I’ve spent most of my life working in various areas of the life insurance industry. Currently I am back where I started over 41 years ago as an underwriter specializing in mortality risk assessment. My job is to understand what kills people. Sounds simple but it’s not that simple. As a creative and destructive species people have figured out a myriad of ways to kill themselves. When someone applies for life insurance I figure out what is most likely to kill them and charge an appropriate rate for the risk. I really like what I do. Each and every day is another opportunity to learn and improve.
I also love to cook. The Boss has to declare a No Cook Night otherwise I will cook. This love started early watching my father cook supper every night. Dad was a great cook and I had a role model from the beginning. One day I asked him
“Why do you cook?”
“You’ve tasted your Mother’s cooking. Survival.”
Eat to live. Not live to eat. For me, this was a hard lesson learned. Before the age of 20 I weighed over 370 pounds. I’ve used 370 as my highest weight but it could have been higher. I stopped weighing myself because I really didn’t want to know how heavy I was. The story of how is for another time but suffice to say I managed to lose 200 pounds by the time I turned 21. As the years have passed my weight has slowly crept up. I’m proud to be near 190 pounds and approximately 180 pounds lighter than my personal peak. Eat to live, not the other way around. I’ve learned not only how to lose weight but how to keep the pounds off.
I’m a published writer. It’s been decades since I’ve published any of my writing but I’m still a published writer. I maintain two blogs and a journal. This short piece started in my journal and ended up public. This food blog got started to share family recipes. Over time it has changed to the point where I now describe this blog as a food memoir. Now I’m beginning to think the description should be changed again. There is a lot more space devoted to nutrition science which used to be posted on my other blog. For now though, food memoir still works.
One of the fascinating things about writing here is how the recipes are not the dishes I grew up with eating my Dad’s cooking. You also won’t find a lot of the recipes I made years ago for my own family. Some family favorites are here but not many Box Project recipes. For example I pulled one of my “favorites” from the box, handwritten on a white lined 3 x 5 index card. It’s an old James Beard chicken recipe that is delicious. When was the last time I made this dish? I can’t remember. I suspect that many of the recipes I considered to be family favorites I no longer make. What I’m learning is I don’t cook nor eat the same as I did when I was younger. As Dr. Wareham says you start with one good habit at a time. I say you also stop one bad habit at a time (but I did quit smoking, drinking Jack, and start running all at the same time).
The writing, research, and recipes that end up here are mostly where I am at now. And that’s fine. There’s a pot of Vegan Chili Beans on the stove as I’m writing. Defiinitely not a family favorite recipe from the past. But it might just become a family favorite for now and the future.
Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
Sunday mornings are wonderful time for reflection. I’ve kept a personal journal for many, many years. Warren Bennis once wrote that maintaining a journal and periodically taking a look back on your writings was The Path to Wisdom. I agree with Bennis on this point. Looking back helps you understand where you’ve been, where you are, and most importantly where you are going.
I was looking for something else in my journal and stumbled back on a section titled
The Dot Project.
There wasn’t much written there so I started adding Dots this morning. After a few Dots I realized I actually started The Dot Project in earnest here with the post Nothing to Do With Food. For the longest time I kept my journal private. But something is telling me that this is where some of my private thoughts should be shared.
This post has nothing to do with food. When I was a kid my Dad drove a beat up Chevy. It was a sixties type of car, not real fancy but got us from Point A to Point B. Dad literally drove that thing until it fell apart. Ten years ago I bought a 2006 Ford Taurus used with 15,366 miles on the odometer. I wanted a reliable car that I could drive until it fell apart.
The manager at the local auto shop I use told me this car was the best 06 Taurus he had ever seen. I said no. I told him this was the best 06 Taurus he’ll ever see. The CD player just might keep and never spit out your CD. Every now and then the fan for the AC sounds like Tweety Bird. But I just got the car back from the shop after its 60,000 mile maintenance.
I plan on driving this thing until it falls apart but I might not live that long.
Nice box, eh? We have two of these boxes in the kitchen cupboard. And they are full of recipes. Every now and then you need a reminder of why you started something. Like this food blog. I get questions all the time about this blog.
“Why did you start the blog?”
“How come there are no pictures of food?”
“Why don’t you have more recipes?”
I was inspired by two books. One was a community fund-raiser cookbook where everyone shares a recipe and the book is sold as a fundraiser. The other book was a collection of Aunt Charlene’s recipes complied by her granddaughter after Charlene died. I thought to myself, hey when you’re gone your recipes are gone with you. So I started this blog.
I cook. I am not a photographer. I’ve also made the conscious decision to not make this a for profit endeavor.
When I have more time you’ll get more recipes.
The Boss and I were out for lunch and I got the following question:
“Why don’t you make that breaded chicken dish you made for the kids all the time that was breaded and baked, not fried?”
Then it hit me. I started a food blog with the intention of capturing recipes from the past in a place where they could live on and enjoyed by others.
There are three grocery stores within a 3 mile radius of the house I normally shop at. I don’t favor one over the others as each store has its pros and cons. Shopping the sales is a favorite pastime of mine. There are many occasions when the evening meal is not determined until I find what looks good at the store. And if it’s on sale I am in Heaven. The problem I have had recently is buying too much of what’s on sale. Who can resist the family pack of chicken tenders at $1.99 a pound? This is the crux of my affliction. What do you do with 10 pounds of chicken tenders and just two mouths to feed?
I admit I am getting better at not buying everything I see simply because the price is irresistible. The worst transgression recently turned out to be 10 pounds of boneless chicken thighs. I love boneless chicken thighs but I had a hard time figuring out what to cook with those flavorful pieces of the bird. So I ended up freezing most of the meat. And you end up making meals with chicken thighs for a long, long time.
For the past couple of months, I’ve been disciplining myself to buy less. The only other solution I can think of is to find more people to cook for. This is the hand I’ve been dealt.
Wish me well this morning. I’m going shopping.
P.S. – I have 5 pounds of organic carrots I bought a few days ago. Anyone have any good carrot recipes?
JHND- an international journal publishing in the field of nutrition and dietetics. JHND is the official journal of the British Dietetic Association. All views expressed on these pages are solely those of the author.