Friday, August 19, 2011

On Choosing the Menu

Dear Boo,

I just got an email informing me that this is possibly my last chance to order those personalized napkins I absolutely MUST have. YES! I thought, That's exactly what I need! Here you go, loved ones, please wipe your faces and clean your fingernails on the names of me and my betrothed!
I am officially over the wedding industry.

(And have officially been driven slightly insane by it.)

Episode #1:
Everyone's favorite bride sits on the couch, sobbing, midst meltdown over some decision that had to be made yesterday. The Fiance, a pillar of patience, strokes her hand and coos, "It's fine. We don't have to decide. We just won't have a ceremony." More crying.

Episode #2 (a short play):
The Mouse and The Fiance are leaving a visit to a jewelry store at which they have just found out that they can add ring shopping to the list of things "You really should have started months ago."

Fiance: So if they tell us it might take 4 weeks, and then it's not ready by the time our wedding day comes around, what are we going to do? Are you going to be okay with a place-holder ring?

Mouse: (striding energetically/crazily down the block) Well, if they say 4 weeks and something happens on their end and its not ready, then it's their problem and they better find a way to FIX IT and get it to us before our WEDDING DAY.


Fiance: I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to start a fight between you and our IMAGINARY JEWELER.

(and, scene.)

Episode #3:
The Blushing Bride and her Groom sit, oh, anywhere. On the couch. In bed. At a table in a restaurant. On the subway. Talking about the latest in a string of decisions that MUST be made or else.

Fiance: So what do you want to do about _______?

The Mouse: I don't know.

Change locale. Repeat an infinite number of times.

I recently said to the Fiance that I felt my decision-making muscle was exhausted and unable to function at its full capacity anymore. Never a great one for making choices to begin with, the near-daily workout of being faced with utterly absurd and unnecessary decisions like choosing between this linen and that one, this non-stick skillet or that one (pick this one--America's Test Kitchen does), to veil or not to veil, what friggin song best represents us as a couple, and are we really missing out by not getting our invitations hand-cancelled at the post office (NO, and who has ever heard of such a thing?), my capacity for differentiating between choices and making a decision based on sound information and good judgment, is severely impaired.

Turns out the science world has my back on this one. In this New York Times article, they discuss Decision Fatigue as a very real thing with very real, sometimes devastating consequences (judges who hear multiple cases in a day are more likely to deny parole to those later in the day, and this phenomenon takes a particular toll on the poor, who are constantly being depleted by the continual trade-offs and sacrifices of poverty). It goes on to explain how, like will power, our capacity to weigh options and make decisions can get maxed out if we're calling upon it too often. That dieting phenomenon of waking up with the best intentions for eating well, sitting down to a breakfast of grapfruit and egg whites, and then pigging out at 9pm on nachos and beer, is actually that the will power muscle, the power to make a decision based on long vision and practicality, is just plain worn out after a day of work. AND, the article specifically talks about the process of wedding planning as a virtual marathon for this part of the psyche--the article actually calls it "The decision fatigue equivalent of Hell Week"! I couldn't agree more. This also sort of hit upon the irony of the "wedding diet" I keep talking about starting. If I'm totally depleted in the decision-making department, and have virtually no judgment or good sense left by the end of a day of phone calls with vendors, isn't the deck sort of stacked against me getting my butt to bikini bootcamp and forgoing alcohol and chips for steamed kale? The answer is yes.

Which brings me to our next set of decisions: The Menu.

As a food person (and writer of a food blog!), our food was pretty high on my list of priorities. Not to mention, after the dress, it's pretty much the first thing anyone who knows me asks about. As in, "I can't wait to hear about the menu! It must be amazing, since you're such a foodie!" So I sat down to look at hors d'eouvres options with some trepidation. Should we go with the Anise Scented Duck and Foie Gras Empanadas? Or the Smoked Duck and Scallion Crepe Roulade? Too fussy? Overdone? Not US? And how does one determine if one preparation of duck or another best REPRESENTS US AS A COUPLE?

And then it hit me. When I woke up this morning--the best time to make decisions, according to the article--I thought about this whole to-do, these months of 'this or that', 'for a small upgrade you can get this' and 'well if we invite HIM then we have to invite HER'. And I realized that the hardest decision of all--or I should say, the most significant one--has already been made. I picked him, and low and behold! he picked me. The rest, if you ask me, decision fatigue and all, is small potatoes. Fried or mashed--don't ask me--they both sound great.

And so I sat down with our long list of menu choices and asked, do I want people to leave this wedding saying, "Wow. That food was INCREDIBLE, and INVENTIVE and ORIGINAL!"?

Or do I want them to leave saying, "Wow. Those two people sure do love each other."

And it turns out that decision wasn't so hard after all.


The Mouse

P.S. I can't include a recipe here because I appear to be unable to tackle the myriad tiny decisions that go into making dinner, and so I've been doing a lot of ordering in. So tell me, what are you making for dinner tonight? I'll just have what you're having. (seriously. please respond in comments below.)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Week in the (Mostly) Raw

Dear Mouse,

What is this?

Me neither.

It came in The Box.

The box, that is, of neatly packaged, strenuously prepared, vita-licious, week's worth of gourmet live raw food dishes that I ordered this week from RawVolution as an experiment. For $120/box, which is honestly cheaper than any raw food joint I've known, you get a week's worth of entrees, soups, sides, and a couple of desserts delivered to your home. Everything is labeled except, for some reason, the soups. I honestly have no idea what I'm putting into my mouth; it's a very odd sensation. (I"m gonna say garlic and cilantro for sure).

Rawvolution, a celebrated outpost (outpost? Is that the word? I dont know, I'm ingesting so few calories) of the Raw Food lifestyle in Los Angeles, has just opened up a NYC outpost (now I'm repeating!), which I heard about from my lovely, in-the-know hair stylist on the LES. On her recommendation, I wandered into the cafe and timidly ordered a bowl of squash ribbon "spaghetti" and a ball of "chocolate chip cookie dough" that tasted pretty much like a sweet stick of butter (and isn't). Charmed by the obvious talent of the chef, and the intense cheeriness of the staff (maybe this food will make me as happy as they are!!), I thought maybe there's something to this. (Raw Food: the Scientology of the culinary world?)

I went back the next day for a Big Matt with Cheese and a brochure, and when got home I ordered The Box.

Big Matt.

Anyone who knows me (for example, you) knows that I am not big on following rules and restrictions, especially when it comes to food. You will recall the time I tried the Master Cleanse, a ten-day liquid fast in which you're supposed to ingest only this water/lemon/cayenne/maple syrup concoction. People swear by it. I lasted four hours and then had lunch.

Yet at the same time I am strangely drawn to these various regimens, lord knows why. I am (almost) always ready to hop on the latest bandwagon (within reason). It isn't entirely out of vanity. It's more like a "Jackass" - style curiosity; ie, what will HAPPEN to me on atkins/south beach/elimination diet/raw food for a week? I always, ALWAYS 'cheat'. I guess you could say I only commit to these things as a way of definitely getting myself halfway there. Like, in order for me to significantly cut down on bread, I have to declare "no more bread!" and then like, only have it at breakfast.

So the idea was to maybe do a cleanse... without really doing a cleanse. Like, a fast while still eating.

Quick review for those who have never lived in LA and do not currently go to a vegan hair salon: Raw Food = nothing heated above 118 degrees, ever. No grains. No dairy. No soy. No animals. "Milk" and "butter" is made from nuts, "Bread" and "Crackers" from dehydrated vegetables and also probably some nuts. Desserts are all about agave nectar and coconut.. I think that's all you need to know for now.

Anyway, it's been three days since the box arrived, not a week, and I'm already blogging about it, which should tell you something. I'm pretty sure I'm done. For one thing, I already had some bread today after a chocolate chip ball for "breakfast" made me "nauseous" * , and I've been nursing a coke (a real coke!! which i NEVER drink) for hours to settle my stomach? cope with sugar withdrawal? Probably both.

* The brochure says some people eat the desserts for breakfast. Some may. I shouldn't have.

Before I go further, YES there are reasons to do this. Number one: The entire Box contains less than 6,000 calories, and I. Am. Not. Hungry. I'm not. I feel fine. It's kind of amazing ... but also .. um, is that good? And I feel a little dopey. I'm sure that is largely sugar withdrawal and detoxing. Still ....

I get it. We all - generally, in this culture - eat too much. What we think is normal is not. If we were eating the same amount of vegetables, fruit and nuts as we do of simple carbs, sugar, and meat ... well, we wouldn't! We would get our fill of necessary nutrients WAY faster. And I'm sure there is something to the idea that we kill off a lot of nutrients and dehydrate ourselves by cooking everything. Raw, living plants are certainly just as nutritious as you can get. Eat them.

And let me say before I go any further that Matt Amsden's creations at Rawvolution are really works of art. They look pretty, they are incredibly inventive to the point of being magical, and they taste really good ... at the cafe. Because (here's the thing) what is becoming painfully clear to me is that while "Greek Pizza", "Indonesian Noodle Affair" and "Veggie Patties with Dill Sauce" are probably miraculous the day they are made, the same is just not true after they have sat in your fridge for a while. Like, the "bread" which was a marvel on the Big Matt (chewy! interesting! dry!) but was soggy on the greek pizza by the time it got to me, despite wax paper carefully placed between it and its topping.

Maybe it's just me. The brochure hastens to reassure you that the food "will keep" ... which it does!! in terms of health and safety. For sure. But right now it mostly just tastes ... cold. And confusing. And needs salt.

So, no lifestyle change imminent. As you know, I really, really like COOKING. I don't think I'm going to buy a dehydrator anytime soon. Also, I'm not sure I feel so good. Also, I have a Dinner Out on Friday and I'm actually scared to think what might happen if I suddenly have cocktails and restaurant food after a week of Noodle Affair. For everyone's sake, I'd better go eat a slice of this:

Which I made the night before the box arrived
and which came to us via our fan leolennon on Twitter - thanks for this!

from the blog Chez Loulou

12 oz fresh apricots, pitted and halved
1 C minus 2 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 C whole milk
3 large eggs
1/2 C vanilla sugar (I used plain but you can make vanilla sugar by keeping half a bean in your sugar bowl)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp butter cut into 6 pieces

Pre-heat oven to 450. Butter/lightly flour a 9 inch round baking pan with deep sides.
Place apricots cut side down in pan.
Combine flour and salt in bowl, whisk.
Add 1 C milk and whisk til smooth. Add eggs one by one whisking briefly after each.
Whisk in sugar, vanilla extract, and remaining 1 C milk.
Pour batter over fruit and dot with butter pieces.
Place in center of oven and bake for 25 or so minutes until puffed and golden brown.
Let cool completely before serving (also it's good cold the next day).

Here's to health and deliciousness, served hot or cold.


The Boo