A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch.
I have always been hungry. My mother tells of the time when she worriedly rushed me to the pediatrician’s office. Brand new baby, I was still at the tender age of liquid diet yet, as she exclaimed to the doctor “she sucks down bottle after bottle of milk and she cries for more! It isn’t normal! She just won’t stop eating!” He checked me and discovered that I was both normal and healthy and, with a kindly, reassuring smile on his face, merely said to her “Well, she must be hungry. It’s a little early but go ahead and add cereal to her bottles.” Apparently that did the trick. And it was downhill from there.
I have always loved to eat. Breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner and more snacks, PopTarts or cereal, popcorn and cookies, shrimp cocktail or sandwiches of any and all imaginable combinations of ingredients, salads, vegetables, fruit, even school cafeteria lunches, airplane meals and pretty much anything that was placed in front of me, anything that I could grab. From the moment that I was old enough to serve myself, I had my head in the refrigerator looking for something to eat. I was a passionate, avid reader yet I was rarely to be found with a book in my hand if there wasn’t something to eat in the other. I really don’t think that I was hungry all the time, but rather I just wanted to, had to, was compelled to eat. All the time. How I ever got through all of those mornings and afternoons of school without eating is still a mystery to me.
And I am still an eater. Three square meals a day, my husband’s credo, has done much to tame me and has indeed helped me keep my body from ballooning into the Hindenburg (and spontaneously self-combusting). Three meals may be fine (and quite enough) for some but not for this lady. No, I am one of those who needs five meals during the day, peppered with snacks, although I must admit that as I must share three meals with my husband the other two meals take the form of a hearty snack, sometimes sweet, sometimes savory and often alone. I always have a small bag of emergency chocolates in my handbag and the first thing I pack for any car trip, whether an hour or a week, is the picnic basket full of snacks. But I will admit that I have cut down considerably. One is familiar with that old myth of the skinny Frenchwoman? Well, I understand. Her spouse, the Frenchman, adamantly sticks to his traditional breakfast, lunch, dinner and she, daintily smiling, carefully attentive and the perfect gentle mealtime companion, must join him for those long, layered meals. But contrary to popular myth, this épouse – wife of a Frenchman – does not limit her meals to salad nor does she elegantly pick at her tiny portion, pushing it around her plate to give the appearance of eating, all the while counting the calories laid out in front of her. I love eating and although I try and be careful, eat well, healthy and in moderation, I never disdain a good steak tartare with a side of frites, anything in sauce or, well, seconds. But yes, I will admit, that eating alongside my husband has made me a tad less hungry between those meals and somewhat able to control myself the rest of the day.
But his – and following in his footsteps, his sons’ - response to the offer of dessert or a snack is “No, thanks, I’m not hungry.” Hungry? Hungry? Since when does hungry have anything to do with it? A slice of cake, a dish of ice cream, a plate of cookies or something small and creamy is the sweet punctuation at the end of a meal, a soothing, comforting pause in the middle of the afternoon, a reinforcement, a boost of energy halfway between breakfast and lunch. And if it isn’t formally served on a tiny plate with fork or spoon, then I wander into the kitchen each time I pass through the house, swing by the cake plate, the cookie tin and nibble. A sliver here, a mouthful there, it makes me happy and helps me through the day.
Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.
Now, I don’t have to remind you that summer is here and vacation is on its way. The suitcases are open on the bedroom floor, the airplane tickets are stacked in a neat little pile underneath the passports, Marty is signed up for camp and that swimsuit of mine is staring at me, mocking me, laughing, shaking an imaginary finger! Oh, I had planned on being a bit more careful this last month before our Florida holiday in that lazy beachside town. But how to keep the hand out of the candy drawer? Or keep from baking?
Well, I have one recipe that may help. 0% fat fromage frais (quark) plays a large part in my desserts. I make my fabulous, creamy, tangy lemon tart with this fat free substitute for cream, and any cake that calls for sour cream or Greek yogurt usually finds itself filling up on the fat free version. I have made a delicious fat-free fruity faux Tiramisu and we’ve enjoyed a fat-free quark mousse. But when we crave cake or when we need something dense and good for breakfast, I turn to this recipe. Made without either, butter, eggs or milk, it gets its goodness and warmth from olive oil and maple syrup. It is extremely easy to put together and just as easy to eat: dense and moist, flavorful enough to eat on its own with a cup of coffee for breakfast or a quick snack, simple enough to be the perfect foil for fresh fruit or fruit coulis (if watching our weight and getting ready for swimsuit season) or ice cream, pudding, or any kind of rich, creamy sauce you like.
It’s even perfect for those husbands (ahem) on low cholesterol diets.
This recipe is featured on the website Maple Syrup World! Visit this site for information on maple syrup as well as great recipes!
VANILLA CAKE with olive oil and maple syrup
From Peter Berley’s The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp fine sea salt
1 cup pure maple syrup
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil or melted unsalted butter
2 tsps cider vinegar
1 Tbs vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly oil a 9-inch (22/23-cm) cake pan and dust with flour.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk or stir together the two flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a separate bowl or large glass measuring cup, whisk together the maple syrup, water, oil, vinegar and vanilla.
Now it is simply a question of pouring the wet ingredients into the dry and blending well either with a whisk or a wooden spoon although I prefer using a whisk. The best method for doing this so you don’t end up with stuff splattered all over your countertop and so you end up with smooth, lump-free batter is to make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour about a quarter or a third of the liquid ingredients into the well. With small, brisk circular movements whisk with just enough of the dry until you have a thick, smooth, lump-free batter, almost a paste, in the center. Add some more of the liquid, pull in a bit more of the dry, and briskly whisk again until, aha! your batter is smooth. Continue until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated into your (now) lump-free batter, add any remaining liquid ingredients and give it a go.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 – 30 minutes until the cake is set in the center and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. If the cake is undercooked it tends to be more pasty than moist.
Allow the cake to cool for about 10 minutes in the pan before turning it out of the pan and letting it cool on a cooling rack.