Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Food Rules

Illustrated edition of Food Rules, now available

I have a bit of a confession: I am a bit of a routine queen. I like my universe to be in a certain order and will often go to great lengths and pain - to myself AND others - to ensure that it remain so. I can't sleep without making my bed first, for instance, and haven't slept in an unmade bed since Nixon resigned. For my entire primary school career, I packed the same lunch - peanut butter and jam sandwich, juice in a thermos, cookies and a piece of fruit - and ate in the exact same order every day. With no deviation. Ever. Sick, right? Monk has nothing on my ass.

The problem with being a slave to routine and ritual, of course, is that it doesn't lend itself to a life with a ton of spontaneity which, of late, I've come to see as a bit of a character flaw. So, over the summer, one of my personal objectives was to change things up a little. I let things sort themselves out with little in the way of "personal interference", if you will, and, instead, ran my life on the path it naturally set for itself as opposed to cleaving to the grand plan I mapped out in my head. I didn't get in my own way, as they say in therapy speak.

Guess what I learned? Going with the flow: it sucks, y'all! I am a bag of toys without a consistent schedule. Meals, daily grooming and exercise, childrearing, none of these things get done with any consistency - Hell, at all!- if I don't set them to a time of day. It made my nerves so bad not to know what I was doing on a daily basis that I almost had a nervous breakdown a few times. I was like Jeremy Renner's character in The Hurt Locker, trapped in a world that expects me to make decisions in the cereal aisle of life when all I really know is wearing a helmet that looks like a giant fishbowl and defusing the same bomb over and over and over again. So I dialled it back, reverted to my old ways and made a little promise to myself that I would change it up occasionally but not as a rule, as my poor, regimented system couldn't handle the strain. Baby steps, right?

Which is why I love the new book by Michael Pollan, Food Rules: An Eater's Manual. Was this book made for me or what? Firstly, it is festooned with illustration by my God, Maira Kalman, the greatest illustrator on the planet. And it's a book. With rules. About food. I really doesn't get any better, non? Here are just a few of the wisdoms you'll find therein:
  • Do all of your eating a table
  • Don't become a short order cook
  • Enjoy drinks that have been caffeinated by nature, not science.
  • The whiter the bread, the sooner you'll be dead.
  • Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does.
May I recommend that this book appear in every one's stocking?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Long Live the Turtle (Neck)!

In our home, the change of season is marked NOT by the turning back of the clock but by my switch from t-shirt to turtleneck. It is a sad day when this happens for it means that the cold is about to set in and we will, for six months at least, be subjected to soup for dinner at least once a week and complaints from both young and old alike that we can't find our other mitten. Sigh.

Though turtlenecks have long been associated with arty intellectuals, turkeyneck-hiding old ladies and sexless Christmas sweaters, I have always loved and worn them. Actually, I always thought that my love for the turtleneck came from a compliment I received once in my twenties. I was at a party at a friend's apartment in Montreal and flirting heavily with a young gentleman with whom I shared an existential philosophy course, a course, I should say, that I signed up for - foolishly! - and should have gotten out of waaaay before I did, but waited past the due date before realizing that my brain couldn't handle it. I turned, instead, to the wearing of the turtleneck as a solution to my problem. Dress like an intellectual, feel like an intellectual. Clever, right? Wrong. Ever the fraud, I remember secretly wishing that my bus would get t-boned on the way to my final exam. 

But I digress.

The object of my affection was looking at me attentively while I blathered on about one thing or another until he interrupted with this: You look like Audrey Hepburn in your turtleneck, did you know that? I was speechless. I know that for certain woman, Audrey Hepburn is an icon of beauty and fashion.  Her petite frame and gamine haircut have been copied by hundreds of starlets and co-eds, with varying degrees of success. In fact, a few months before the compliment was uttered, there had been an Audrey Hepburn festival at the revival cinema a few blocks from my apartment. Posters of her likeness were still plastered everywhere, her wide eyes and big mouth assaulting me from the sides of abandoned buildings and enveloping me in the shelter as I waited for the bus. She was a beautiful woman, there is no doubt. But to a 5 foot 10 inch black lady?  There really is no weirder compliment.

I turned to my complimenter and simply shook my head.  Yeah, I said with a pause. You're reaching. And, I added, you've probably had enough to drink, I think. He stood staring, bleary eyed before getting up from his perch on the arm of a couch and puking into a nearby plant.  I guess that's why, for me, turtlenecks have to be about something besides a movie star.  And as an added bonus:  I can  only conjure the image of a ponytailed man vomiting every time I see a movie still from Breakfast at Tiffany's.  Some images simply endure forever.

I think Audrey would agree.....