Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Vegetables and I

When your doctor looks at you a bit crossly and waggles his pointed finger in your face, you sit up and pay attention!
by Charlie Leck

Upon doctor’s orders, I made a pretty significant change in my life about 6 months ago. I wondered if I could make the adjustment permanent, so I didn’t say much about it to anyone back then; however, now I feel confident that the alterations I’ve made in my eating habits are quite enduring, so I’ll tell you about what I’ve done.

Sugars and Glutens are out and fresh vegetables are in!
I’d become way too heavy and I faced the danger of becoming diabetic. The doctor laid it out for me with, as my old lady use to say, “no ifs, ands or buts about it!”

“Change is mandatory! Not suggested,” he said, “but compulsory!”

He sent me to training camp to learn about sugars and glutens and what they do to your system. Wow! I learned a lot.

Way back in 1957, while I was still in high school, Dr. William Coda Martin wrote about sugar as a poison; that is, a substance that “causes or may cause disease.” He was influential enough that it sent nutritionists scrambling for information. Dr. Martin had pointed out that refined sugar “has been depleted of its life forces, vitamins and minerals. What is left consists of pure, refined carbohydrates.” He went on with even more awful news.

Pyruvic acid accumulates in the brain and nervous system and the abnormal sugars in the red blood cells. These toxic metabolites interfere with the respiration of the cells. They cannot get sufficient oxygen to survive and function normally. In time, some of the cells die. This interferes with the function of a part of the body and is the beginning of degenerative disease."

There are plenty of contemporary nutritionists who agree with Dr. Martin and I have been around a number of them lately. It might not be poison to everyone’s system, but it certainly is to mine. And so are glutens, which these same nutritionists are now also calling a poison. Fran Leach, on, makes this bold statement: It's getting to the point where it almost seems that gluten is poison, not just for celiacs, but the whole human race.” Again, the nutritionists with whom I’ve been visiting lately agree.

So, I’m off desserts (unless it’s natural fruit) and I’m off bread and crackers unless they’re gluten-free – and then, honest to God, they oughtn’t really be called bread and crackers. Some gluten-free crackers are okay, but they are much more like eating chips. Gluten-free bread is an abomination. I haven’t found any good stuff yet.

What has saved me, and gives me confidence that I can stick to this regimen, is vegetables! Make that all caps: VEGETABLES.

Oh, my! I never thought I would say it. Vegetables are wonderful and what you can do with them if you just apply yourself.

How wonderful a breast of chicken can be if placed beside some dazzling and properly prepared vegetables.

Which brings me to what I want to write about today – James Peterson’s remarkable 1998 book, Vegetables (published by William Morrow & Company, New York). Over lunch with a friend a few weeks ago, I learned all about Peterson’s book. My friend raved about it so enthusiastically that I came home that afternoon and found a copy of it for sale (through for only a dollar. Right! A dollar! Getting it shipped to me was another $3.00. Still a bargain! And, it still had its original dust jacket and it was extremely clean (with only a previous owner’s name written in ink on the first inside page – that’s called the book’s “provenance”). That’s all great, but it’s what’s inside the book that makes it such a great buy. Peterson was trained in Paris and also taught at the French Culinary Institute in New York. He’s written a number of award-winning cookbooks.

This book, however, is the one that impresses me. I’ve tried a half dozen of the recipes already and they’ve all been marvelous – like the one for “Wilted Brussels Sprouts Salad with Prosciutto and Balsamic Vinegar.” All right! Oh, my! It’s one of the nicest little meals I’ve ever put in front of myself. And, it wasn’t complicated. [I can’t reprint it here for you because I haven’t been able to make the contacts to get permission, but if you email me, I’ll email it back to you personally ‘cause that’s allowed.]

One vegetable recipe after another is tantalizing. From this book, you’ll learn to put vegetables next to your entrĂ©es that will steal the show from your steaks, baked chicken or walnut crusted haddock. An entire chapter on roasted vegetables – including turnips, parsnips, onions, potatoes, celeriac, tomatoes and squash – is an absolute windfall of information about how to get tons of flavors out of vegetables.

I’m so excited about this wonderful book that my wife has signed us up for a weekly pick-up of fresh vegetables though one of those CSA farms (Community Supported Agriculture).

Peterson includes terribly interesting chapters in his book about Techniques for Cooking Vegetables and another about Soups: Nutritious Extracts of Seasonal Vegetables. In addition to recipes for vegetables as side-dishes, he also presents great ideas for starters and hors d’oevres along with various kinds of vegetable sauces.

If you like to cook, if you want to eat more vegetables and if you want to stay healthy, you just might want to track down a copy of this fantastic book. You’ll thank me just as I so enthusiastically thank the friend who put me on to it.


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