My name is Suzanne, and I’m a carb junkie.
Following a serious two month schedule of abdominal crunches that I found on Facebook, I read that you will never see your newly-toned abs, if you don’t get rid of the flab that covers them. Well, duh! Smack me upside the head! Then, I saw the comedienne Rosanne Barr on The Talk explaining a device that tracks activity and realized that I needed to get off the couch, away from the internet and silly talk shows, and get moving.
Giving the internet a chance to redeem itself, I searched Google and Amazon for a similar tracking device, and, having no sit-com residuals to fuel my spending, I chose a cheap little device called a “Fitbit.” Fitbit clips to a pocket or to my bra and not only tracks my steps and activity but also my eating habits. Uh-oh. I discovered that I consume too many carbohydrates. A lifetime of comfort has caught up with me.
When I was a kid, I was a picky eater, so carbs were a safe choice, not too spicy, but filling, with rich, complex flavors primarily derived from sugar, fat, and salt. When my high school friends snacked on apples from the apple machine, I enjoyed ice cream sandwiches and Tootsie Rolls from the school store. By the grace of God and youth, I weighed about 95 pounds. Ahhh…those were the days…
I craved potatoes fried in cast iron skillets or mashed with butter and whole milk or boiled and topped with melted butter; crispy hashed browns from the Nugget diner on Southfield Road; and, of course, any restaurant’s French fries. My Mother cooked real vegetables, made fresh salads, offered a variety of fresh fruit in season, but I wouldn’t touch them. I was a meat-and-potatoes girl.
In my multi-cultural neighborhood in suburban Detroit, I could make a meal of Italian bread with sesame seeds from Marino’s bakery on Allen Road, chrusciki (aka Angel Wings, powdered sugar-dusted, deep-fried Polish wisps of pastry) from Briggs’ Bakery on Park Avenue, or the Delray Baking Company’s Hungarian half-rye bread, which I ate toasted for breakfast. My southern grandma made the best cornbread in her mother’s cast iron pans, which she also used for her thin, crispy-edged pancakes. Her dumplings, rolled into thin, light strips and simmered in golden chicken broth or long-simmered pinto beans, remain unequaled.
In those days, carbs were delivered to your door. Not only did milk, egg, and produce deliveries appear, but Awry’s bakery came twice a week, offering bread, rolls, cakes, and cookies. Charles Chips and Q-Man (in the blue can) came weekly with chips, pretzels, and popcorn.
Thanks to The Joy of Cooking and Julia Child, I met pâté choux, formed into cheesy gougères and profiteroles, which, I was surprised to discover, I had eaten since childhood as Sanders’ “Hot Fudge Cream Puff.” When I finally got to Europe, I stuffed myself with pains au chocolat, baguettes jambon beurre, crispy tapas, risotto reminiscent of my Italian granny’s, baklava, scones slathered with Devonshire cream, Yorkshire pudding with roast beef, and Scottish shortbread. No truffles, foie gras, sweetbreads, or stinky cheese for me!
Closer to home I discovered jambalaya and pralines in New Orleans and tortillas, fry bread, and beans and rice in the Southwest and in Central and South America. Elsewhere in my travels, when I felt stumped by a culture’s cuisine, there was always some version of rice, couscous, or naan or something breaded and fried.
Unfortunately, I passed my habits on to the Daughter, who reminded me that on “snow days,” I baked homemade bread and “Snow Cakes,” devil’s food cake baked in a sheet pan and topped with my buttercream frosting. Oh, yes, and every Wednesday, on our way to her cello lesson, we stopped at Dairy Queen. And, oh, yes, every Friday night, the Veterinarian picked her up from swim practice with a pizza. Every holiday was carb-overload. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
So, here I am, six decades later, struggling to wipe carbs from my memory and my abs, following Julia Child’s advice, “Everything in moderation…including moderation.” The other day, I persuaded the Daughter to give me a couple of her McDonald’s fries—ok, ok, I ate six—maybe eight, but not an entire order. I accompanied My Mother to our local “authentic” Mexican restaurant and ordered the tacos de carne asada, grilled steak wrapped in corn tortillas. I ate the steak and nibbled on the tortillas, but, how many carbs were in that 14-ounce Margarita?
Keep the kale and sprouts, juice cleanses, tofu, yogurt, and sashimi. Give me the food of my life, the occasional pancake or cornbread from those same cast iron skillets, a slice of pizza or maybe pasta on a Sunday. [You know that there aren’t any calories on Sundays and holidays, don’t you?]
Daily, I’ll keep myself carb-happy with one slice of whole wheat toast in the morning or a dry, toasted frozen waffle. I’ll carefully measure croutons for my salads and count out a safe number of mini sesame bread sticks to munch with my six ounces of dry white wine or a handful of nuts instead of potato chips with my daily 64 ounces of water. Sigh. Homemade hot cocoa instead of chocolate soufflé. Yummy.
While I’m not earning many “badges” for my vigorous exercise regimen, my Fitbit sends me cheerful memos when I’m “In the Zone” at the end of the day (meaning my “Calories Out” exceed my “Calories In”), and I’m slowly and happily, dropping the lbs. It’s going to be a long trek to see my abs, but I’m on my way. So, who am I to complain? Life is good (mostly). Soli Deo Gloria!
My Hot Cocoa
1 Tablespoon best quality cocoa (I use Pernigotti)
2 Tablespoons sugar or sweetener equivalent
Pinch of salt
2 Tablespoons + 6 ounces skim milk
Mix dry ingredients in large mug. Slowly mix in two tablespoons of milk until smooth (a miniature whisk is great for this). Microwave on high for one minute. Stir out any lumps. Slowly mix in remaining 6 ounces of milk, stirring until smooth. Heat until warm, stirring occasionally. If you don’t use a microwave, heat the milk first and add to the cocoa mix, but I’m just waaayyyy too lazy for that.