is the devil's work.

But, on the other hand...it's really fun! I don't know why it's so entertaining, but it really is! And there actually is some strategy involved: if I clear this line, what will I be able to clear next? Can I make a line of 5 and create an all-powerful hypercube? How can I clear that glowing blue gem that sends lightening out in every direction and looks really cool? I'm telling you, it takes brain power, not to mention hand-eye coordination. Also, I actually kind of think that breaking up horribly boring, soul-sucking work with a few games of BB here and there has kept me going on long days when I must...keep...writing... Without some brain breaks, I think I'd be much more likely to throw up my hands, slam the laptop closed, and go watch 'Say Yes to the Dress' reruns on TLC. So, really, BB has saved my work ethic...right? Right!?

Okay, all of this ambivalence is stressing me out, I need to go play some Bejeweled...

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Modern Family on ABC...

Modern Family is the best comedy on TV right now. There, I said it.

This show is freakin' hilarious people, you must check it out. It's about 3 families, all linked in various ways by blood and marriage (hmm, that sounds a little gross, but you know what I mean), and it's full of smart writing, inappropriate jokes, and a lot of sweet moments. What more could you ask for?

I wrote a little blurb about the show awhile back on Examiner.com, which you can check out here (Modern Family article), and I'm posting Episode 6, one of my favorites, below for your viewing pleasure. Even if you missed the first few episodes, you can jump in and watch this one anyway, and let the hilarity ensue :o).

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The light at the end of the tunnel...sort of...

Hello dear readers! I've been woefully absent for the past month, but it's because I've actually been working, can you believe it? I'm deep into the process of applying for my Pre-doctoral Internship in Clinical Psychology, one of the 2 last huge hurdles I have to jump before I can graduate (the other hurdle is my dissertation, which is a perpetual work-in-progress). I delayed applying for internship last year because the process felt too overwhelming/I didn't quite feel ready, but this year, I feel much more confident in myself and am ready to finally start getting paid (a teeny tiny bit) for the work I've been doing for 6 years for free!
About 20 minutes ago, I submitted my 15th application, and it felt pretty amazing. All of the sites that I'm really excited about I've now applied to, and I have about 4 more that are due over the next two weeks that I'm applying to mostly to try to increase my odds, since a large part of the application process is a numbers game (i.e. tons more applicants than there are sites available, especially in the New York/NJ area). So keep your fingers crossed for me! I should start hearing from sites that want to interview me in the next few weeks, but now that the really hard part is over, back to blogging!

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