Frustrated but Energized

As I sit, coffee in hand, leaves falling all around, watching the deer graze on the back lawn – there are presently seven – I am stilled in my feelings of schizophrenia. Living in upstate New York has a way of making me feel like I’ve entered a time capsule. Not since my undergraduate days have I felt so immediately transplanted. The South Bronx is to New Paltz what Fort Cochin, India is to Brooklyn – simply foreign.

Unlike me, the deer are not threatened by my presence. Although beautiful and oddly graceful, I keep a distinctive distance as they are huge. I find it fascinating that something can grow so big merely from eating grass.

It’s been a relatively uneventful morning. I did three laps around the drive (each lap is a mile); stopped at the nearest farm and picked up some eggs for breakfast. I’ve been consumed with Indian spices as of late, so I boiled my freshly laid eggs for three minutes and tossed them with pinches of sea salt, garlic powder, ground cumin, curry powder and red pepper. Then I finished them with olive oil. Toast and coffee made it quite a yummy breakfast.

Smiling as I sip my coffee, imported from the Union Square Whole Foods, I tackle the over flowing pile of outdated newspapers. Organizing first by “to read” and “to recycle” I am immediately struck by two things: 1) Bloomberg’s latest proposal to ban the purchase of sugary beverages and soda with food stamps and 2) the decrease in funding for preventive services for children born into troubled families and the subsequent death of a four year-old in Brooklyn. I am no longer smiling …

I spend the better part of the day reading, waiting for someone to say something that makes some kind of sense to me, but nothing. It’s merely the same argument: someone takes a stand and others criticize without offering any “real” solutions for change. Frustrating.

Seriously, can we stop arguing long enough to talk through the ‘real’ problem? I am a native of the Mott Haven section of the South Bronx – one of the city’s most crippled communities, experiencing the greatest barriers to health care, while grossly poverty stricken and rampant in cases of asthma, diabetes, teen pregnancy, low birthweights, premature death, illiteracy and adult obesity . I am also a recovering junk food addict and someone who has struggled with my weight my entire life, so I know first-hand that obesity is not just about excessive calories, but also familial histories, culture, self-worth, economics and education.

And while I am absolutely not mad at Mike (Mayor Bloomberg), in fact I applaud him for his efforts. I think the Mayor’s latest proposal, although innovative and courageous, is about as useful as putting a band aid on an aneurism. No one wants to be unhealthy, overweight and obese. Nor does anyone want to be systematically managed. Instead of creating policies that scream control and that perpetuate the ideology that government is not a supportive entity for the working poor and the underclass, why not create policies that develop and support educational programs and training arenas that teach people how to make healthier food choices.

Poverty-related obesity is a failure to effectively educate people on how to make and sustain healthy food choices. Thus making the age old proverb, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime,” incredibly appropriate here. We, as a society, need a commitment to food re-education, not merely policies that will give people more reasons to “bootleg.” We all know that if people want soda, they’re going to get soda; especially given ounce for ounce it’s 73% cheaper than milk (non-organic).

Now when I created Taste and Texture last year, it was in large part, a solution orientated approach to this very problem. An educational food consortium created to provide usable nutritional information and healthy home-cooking instruction to those most in need. We must understand that we are a consumer nation feeding on the marketing frenzies of the latest fast food or diet fads with one out of every three Americans struggling with obesity (so it’s not just poor people).

On the one end we have extremely caloric dollar meals that contain and are supported by highly processed and artificial ingredients, white sugars, corn syrups, salt, and butter and other fats. And on the other end are the latest dieting crazes that might bring short term results of weight loss, but ultimately cause greater weight fluctuation and stresses on the heart. Where and how does one find balance? Of course, I would say with Taste and Texture’s Blueprint for Wellness Series!

With nearly half of ALL Americans suffering from hypertension, diabetes and/or high cholesterol do we really have time to argue about whether or not “banning the purchase of soda with food stamps” is the place to begin. Granted, I would love if it came with the subsequent dialogue as to why high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup and phosphoric acid (particularly in large amounts) are bad. But the truth of the matter is that we have to begin somewhere.
So for those of you, who don’t drink soda and/or have made other positive health changes, talk to friends and family about why; and for those of you who do drink mass amounts of soda and engage in other dietary behaviors that don’t support your personal longevity (and we all do something), listen.

Can we engage in discourse that informs and educates one another and stop bitching about racism, classism and injustice? We actually have a Mayor that cares whether his constituency lives – seriously, are we going to complaint about that? Let’s take all that energy and advocate for more ‘usable’ food and nutrition education.

And I will start…

Here’s my recipe for Oven Fried Chicken. Try it and let me know what you think.

Heat oven to 450 (500 if you’re oven goes that high)
Place a sheet pan or ovenproof pan or skillet into oven to heat

The Chicken:
1 whole chicken (3.5-5lbs) – washed and cut into 8-10pcs (parts work just as well
and for skinless white meat adjust cooking time down to 20-40mins)
1 T salt
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
Season chicken and set aside

1 C flour
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp paprika

Remove sheet pan from oven and coat with 3T Olive oil. Make sure pan is evenly coated.

Toss chicken in flour mixture to coat (3-4pcs at a time) and arrange on oiled sheet pan, skin side up, evenly spaced apart.

Bake for 45 -60 minutes – turn every 20 minutes, finishing with the skin side up.

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