{Guest Post} Food, Glorious Food!

by Leighann on March 26, 2010

I’ve already introduced you to Steve and Franca. Though I first met Steve through his blog Without Envy, I was immediately drawn to his wife Franca for her passion for food. Their family and ours seem very similar in many of our beliefs about food. Though, I will say that while I have intention, Franca actually has follow through!

Food, whether we like it or not, becomes such a focus when one of the family members has diabetes. I have found that I have made some concessions (e.g., artificial sweeteners), but my beliefs that the least processed foods are better remains. I sometimes find the tedium of counting, weighing, and measuring gets in the way of my enjoyment of cooking. But when the meal on the table is home-cooked, I feel I am giving my family more than just food.

When you read the following guest post written by Franca, I know you will appreciate her as I have come to.

Food, Glorious Food!

Written by Franca of Without Envy

Food has always played an important role in my life. I have always had an affinity for food and have been cooking for myself and for my family since I was very young. Some of my earliest memories involve food — real food. My grandmother always insisted we had fruit after our meals, these were our desserts. On Sundays, we ate a meal in the early afternoon that lasted into the evening where my extended family gathered and shared food together — great food and great company. Our lives were much simpler in the late sixties and seventies.

Recently I saw the movie Julie & Julia. In it, there’s a scene where Julia Child tastes a delicious French dish and is moved to tears because it is so good. Every meal should elicit this kind of reaction. What gave Julia Child such appreciation for cooking was her appreciation for eating and eating well. Like Julia Child, I love to eat — not in quantity, but in quality.

At home we take food seriously. It is our biggest expense in a month. We believe that eating what tastes good and what is good for us will keep us healthy. It sounds simple. It is not.

Steve has mentioned a few times in his writing that the food we eat has not changed because of Lia’s diabetes. It hasn’t and I see no reason why it should. I’ve always tried to make as much as possible from scratch. I haven’t bought a loaf of bread in over twelve years. I don’t like packaged foods. They’re usually loaded with sodium and chemicals that cannot be pronounced, and I try to avoid them — though sometimes to appease the kids, I buy them the occasional Pop-Tart or some other “treat.” But it is a rare occasion. We support locally grown food which has a low impact on the environment.

The staples in my kitchen include unbleached bread flour, wheat flour, olive oil, honey, rapadura, raisins, nuts (almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts) herbs, spices, and the freshest produce we can buy. I love asparagus, tomatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, kale, collards, spinach, green beans, beets, peas, lima beans, black-eyed peas, northern beans, kidney beans, black beans—almost everything. Steve loves all those things, except beets and mushrooms. He loves corn; I do not.

The cookbook I’ve had the longest is the Betty Crocker Cookbook. It has great pictures and it helps the novice cook learn the basics. I’ve had it since I graduated from college. I use it for reference when I forget how many cups of flour I need for pancakes. I’ve also had Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking since high school, but had lost this in between my moves with the US Army. Thankfully, I have replaced this masterpiece. Lately though, we use Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, and various websites such as www.epicurious.com, and www.allrecipes.com.

Over the years, I’ve experimented a great deal with food. I pair things I think go well together, add and subtract from published recipes, substitute and improvise when I am missing an ingredient or two. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. One of my recipes once won $50 in the Better Homes and Gardens Prize Tested Recipes Contest. But, the real test of an original recipe, or really any recipe, is whether Steve likes it. Sometimes I ask him, “Do you like it?” He never says no. I get a more honest response if I ask, “Would you want me to make this again?” I don’t ask my children. Their answer is always the same: yuck! Well, that isn’t really accurate. Lia is our best eater and willing to try almost anything. John, too.

Since Lia’s diagnosis, we’ve not changed her snacks too much. She eats the same things she ate before:  cheese, grapes, bananas, apples, pepper strips, wheat crackers, carrots sticks, Cheez-Its and Goldfish. To that repertoire we’ve added beef jerky, Bunny Grahams, and snap pea crisps. We are very careful not to buy snacks that contain high fructose corn syrup — not even for the occasional treat. Since diagnosis, about the only thing she misses is the hot chocolate we used to fix whenever we felt a chill in the air. But because the carbohydrate count requires a bolus, she requests it only from time to time.

There is no better smell than that of bread baking in the oven, or a fresh pot of Bolognese sauce cooking on the stove top. Each time I make something I savor everything about it, the smell, the texture, the preparation. Food is to me more than just a means of nutrition, a vessel for energy, growth and temporary satiation — though sometimes a busy workweek dictates that it is just that, a meal — but food and the companionship of others that eating good food generates is what turns a meal into a feast.

My feelings about food are ineffable. All I want to do is dance and sing about it just like in Oliver! “Just picture a great big steak. Fried, roasted or stewed. Oh, food, wonderful food, marvelous food, glorious food!” But if I did, I would probably embarrass my children!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jenny March 26, 2010 at 9:52 am

Franca, I must say that I envy you and your abilities…and have used the excuse “I’m too busy to do everything you do in the kitchen.” Then, I realize, you’re quite busy too. Maybe today, I’ll make bread. I’ll need to call you for the recipe tho. 🙂


2 Tracy Shannon March 26, 2010 at 12:23 pm

wow!this is what I inspire to become! thanks


3 Jessica March 26, 2010 at 6:02 pm

You had me at bolognese…. 🙂 Mmm. I love cooking, and whole foods, but am just now even attempting to try recipes again (6 months after D). Somehow, counting carbs in the things I would normally just toss in kind of kills the experience for me. We have stayed pretty true to our old ways, like avoiding unnatural stuff like HFCS and artificial dyes- but with Liam and my 8 month old, and my husband traveling every week for work… sometimes the allure of a Nutrition Information panel is more than I can walk away from. Sometimes I can’t handle algebra and cooking dinner and two kids at once. 🙂


4 mindi August 31, 2011 at 11:51 am

i’d love to hear about any tips of how to measure homemade bread. I stopped even considering making homemade rolls/bread since my son was diagnosed over a year ago… and I LOVE homemade breads. It’s just too hard to know … before diabetes, I rarely ate anything packaged. Now it seems the only thing I will consider feeding him has to have a label. I hate it. But it’s the only thing I know.

Please email me any guidance you may have about measuring homemade meals. Thank you SO much!!



5 Leighann August 31, 2011 at 12:38 pm


When I make homemade anything, I count up the total carbs for the entire recipe for all of the ingredients and then divide that by the number of servings.

A helpful way to do this is to weigh the final product. So let’s say that a recipe weighs a total of 568 grams wt and the total carbs for the entire recipe is 122.

If there are 6 servings, then each serving would weigh 95 grams and would have 20 carbs.

Another way to calculate is to use carb factors. Yes this requires math, but once you figure it out for a recipe (and remember to make a note on the recipe) you never have to figure it out again!

When figuring out carb factors, I use a 100 gram weight portion and then slide the decimal point over to get the number of carbs per gram weight. It is a bit more accurate this way. (Joanne of Death of a Pancreas gave me that tip.)

(weight of the entire recipe)(x) = (100 gram weight serving)(total number of carbs for the recipe)

(568)(x) = (100)(122)
x = 21.47
So a 100 gram weight portion is 21.47 carbs.

Sliding the decimal point over, each gram of weight has 0.2147 carbs.

Using this carb factor, you will see that if you have a serving that weighs 95 grams and you multiply that by the carb factor of 0.2147, it has 20 carbs.

Using the carb factor, you don’t have to have equal portions. If you have a serving that weighs, say, 75 grams, then it will have (75)(0.2147) or 16 carbs.

Sometimes I’m not thinking clearly and I do the math wrong, so I normally do it twice. If it seems weird, double check!

Hope this helps and I didn’t just make it more complicated for you.


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