I am sitting in a vacation cottage in Maine, watching the late afternoon sun glint off the water, listening to the calling of the gulls.
It is lovely and peaceful. What a treat to let my mind wander at such moments, wherever it wants to go, contemplating the great and small questions of the universe: what's for dinner? And is it too soon to start cooking?
I have been thinking a lot about food lately -- well, mostly because I always think a lot about food. Also I am on vacation, and eating is one of my favorite recreational activities. And I am roughing it in this cabin here in Maine, without my usual pantry staples, and certainly without my usual complement of kitchen utensils. A whole week without a salad spinner -- imagine! I have to dry my lettuce in a colander, as my pioneer foremothers did in days of old.
More challenging, there is not a muffin pan to be found, despite the fact that around every bend in the road there is a roadside stand selling wild blueberries (magical for baking). Muffins are a critical part of my family's ecosystem. But pioneer mama that I am, I made do, commandeering the cottage's single baking vessel (a pie plate) and baking one single, giant muffin (with King Arthur's white whole wheat flour, because I brought a 5 lb bag with me, because there are some things which a girl simply cannot live without, even on vacation):
It was as awesome as it looks.
I have also been thinking about thinking about food a lot this week, because shortly before I left, NPR ran a story about fasting, and how it turns out that fasting may be the best think for your health since sliced bananas (or rather, since not eating sliced bananas). They interviewed a researcher named Mark Mattson from the National Institute on Aging who fasts for 18 hours a day. He says it focuses his mind and makes him more productive.
Sure, if I were to fast 18 hours every day, my mind would be focused, too: on my next meal, what it would be, and exactly how long it would be before I got to eat it. I organize my life in such a way that I spend as much time as possible eating. Yes, I know, I know; there are more important things in life than food. But are there really? We are members of the animal kingdom, after all. Nature tells us to feed ourselves and to procreate. There are good biological reasons why food and sex are pretty darned compelling.
My central strategy for spending as much time eating as possible is to eat lots and lots of vegetables.
I have a farm share as well as a (small) veggie garden, and I use up every bit of both. The thing is, a great big serving of my favorite kale salad has about the same number of calories as 2 1/2 ounces of steak. I'd gobble up the steak in a heartbeat. But kale, you have to chew (and chew, and chew). You're eating for a long, long time. It's a good thing.
Although I have to say, here in Maine, that lobster is pretty good, too.