Category Archives: Eating Instinct

We Are (Not) What We Eat

Hello, here are some of the things I ate for dinner last week:

  • Pan-seared grassfed steak with salsa verde, served with farro, roast broccoli and sweet potatoes from my friend Nicki Sizemore’s brilliant new Build A Bowl cookbook.
  • Rigatoni with homemade eggplant sort of caponata sauce. (No recipe; a lot of capers and winging it.)
  • Pasta primavera with grilled chicken at Ruby Tuesday’s.
  • Chicken thighs simmered with butternut squash, peas and Maya Kaimal Tikka Masaala Simmer Sauce.
  • A locally raised rotisserie chicken from our butcher, served with salad, cold soba noodles and a ginger lime soy dressing.
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[On Eating and Reading]

Food Reads

There are some excellent food reads out there right now, so a round-up post seemed in order.

The Carnivore Diet is the Latest Fad to Ignore that Food Does More Than Just Feed Us. Oh man, everything about this piece is so great. Especially:

After 13 days of the carnivore diet, I realized that focusing on physiology fails to capture what makes carnivory so extreme. One valuable lesson of the diet is that human bodies are remarkably resilient: You can shit without fiber and avoid scurvy without vegetables! But reducing food to physiology is as shallow as reducing culture to biology. It’s hard to overstate the sociocultural importance of culinary traditions. Breaking bread. “Comfort food.” Grandma’s recipe. PotlatchsWedding toasts. Birthday cake. Thanksgiving dinner. You don’t have to be a foodie for food to be meaningful—you just have to be a human being.

(Alan Levinovitz/Tonic)

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Introducing: The Comfort Food Podcast!

Big news, friends! I’ve launched a new podcast, with my best friend (and fellow food-obsessive) Amy Palanjian of the wildly popular blog Yummy Toddler Food.

Comfort Food is about the joys (and meltdowns!) of feeding our families and ourselves. It’s about dealing with picky eaters. It’s about fighting back against diet culture. It’s about food — and that means it’s also about feminism, families and life.

You can listen to our first three episodes right now! Then stay tuned, because we’ll be dropping a new episode every week. So if  you’re already a podcast listener and you don’t want to miss an episode, just subscribe (for free!) in iTunesStitcherGoogle PlayTuneIn Radio, or wherever else you get your podcasts. If you’re new to podcasts, don’t worry. All of the episode links, with more details and links and photos, can be found through our show notes. And we’ll tell you everything you need to know to start listening.

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We Ate Ice Cream for Dinner Last Night

It was one of those Wednesdays. My older daughter had a doctor’s appointment right after school and then we were racing to sneak in a haircut before dinner. The baby was along for the ride; my husband was commuting back from the city. As we left the hair salon, the baby started wailing and my 4-year-old started whining and I realized it was after 5 pm and I had made no plans to feed them.

So I drove to the ice cream store.

And this was dinner: A scoop of mint chip for me. A scoop of chocolate with rainbow sprinkles for the preschooler. A half scoop of vanilla for the 8 month old. We sat on the front porch of our town’s beloved ice cream spot and watched tug boats gliding along the Hudson River. Hands and faces were sticky. Tummies were full. I’m not sure why they’re so somber that picture, because they were, in fact, so happy.

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The People Who Are Afraid of Food (Medium.com)

The restaurant in southeastern Virginia is the kind of place that makes its own fresh-squeezed juices and has kale on the menu in three different places. The waiter lets diners know that any grain dish can be made gluten-free. As he takes orders, the dishes, from octopus ceviche with wasabi dressing to pan-roasted salmon with quinoa and lemon aioli, are complex. Elyse, a 29-year-old sales executive, reluctantly opens her menu and prays. Please let there be a kids’ section. Please tell me they have regular fries.

This is a work lunch for Elyse; her dining companions are prospective clients, and she wants to make a good impression. She does not want to give the speech she’s given a million times, answer awkward questions, or pretend not to notice the puzzled looks that follow after she orders her meal. But Elyse can’t bring herself to eat seafood, meat, or most kinds of dairy. She eats no vegetables and few fruits, unless they’ve been pureed into a smoothie. “I’m almost 30 years old,” Elyse says. “And I still eat like a toddler.”

Most days, Elyse drinks a smoothie for breakfast, has potato chips and chocolate milk for lunch, and makes a tray of potatoes roasted with olive oil, plus another smoothie, for dinner. She also eats bread, crackers, chips, mixed nuts, and popcorn. “It used to be french fries every lunch and dinner,” Elyse says. In high school and college, she went to McDonald’s twice a day, nearly every day, to get fries. “I always wondered what the people who worked there thought of me,” she says. “I mean, they aren’t going to judge you for eating fries, but at a certain point I’m sure they wondered, ‘Does this girl eat anything else?’”

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On Gwyneth Paltrow and Reading My Book Out Loud

So that pile of papers is…my book!

In the biz, we call this “First Pass.” The manuscript has been revised, copy-edited, fact-checked and typeset… so this was the first time I got to read my words on pages that look like actual book pages, not a Word document. This is the second time I’ve edited a hard copy — I printed the whole Word doc out to line edit before I submitted my first draft last fall. But I did something a little different this time, which was to read the whole manuscript out loud. I got this tip from Anna Quindlen when I heard her interviewed on my favorite writing podcast; apparently she always reads her manuscripts out loud in their entirety. It sounds sort of obvious, but I can see why most people don’t do it. It is surprisingly exhausting to read a whole book out loud. One chapter takes several hours when you’re stopping to edit and also drink a lot of water. It took me the better part of two weeks to get through the whole thing.

But it was excellent advice. I found I caught far more mistakes and word reps and run-on sentences than I ever do reading silently. So much so that I am now slightly despairing that galleys (advance reading copies — the things that look a lot more like books but don’t have hard covers) are made from these First Pass pages before all my corrections went in. So if you get a galley from me in the next few weeks, please know the final book really is going to be oh so much better and maybe don’t even really read the galley, but just admire it from afar? (Unless I’m asking you to blurb, of course. And even then, maybe sort of skim?)

Okay but here are some things you can read — silently or out loud, your choice — while you’re waiting to read my book.

“If I can afford steak, why worry about buying beans?” Fascinating interviews with black men on how they perceive their food environments.

Should we use prisoners to study salt

Almost everybody gets unhealthy eventually: I love how Dr. Arya Sharma breaks down a new LANCET study, which tried to conclude that even if you’re “healthy fat” now, you’ll end up “unhealthy fat” later. (Short version: You probably will. But so will your “healthy thin” friend. It’s called aging!)

President Obama’s Lucky Pasta

It’s just not nice (or helpful!) to call your kid a picky eater. (And if there’s one thing I learned researching my book: Pickiness is in the eye of the beholder.)

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The Snack Drawer Experiment

I posted this pic on Instagram a few weeks ago, of my effort to give our 4-year-old choices she would enjoy (rather than whine about) at snack time. The goal here was not to police her sugar intake or anything like that, but rather, to get on top of the endless “I need a snack!”-itis that we sometimes (often) endure. A lot of folks chimed in, because whoa, the snack struggle is real. It’s such a weird invented meal, stemming partly from legit need (kid bellies do need filling every few hours and often more frequently than adults) but partly from our snack-on-demand food culture, that encourages kids to think they need to eat whenever their hands aren’t busy.

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On Feeding Beatrix

 

If you’ve followed my work for the past few years, you know that feeding our first baby was…fraught. Also terrifying, heartbreaking, and ultimately, rewarding. But never simple. I spent last year thinking a lot about how we learned to feed Violet, mostly because I was writing my book at the same time. But also because I was pregnant and quietly dreading the fact that I was going to have to do it again.

I wanted to breastfeed again. But I don’t think I had the greatest reasons. It wasn’t really about the baby’s health: I’ve been through the scientific literature enough times to know that as long as you have access to safe drinking water, breast is not necessarily best or even all that much better than formula. (It offers some immune system-boosting advantages, but that’s something of a wash with the fact that formula is a more reliable source of iron and vitamin D. All the stuff about its ability to boost IQs and prevent obesity is pure correlation. Hanna Rosin’s 2009 article reviewing the evidence is still my favorite if you need more details.) It also wasn’t a feminist thing. I get that breastfeeding is, for many mothers, a profound way to celebrate womanhood. I also see how much it complicates a couple’s ability to equally share parenting responsibilities. And it doesn’t save money because my time has value.

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Filing Under Terrible: Weight Watchers for Teens and Blue Apron for Poor People

Potluck Buffet

I’ve got two seemingly unrelated food things on my mind this week: Earlier this month, Weight Watchers announced plans to offer free memberships to teenagers this summer. And then last week, the Trump administration announced a proposal to replace half of a family’s food stamps budget with an “American Harvest Box,” of USA-grown food. White House OMB Director Mick Mulvaney described the new plan as “a Blue Apron-type program,” which was immediately mocked as an obvious reach. (Somehow I don’t see the USDA springing for full-color recipe cards — plus, what gourmet delicacy can you whip up with shelf stable milk, peanut butter, canned fruit and cereal?)

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On #MeToo and Food Shaming


Hello and happy February!

I realize seeing this post pop up may come as a bit of a surprise, since the last time I did this was, oh, May 2017. It turns out that maintaining an active newsletter while also finishing a book manuscript (and then, having a baby!) was a bit ambitious. But it’s a new year, and the book, while still several steps away away from publication, is written. So I’m excited to get back to newslettering, both so I can continue to share my thoughts on food, culture and writing, and so I can tell you more about the book as we get closer to its release into the wild… which should happen mid-November.

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  • COMING SOON

    The Eating Insinct: Food Culture, Body Image, and Guilt in America by Virginia Sole Smith

    Pre-order now!