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Spring Chicken

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And other foods. I don’t know about you, but research makes me hungry and good food makes me happy. Since all I do at my “9 to 5” is tap at the keyboard and squint at the screen all day long, I gotta entertain myself. I’ve got three essential methods that get me through 8 hours of work: tunes, exercise, and food. I’ma start breakin’ it down for ya, startin’ with food.

My coworkers marvel and comment endlessly about what they perceive as my endless capacity to eat. I think I’ve mentioned before that my cubicle office has windows all around, so it’s true that nearly every time someone walks by, I’m stuffing my face. However, I don’t think I over eat. It’s more that I eat small portions of this and that throughout the day, and I eat a lot of “weird” stuff, which mainly means that I don’t eat “breakfast things” at breakfast.

Currently I’m lucky because several healthy and relatively inexpensive meal options exist near my office. I’m sure I eat better during the day than I do at home, which is just plain sad, but the truth is, by the time I get home, I have neither the gumption nor the wherewithal to shop and/or cook. I hope this will not always be the case because I actually miss cooking, and I’m not too shabby of a cook, but I am lazy when it comes to it. Being a hungry, lazy chef is not a good combination. I’m hoping that in my next abode I’ll have a more inspiring kitchen (gas stove, counter space) with the right equipment (I don’t even have a full set of cutlery anymore let alone the right cooking utensils). As for shopping, the big chain stores like Cala and Safeway are out of the question. Aside from last Sunday’s escapade, I really don’t know how to shop at those places anymore. I walk through the aisles amazed by the overabundance of product choices, 99 percent of which I don’t eat (anymore).

Rainbow, the local co-op, is too hippie for me, and Trader Joe isn’t that convenient for me plus I think it’s highly overrated. If the Albertson’s of the world offer too many selections, Trader Joe’s is the opposite. I don’t like shopping where I can’t make brand comparisons and they only carry their own stuff. I don’t care if it’s organic. I can’t tell if it’s a good bargain if I’ve got nothing with which to compare it. Plenty of independent produce markets and mom and pop groceries are scattered througout each city, but as luck would have it, none of the one’s near my house work for me. (I miss Golden Produce on Church St. for veggies and Courtney’s at Duboce and Castro–or is it Divis right there–for the fruit). San Franciscans also have access to farmer’s markets on various days of the week, but again, the locations/dates no longer work out for me. So what’s a hungry girl to do?

I’ll tell you what I do. Weekday breakfast I head over to Arabi at the Rincon Center. Best Arabic food I’ve found in the SF, hands down. They will do stereotypical, short-order breakfasts (eggs, bacon, etc) in the morning, but I always opt for the lunch items they already have prepared. This can mean anything from hummous and tabouli to brown rice w/ lentils to chickpea salad to fresh fruit salad. Sometimes I’ll stop at a corner store on the way to the Bart station before I get downtown and get some cottage cheese and canned pineapple. If I have time at home I’ll make breakfast couscous or quinoa or maybe make a yogurt smoothie. Or if I’ve had time the night before, I’ll get some nuts and raisins. Today I had kale & seaweed salad I picked up at Whole Foods the night before and baked chicken w/ red, green, and yellow bell peppers and red onions on top of cooked cabbage from Arabi. Every once in a while I’ll get a carrot raisin bran muffin and a cup of lentil soup at Specialties or a peanut butter banana granny smith apple sandwich with fresh cranberry spread ($3.50!). That’s breakfast.

I usually follow this up with a cup of Yerba Mate. Right now I’ve got a Yerba Mate green tea w/ lemon grass that I sweeten with either honey or stevia. If I need a mid-morning snack, I’ll either have nuts and/or raisins if I hadn’t had any earlier or “fake food”–ie. a Balance Bar or a Cliff Bar or a Larabar or a Luna Bar or a hemp or flaxseed bar or any compressed, bar like food. I hate succumbing to them, but I figure they’re not that bad in the scheme of things.

Lunchtime I usually go to Lightening Foods, which has an awesome food bar. Not that expensive and always plenty of vegetable options so I’ll load up on the green beans or the zucchini mix or whatever they’ve got going that day. I’ll even eat the brussel sprouts if they have them, even though I hate brussel sprouts; they’re good for ya. The other good option is back to the Rincon, either to Arabi or the Indian joint in there. I can’t remember the name, but I usually get the honey chicken and spinach dal with naan. There’s also a Japanese place that has the best seaweed salad (wakame) I’ve had. Depending on the time, my mood, etc. I might venture further away and grab a sandwich or soup or salad elsewhere or if I’m satiated from before, I might “skip” lunch. I never consider it skipping because usually I’ve had enough to keep me satisfied ’til dinner.

Dinner is the big challenge for me. Lately I’ve either been mooching off Vani and The Ron or scrounging around for something cheap and quick, whether a visit to a taqueria, a cheap sushi joint, or a yogurt w/ nuts and raisins. Every once in a while I’ll break down and cook at home just because I crave something home cooked. Last night I picked up a lamb shoulder chop, marinated and broiled it, and devoured it. No side dishes, just meat. Mmm.

Weekends are more of a free for all: skipped meals, bad meals, good mixed with the bad, or sometimes I’ve a veritable saint of healthy eating. Just depends. I try not to sweat it too much and not to spend too much cash. As it is, eating is clearly one of my biggest expenses. I try to budget for it, but doing so makes me unhappy. Sometimes I think Mpho really means “feed me (something tasty).” But allowing myself to basically eat whatever I want on the weekends, makes it easier to eat healthier during the week, and eating healthy keeps my physical and mental energy up, which gives me the stamina to endure eight hours of sometimes challenging, sometimes mind-numbing work in front of a computer.

Next: What’s the healthier option, a glazed donut or a bowl of okra with steam tomatos? It depends. I’ll explain why next post.

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  • Hello Neal,
    Nativa will be featured in the cable tv educational programming series called Health Forum. The documentary was filmed with our assistance in Uruguay, South America. It shows today’s culture and explains it’s benefits. I would like to send you a copy of it. Would you please provide me with an address?
    Thank you,
    Paula Farell
    Nativa Yerba Mate