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Monday, May 12, 2008

Do not read this while eating. Seriously. Maybe don't read it at all, you delicate flower!

I can't remember the exact moment I knew I needed to be more careful about reading food labels. It may very well have been the time I saw this on the label of some potato chips with fake fat:

"Warning: May cause anal leakage"

That's pretty serious. Cramping or bloating, I wouldn't enjoy, but they wouldn't destroy my social life. Anal leakage? Leakage? As in uncontrolled? That reminds me of the time I was pregnant with my first child and unfamiliar with the immediacy of pregnancy-induced vomiting. I worked in a hospital where, one morning after quickly downing a banana to treat pregnancy-induced constant starvation, I got onto an elevator. At the next floor, a hospital worker got on with a rolling rack of about thirty trays of hospital food. Hot, smelly hospital food. I thought to myself, with no particular urgency,

"Hmm...I might just have to vomit. Maybe pretty soon."

Before I had time to blink, I could feel the banana trying to escape the churning depths. The food trays just barely made it off the elevator before I spewed banana all over the elevator panel. In my defense, I had turned toward it and was about to start desperately mashing the "Door Closed" button so I could get to my floor faster. I haven't thrown up anywhere other than into a toilet since I was a child (sorry about that one time in the back of the cab when I was two, Mom!) I stumbled out of the elevator, thinking it was over, but the Hardee's biscuit that had been cushioning the banana wanted out too. I reeled down the hallway towards the bathroom, holding my hand over my mouth, as vomit seeped out around it. How gross is the word "seeped"? My stomach turned just writing it.

Anyhow, that was bad enough. But out the other end? With no warning? Just not worth it. In fact, the details don't really matter, because I don't want to eat any food that has the a-word anywhere on the package, in any context. And package is a key word, because the more I stay away from food in packages, the better I feel.

If I do eat a food that comes in a package (and we all do, sooner or later, unless we're super mommies, which you may have noticed, I am NOT), I at least make sure I recognize all the listed ingredients. Things found in nature are good. Things created in labs are not. They may cause anal leakage.

I think we've lost all common sense in terms of food. It's just not that complicated to eat healthy. When I was little, my parents didn't read about nutrition and obsessively count fat, protein and carbohydrate grams. They just fed us, you know, food. Maybe it had a little too much salt, maybe it was a bit overcooked (sorry, Mom, you know I love you!), but it sure didn't have plastic in it and it didn't cause anal leakage.

Speaking of recipes from my childhood, my easily-confused-by-those-wacky-Americans French mother-in-law recently referred to something as "Southern Dish." We thought she was talking about grits, until we saw it. The mysterious Southern Dish is just Squash Casserole. I hated Squash Casserole when I was a child and continued to hate it as a grownup, in spite of my mother's insistence, every damn time she served it, that she "made it different this time! You'll like it! I promise!" I did not like it, ever. Until recently. My mother finally discovered the secret, totally by accident.

Southern Dish

In a pot, boil as much sliced yellow squash as you want. 8-10 squash should be enough to fill a casserole dish. Add a chicken bouillon cube to the water and a tablespoon of chopped onion. Yes, I know those cubes come in a package. Just make sure you get the kind that doesn't have any weird stuff in it. I use a powder, made by Frontier. It has the advantage of being vegetarian, to suit my freaky vegetarian kids. I'm not sure if the chopped onion is strictly necessary. Mom only mentioned it after I told her this recipe was going on the blog. From her suddenly breezy tone of voice, I suspected she was just trying to sound fancy.

Drain the squash and dump it into a casserole dish. In a mini food processor or blender, process (or blend!) a cup of cottage cheese until it's completely smooth. This is the secret! Mom had to use it one time when she was out of sour cream, which is a typical ingredient of Southern Dish. For the first time ever, we all ate and liked the hated Squash Casserole, so it's been cottage cheese ever since. Beat an egg into the cottage cheese and add a little salt and pepper. Mix that into the squash (and onions, Miss Fancy Pants!) Mom sometimes adds grated carrot or bell pepper, for color. There are, in fact, health benefits of adding vegetables as color to your meals, so hooray for that.

To the top of your squash, egg, and cottage cheese mix, add the following:

1/2 cup bread crumbs (or cracker crumbs if you're out of bread).

1/2 cup grated cheese. Mom said to use "sharp." One may assume she means cheddar.

Dot the top with butter.

Cook it at 350° for about thirty minutes. Mom added, in her breezy voice again, that that's an estimate and "I'm pretty loose about these things!" I say cook it until it's a little brown on top, probably about thirty minutes. Southern Dish, incidentally, can be made with other vegetables, like green beans, overcooked asparagus, zucchini or (blech) canned peas.

Namasté, y'all!

P.S. Please read this amendment to Southern Dish.

1 comment:

Roger Hutchison said...

Dear Lord you make me laugh.