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Changing tastes - the funcrunch files


Jan. 25th, 2013 11:14 am Changing tastes

While making my current favorite* breakfast, banana-date-nut oatmeal, this morning, I was marveling at how much my tastes in food have changed over the years.


I don't remember what all of my favorite foods were as a child, but I do remember liking sugary cold cereals for breakfast. Nowadays if I eat cold cereal at all, it's as a snack (and normally with almond milk).

I was raised on the Standard American Diet, though in the 1970s that was probably somewhat healthier than now. My Dad did a good amount of cooking in our household; I don't remember going out for pizza until high school because he always made it himself. I remember helping to brown the sausage crumbles for the top, then pouring the hot fat into a coffee can. I always thought that congealed fat was pretty gross, but I definitely enjoyed the pizza.

By high school when I could spend more of my own money, I was eating a fair amount of fast food. A Rax BBC (Beef Bacon Cheddar) with a strawberry shake was one of my favorite meals. Chicken nuggets at KFC, with a biscuit and an orange soda, was another frequent meal. Considering how much TV I watched and little formal exercise I got then (basically none outside of gym class and summer camp), I'm surprised I didn't gain a huge amount of weight.

In college there was a 24-Hour Burger King across the street from campus (Northwestern U). The idea that I could go out at 1 a.m. and get a bacon double cheeseburger, with no one to stop me, was highly appealing. I did so, and between that and very frequent ingestion of the famous local stuffed pizza, started packing on the pounds. (I was still getting no exercise, other than violently shivering while walking around campus during Chicago winters).

It bothers me thinking back to how much bacon I ate then, without thinking at all about where it came from. It seems that bacon is in my face constantly now with its resurgence of popularity (bacon chocolate bars, bacon donuts, bacon Torani syrup, etc.) I don't talk about this a lot because I don't want to be seen as a militant vegan, but pigs are such friendly, intelligent animals that the thought of them being slaughtered in large numbers just so people can enjoy the taste of their flesh really disturbs me. I read a story about a pig farmer that I found so moving I gave away copies of the book it was in (The Food Revolution) at our all-vegan wedding reception.

At the start of 1992 I went vegetarian. I still ate stuffed pizza, with spinach and cheese instead of meat. I dabbled in veganism when I moved to California later that year, but lost a lot of weight due to an unrelated illness, dropped out of grad school, and started eating dairy and eggs again in a misguided attempt to heal. I gained weight but did not recover from the illness for over a year.

As of 1999 I was still enjoying my spinach-and-cheese stuffed pizza, as indicated in my list of faves courtesy of the Wayback Machine**, which also included Coke and Ben and Jerry's Vanilla Heath Toffee Crunch ice cream. I was wavering back and forth between vegan and vegetarian, but eating quite a bit of fat if I recall; coming home from my 90 minute commute I would immediately stuff my face with handfuls of honey roasted peanuts. At least by then I was finally exercising; the following year I would run my first half-marathon, before a divorce and a move sidelined my healthy lifestyle and my weight spiraled out of control.

Moving in with boyziggy in Berkeley in 2002, we ate huge amounts of stuffed pizza, soda (Diet Coke for him at the time, regular for me), candy and other junk food. I also ate lots of bean burritos with cheese. Watched lots of TV and got no exercise. Reached my highest adult weight, 173 pounds.

Moved to San Francisco in 2003. Slowly resumed exercise - just walking up the hills was challenging for awhile - and began doing more cooking. Over time, evolved to eating more greens, fresh fruits, and whole grains and less fat and sugar, and my taste buds adapted to the change. I'd eaten this way on and off before, knowing it was healthy for me, but had usually backslid into a diet consisting largely of cheese, refined flour, and sugar. Exercising helped, as it made me want to eat better.

In 2011 I gave up the dairy and eggs for good. By now I was eating lowfat vegan consistently, and with regular exercise, by the end of 2012 reached my current weight of 115 pounds. I would and still do occasionally indulge in high-fat vegan treats, but they've become less appealing to me. I'm much more sensitive to my appetite and body's needs, and avoid overeating because I don't like the feeling of being stuffed. I realized that only eating when I'm hungry is one of the major keys to maintaining a healthy weight.

Now my favorite breakfast food is oatmeal cooked with fruit and soymilk. I eat greens all the time - not just spinach, but kale and chard also. One of my favorite dishes features greens, sweet potatoes, and lentils. I still like my burritos, but don't miss the cheese. I rarely drink soda, preferring either plain water, tea, or occasionally seltzer mixed with fruit juice and a bit of sugar (I don't avoid sugar, I just eat less of it). And boyziggy makes such a great vegan pizza, we hardly get takeout anymore. I've lost my taste for cheese so much that most nondairy cheeses taste pretty gross to me now. I still eat chocolate too, but mostly homemade desserts and hot cocoa made with Wonderslim cocoa powder, which is virtually fat-free (this is my only special purpose "diet" food because I love chocolate so much).


I'm happy that I've finally reached a very solid place with my eating, where I feel my diet is not only tasty but also health-supporting, sustainable and satisfying.

* Technically, my very favorite breakfast is Champurrado (made with soy milk), but I only have that on very special occasions like my birthday.

** It's pretty funny to see my 1997-era home page complete with HTML 3.2 verification, Built with BBEdit badge (still valid!) and Geek Code block. I actually put up my first web site in 1994, but that was pre-Internet Archive.

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Comments:

From:inflectionpoint
Date:January 25th, 2013 10:30 pm (UTC)
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Wow! Champurado sounds amazing!
From:funcrunch
Date:January 25th, 2013 10:34 pm (UTC)
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It is! boyziggy always makes it for me on my birthday for breakfast, but he'll be out of town this year :-( I'm trying to decide if I should make it myself the night before as I'm running a half-marathon that morning. Might not be the best choice for a pre-race breakfast, but I could have it later that day...
From:savorie
Date:January 27th, 2013 04:58 pm (UTC)
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I've a vegetarian friend in Orlando who is trying to go vegan, but is currently obsessed with how she's going to replace cheese, and is constantly doing research on the available substitutes (some of which are harder to get than others). She's finding real cheese painfully hard to give up. Wondering if you went through a similar process, and whether you bother much to try to "replace" cheese today, or if you just shifted focus.
From:funcrunch
Date:January 27th, 2013 05:23 pm (UTC)
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I found it's really better just to give it up than to try to find replacements. There are few truly vegan cheeses that melt; many nondairy cheeses contain casein, a milk protein. The only thing we still make that resembles cheese is Parmazano, a blend of nutritional yeast, blanched almonds, and salt.