Okay, I should go on the record and state “This did seem like a fun and interesting way to come up with something creative to write about…but there is the overlaying fear that my actual girlfriend might not think this is that funny”. The idea was kind of thrown together late one night on the phone as I was explaining how sometimes, I get bored at work and will sit and think about what we should have for dinner. So…with that, I decided to re-open The Blobber and start my “Cooking for my Girlfriend” series of blog entries. See, this blog, to work, will be two parts, the first part is by the person who thinks of dinner (Me) and the second part is by the person who watches the first person cook (Christina). It’s a real team effort and something that will require considerable focus and an ability to think quickly in and around the kitchen.
I like to live on the edge sometimes but not without some disclaimers:
- Christina does indeed enjoy cooking.
- Christina does contribute to the meal by helping me in the kitchen.
- She does not mind cleaning at the end of the meal.
- I also do not mind cleaning…but why argue about who is going to clean the plates.
- If this post disappears, it means I was wrong and this was a bad idea.
I got invited to attend a workshop yesterday that I was not 100% sure I would enjoy but I was 100% sure it would not be something applicable to where I work and live. Building Healthy Communities was hosted by Rutgers University in conjunction with the Robert Wood Foundation and The YMCA. I work for the Y in a pretty nice part of NJ…okay, a really nice part of NJ. We have a Whole Foods in the center of the town and a really nice farmers market in the summer. The Quick Check (where I frequent each Friday for lunch) has some a pretty impressive listing of fancy things. Organic Trail mix, fresh spinach salads, stone-ground mustard (who wants yellow mustard?) just off the top of my head to name a few things.
Building Healthy Communities is a State & Nation Wide program that is looking at ways to curb the inequality of food options for urban areas which in my opinion is a huge issue. I like to think about food…a lot. I mean, it literally occupies about half of my day…hence this blog posting. I grew up in a nice suburb of NYC in a family that never struggled to put a good meal on the table. School was the same, we actually had these two amazing ladies that cooked us breakfast each morning and amazing lunch each day.
So, Building Healthy Communities…how do we do that? I think this was the question that we all talk about (probably around a dinner table) and we all pretty feel like we need to work to achieve, but I think if it does not impact us directly, what is our motivation to achieve it? I once tried to Build a Healthy Community at my last job but it was lack of urgency, education and desire that made us not able to achieve a desired outcome. Actually it was more the fault of the culture that existed there that made us fail. See, we had a Chef as our Food Service Director…a real Chef, but his only experiences as a Chef were rooted in an industrial Summer Camp kitchen, where Tuesday meant Taco’s and soup was tomato. Chef, deep down took pride in what he cooked, but time constraints (his words) and budget restrictions (his words) usually meant we saw the same types of food on the table day in and day out. In my eyes, an easy menu usually meant that less time was spent researching new meals, looking for healthy options and at the end of the day an easy menu meant less work.
I decided that I would try and “challenge” or “re-energize” our Chef by fixing some of his time constraints and budget. I gave him more money to spend on staff and food and I went out and bought a new composter and a small greenhouse. I created curriculum that would allow us to teach kids how to use both the composter and the greenhouse. But, the culture at Camp just could not see the benefit of these two and eventually the composter sat empty and the greenhouse only grew weeds. See, at the end of the day, we all want to create a Healthy Community but we just struggle to find the time to do so. If it is not in our face, then it is not our problem. Yesterday as we sat in this seminar listening to Dr. Dietz from the Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness talk about obesity, the kitchen staff handed out dessert and not any desert. This chocolate shell was filled with chocolate mouse and covered in whipped cream. So while Dr. Dietz talked about obesity the only thing the audience really heard was the “Hmmm, this is really delicious” from the people at their table. I would have wondered the reaction if for dessert they handed out an apple?
Building a Healthy Community has to start with a realization of who we are and how much we really want to make a change. I want to be healthy and I want people around me to be healthy, so I work hard to be able to afford healthy food that is local or organic or just not processed. I tell people that what they are eating is not the smartest and have no problem being negative when it comes to that fact. I am the guy who drank 16oz of Diet Coke every day and over the past couple of months, I will only have 1 16oz bottle of Dr. Pepper a week (with some fancy mustard from Quick Check). I genuinely believe that I understand what is good for me and what is bad for me and I feel it’s my duty to tell other why I feel that way…because otherwise I’m just that guy eating chocolate while listening to how obesity is a huge issue in America.
So…what is for dinner? As I drove home last night I started to really think about this. I went back and forth, fish or meat, veggies or pasta, light or heavy, take-out or go-out. Hoboken literally has 100 choices within a ten minute walk or a 30 minute wait for delivery. But, I am the type of person who really enjoys spending time in the kitchen. If I owned a house, I would want the kitchen to be larger than the living room because everybody loves to hang-out in the kitchen. When I shop, I typically go to Shoprite, the prices are good and the options of food has been growing larger and larger for some time. After about 30 minutes of sitting in traffic, I deiced that it would be best if I just picked someplace on the way, which happened to be Trader Joe’s. Now, I have a love hate relationship with this place and it’s more love then hate. I actually cannot justify doing my regular shopping there, but I can justify stopping in for a meal. For those of you who have spent time at Trader Joe’s, you know it’s probably one of the happiest grocery stores in America. By the time I walked in, I knew what I was going to cook for my girlfriend; Bacon Cheeseburgers with lettuce, tomato and onions on an Artisan Roll with sweet potato fries.
Here is what I purchased:
1 pound of organic ground beef (85/15 Fat) because without the fat, you are just cooking the meat (you need fat to cook the meat).
1 pound of uncured bacon ends and bits.
1 pound of sweet potatoes
1 onion (red)
1 head or romaine lettuce
6 artisan rolls
1 bag of Trader Joe’s popcorn with olive oil.
To drink, I found a 2012 Cupcake Vineyards Red Velvet (Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah). I’m not much of a wine guy, Christina is much more in-tune with wine. I actually picked this because it was cheap and it said on the back of the bottle that it goes well with meat.