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!