Hi Everyone! We have left our episode on Hallacas up for the past two weeks, while everyone enjoys the holidays. For our New Year's episode, we are going to try something new. Instead of giving you recipes for a holiday party, we will give you advice on how to de-stress and detox. Winter is a confusing time for us. Nature is telling us to retreat and spend time indoors resting, yet the holidays make that almost impossible. Many of us fall into patterns of eating too much, drinking too much, and spending too much. Then on New Years Day we are somehow supposed to transform ourselves into who we want to be the next year. So in order to help us kick off 2008, we have put together a few videos on some alternative ways of staying healthy, both mentally and physically. Stay tuned, because you will not want to miss this Winter season!
I am currently in the Tuscan countryside, staying with my boyfriendâ€™s family in a small town called Capezzano Pianore. I had asked them the other night about Pizzoccheri, a classic dish from the northern town of Valtellina, which is made with buckwheat tagliatelle. This Winter, we will have an episode on Buckwheat, in which I will make a casserole inspired by Pizzoccheri, but using the whole grains of Buckwheat instead. Anyway, they prepared the dish last night, and it was delicious. Cubed potatoes are cooked with Swiss Chard and the buckwheat pasta, and then they are layered with lots of cheese (traditionally bitto), and topped with garlic and sage sautÃ©ed in butter. The dish is then baked to melt the cheese. The result is a stringy casserole of warmth and heartiness, something I could imagine after a long day of skiing. Our version will use less cheese, combine olive oil with butter, and have apples as well, for a hint of tartness. People often think that Italian food is just pizza and pasta, but there are hidden secrets like Pizzoccheri, whose history you can learn by staying tuned this Winter.
People are always talking about the "French Paradox". No one understands how French people can eat so much butter, cheese, and meat, while still managing to stay thin and fabulous. Well here I am in Tuscany, Italy, and I am finding the Tuscan paradox even more complex. Cured pork products, including lard, are a specialty here, in addition to the Italian staples of pasta, pizza, and wine. However, no one seems to be fat. How is this so? I find myself not only eating three times the amount of food that I usually eat at home, but also eating things that I never would have found appetizing. Prosciutto, pastas, speck, lard, etc. the list goes on of Tuscan specialties that go against my education in eating right. However, I am not gaining weight, or at least not enough that I can notice a difference. Granted I am running and continuing my normal exercise routine, I am shocked at how differently the food here affects my body. I attribute this to the fact that food products are made here naturally and with few additives or preservatives, making them healthier and less likely to translate into added pounds. Another reason I give is that there is not as much sugar in the foods here. I can say that in Tuscany, desserts are very simple, and are not overly sweetened the way they are in the United States. Cakes have enough sugar in them to fall into the dessert category, but they are never overly sweet. I feel that after a while, I have become accustomed to the milder taste of less sugar. Next entry I will ponder carbophobia.
I have decided to invent a new word. Gastropsychic. While working on the Winter Food Guide for our next Mini Magazine, I realized that I could not find the right word to describe how grapefruit makes me feel in the Winter. The sour/bitter/sweet taste of grapefruits, combined with their juicy texture is a burst of refreshment in the middle of January, when the days are still short, and going outside in the cold is torturous. I dread the season of heavy stews full of meats and root vegetables. Sooner rather than later, I am tired of eating overly sweet winter fruits. That is why I consider grapefruits a blessing. They are tangy and light, and their color stands out against apples, pears, and sweet potatoes. Even as I write this, I feel my mouth watering, remembering the smell of acid in the air when I peel them open.
Beyond their nutritional value, as well as their gastronomic qualities, grapefruits have strong impact on my spirit. Therefore, my new word is a combination of the Greek word: Gastro, which means relating to the stomach, and Psyche, which means â€œbreathâ€ or â€œsoulâ€. Thus the word Gastropsychic denotes having to do with the way the stomach and mind relate to one another. Obviously, we all like to eat foods that have an emotional impact on us, but we often attribute those â€œcomfort foodsâ€ to cultural reasons and familiar memories. But in my opinion, sometimes the way food affects us has to do with our experience as an individual, impacting our mind, body, and spirit, going far beyond our cultural experience. So if you have a food that means something to you, the way grapefruit does to me, use the word â€œgastropsychicâ€ and pass it on.