Live To Eat

Live to Eat.

As a kid, I was chubby, uhh…portly…aaagghh…who am I kidding??  I was FAT!   F-A-T.  FAT!    Even as a toddler, I LOVED food.  I easily mastered adult servings of mother’s eggplant parmesan, my grandmother’s southern fried chicken and little potatoes, my aunt’s fried calamari.  You get the idea.  “You live to EAT”, my mother would scold me, “You need to eat to LIVE!”  Live to eat?  Mom, you make it sound like a bad thing!   She was right though.  Tipping the scales at 252 pounds (115 kg) at the age of 14 and doubly blessed with an unfortunate last name, I was teased and ridiculed.  Consequently, I went through my youth with a love/ hate relationship with food.

How could I not?  For me, growing up in an Italian immigrant family, food meant good times.  Food meant tradition and most of all, Food meant family. For ours and most Italian families, our culture revolved around the kitchen.  One of my very first memories was of me at the age of 3 making sausage with my grandfather.  The whole family got involved, grinding meat, mixing in the herbs, taste testing.  It was my job to poke little holes in the fresh raw coils with a safety pin. This keeps it from exploding in the pan while cooking.  It was very important work for a little one like me.  Food and Family.  No better combination. 

As a teen, I learned that doing insane amounts of sport would balance my love of good food. To release the frustration of the constant barrage of teasing, I became an avid runner and rollerblader.  At first running only late at night so others wouldn’t see me.  At the prodding of a friend, I also took up tae kwon do.  The weight flew off and I walked into my senior year of high school 100 pounds lighter.   100 pounds in 9 months!   What I wouldn’t give to have that metabolism today!  The best part of it was, for the very first time in my young life, I felt I was in control.  

How is that?  How can food be so controlling?  How can it can give you control and just as easily make you lose it. Think about it. How many times do I wake up in the morning psyched to start another day of deprivation?  The day’s menu mentally planned out; coffee and that healthy cereal for breakfast, a fruit for snack, Small salad with light dressing for lunch and steamed fish and vegetables for dinner.   Yes, Sir!  I’m going to do it this time!  I make it through breakfast all proud and confident.  With my carefully packed lunch in one hand and my laptop in the other, I head for the office.  Tick, tick, tick, tick, 10:00:  Fruit break.  Right on schedule.  Meanwhile, a colleague arrives with a chocolate tart with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.  It’s her birthday.  Immediately panic sets in. DANGER IMMINENT, DANGER, DANGER. Tightly clutching my bag of emergency carrots, I politely decline the festivities.  Yeah, I’m in control of this.  Tick, tick, tick, 11:30. Too early for lunch. Ok, maybe just a nibble.  11:45 lunch devoured.  Take a walk at lunch? Nah, got too much work to do.  Tick, tick, tick. 2:00.  Fruit gone.  Lunch gone. Emergency carrots gone.

I’m left without a net.  It doesn’t notice me, but I know it’s there.   That tart!  A good sized piece is left over, lounging there promiscuously. White clouds of sweet cream sensuously sliding  to the plate beneath. That TART!  Must resist. Can’t resist. Must….alright.  I’ve been really good today.  Just one small piece.  Carefully, I plot the course of the knife to get the maximum amount of cream and chocolate in the smallest amount of space. Bits of cream and chocolate cling  to the knife as I slice with the precision of a surgeon.  My head swirls with heady anticipation.  “This is going to be gooood.”  I say to myself.  As I replace the knife, the first forkful is on its way to my mouth. “Sweet Heaven “ as my eyes roll  back. By the time I get to my cubicle,  it’s gone.  I scrape away the last bits of chocolate and crust and toss the plate in the trash bin.  I plop down on my seat.  A content ‘yeeaaahhh’ rolls through my head.  Still savoring the lingering sweetness,  I remember the plan for the day. 

Euphoria leaches out to shock and then guilt.  Failure!  Again!  I feel  as if  that very knife that I used to cut the tart with is being rammed through my heart.  “How can I be so weak?”, I plead with myself.  Fifteen minutes of mental self flagellation gives way acceptance.  Well, the damage is already done.  Tomorrow’s another day.  Might as well have another piece. 

 The below recipe is a great way to blow your diet.  My sister and I thought of it when we were in high school.

Chocolate Cream Pie with Chocolate Chip cookie crust.

For Crust:

1 roll of pre-made chocolate chip cookie dough. –or- ½ batch home made.

½ cup flour

For chocolate cream

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

4 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)

1 1/3 cups whole milk

1 large egg yolk

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

 Cream Topping

2 Cups chilled whipped cream

½ Cup sugar

Top with:  Chocolate shavings or toasted almond slivers


For Crust:

Heat oven to 350 F.  Knead prepared chocolate chip cookie dough with the flour on a lightly floured surface.  The dough should be no longer sticky.  Roll it in a ball and then flatten out to ¼ inch thick or as thin as you can considering the chocolate chips. (as if you were making pie crust.).  Slide the crust into a pie pan and crimp ends.  Check the crust at about 5 minutes baking time.  If the crust slid down the pan, remove from the oven and carefully slide it back into place.  If it puffs, carefully tamp it down.  Bake for 13-15 minutes until golden brown.  Cool completely.

For chocolate cream:

In a heavy saucepan whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and a pinch salt. Chop chocolate and add to sugar mixture. In a bowl whisk together milk and egg yolk and gradually whisk into chocolate mixture. Bring mixture just to a boil over moderate heat, whisking constantly, and boil 1 minute, whisking. Remove pan from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla.

Pour into the pie crust.  Cool completely in refrigerator.

Just before serving:  Whip the cream with sugar until stiff peaks form.  Pile decoratively on top of chilled pie.  Top with chocolate shavings or toasted almond slivers.    Accept rave reviews.

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