Food Masochism in the Middle of the Hunger Challenge

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I watched Anthony Bourdain gobble his way through Madrid. Then I saw the finale of Top Chef. And to make matters worse, I posted a story and slideshow about the blowout food event I attended this month – my last hurrah before the Hunger Challenge started. It was an orgy of bacon, heirloom tomatoes and burrata cheese. Aaaargh!

Can you imagine what it must be like to be surrounded by amazing food all the time – at stores, in ads, people chowing down on the street – and know you can’t have it?

What’s more, I’ve flipped into nervous, food-hoarding mode. This always seems to be my state in the middle of this Food Challenge. I’m paranoid that I might not have enough food to last the week, even though, rationally, I know we’ll be OK. At lunch, for example, I ate one egg, a piece of celery and a piece of toast.

Can you find the scrambled egg on this plate? I was reminded that one scrambled egg is about enough to coat the pan, without leaving much left over to actually eat.
That’s BEFORE I took the egg out of the pan!

Dinner was better. I made a big pot of spaghetti sauce. One thing I haven’t mentioned yet: My hypothetical food bank allotment allowed me to buy more of the kinds of items I usually purchase. The canned diced tomatoes that went into this recipe were organic, as was the tomato paste. I bought chicken sausage that was much lower in fat than pork sausage. These are more expensive items that I never could have afforded without my “handout.” I was lucky to find whole grain pasta on sale for $1.20/lb, too – more filling and more healty. Why did I use sausage, rather than less pricey ground chicken? It comes complete with lots of seasonings, so I didn’t have to lay out extra cash for those.

Whole wheat pasta with Healthy Chunky Tomato Sauce – this, I can find!

Healthy Chunky Spaghetti Sauce

1 onion, diced (“free” from the food bank)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb spicy fresh chicken sausage (I use Trader Joe’s)
1 can tomato paste
2 28-oz cans diced tomatoes
3 tsp dried basil (or fresh if it’s in your budget)
Water (or wine or chicken broth if you’re not on the Hunger Challenge!)
Salt to taste

Remove sausage meat from casings and brown in a large pot, breaking it up into small pieces. When it starts to brown, add onions and garlic. Continue to sautee until onions soften and get translucent. Add tomatoes, paste and basil. Add a small amount of liquid to get the sauce consistency you prefer. Simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes. 4 servings (or 6 if you’re not feeding the Bottomless Pit!).

Speaking of the BP, he skipped lunch again today, but grazed willfully at an event he attended after work. “Mini-cheese sandwiches – with truffle oil!” he announced gleefully when I asked him if he’d been noshing. A glass or two of wine, too, no doubt.

Perfect capper to my food masochism day!

Gayle Keck
Lowell Thomas Award-winner Gayle Keck has sipped fermented mare’s milk in Kyrgyzstan, dug for truffles in Italy, crafted wine at Napa Valley’s “Crush Camp” and munched her way through every continent except Antarctica, which seems far too focused on frozen food.

She has written for Gourmet, National Geographic Traveler, Zagat San Francisco Bay Area Restaurants 2010, and is a frequent contributor to the Washington Post and other major newspapers.

Gayle has visited 49 US states (sorry, North Dakota) and more than 40 countries - though her favorite trip was a flight from Chicago to San Francisco, when she met her future husband on the airplane. She also blogs at Been There Ate That
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