Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Answers for Diana

Since she asked me three questions and says she wouldn't mind an entire post dedicated to the answers, I am doing that here. I am nothing if not a servant to my readers.

1) Have you seen movies like Supersize Me and Food Inc.? What do you think about them?

I have not seen Food Inc., in large part because I have seen Supersize Me. While it is a somewhat entertaining movie, overall I did not like it and don't see the point. The filmmaker, Morgan Spurlock, eats McDonald's three times a day for a month - who the hell does that? And who says that's a good idea? What exactly is the point? If he had eaten McDonald's once a day for a month, say for lunch, and then charted the results, I would have been much more interested. The results would not have been as dramatic (although I question whether the results in the film are true; if you put a gun to my head and forced me to guess I would say that they are not and, like his behavior in the film, are exaggerated for the sake of entertainment) but they would have been relevant. Because some people might actually eat at McDonald's every day.

But nobody eats every meal of every day at McDonald's, and, furthermore, Spurlock not only does this, but he intentionally overeats. He eats more than 5,000 calories per day. And he does not exercise one bit! News flash: if you consume more calories than you burn, you are going to gain weight. He could have eaten broccoli for every meal, and if he had consumed 5,000 calories of broccoli instead of McDonald's (admittedly, that would have been a LOT of broccoli,) he would have gained weight.

The documentary was well made and funny, and it does illustrate a valid point: that eating 5,000 calories a day of sugar and fat-filled food is bad for you. I think even a four year old would know this, but it's still true. But I just don't understand the reason behind the documentary, because I'm not sure that anyone would ever do something like that, and certainly nobody would claim that it is responsible. Spurlock is being intentionally irresponsible and then complaining about the results.

A few years ago, for my mom's birthday (it was a big one but I won't say which) I went down to Newport Beach with my family and had lunch at the Crab Cooker. It just so happened that my brother had an acquaintance who had a film entered into the Newport Beach Film Festival that day, so we all went and saw it.

It was a documentary called Downsize Me about a man who saw Supersize Me and had the same reaction to it that I did, so he decided to do the same thing as Spurlock, but instead of sitting around doing nothing every day, he continues with his lifestyle, which includes working out rigorously. Well, at the end of the month, he had lost eight pounds, his HDL (good cholesterol) went up and his LDL (bad cholesterol) went down.

Now, is this any more of a revelation than Supersize Me, i.e. that if you eat McDonald's every day and exercise it is healthier than eating McDonald's every day and not exercising? No, of course not. But it points out that maybe McDonald's isn't the big problem. Maybe our sedentary lifestyles contribute even more to what a country of fat people we have become. (Of course, if that's true then we have ourselves mostly to blame. It's much easier to blame a $30 billion corporation, I suppose.)

When I was 15 I lifted weights after school for a half hour every day and then had two hours of basketball practice. Pretty much every night I went by Jack in the Box and had a crispy chicken sandwich, french fries, fried raviolis and a Coke. And I was in the best shape of my life. I was 6'2" and weighed 155 pounds. My body fat was under 10% and I could dunk a basketball, two things that probably will not be occurring ever again in my life.

2) Have you ever had a burrito from Chipotle?

Yes, I have had Chipotle a few times. I always seem to be in the minority, but I do not like it at all. I have had tacos, burritos, and a salad, and every time I have found the food to be incredibly bland. But, like I said, a lot of my friends really like it, so maybe there is just something about it that I don't get.

3) What percentage of your eating is done from the grocery store/restaurants? Like maybe 35% restaurant, 65% grocery store?

I get asked this one a lot. No, I do not eat at restaurants 35% of the time. Not even half that. It may seem from my blog that I am always eating out, but I eat about 20 meals per week (lunch and dinner every day and then sometimes breakfast or a snack.) And I only post about three restaurants per week. So that's about 15%. I would say somewhere between 15 and 20% of my meals are from restaurants.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Child's Christmas in Pasadena

Ok, I'm not really a child anymore, but it gives me a chance to borrow the title of one of my favorite pieces of writing: Dylan Thomas's A Child's Christmas in Wales. Two years ago, for Christmas, Elizabeth gave me a first edition copy of it, which I keep on a shelf in our living room and read every Christmas Eve.

On December 23rd., I went to dinner at Gale's with Elizabeth, my parents, and my brother. My parents gave us a set of olive oils and vinegars from Beyond the Olive.

On the morning of Christmas Eve I dropped Elizabeth off at the airport and went over to my parents' house. There wasn't anything for breakfast, so I reheated my leftover pizza from Gale's: prosciutto and arugula. The night before, both my dad and I had ordered pizza, and we both agreed the dough wasn't cooked long enough. But after reheating it in the oven, it was perfect.

After watching one of the worst movies I have ever seen (Angels & Demons; Ron Howard should get a special prize for somehow managing to make a movie even worse than The Da Vinci Code)- I headed over to Old Pasadena to hang out with some friends on Christmas Eve. We started out at 72 North. I got a snack of potato skins and my friend Carla got a chicken quesadilla. The skins were pretty dried out, although the honey mustard was great. The quesadilla was good but nothing special.
Eventually my friends Dave and Min, who had to cancel their trip to the east coast at the last minute, came by. They got an order of sliders and a large pizza with red onion, garlic, and jalapeno. I have had the sliders before and did not think they were very good, but these are a new and much improved version. The buns were fresh and the beef actually tasted like beef. The pizza was, unbelievably, the best pizza I have had in a long time. I never would have expected a bar - in Old Town, no less - to have such great pizza. Min proclaimed it the best she's ever had. Dave and I weren't ready to go that far, but we did agree it was the closest to authentic New York style pizza that we have had in a long time.

On Christmas morning I went back over to my parents' house and discovered they had had Panda Inn the night before. (We don't have the traditional Christmas celebrations in my family, if you hadn't already guessed.) I had a couple bites of leftover shrimp and vegetables before I started making breakfast for everyone.

For Mother's Day, my brother and I got my mom a frittata pan at Williams Sonoma. So that's what I made for everyone for breakfast. I beat some eggs with plenty of cheddar cheese, jarlsberg cheese, green onions and ham, then cooked it in the pan.

My mom added avocado, salsa and mushrooms to her piece of frittata. It looked like one of the worst things I have ever seen, but she told me I had to take a picture of it because "other people will love it." So I did. My piece was much more to my liking: hot sauce and Humboldt Fog. I am not a big fan of breakfast, but I loved this. I would gladly eat this every day if it didn't take so much effort to make.

For lunch we made shabu-shabu. I'm not sure who came up with this idea, but it was a good one. We boiled broth and added vegetables and cooked thinly sliced ribeye steak in it. My mom made a dish of sliced cucumbers in vinegar that was probably the only cucumber dish I have ever liked.
So those were my Christmas eats. Looking back, it's kind of a strange selection. But, whatever. I had a great Christmas, and I hope you did, too.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas To All

I will be back on the blog in the next week or so. I hope you all have a great Holiday! 
                                                                                                    - Justin

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Yang Chow

Did you ever have one of those mornings that seemed to consist of a long series of annoyances, and then at a certain point you thought of something that would make you happy and that's all you could think about? Yesterday morning I drove Elizabeth downtown to the CHP station to pick up a copy of her accident report from last week. It could have been worse, but it was not fun by any means. Then we had to go to the mall in Arcadia. I took the 10 east, thinking traffic would have cleared out by then, but it was still a parking lot. 

The mall, of course, was terrible. Four different people bumped into me while they were talking on their cell phones. Listen, if you're going to walk around talking on your phone, you already look like a jackass. But you can at least look where you're going, especially in a busy mall. My favorite was the woman who bumped into me because she was walking backwards. Seriously. Walking backwards and talking on her phone.

Eventually I became very hungry. But that mall doesn't have a very good selection of restaurants, and besides, they all seemed to be filled with screaming kids running around in circles. We stopped by my parents' house a couple miles away so that Elizabeth could check her email on their computer, and suddenly it hit me, the one thing that was going to put me in a good mood: Yang Chow's slippery shrimp. We went there around 2 PM and were the only people in the entire place. 

I wrote about Yang Chow back in June. I don't eat there as much as I used to, but it is always a good standby. Their chicken salad is my favorite Chinese chicken salad around, but yesterday we started with some spring rolls. They were very good, however the hot mustard wasn't very hot. I've become somewhat addicted to the mustard at Golden China in South Pas and now whenever I have spring rolls I want that sinus-clearing heat.

We ordered some steamed vegetable dumplings as well. (We were told they would take 15 to 20 minutes. They took more like 25. We'll come back to that later.) Our slippery shrimp arrived after we ate the spring rolls. They hit the spot, they were as good as ever. I cannot think of a single food in my life that I have found more addictive than these shrimp. Not King Arthur's pizza, not freshly made cotton candy, not even Arthur Bryant's cooked-in-lard french fries. We ended up taking some of them home with us - something I'm not sure I've ever done before - and I plan to eat them for breakfast as soon as I finish this post.

The steamed dumplings eventually arrived. They are the only thing I have ever had at Yang Chow that I didn't like. They were flabby, bland, and, unbelievably, only lukewarm. They were served with black vinegar, which I used liberally, but I only ate a couple of them and gave up. 


"Cool," I said, "maybe I'll have fun tomorrow." 

Elizabeth gave me a dirty look. Which I probably deserved.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Caroling

Last night I went over to my friend Zach's parents' house for their annual Christmas caroling party. For appetizers there were cheeses, chocolate-covered pretzels, and a tray of sandwiches. I helped my self to half a sandwich, slathered with mustard, and drank a few Amstel Lights while waiting for the caroling to begin.

After having a snack we headed around the neighborhood with The Beer Wagon in tow. I wrote about the wagon last year, but I will touch on it again: for years, before caroling we would stuff our pockets with beers and flasks of whiskey to brace ourselves for the bone-chilling high 60s temperatures. Then, a few year ago, Zach and I saw an ad for a wagon on sale at Harbor Freight Tools. The first year we just dumped a bunch of ice and beer in the wagon and pulled it around the neighborhood with us. As you can see, it has evolved over the years and now carries wine and rum and hot cider. In fact The Beer Wagon had everything this year except.... beer. So I walked around caroling with beers in my pocket, just like I did a decade ago. Nothing lasts forever. 

At one house the people gave us cookies after we sang. This is my friend Regan holding up a cookie. I did not have one.

After caroling, back at the house, I took pictures of the food sitting out for us in the buffet line: Caesar salad, corn bread, penne, farfalle, smoked ham and turkey, vegetarian lasagna, carrot and ginger soup, garlic bread, and chili con carne.

I made myself a big plate, I'm not ashamed to say. Everyone was raving about the soup but I wasn't in the mood, so I didn't have any of that. And the chili had beans in it so I didn't have any of that, either, although it looked awesome. My favorite of the things were the turkey, penne, and vegetarian lasagna. (I said this to Zach and he admitted the lasagna was the only thing that wasn't homemade; it was Stouffer's.) It was a great night and I look forward to doing this again next year.