Saturday, March 24, 2012

Tea, Cheese, and Low-Carb Foodies

I'm at present indulging in one of my favorite spoil-yourself moments:  A big cup of black, hearty, malty, kick-you-in-your-face assam tea with cream, and a cheese plate.  It's not only a moment of pure sensuous delight, it's a moment of sheer food snobbery.

I actually looked up some definitions and found:

epicure, gourmet, gourmand, gastronome mean one who takes pleasure in eating and drinking. epicure implies fastidiousness and voluptuousness of taste. gourmet implies being a connoisseur in food and drink and the discriminating enjoyment of them. gourmand implies a hearty appetite for good food and drink, not without discernment, but with less than a gourmet's. gastronome implies that one has studied extensively the history and rituals of haute cuisine. (Merriam-Webster)

Although the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, foodies differ from gourmets in that gourmets are epicures of refined taste, whereas foodies are amateurs who simply love food for consumption, study, preparation, and news.[1] Gourmets simply want to eat the best food, whereas foodies want to learn everything about food, both the best and the ordinary, and about the science, industry, and personalities surrounding food.  (Wikipedia)

Which, I guess, makes me an epicurean gourmand-ish foodie.

I'll settle for "foodie."

There are times when I'm a serious, no hesitation, food snob.  Like right now.  I'm a tea snob.  I want good malty pure assam loose tea, and when my beloved SpecialTeas closed, and with it vanished my favorite Extra Malty Assam, I began an online quest for a replacement that hasn't yet come to a satisfactory conclusion.  My cheese plate has slices of three of my favorite cheeses:  Manchego, a big, bold, slightly grainy Spanish sheep's milk cheese; Walder, a mild, slightly nutty kind of blue-collar Austrian cheese; and Etorki, another sheep's milk cheese, this one from France, but this one a strong washed rind.  I'm having my wonderful hot tea with my cheese, which is probably an abomination in the eyes of some, but I don't like wine except for cooking.  No idea how that affects my foodie status.

So, I'm a tea and cheese snob.  But I'm not a food snob.  I'll turn around and have a great old time with a skillet of cabbage fried in bacon grease with onions and some spicy sausage, or my version of homemade Hamburger Helper (which admittedly involves caramelized onions and burgundy wine) made with shirataki noodles.

I believe in spoiling myself, and I chose Atkins way back in March of 2003 specifically because I realized that this way of eating permits the foods that allow me to continue to spoil myself.  When my husband and I started Atkins, I promised myself and him that we would never "settle," that every bite of food we put in our mouth would not only be low carb, but it would be delicious -- in fact, more delicious than what we ate pre-low carb, more delicious than people around us were eating.  I promised that we were going to spoil ourselves rotten with low carb.  By and large, barring moments of sheer laziness, I've kept that promise.

Since we started Atkins, I've been retrospectively appalled at what I used to blindly shovel into my mouth -- how low the bar, both nutrition wise and taste wise, we set for our food in the name of other priorities -- convenience, sugar/starch addiction and a quick mood fix for blood sugar lows.  Carbs notwithstanding, I wouldn't now touch some of the crap I used to eat with a ten-foot pole.

When I was a child, my maternal grandmother lived with us (thank God, because my mother could, and did, ruin anything she attempted to cook) and taught me to cook.  Grandma, unknowingly, was a forerunner of the "slow food movement."  She believed in home cooking the way a televangelist believes in God.  She firmly believed that "boughten" prepared food was inherently unhealthy and that the only good food was that cooked from scratch, with love, in a home kitchen.

Thanks to Atkins, I relearned this valuable lesson -- to make and eat wonderful home-prepared food and not settle for convenient but mediocre "boughten" food.  In that sense, I'm an epicure.  Or maybe a gourmet.  But always and foremost a foodie.

Don't just eat low carb to lose weight, or because it's healthy.  Eat low carb because it's better, more delicious, a homemade labor of love.  Eat low carb to spoil yourself.  Eat low carb because when you sit down to a plate of stout-braised beef short ribs, cauliflower fauxtatoes rich with cream cheese, and sauteed baby spinach, you know at least one of your friends is settling for cold french fries and a hamburger made with pink slime that a meat processing plant made from meat deemed unfit for human consumption, liquified and ammoniated to kill hopefully most of the harmful bacteria, and then sold to your local fast-food chain to stretch their ground beef.

And on that note, I'm going to make some more tea -- and cut the cheese.<G>

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