Served with Apologies

Chocolate says “I’m sorry” so much better than words.

–Rachel Vincent

Well friends, it has been a while. I don’t have any chocolate, either. But if you’ve been reading then you know that I’ve been on the road. I touched down from Asia on July 3. Since then I’ve been in Washington, Montana, Oregon, New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Maine, Ohio, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Germany and Greece. After Greece I didn’t have my iPad’s keyboard for a while, and I’m not one for typing on screens.

I’m back on the West Coast for a few days before heading back to Asia. I’m sorry for those of you who’ve been looking for a post (I’ve gotten your messages, subtle and otherwise…thanks!). To get the ball rolling, let’s talk a bit about Greece, which I didn’t talk about in the last post.

First of all, Greece is beautiful. I’d just like to say that.

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My photography skills may not be as good, but that’s hardly Greece’s fault.

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It would be very difficult to be a vegetarian in Greece. If you’ve ever seen the wondrous movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you may recall the scene where the protagonist is introducing her fiancé to her very Greek aunt, who responds to the news that said fiancé is a vegetarian with confusion. Upon having it explained to her, she shouts out “What do you mean he DON’T EAT NO MEAT?!” With the engagement party brought to a standstill and everyone now watching, aunt proceeds to pat him on the arm and say, “Oh, that’s ok. I make lamb.”

This is a pretty accurate description of Greece. While there, I ate plain yogurt, butter, all kinds of cheese, fresh vegetables and fruits that were not sprayed with chemicals or waxed to make them shiny, and gobs and gobs of meat. Roasted meat, sliced meat, meat on sticks, fried meat. The Greek version of McDonalds is to go to one of the kabob stands that pop up every 17 feet and get some meat on a stick. I did see a McDonalds while I was there, but I was informed that it has not been a great success for McDonalds, Greece hasn’t, because most Greeks don’t recognize that as food. And as for the yogurt and cheese, I don’t think anyone in Greece would even understand the concept “low-fat” if you walked up and asked about it. It’s full fat dairy or nothing.

The evidence of Greece’s economic suffering is showing, however. The number of chubby Greeks is growing along with that. So what are the Greeks eating now that they don’t have as much money and are gaining weight? More meat? More dairy?

Nope. More bread.

That’s right. Cheap bready, carby snacks are slowly filling the supermarkets, according to the locals. The local markets are suffering while big chain store conglomerates with fingers in a dozen countries worldwide are able to keep afloat. These stores do contain incredible quantities of meat and cheese–don’t get me wrong. They also have enormous amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables. But they also have a lot of junk for sale, and people are buying more and more of it because it’s cheap.

And fattening right up in the process.

Probably the only upside to this is that it seems the Greeks are very aware of what the problem is. I don’t think there’s any nationwide delusion that somehow it’s the fat and meat they’ve been eating for 1,000 years that is suddenly making them pork up. It’s pretty obvious: people are poorer. Poor people buy cheap food. Cheap food is largely grain. Poor people worldwide eat more grain and less fat and meat, and obesity and poverty walk together all over the world.

So how did I fare in the Mediterranean? Well, I’ll be honest: I didn’t worry about what I was eating all that much. I was with family I haven’t seen in years. I was on my first real vacation in close to 5 years. I avoided sugars and grains for the most part, but I ate frozen custard or frozen yogurt almost every day for 10 days. Let’s talk for a minute about custard.

Frozen custard is nothing like the ridiculous Frozen Dairy Product that passes for ice cream in your local supermarket freezer aisle. Chances are the ice cream you’re eating has skim milk as its first ingredient, followed by sugar. Good luck with that. Without enough fat to slow down the absorption of the sugar, you might as well just eat straight table sugar from the bowl and inject yourself with insulin right away. Save yourself some time. And don’t even get me started on low-fat ice creams and sorbets.

Real ice cream should have cream as its first ingredient, and whole milk second. Check the back of the cartons in the aisle till you find one made correctly and you’ll see that a plain vanilla or chocolate, for instance, will have twice as much fat and maybe 1/3 less sugar than most of them. Custard is even more wondrous, because air is not pumped into to as it is with ice cream–making it denser and creamier–and egg yolks are added to it. Egg yolks mean more fat and more protein and less sugar per bite than ice cream. You can really taste the difference. It’s not nearly as sweet, but believe me you won’t miss the sweet. No air pumped in means you–unless you have a problem–normally can’t eat nearly as much as you can of regular ice cream. It’s so dense that a kid’s size can fill me up for hours. I definitely notice a sugar rush and a crash after regular ice cream. I don’t notice one at all with custard.

Frozen yogurt–real frozen yogurt–is even better. It has so little sugar that you almost can’t taste it. If you don’t have a taste for things like lemon juice and ginger, you probably won’t like it. It’s slightly sour, and fruit is usually added to it. It’s delightful, and if anything I liked it better than custard. But don’t try a frozen yogurt stand at your local mall, FYI. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts–and you can keep the donuts–that they won’t have anything but low-fat and no-fat frozen yogurt.

So frozen custard and yogurt I ate every day. I also ate fruit. Not every day, but quite a few times. More than I normally do. It was fresh, local and un-sprayed. I had to control myself more with fruit than with custard, because every piece was as sweet as candy.

And what was the result of my dietary negligence? Well, I lost about 10 pounds and felt really great.

Now I don’t want to be misunderstood. First, while I did have all the things I just mentioned, my staple foods for each day were definitely butter, coconut oil, cream, unsweetened yogurt, cheese, and meat. We only ate meals twice a day: a big breakfast of fat and meat, and a main meal of fat, meat and some vegetable matter sometime in mid afternoon. Maybe a kabob in the evening.

Second, feeling good isn’t necessarily linked to frozen custard. I live in a place in Asia where if we see the sun we get all giddy from the unexpected excitement. I live in a concrete box where my bedroom and living room don’t even have windows, and the pollution is so bad I try not to go most of the time unless I have to. There’s barely a tree to be seen, and I work a desk job. In Greece it was beautiful and sunny every day, with clean, fresh air. We went to the beach almost every day I was there, where I swam and kayaked and snorkeled and did other physical things that I never have the opportunity to do. When we weren’t at the beach, we were hiking around ruins. My entire diet and lifestyle were totally shaken up, and that alone may account for the 10 pounds. And third, I’m convinced that if I continued to eat frozen custard or frozen yogurt every day, I would put back on that 10 pounds and maybe some.

But, there are three points to be made.

First, if you just can’t stand it another second and need something sweet, you can do a lot worse than frozen custard. It’s so full of fat that it is essentially self-limiting. So try that before you run for a pastry or a candy bar.

Second, if weight loss is what you’re interested in, there’s something to be said for shaking up the routine.

Third, though I had a great time, I wouldn’t just keep eating frozen custard every evening. Once I went back to normal life and normal stress, it would–I’m convinced–quickly become counterproductive. I can’t prove that to you, because I’m not about to go get custard every night for six months just to test it. There’s no frozen custard around here anyway, unless I make it.

No treat stays enjoyable when indulged in constantly. Remember the definition: “an event that is out of the ordinary and [consequently] brings great pleasure.”

I’ll let you get back to hunting down your local frozen custard stand…have a great day!

 

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