Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Books Being Read And Maybe Other Thoughts

There once was a gal who read books.
She reads 'em lots more than she cooks!
Murder, psychology, sometimes anthropology...
All stuffed into crannies and nooks.

I've had an interesting mix of books from the library this past week. A few crime novels set in the Amish country of Ohio; the 10 year compilation of recipes from America's Test Kitchen tv show; Home Alone America - The Hidden Toll of Day Care, Behavioral Drugs and Other Parent Substitutes...along with a few fitness reads - New Rules of Lifting For Women and Naturally Thin, by reality tv star Bethenny Frankel.

I have been needing some new crime novels, and the way I decide which ones to read is to find ones that are recommended by authors I like - somehow those seem to be more accurate than general reviews in magazines. The novels with the Amish background were recommended by Chelsea Cain, who wrote some really cool, creepy books wherein the killer is a woman and the detective develops a a kind of Stockholm Syndrome love for her...I love those and so figured I'd like these, and I did. The whole Amish angle was very different, the killings were properly gruesome, and the main character is a woman who grew up Amish but left that lifestyle. The author portrays the Amish compassionately, and the female lead is appropriately damaged herself, which is helpful in making a character believable.

The cookbook is great, just like everything Cook's Illustrated does. The only downside is that they leave out all the interesting commentary about creating the recipes, which is a hallmark in the magazines (Cook's Country, as well as Cook's Illustrated). I really relate to them, because when I have an idea about how I want something to taste, I will try and fail (sometimes for years) before I finally get something I like. When I was first married and I would try to make pizza, I didn't understand yeast and always wound up with something so thick it was like a loaf of bread that swallowed up the toppings. Only within the last 5 years or so have I learned to make consistently good pizza...so it takes them 50 times or so to get the recipe right, and it takes me 20 years. For the kind of cook I am (basically lazy and uninspired) subscriptions to both magazines pretty much give me everything I need - but I know they are great for better cooks, too!

Speaking of cooking, all the Moppets and I have recently gotten into watching the Food Network show Chopped. In case you have never seen it, it's a show where 4 professional chefs get 3 baskets full of totally weird ingredients, and they have to make an appetizer, an entree and a dessert, with a frighteningly short amount of time for each. They also have access to all kinds of other ingredients, but they have to incorporate their basket stuff into the meal...things like buffalo steak, kiwi, rotini pasta and some strange unpronounceable cheese. Then they have to bring their dishes before three stern looking judges and say something like, "I've prepared for you today Buffalo and Kiwi Kabobs with Unpronounceable-Cheese-And-Tarragon Dipping Sauce, accompanied by Pasta Tossed In Garlic-Infused Oil, Pistachios and Sage". The judges eat the food and then critique it, and at the end of each round someone Gets Chopped.

It is the first reality show I have ever seen, and I am always just freaked out with anticipation by the end. What I would really love to see is a spinoff show called Chopped:Home Edition, which would feature non-professional chefs and still diverse, but more "normal" ingredients. I am actually going to write to the Food Network and suggest it - I wonder if I am the only person who has ever thought of that? It would still be exciting, but would actually be helpful for the home cook because it wouldn't be quite so avant-garde.

The Home Alone book is secular treatment of the subject. The chapter on music was the most interesting, because instead of complaining about how awful music is today and how it's obviously corrupting the kids and teenagers, the author asks the important question, "WHY does this music speak to these kids?" There were lots of quotes from songs that deal with broken homes, nasty divorces, fatherless lives and other situations that more and more kids find themselves in today. It was very, very sobering and was good at building compassion for people's sad lives (including Those Awful Rappers like Eminem) rather than seeming judgmental.

The New Rules of Lifting for Women is something I got to use with the new barbell my father bought me. I had pre-ordered a new DVD by Kelly Coffey-Meyer that has an Olympic Lifting segment, and I tried that one for the first time today, with the bar loaded at 35 lbs. It was totally different from any other workout I have tried; definitely a challenge, but fun as well. I think I could load the bar heavier for some of the moves in the book, but I think I will have to purchase it since I can't keep it out of the library that long...I have enough plates to load it to 80 lbs. I could definitely do squats with that load, and maybe deadlifts and lat rows. I am hoping it will take my fitness and strength to the next level.

I got the Naturally Thin book because it was recommended by my fave fitness gal, Skwigg. It is basically a book that gives you tips on how to change your eating habits so that you can be a healthy and attractive weight without being "on a diet". She has 10 rules or tips that are really right on the money:

1) Your Diet Is a Bank Account - Basically, what you eat and what you burn has to even out if you want to maintain your weight, and to lose you need to burn more than you consume.

2) You Can Have It All, Just Not All At Once - No food is forbidden or off limits, but you have to pick and choose what to eat right now that will be the most healthful and will keep your account "balanced"...so, if you choose to have french fries with lunch, it's probably best not to have a shake too. You can have the shake tomorrow, but what will best balance your account for weight control and health today?

3) Taste Everything, Eat Nothing - Have small portions of a wide variety of foods so you don't feel deprived

4) Pay Attention - She believes your body does not process very well the fact that it has eaten if you don't eat consciously, and also that it is much easier to overeat if you are not paying attention to whether you feel satisfied

5) Downsize Now - Practice portion control without measuring, by using the right size plates, bowls and glasses

6) Cancel Your Membership in the Clean Plate Club - Learn to know when you feel satisfied and stop eating

7) Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself - learn to stop binging by not eating for emotional reasons, and by not letting food control you because you know no food is off limits

8) Know Thyself - Know what you like to eat, what makes you feel good, what doesn't, what your natural eating patterns are, etc. Eat like YOUR body wants and needs, not what some diet or fitness guru says is the best way for everyone.

9) Get Real - Eat more real food as opposed to processed stuff

10) Good For You - think about how food fits in with taking care of yourself in general, along with sleep, exercise, relaxation and stress management, etc.

These are all things I have been learning to incorporate into my life over the past few years, and they really are the key to getting out of the diet mentality and into lifestyle eating. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to be healthier and slimmer, and especially to people who have control issues with food - thinking that one food group or certain foods are "bad" and so bash themselves and suffer guilt if they eat certain things.

My one criticism of the book is that I think the amount of food she actually eats herself, or perhaps recommends or assumes is a good amount of food to eat, might not be enough for some people - at least it wouldn't be for me - at least not for a maintenance level. It would probably be about right for good weight loss.

She does fall into the Get-Enough-Sleep Camp, and I am going to take that advice.


  1. I watch Chopped and find it interesting what can be done with weird selections of food..I wish I had that kind of imagination. I like your idea and think you should follow through with it..maybe you'll get rich! LOL
    Skwigg is one of my fav's too..I followed her for years and then I went away from Blogland for over a year..when I came back alot of my fav's were gone..but not Skwigg...She's changed some but I still love her advice on a lot of things and that's how I found you.