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Saturday, July 19, 2003

For dessert, take in a nice sunset

I have made pretty good use of decent weather and opportunity, and spent some time among the woods and lakes. My two daily limits of brook trout (10 fish) I cleaned, put in the bottom of a canvas tote bag, rolled it up, tied the handles in a knot, set it on the lake bottom in eight inches of water, placed a stone over it, and shaded the cache with slabs of bark. I then paddled off to the other side of the lake to admire the view. As I returned to my campsite, I saw an enormous raven sail off among the alpine firs and mountain hemlocks with a cleaned, decapitated brook trout in his beak!

The raven had obviously watched me go through all my steps, and simply reversed them. He walked into the lake, pulled away the bark slabs, removed the stone, dragged the tote bag up onto the lakeshore, untied the handles, unrolled the bag, and pilfered the fish.

I had to go catch another one.

We don’t credit other species with enough intelligence, I think.

It has been a good bird year, here, of sorts: I’ve watched eagles steal fish from ospreys, and vice versa. The cormorants are back, along with grebes and herons. Plenty of geese and ducks around , and thousands of coots wintered over on the reservoir. There’s a bald eagle sitting, day after day, on a nest about two miles from the house.

I'm eating trout fairly regularly, something that can’t be done everywhere these days, either due to depleted stocks or too much mercury in the water. This fish goes well with a salad and a glass of water with a sprig of mint. Since I've walked two or four miles with a boat on my back to get the fish, the calorie count seems to come out about right.

I’ve become rather obsessed, lately, with the notion that obesity is not a disease, as everyone seems to be calling it, but, in most cases, a symptom of a disease --- one that has no name that I can discover. One could call it proto-diabetes, perhaps, since diabetes can be one of the full-blown consequences of our poor eating habits.

"Poor eating habits" often comes down to simply this: insulin shock. It's not whether we eat carbs and fats, it's how and when as much as how much. If we would eat more slowly, more raw and uncooked, less processed, and avoid not only sugar but sugar substitutes (which often produce the same extra hunger as does sugar itself) we can slow and/or lessen the impact of our food choices on the pancreas, which is really what "improved digestion" means.

Take spaghetti, for example ("Oh, no!"). Right now, thanks to Atkins and South Beach exponents, spaghetti or any pasta is a major no-no.

But you might consider making only enough that there can be no "second helping." And cooking it less, which results in what Europeans call al dente. This is a little harder to chew and digests more slowly.

Now add your own home-made sauce, made in a small enough quantity that there will be no leftovers. Make fresh, eat fresh.

Dice very small some zucchini, green onions, pok choi, mushrooms, and, if you like it, tofu. Blenderize a tomato with a chili pepper. Mix all these. No need to cook the sauce. You could put it all in the blender, but I like texture.

Drain the al dente noodles, put them on a heated plate, pour the sauce over them, and add two more ingredients: a sprinkling of basil flakes and chopped elephant garlic blossoms (in season).

Serve with a simple three-lettuce salad (Romaine, Simpson, iceberg). Skip the thousand island, and use a vinegar-virgin olive oil dressing made with your own hands. Doesn't need to be too fancy;ust add your favorite spices, along with a garlic clove, to a sixteen ounce bottle of your choice of vinegar, and when you're ready for the dressing (don't try to make ahead) combine one oz. of the vinegar to one oz. oil in a four ounce bottle and shake.

If you're dining alone, the above should work, or multiply quantities as needed for two or for guests.

For drink, try serving water or a very small glass of red wine, or both.

You can do all this in a half hour. Spend another half hour lingering over dinner and chatting. For dessert, go take in a nice sunset.

This can all be part of a daylong plan: cup of oatmeal with diced apple, or one egg on one piece of toast for breakfast, snack on carrots, salad for lunch, celery for snack, and now the one-helping pasta dinner. I know that sounds like starvation to some people, but, really, that lunch salad can be sustaining if you build it yourself in the morning.

Example:

Take a pair of scissors and go through a handful of leaf lettuce, some pok choi, spinach, leaf of red cabbage, snow peas, red bell pepper, and those ubiquitous elephant garlic blossoms. Dice up a firm small ripe tomato or halve some cherry tomatoes. Toss. Heat up some diced pok choi and red chard stems in a small nonstick frying pan, lightly oiled (virgin olive, which is good for you). Add cubed tofu and mushrooms. Now add sesame seeds or sunflower seeds, and some basil. When it looks ready (pok choi beginning to soften, but mushrooms not shriveled) take off the heat to cool, then add to the salad. Toss again. Seal in a container and take to work in one of those nylon cooler bags.

If you like eggs, try dicing up a hard-boiled egg instead of the tofu and mushrooms.

This works! And it takes only about as long as standing in line at the canteen while three people in front of you get their espresso mocha thingies made.

Trust me, you'll make it through the day. Drink lots of water between times, though. Not "diet" pop, that will set off the insulin rush, same as sugar, and then you'll be hungry. Same for most anything else they will sell you at the canteen. It's all either salt or sugar (usually corn syrup), or it's a sugar wannabe. Don't go there. Leave your spare change at home if you have to.

Or, drink unsweetened mint tea. Consider growing the mint. If you can grow nothing else, you can grow mint. It takes over, like bamboo, kudzu, vinca, or ivy. You can wash a bouquet of mint and simmer it in a pan till the water darkens, or put it in a gallon jar of water and leave it in the sunshine. I'm kind of hard core, I like to take a multi vitamin and grind it up in a mortar and pestle and add that to the tea. I pretend it's that stuff the marathon runners drink.

To convince yourself it's exactly that, join a walking group. Take your tea with you. If you like to chat with your friends and sip tea, there's no reason not to get in some of your 10,000 steps a day at the same time!

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