Saturday, September 18, 2010

Reflections: My Life in Food

I've always been an eater, so have you if you think about it. We started out on a liquid diet, advanced to pureed solid foods, and soon after discovered SpaghettiOs and hamburgers. I would be willing to bet that each and every one of us has at least a few memories that involve food. I know I have many, here are just a few.

Growing up in a Kosher home meant no shellfish, no crustaceans, and certainly no pork. Classic dishes like meatloaf, tuna casserole, and chicken and rice were what we ate for dinner. Family vacations, however were different. Many years ago my family went up to a New Hampshire mountain house with several of my parents friends and their kids, some of whom were also my friends. I remember this house very vividly even though this vacation was many many years ago, maybe twenty-five years ago, or more - I'm thirty-five years old if you're paying attention. So this house, I could tell you about the kitchen, the sunken living room, the finished basement with a game room or the loft on the third floor where many of us kids slept. But what I want to tell you about is one food memory...the bacon!

Yes, the bacon. I know, Kosher home and all which meant we are a conservative Jewish family who kept Kosher...except on vacation. I had obviously tasted bacon before, maybe at a friends house, maybe out for breakfast, so I knew what I was in for when I saw my dad unpacking the groceries in the kitchen of this house and out came a few packages of Oscar Meyer bacon! I remember a lot about that long weekend spent up in this beautiful mountain home, but my most vivid memory is of the bacon, not of breakfast - I couldn't tell you what else we ate - but of the bacon! I loved vacations for the bacon! Yes, we had a Kosher home, but would you say that we didn't actually keep Kosher because of our out-of-home indulgences?

Fast forward to my high school years. I was an active, three sport athlete and very fit. I was constantly eating, which in hindsight may have been the beginning of who I became as an eater. Is it wrong that I actually liked school lunches? French bread pizzas, chicken patties, and bacon burgers with lettuce, tomato and mayo. Mind you the bacon burgers were not hamburgers with bacon on them. Rather, they were some sort of all purpose patty that resembled a sausage patty in color and texture, tasted of no real bacon, but had a flavor that I liked. I was also a big fan of the salad bar, yes my high school had a salad bar. If I remember correctly, school lunch was like a $1.50 or maybe a $1.75, it was in the early 90's, and the salad bar was not sold by weight. I would fill my plate with salad, a couple scoops of tuna salad, and grab a couple slices of bread, all part of the salad bar. I would make a tuna sandwich and eat my salad, and drink 2 8oz. cartons of whole milk. I would also eat a snickers bar and sometimes a mountain dew after school, right before practice - football in the fall, and track and field both in the winter and spring. I will never forget that salad bar, I was even quoted in my class video year book saying I would miss the salad bar most, because "the sign [at the salad bar] said 'keep portions to a minimum' but I would take as much as I wanted and they never said anything!" Things would change when I got to college.

Syracuse University, a five hour drive from my home in the western suburbs of Boston, is where I went from being active and healthy to being sedentary and overweight. When the snow started falling on the hill, in October of 1993, I stopped going to the gym, and like many students who attend college in cold climates, started drinking beer to stay warm! My meals weren't very healthy either. Eggs and toast for breakfast, almost every day, and grilled cheese and tater tots for lunch, at least a few times a week. I'd wash it all down with a couple glasses of mountain dew. No one was there to tell me I shouldn't be eating that every single day, so I did. I also liked to cook Velveeta shells and cheese in the electric hot pot that I had. I wouldn't always clean the pot after I ate and learned that the cheese sauce must have been loaded with preservatives because it didn't mold...after weeks in the pot still sitting on my shelf. I moved off campus my junior year, although off campus at Syracuse is still walking distance to campus, so I kept the dining hall meal plan and my meals remained much of the same. I gained 35 pounds in college. I was fat.

My diet didn't improve much in the first few years after college either. Bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches from Dunkin' Donuts or Honey Dew Donuts - picked up on my way to work in the city and eaten in the car. Fried buffalo chicken sandwiches for lunch. I was not working out, not running, cycling or anything else, and eating poorly; I was still gaining weight. Another ten pounds before I reached my tipping point.

In 2001, I remember this clearly, I was away for a weekend visiting with a friend out of town. Getting ready to leave his apartment, I was changing my shirt when he said, "you got soft." That was my tipping point. I changed my eating habits, no more bagels, no more pizza, no fried foods. I joined a gym and worked out five to six days a week. Spinning, running, lifting weights, I was determined to get healthy and fit once again. I started feeling better and losing some weight after a few weeks, I was determined. My breakfasts became smoothies made of yogurt, orange juice, strawberries and bananas. I would occasionally treat myself to a croissant or cheese danish too. I was not on a diet, after all, I was making my own rules. Lunches were balanced meals, carbs, protein, fat. I was eating well. Five months passed and people at my office were noticing a change. I lost 40 pounds! I bought new clothes, down from an almost 38 inch waist to a 34. And since I had a consistent work out routine, I started introducing some of the foods I had stopped eating into my meals. I was eating pizza again, and enjoyed an occasional bagel, or two. I was simply making smarter choices. Nine years later and I have maintained my weight loss and my healthy lifestyle. I have become a first class eater.

August 4, 2006, that is the date of my very first post. My motivation to begin writing as One Food Guy is threefold. First, something has always drawn me to food and cooking. I loved to cook and having worked in professional kitchens and waited tables for several years earlier in my life, thought I had an interesting perspective. Second, I was fresh off a five month consulting gig in Manhattan that had me living in the Grand Hyatt hotel and eating three meals a day on an expense account (I gained about ten pounds but ran them right off when my schedule returned to normal.) Babbo, Esca, Morimoto, Tao, Sushi Samba, Craft, Asia de Cuba, and more. I ate very well. And third, the August 2006 issue of Food & Wine Magazine. Two articles on food photography and blogging were all the inspiration that I needed. I started finding more blogs and stumbled on the burgeoning LA food blogger community. Eat, Drink, & Be Merry, Oishii Eats, Daily Gluttony (now Rants & Craves), and  immaeatchu were some of the first few blogs I started following, and they are all still part of a thriving LA food blog community. There were very few, none that I knew of, Boston bloggers back in 2006 and I was trying to fit in.

I started off by sharing some tips on how to grill a steak, and reviewing some restaurants. I planned a dinner party. I even created a weekly feature called Tuesday's Tasting that was all about reviewing an item from Trader Joe's freezer case. I shared my experience of working one night on the line in a professional kitchen and tried a recipe for aubergine in tomato sauce that I found on Chez Pim. I was starting to find my voice and in mid-2007 Ryan the Girl from Foodbuzz found me. In September of 2007 I became a Foodbuzz Featured Publisher.

A lot has happened in my food life in the last three years. I have traveled around the world, eating in India, Germany, England, Scotland, France and Switzerland. I have eaten some amazing meals and challenged myself with some interesting food. But I have not yet reached my potential as a food writer.

As a Foodbuzz featured publisher, I'm now participating in Foodbuzz's Project Food Blog. Two thousand bloggers compete against each other in ten challenges resulting in one winner and a $10,000 prize! One of my biggest challenges over the last year has been making the time to write. I have enjoyed some great meals, tried some fantastic recipes, and traveled to some outstanding places on our planet where the food always shines. So follow along as I re-immerse myself in One Food Guy and reintroduce you to my world as seen through food.


  1. This is great- you have such a fantastic story :-)

    Im at the start of the blog adventure, and loving every second!

  2. Great post! Nicely said. I voted for you! =)

    Good luck!

    Check out my PFB post:

  3. Here's to an incredible journey. My vote is cast.

  4. Great post from another Jewish bacon lover! You've got a vote from me!! You can check out my entry Thanks! Good luck!!

  5. Not just because you're a fellow cyclist but because I also look forward to your re-entry into food blogging through PFB, you've got my vote. :-)

  6. Loved this post! So funny about the bacon! And how cool that your high school had a salad bar! Enjoyed reading about how your blog came to be! Looking forward to reading more!

    Best of luck with PFB! Just voted for you!

  7. Hi Ruairi, thanks! You've got a nice blog too!

    Hi Food, she thought, thank you!

    Hi Jacobskitchen, thank you! I voted for you too!

    Hi Brooke, thank you!

    Hi Lindsay, thanks! I voted for you too!

    Hi Jean, thank you! I hope I advance to the second round, although I have no idea what I'll cook yet!

    Hi Foodie, thank you so much! I really do miss that salad bar!

    Thank you everyone!!

  8. Isn't it amazing how college can pack on the pounds. I went to UMass and even though I lived at home all 4 years of college I still managed to gain weight. I'll be back to read more :)

  9. Hi Nutritious Foodie, it's true! It was very easy to be lazy in cold and snowy Central New York. At least a few of the pounds I gained came from visiting friends at UMass and eating DP Dough, Pinocchio's, Sugar Jones...mmmm

  10. yes that damned bacon burger i want some now! i wish i knew where schools sourced their food from