Friday, January 21, 2011

Naked Without Salad (and Stonecrop)

I'm reading 3 books right now and I'm not terribly thrilled with any of them, so I'll turn my attentions elsewhere -- meaning to food.

My eating habits are really bad. How bad? About 8:30 in the evenings, I develop a nasty taste and a feeling that life is a little sad and ineffably difficult. I begin to wonder why I became an EFL teacher, and wonder just how it is a lesson plan is constructed. Then I look at my TBR and wonder if I'll ever complete another book ever again. I begin to puzzle about how people manage whole novels -- even short ones, like Newbery winners.

Then it hits me: Oh yeah! Sweet roll and coffee for breakfast, coffee for coffee break, coffee for lunch and another coffee for that 3-4 pm slump. Dinner? Forgotten. Upon remembering, I start out with a first course of a whole can of Pringles and a Coke and go from there to anything else readily available for consumption for the rest of the evening, pretty much in the same way the Big Bad Wolf went to each of the Three Little Pigs' houses.

In 2011, I decided that I would not leave myself to my own boneheaded devices. So far, so good. I haven't bought a can of Pringles or even eaten one in over a month. I banished Coke from the house but I'm allowed to drink it off the premises. Water and teas are my only beverages on hand at home. I'm also taking a new look at salad. The really green stuff. Life beyond Iceberg.

I went grocery shopping yesterday, making sure that I hadn't eaten yet so that the nutritious stuff would look yummy beyond compare. At E-Mart, the food section is on the first level of the store. Luckily, right off the "down" escalator is the produce section. In another bit of related luck, for the past year or so, the store brand has started putting the name of the food on the package in English in small letters below the Hangul.

I studied the packaged and (allegedly) pre-washed greens:

Chard. Very green. I've heard it's healthy, but the name always makes me laugh. It's like an alternative nickname if Richard doesn't like being called Rich or Ricky. I passed for safety's sake. What if I started laughing while I was eating?

Leaf lettuce. Very dark green, almost greenish black. Ew. The stems were kind of woody. Ew again. But the 2011 Pringle-shunning side of myself pitched it into the cart. There's vitamins in them there leaves and stems.

Chicory. Paler green, but still green enough and it was sort of pretty. All curly and feathery-looking. Cute name. I couldn't remember anything about it except that in Gone With The Wind, people used chicory root for coffee when they couldn't get the real stuff. Because it was pretty *and* made me think of GWTW, I grabbed a bag.

Endive. It looked fine. Very healthy and approachable, but the name annoyed me. I didn't know if it was pronounced "N-Dive" or "on-deev". How could I brag about my sudden good habits if I couldn't pronounce what I was putting in my mouth? I didn't buy it; but I had good intentions of consulting which pronounces the word as many times as you'd like. (I made a mental note to look and listen up "chard" while at that site.) After I'd scratched my linguistic itch, I'd pick endive up next time.

Stonecrop. This was really cute, like a plump and friendly little weed. I'd seen it somewhere before. Of course. At the Korean vegetarian restaurant down the road. I almost didn't recognize it because when I had it at the restaurant, it was smothered in red pepper paste. There was something familiar about it, I remembered thinking. I remembered liking the texture coupled with the spicy sauce. I liked the name. All good. I added it to the cart.

So much for the greens. I added some little pinkish-red radishes to my pile. They're very hard to find and terribly expensive. I don't even want to tell you what I spent on a total of five little radishes, but I will -- approximately $1.30 (USD). I didn't care; I'd been missing radishes like hell. They started me thinking about Gone With The Wind again, (Scarlett gets sick after she eats a radish on an empty stomach) but I shook it off and went for a couple of carrots and cucumbers, a bag of cherry tomatoes and some button mushrooms to round out my salad.

Back at the apartment, I grabbed my biggest bowl and started washing, slicing, chopping and cutting. I'd almost forgotten how it was fun, in a sort of Zen way, to mess around with preparing food. I doused my salad with a few squirts of Wishbone Italian salad dressing, which assured me brightly on its back label that not only would it make my salad taste delicious, it would actually assist in helping me absorb more of the nutrients in the salad. Whatever. It had me at taste. I tossed the ingredients around for a couple of minutes then shoved the bowl in the refrigerator and pulled it out again 2 hours later for dinner.

Result: Nice. Maybe there was something to healthy eating after all. The only thing I didn't really care for was the greenish-black leaf lettuce. Bitter stuff. If I were one of those people who have that extra taste bud that makes ordinary vegetables taste soapy, this would have been intolerable. What I think I'll do with the remainder of the leaves is drown them in red pepper paste and sprinkle the mixture with some toasted sesame seeds.

I was enchanted with the interesting texture the stonecrop gave to the salad. At first bite, it seemed like it would be bitter, but then it turned some kind of gustatory corner and came across as slightly sour and peppery, not at all unpleasant. I tried a sprig of it entirely devoid of salad dressing to verify this.

What other ways were there of preparing it? Googling, I found out that stonecrop is also known as sedum, and that it's usually used as ground cover. So that's where else I'd seen it! Recipes? I didn't find any, and I even visited those vegan VEGAN sites. The ones where the participants might beat the crap out of you if they saw you even glancing at an egg or a sliver of cheese.
One of the many gardening sites said that gardeners didn't particularly have to worry about animals or children eating the attractive ground cover -- it wasn't poisonous and it didn't taste too great, either. Finally, Sturtevant's Notes on Edible Plants (1919) -- courtesy of the Oregon State Food Resource page -- tersely allowed that "sedum" is a plant of Europe and North Asia (hey!) and "the leaves serve as a salad". (hey again!)

Naturally, I feel very smarty and pleased with myself and very cutting-edge. I have brief fantasies about M.F.K. Fisher and Julia Child asking/begging me to share my ideas with them and hazy, pleasant daydreams about the Food Network. Even though I know I'm in no way a vegetable vanguard, I'm going to have so much fun doing different things to stonecrop. Stay tuned.


Heather said...

Never heard of 'stonecrop' but sedum yes. Good going on the salad. I was reading in Jamie Oliver and he proposes a chopped salad. New to me, so I tried it. You just chop everything on the cutting boards, starting with the toughest items and working toward the tenderest. You need a large board since you leave everything on it and keep chopping and adding more items. My family rather liked it.

Care said...

I'm laughing. Still laughing. AND wishing you continued success with your new and healthy eating habits.

A Library Girl said...

I've never heard of stonecrop, or sedum, either. I'm terrible about getting greens in my diet, but I am trying to get more vegetables, period, in my diet. Something other than, say, potatoes. I'm currently venturing into the world of beets. My mom never made me eat them as a kid (her force-it-upon-the-children vegetable of choice was cooked spinach, which I am unable to ea to this day), and I had avoided them as an adult because I'd heard bad things about them. Turns out I actually like them - so far I've only tried them steamed. I just don't like their habit of staining everything. The one green vegetable I eat even somewhat regularly is broccoli, usually cooked to death. Good luck sticking with your plan to eat better!

Sam said...

Don't feel too bad...if I could only drink Diet Coke away from home, I could never go home. Simple as that. I am totally addicted despite often wondering what I'm doing to my insides by drinking it so steadily.

Bybee said...

I like Jamie Oliver. I'll try the chopped salad.

I'd trade it all for a catfish dinner from you-know-where.

Library Girl,
I like beets, but don't see them here.

I hate Diet Coke. I drink the orignial one when I'm out. Someone told me that Coke is great for cleaning toilets, like if you've got deposits built up. I want to try that, but can't bring myself to pour a nice fizzy bottle straight down the stool.

Susan said...

I'm with Care, I'm laughing!! going from that terrible other diet to exploring the green aisle at the grocery store! and so proud and happy for you, like we are related or something, but I need you to keep finding strange books I've never heard of AND you are my book-twin so.....radicchio is kind of sweet and reddish looking and lovely in a salad. I'd throw one in your cart if I were there with you!

Carrie#K said...

Chard is really good in soup w/pearl barley and kielbasa. Do you have kielbasa in those parts?

Stonecrop sounds lovely & romantic. I'm sure EW dined on it nightly.