Tag: Food

Breaking Bread

The connotation associated with the phrase breaking bread probably varies as much as the different type of breads that are available to us. If you grew up like I did, your first thought might be one with more religious overtones (the breaking of the bread during the Eucharist). Or maybe your experience with breads leads you to take the phrase literally, as in breaking bread apart versus cutting it with a knife. Or maybe the phrase takes on a metaphorical meaning such as sharing a meal with someone, which still might involve breaking bread of course.

In my writing, I’ve noticed that I tend to include scenes that involve meals. The most recent scene had my main character eating alone at a restaurant. Alone with his own thoughts, yet still observant of those around him. This most likely reflects my own experiences of eating alone when I travel for work. My favorite way to include a meal in my writing though is with multiple participants, regionalities of the food expressed, and with natural dialogue. Often sharing thoughts, and oblivious to everyone except the meal participants. Again, much of this is based on my own experiences. Write what you know, right?

Meals can be intimate. Particularly if one is experiencing more than just food. What do I mean by that? The list here could include dinner dates, holiday meals, family picnics, or just a meal with good friends. Or maybe strangers. From my own perspective, there are hundreds, if not thousands of personal experiences I have had with food that I would say were somewhat intimate. There is one that stands out in my memory that I would like to share here.

“You have to taste a culture to understand it.” – Deborah Cater

I visited a friend in Berlin Germany many years ago and stayed with her and her family for a few weeks. Like any first-time visitor to a foreign country, I filled my days with sightseeing and was fortunate to have a resident guide in my friend. I was there a few years after the wall came down allowing me to see both West and East Berlin at a time when Germany was still adapting to reunification, stark contrasts ever apparent the moment one crossed into what was East Berlin.

I experienced the Berlin nightlife with my friend and her many friends, explored Nuremberg and Bonn, and partied at someone’s garden along the Rhine River. My most memorable experience however was breakfast on her back patio each morning while at her house.

Each morning before breakfast, she and I would go out and buy our groceries for that specific meal. Why? I honestly don’t know. We’d walk around the block, first stopping at a small bakery that had fresh breads. There is something about the smell of a bakery first thing in the morning that grabs you and won’t let go from the moment you first walk in. Sold! Instantly. We would buy more than enough bread and rolls for breakfast then venture on to the next shop for meats, cheese, and milk or some type of juice.

Upon returning to her house, her parents would be waiting for us on their back patio with an outdoor table set for breakfast. There’d be a steaming hot pitcher of coffee, various jams and spreads, butter, and Nutella already on the table and we’d put out the breads, various meats, and cheese we had just purchased. I can remember thinking that I had never witnessed so much food for breakfast or variety of food for that matter. There was this type of bacon that was uncooked and somewhat greasy in appearance.  I’d follow their lead and have it on a roll will butter and a slice of cheese. Amazingly delicious and to this day, I have no idea what I was eating. There were other meats, some familiar tasting, some not. All good.

Although the food itself is a memory I’ll never forget, what made these morning meals even more memorable were the conversations that followed. Her mother and father spoke no English yet each morning we would discuss politics, food, German history, and technical commonalities of the industry her father and I were employed in. All translated by my friend.

I honestly feel I learned more about Germany during those breakfasts than I had in any history book or class. I asked many questions about the influence the British, French, and Americans had on what was West Berlin and how it affected them. I asked about the influx of Turkish immigrants I noticed. I asked about the wall, reunification, and of course  – Hitler and the war.

My takeaway from this and many similar experiences I have had breaking bread with friends or strangers, both here at home in the United States and abroad – during those moments we are all so much more alike than we are different.

Bill

 

“And do as adversaries do in law, strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.” – William Shakespeare (1564-1616) ‘The Taming of the Shrew’

 

Two Hundred Days

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“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” – George S. Patton

I think at one time or another, most people have set some sort of goal for themselves. The goal may be social related, health related, intellectual related, or any one of another few dozen subjects. The goal might be a group goal where there is a bit more accountability or it might be personal/private goal. Regardless of the type of goal or the situational circumstances for implementing the goal, I’m going to assume that most people attempt to come up with some sort of plan.

A plan. Most people can develop a plan. Does it have to be a perfect plan? No. It just needs to have an end goal. So we can develop another plan. We all experience plans both on a professional level and on a personal level. Not taking away from anyone’s planning skills but developing the plan is the easy part. Executing the plan is somewhat more difficult and what eludes many of us.

So people, with that theme in mind, this is my attempt at an inspirational and slightly motivational post. If it helps one person. Great.

I woke up Sunday morning and had my coffee with creamer. My wife and I were getting ready to go exercise down near the river. She was going to walk and I was going to run for a while then double back and walk with her. As I logged my drink into an app I use called MyFitnessPal, I was greeted with the following information:

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Two hundred days in a row. I made a plan and executed it, adapting and readjusting as needed.

For whatever reason, last year I gained weight. It’s probably the 4th or 5th time that has happened in my life and each time it has, I go through a short period of losing weight to get back to where I was. It has been somewhat easy for me to do that since I have participated in athletic activity most of my life.  A few years ago that changed for a number of reasons I don’t care to get into and as a result of that, I became the heaviest I had been in years resulting in a number of medical issues, most of which were being attributed to that extra weight.

If you’ve been reading me at all, you know I quit smoking in January of this year and have been on a hiking and walking craze for a while. Two hundred days ago today, I came up with a plan and executed it. It involved changing my eating habits and exercising, which really is not rocket science. Numerous meals throughout the day, increase in metabolism, the right nutrient balance, and get off my ass and exercise like I use to. Yes, I planned on a caloric deficit to do this but I planned to do it in a safe and nutritional way, hence the food and exercise tracking app to support it.

Over that two hundred days I have lost 52 pounds. That’s 52 pounds over 28 weeks. About 1.86 pounds a week. Slow and safe weight loss.To some people that might not seem like a lot and in reality it’s not but try strapping a 50-pound bag of dogfood to your back and see what toll it can take on your body just walking.

The fact that I’m bringing up weight loss as a measure of success is only for a means of what those 52 pounds mean. Those pounds mean my blood pressure has been normal for months now. Those pounds mean clothes I had put away now fit. Those pounds mean my back isn’t hurting everyday like it was. They mean I can walk or run without putting extra stress on an older body that has seen its fair share of abuse over the years. And no I won’t discuss the eighties. They represent hours of sharing in cooking duties to avoid the easy out of getting fast food. They represent hours of lifting weights and miles walked or ran. Those 52 pounds simply mean that I executed the plan. And I was rewarded for it.

A perfect plan? Who the hell knows but I can tell you it’s worked for me and that’s exciting. More importantly, I see excitement in the eyes of my wife, or my kids, or my dogs each time we are going to go do something involving physical activity. Just as importantly, I see excitement in my own eyes when I look in the mirror.

In doing this, I owe my family many thanks for participating in this journey. My wife has her own story and I’m loving watching her write it each day. She’s also shared her Fitbit friends with me. Long story but it makes the journey that much more accountable.

I think the journey has to be unique for each person. What I can tell you though is that it is doable and there are plenty of tools, resources, and people for support. I can also tell you that it gets harder each time to lose weight. My reality is that I will always have to always exercise which really isn’t a bad thing. I will also need to eat healthy foods. I read once that that isn’t such a bad thing either.

Now on to more exciting goals like reading four books this month or get a couple thousand words written this coming weekend.

B

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Choice Overload

There are probably one hundred food choices within a couple mile radius of me at this moment, and thankfully, I don’t have to make a decision where to eat. My eyes were bigger than my stomach last night and I bought a burrito with two tacos and the burrito alone filled me up.  Easy decision tonight: leftovers.

I’m traveling for work this week and find myself in Houston Texas. Back home in New York, we don’t have many restaurant choices in the small town I live in. If we want something different, we usually travel to a small city about thirty miles away from us.  As a family, this can still be a dilemma because not everyone agrees on where to eat.  Majority rules, a decision is made, and somebody settles for something on the menu that obviously wasn’t their first choice. When we travel, be it a day trip or longer, we will always choose a restaurant that we don’t have access to in our immediate area. It’s an unwritten rule and everyone buys into it.  Where we differ is the degree of adventure we are willing to subject our taste buds to.  My oldest son and I will try most anything. My wife and youngest son however are a little less willing to try new things.

So why is it when I travel on my own and have nobody to please but myself do I find it difficult to make a decision on what or where to eat most of the time? I asked myself this question tonight and had to think about it, realizing that most of my indecision is coming from places I might travel to where there is a “choice” overload.  I would equate this to having three hundred plus channels and not being able to figure out what to watch on television. Often, I will be at a hotel that has a restaurant inside or attached to it or has a few eating establishments close by making the selection process much easier. Other times, I am at the mercy of a local who has picked a restaurant for us to eat at. Here in Houston however, the area I stay at is called the Energy Corridor and there are restaurants everywhere. Driving is problematic during rush hour and a short trip to a restaurant can take forty five minutes. It’s not the type of place to keep driving around looking for a place to eat.

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Our company has a very generous policy when it comes to dining out while traveling on company business. I don’t abuse it and usually only have one or two meals at restaurants. The other meals will be takeout and typically low cost. I travel to Houston about three or four times a year and the hotel I stay at is an extended stay hotel with a kitchen so I will also buy groceries for breakfast and sometimes grab a meal from the “pantry” as they call it and have a microwavable meal. My feeling about spending company money on food is to spend it as though it was my own. I would not eat $40 or $50 meals on my own so I don’t expect to do that on the company’s dime.  Yeah, moral me.

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As I stated earlier, I don’t want to eat a restaurant that I can eat at back home. So my first night here is always a no-brainer. I checked into the hotel, unpacked, and headed out to the nearest Whataburger. If you know me, this is a given. One burger, less than $5, and 790 calories of my daily diet is gone. If you have been lucky enough to have enjoyed a Whataburger, you understand.

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Night two involved my driving around which was a big mistake. I wanted Mexican Food, saw a place called Taco Cabana and ordered what turned out to be enough food for two nights. Meal cost? $11.

Tomorrow will be my last night here and I will eat at a restaurant. My plan is to stop there on the way back to the hotel after I get off work. I saw a Japanese restaurant today that a few of the employees at our sister company recommended to me. If I pass that, I have about twenty more choices along the frontage road before I hit the street I need to turn on to get to my hotel.  If I remain indecisive during that drive, I’ll get to the hotel and walk to a restaurant. There just happens to be about five or ten within walking distance. Taste of Texas, Pappadeaux Seafood, Pappasito’s, Fuddruckers, some deli, and so on, and so on. More decisions… although I am only willing to walk so far. Choice overload.

I know one thing. I will eat.

How about you? Is your choice of dining establishment an easy decision?

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Photo – Pappadeaux

 

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