Saturday, September 6, 2008

The evacuation diet

Posted By on Sat, Sep 6, 2008 at 5:04 PM

Goodbye, Gustav; Ike, I see you. But I'm not ready. I still have a bad feeling in my gut from Gustav, and I mean that quite literally.

People elsewhere seem to think that we mainline butter and grease on a daily basis, and like everyone else I have a fondness for hot sausage po-boys, red beans, and pork chop sandwiches...along with more healthy choices like falafel, salads, and phó. But what we eat here on a daily basis makes sense to my stomach and my mind; it sustains me physically and emotionally.

Flash back to last week in Jackson, Miss. Unable to countenance getting back in the car again, I only had a few choices within walking distance. The only one with any choices beyond fast-food burgers was Shoney's, the "casual dining" destination at the other end of the motel parking lot.

Yeah, Shoney's. But compared to the other nearby choices -- Wendy's and Whataburger -- Shoney's was like the Mid-City Farmers' Market. At least the buffet had a huge aluminum bowl of iceberg lettuce next to some sliced vegetables. And actual fish -- anonymous generic frozen grilled fish that only had any flavor when I prized the lemon wedge off the lip of my 200-oz. iced tea and squeezed it over the fillet. And...um...macaroni salad. Gelatin. Greens floating in a steam tray of mop water. Flavorless, anonymous, spiceless, tasteless. None of it good for the body or the soul, but the best I could manage.

Coming back after Gustav, I found myself craving two diametrically opposite things: healthy food and comfort food. Vitamins and salt/fat. Fresh grilled vegetables and peanut M&Ms. Hummus and honey-roasted peanuts.

On Thursday, I was at my neighborhood's still-struggling Rouse's, trying to assemble the ingredients for a primavera, picking through what few fresh vegetables were still on the shelves (zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers, onions) and augmenting them with canned goods (peas, artichoke hearts, jarred pimentos for color, "Frenched" green beans that would've done Shoney's proud). No cream or milk in the dairy department, of course; no flat-leaf parsley or fresh basil or lemongrass. I sautéed all the vegetables in a giant skillet, threw in a handful of Tony Chachere's, dumped the mess over boiled rotini, and -- voilà -- Post-Evacuation Primavera. It looked awful but tasted great.

Dessert? Peanut M&Ms. Far too many of them. And half a bottle of Nobilo. Vitamins and minerals, salt and fat and sugar.

The cravings are going away, and today my stomach and my soul are finally feeling like they're coming back into balance...and heeeere's Ike.

I can take the evacuation, but I can't take the evacuation diet...or the post-evacuation diet either. GO AWAY IKE.

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