Eating Habits

I think we eat well. Probably too well.

The other day, I had to journey down to Phoenix to meet with a compounding pharmacist about women’s health issues. Sheesh. Now that’s not something that’s normally part of my life.

As I’m aging, my body is changing. (Duh.) My metabolism has slowed down and it’s difficult to keep the pounds and inches off. But that’s only a small part of what I went to see the pharmacist for. The rest was that women’s stuff that starts becoming an issue once a woman gets into her 40s.

VeggiesThe subject of diet and eating habits came up in our conversation. I told her that we eat pretty well — perhaps too well. Our diet consists primarily of fresh food prepared at home. We don’t eat a lot of prepared foods at all. While we haven’t bought into the organic thing yet — mostly because it defeats part of the purpose when those organic foods are shipped 2,000 miles to get to our store — we do eat a lot of fresh vegetables. And since I’m one of those people who won’t eat fresh food after it’s been sitting in the fridge for a few days, we hit the local supermarket once every day or so to get a few things for our next few meals.

Variety is the Spice of Life. Or it Should be.

One of the disappointments we’re constantly struggling with is the lack of diversity in food available here at the edge of nowhere. Fresh fish is simply not an option — it all comes to Wickenburg previously frozen, no matter how “fresh” it looks in the butcher case. Veal is seldom available and, when it is, we can expect to pay $14.99/pound or more for it. Special cuts of meat — for example, veal shank (for osso bucco) or ground lamb (for one of Mike’s Armenian dishes) — must be ordered at least a few days before you want to eat it. Italian greens like the ones I grew up with — including escarole, chicory, and broccoli rabe — simply don’t make it to Wickenburg. I remember the first time I bought an eggplant in Wickenburg — the first time I’d ever seen one in the store. I had to tell the girl at the checkout counter what it was. She’d never seen one before. The supermarket recently stopped carrying the frozen edamame (soy bean pods) because they simply weren’t selling enough. Alex the Bird is very disappointed, since that’s one of his favorite foods.

What really kills me, however, is that they have these Safeway magazines in the store, filled with recipes. Lots of mouth-watering photos to really motivate me to cook. Yet in half the recipes on the magazine’s pages, there’s at least one ingredient that can’t be found in our local Safeway store.

Yet you can buy all kinds of beer in 12-packs and the “snack” aisle is completely full of every kind of chip you can imagine.

So although we eat well in general, our diet lacks the diversity we’ve had in the past.

And don’t talk to me about local restaurants. I’ll whine about that again in another post one day soon.

Why I’m Overweight

Of course, my problem keeping the pounds off is threefold:

  • As my metabolism has decreased, my food portions have not. Simply stated: I eat too much. This is unfortunate because I really do like to eat.
  • Since I spend the majority of my day sitting on my butt (currently working on two book revisions) and I don’t participate in outdoor activities this time of year — would you, with temperatures exceeding 100°F every day? — I don’t get enough physical activity (AKA, exercise) to get my metabolism back up, even a little.
  • The whole mid-life hormonal thing is further throwing my body out of whack, thus making it impossible to get a grip on what I need to do to fight back and start losing some of this weight.

Don’t Talk to Me about Dieting

Now I don’t want to hear the word diet as applied to that kind of activity where you starve yourself of one or more kinds of food (or all kinds of food) to drop pounds. I don’t weigh or measure my portions. I don’t count calories.

Recent studies have shown that dieting is not successful in the long term. You lose weight, you gain it back. It becomes a roller coaster lifestyle, with multiple sets of clothes so you don’t need to shop when your weight is back up or down.

I can vouch for this. Sure, I lost 20 pounds in 3 months on Atkins back in 2004. But since then, I’ve gained back 30 pounds. And let’s face it: not all diets are pleasant or healthy. What I need is to get my hormones stabilized and to change my lifestyle to eat less and exercise more.

The Silver Lining: Dining in Phoenix

One of the good things about going down to Phoenix for errands — like seeing this compounding pharmacist the other day — is the opportunity to eat out and enjoy something different. (Yes, it always comes back to food with me.) The other day, after finishing up my business, I drove through a dust storm to meet Mike down at the Biltmore Fashion Center. After a quick visit to the Apple Store to finally see an iPhone first hand (I wasn’t terribly impressed and I’m sorry about that) and a stop in the Williams Sonoma shop for a new martini shaker, we headed over to Tarbell’s on 32nd Avenue and Camelback.

Tarbell’s is a great little restaurant that specializes in fresh, local (whenever possible), organic foods. (They also have a great bar; when you ask for a Grey Goose martini, that’s what you’re going to get.) Mike and I shared a tuna tartar appetizer, which we’d had there before. The tiny bits of tuna were arranged on the plate with taro chips and ginger cucumber relish. Yum. For my main course, I hadpan-Seared Sea Scallops with organic butternut squash risotto, crispy sage, and roasted chestnuts. Mike had pan-Seared Alaskan Halibut and organic peach, spinach, and pancetta hash with smoked tomato sauce. These tastes were well matched and quite a treat from what’s available at home and in Wickenburg’s restaurants. For desert, we shared a warm, soft chocolate cake with pistachio ice cream. Very rich.

We finished dinner just before 6 PM — which is when the organic bakery in the same shopping center closes. We popped in and bought a loaf of fresh multigrain bread. One look at the ingredients told me we’d made a good purchase decision — I actually knew (and could pronounce) every ingredient! Imagine that! (I only wish I could remember the name of the place. But if you go to Tarbell’s you’ll see it in the same shopping center.) Oh, and did I mention that it was delicious?

Now don’t get the idea that I’m all hot for organic foods. I’m not. But I do like to know what I’m eating. And I also think that Americans buy too much food that’s shipped from somewhere far away when local alternatives are better for so many reasons. That’s one of the reasons I prefer shopping at small specialized stores — like bakeries and produce shops — than in huge name-brand supermarkets that truck in their food from who knows where.

Where Do You Eat?

Any suggestions for good restaurants with interesting food down in the Phoenix area? Don’t keep them to yourself. Use the Comments link or form to share them. I’m especially interested in learning about places on the west side of Phoenix, since that’s closer to home.

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