The Thrill is Gone

To call myself a foodie would overstate my knowledge and expertise in fine wines, top restaurants, exotic cuisines, and flavor profiles. But I do love to cook, eat good food, and enjoy a variety of wines. Although many of our books did not make our West Coast to Midwest move, the number of cookbooks that made the cut was exceeded only by the number of knitting books that made it on board the moving van. First captivatedby Julia Child so many years ago, moving on to Iron Chef (the original Japanese version), and now captivated by shows such as Top Chef and the British Baking Show, I find watching about food as enjoyable as eating it. There is little about travel I enjoy more than experiencing local cuisine. Of course it helps that it is one of the few travel experiences that lets me sit down and rest, but it is one of the best ways

of experiencing a new region. I may photograph more plates of food than local sites when traveling and relive my travels as much with memories of meals as with memories of excursions. Visiting wineries, participating in wine tastings, and experimenting with wine pairings has always been among our favorite activities. For all that–although admittedly falling short of foodie status–I certainly can be counted among those who enjoy good food and fine wines.

Imagine my horror when, in response to a malady, the doctor restricted my diet to all but the blandest of ingredients. Just say no to coffee, tea, acidic juices, and wine (or any other alcoholic beverage for that matter). Just say no to citrus or any other acidic fruits such as strawberries or pineapple. Just say no to tomatoes or any foods containing tomatoes including sauces, soups, and braises. Just say no to spicey foods. Just say no to fatty foods. Just say no, no, no.

There are pros and cons for the spouse. Although he can get the cheeseburger, pizza, burrito, spice-fest out of his system when he eats out at lunch, the dinners at home have held very little excitement. Rice or roasted potatoes, steamed vegetables, lean imagemeat, no dessert, wine in his glass, and water in mine. On the plus side, he can look at the wine cellar and say, “Mine, all mine!” He also has a sweet deal when it comes to a night out, a resident designated driver and lower restaurant tabs with only one person on the a bar bill.

If dinners for the spouse our dull, at least he is spared my very simple lean white meat
lunches and unflavored oatmeal breakfasts. Weekend breakfasts I avert my eyes so he does not feel my glare when he generously shakes Lousianna hot sauce on his eggs, peels off sections of tart juicy wedges from his tangerine, and enjoys slabs of butter on his toast. Eating has become something that is a necessity, not an enjoyment, like the routine of brushing teeth; necessary but not something to look forward to. That brings me to the kitchen. There is no inspiration to be found there. Meal planning is an absolute drudge. Grocery shopping has become a dull-eyed wander up and down the aisles with a nearly empty cart. Weeknight cooking has never been a high point, but to say the thrill is gone when I enter the kitchen every evening to prepare dinner is an understatement. Remembering Like Water for Chocolate, I can only think that my lack of inspiration and my malaise is as noticeable in the food itself as it is in my planning and preparing.

There has to be a silver lining, a plus side to all this. Well, clearly knocking out just about everything from my diet, including the empty caloried but oh so delicious wines, should be a boon for the waistline. But (wo)man does not live on bread alone, and watching a scale–although satisfying to watch numbers decline little by little–does not replace the loss of flavor and enjoyment of meals. So…perhaps I need to change my point of view. This could be my greatest kitchen challenge ever. Granted, I feel as limited as a chef-testant on Top Chef being told to create a masterpiece for a Vegan with celiac disease and a garlic allergy, but surely there is flavor to be found in the simplest of ingredients.image

Now is the time for those all those cookbooks to justify their added weight on the moving truck. And now it is time for me to crack them open, enthusiastic with the challenge and anxious for the inspiration. If I succeed, I’ll be back with a full belly and a mouthful of words. If I fail, my next kitchen posting may be when my health is restored and my whine is back in a glass where it belongs.

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