Thursday, February 10, 2005

when in doubt, eat a plant

That's the helpful advice one guide to cooking for cancer patients gave me when I was heading home a couple years ago to help my mom take care of my dad. Many of the usual rules are different for someone going through chemo and/or radiation--you want them to gain weight, so there's an emphasis on fats--but this is the one that holds no matter what. And a real challenge for me.

In fascinating someone-is-procrastinating news, I have just eaten a bowl of steamed broccoli and carrots, with lots of butter to cut that lipsticky taste cooked broccoli has. This is noteworthy because I don't believe I've ever actually steamed vegetables before. Here's where I admit the embarrassing truth: I didn't know how. I thought you had to have one of those perforated foldy metal things, with the little legs. I didn't realize you could steam perfectly well without the foldy thing. Thank god there were instructions on the bag of pre-washed, pre-cut veggies. I'd planned to eat them raw.

Yes, I was raised by wolves. Where I come from, the application of heat to food is a foreign concept, unless we're talking about my father broiling steaks (have I mentioned the paper cocktail napkins Mom found? The ones that said dinner will be served when the smoke detector goes off?) or my mother's occasional holiday brisket, which was always much tastier than she thought it was, even if by the time it was served it had no structural coherence of which to speak. I learned to cook in self-defense, but my education was fanciful. I can make chocolate croissants from scratch, but I have to call Princess, the ex-sous chef and current food critic, every time I want to boil an egg. Incidentally, I hate it when he travels--he's in Oaxaca right now climbing ruins and doing book research--what if I need to sift or fold something? I could starve here. I should tell him that he's not allowed to be out of phone range for more than three days at a time. Yeah, that's it.

But tonight, shamed by a post in Thread's livejournal about how she ate a vegetable and liked it, I thought, hey, that's not a bad idea. Something to counterbalance all those cookies I ate last night. Considering that I've been on the mac and cheese and fruit juice diet for the past couple of weeks, it seemed like time to get crazy and rash and eat something green. So I steamed, and buttered, and la voila, I am a healthy eater and not, apparently, either a strung-out junkie or a stoner, two possibilities for which someone sifting through my trash could make a strong case.

The comforting thing about all this is the knowledge that if anyone ever marries me, it will be for qualities of character, humor, intelligence, whatever. Because it sure as hell won't be for my cooking.