Sunday, February 12, 2006

How to lose 15 pounds in 3 weeks – recipe included

It’s simple, live with a not so well-to-do Filipino family. While I’ve been here I’ve been sharing in all of the family meals but also doing some Korean Canadian fusion soups (see recipe below) of my own that have met with mixed success amongst the taste buds here – I’m finding it very difficult to not make my dishes too spicy for them. One of the keys to my diet’s secret is that Rosi’s family eats dinner, lunch and breakfast in stages. First two people will eat, then two more, and finally the last two have whatever is left over.

When I’m one of the last to eat dinner or lunch I find that there really isn’t a hell of a lot to eat but rice and what good stuff there is I try to stuff into Rosi’s mouth before she notices. When I’m in the first group that eats, I think about how much there is for six mouths and I try to eat less than one-sixth of a portion, seeing as how I’ve got (or rather I did) have a substantial caloric cushion of fat due to very rich eating and beer drinking in Korea I could definitely spare the extra food for some skinny Filipinos.

Of course, my selflessness is not the whole story – it never is – I’m taking advantage of this situation so that I can get into better shape. Let’s not even mention the fact that when I first came here we ate meat almost everyday. This wouldn’t normal contribute to a person’s weight loss, I’m sure, (unless your going Aitkin’s) but in my case whenever I ate meat I started to get this nasty queasy feeling in my gullet.

Either the queasiness has come from the heaps of bacteria that come along with meat procured at the public market, or I just started to associate the incredibly unappetizing smell that I’m always buffeted with when I walk through the stands that purvey beef, pig and chicken. Whatever the case I am largely a vegetarian at the moment – largely because the smell of cooked meat these days reminds me of the putrefied odours of the market and this just makes me want to puke my guts out.

Thus far, I’ve avoided vomiting, quite happily thank you – but I’m not altogether sure how. Imagine the vilest meat smells you have ever encountered and then multiply that by about 100.

Once you have this smell in your imagination, go for a walk along the blood-stained hoof, skin and snout adorned counters at the market swarming with all manner of flies, watching people handle money, picking their nose or teeth, scratching their crotch or crack and then handling meat all in one motion – no pausing between the bloody objects and the filthy objects and most definitely no soap, and no water within a good 50 – nay 1000 metres. Don’t forget to stand back as the meat vendor wields his cleaver or you might get spattered with some warm blood or a speck of fat.

Now picture the market as it usually is during the afternoons when I visit, sweltering hot at between 30 and 34 degrees Celsius and I’m sure even the most avid meat-eaters that are accustomed to the sterile over packaged, gleaming stainless steel of North American supermarket meat sections would have a great deal of trouble swallowing meat hereabouts.

Hopefully, Rosi won’t get a chance to read this post as she’s been commenting on how skinny I’m getting and trying every little trick she can, to fatten me up – so far I’ve been able to outsmart her to the point of getting somewhat skinny but I don’t know how long I can keep it up.

By the way, I have no idea how much weight I’ve really lost but, suffice it to say, that my body has definitely taken on a new shape, one that it has not resembled since I was a 17-year-old. If this truly is the case, then the next time I find a scale I should be around 160 pounds – that’s about 15 pounds (about 7 kg) lighter than I was on January 10th in Edmonton and about 30 pounds lighter than I was at some point around 2003 when teaching in Korea wasn’t even a pipe-dream for me.

Here’s a Korean-Canadian-Filipino fusion soup for you to try the next time you come across all of the ingredients in one place:

3 tightly packed cups of tender, young leaves from a lombay tree

2 medium unripened papayas

4 blades of lemongrass

2 whole small spicy red peppers

½ cup mung beans

4 small red onions

5 cloves of garlic diced

1 clove of garlic whole

2 heaping teaspoons of dwen Jang (fermented soybean paste from Korea)

1 beef bouillon cube Knorr or otherwise

2 bay leaves

10-15 black peppercorns crushed

Using a 4 metre long bamboo stick poke 2 medium dark green unripened papayas until they fall to the ground. Identify a lombay tree and carefully find the young tender leaves (don’t pick the smallest ones they will be your dinner on another day). Walk to the riverbank, clip the blades of lemongrass from a nearby plant, then peel, and chop up the papayas at the riverbank. Rinse and set aside (as Rosi is fond of saying “papayas are fruit when they are ripe but vegetables when they aren’t”). Wash the leaves and the lemongrass thoroughly and set aside. Collect the 2 spicy red peppers from the tree outside your kitchen. Slice the onions. Dice the garlic saving the single whole clove.

Crush the peppercorns individually on a cutting board with the side of a knife.

Bring 6 cups of water and the mung beans to a boil;

Add the dwen Jang paste, the pepper, bay leaves, lemongrass, peppers and the bouillon cube. Let simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the unripened papaya. Let simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the onions, garlic and the lombay leaves. Simmer until the leaves are tender.

Bring to a full rolling boil (Korean style) and serve.

Best accompanied Korean and Filipino style with a bed or bowl of rice.

For those of you that are deathly concerned about getting the proper amount of amino acids within one meal, and so fear to forego meat in this one dish – fear not. The soybean paste and the rice combined would easily allow your body to manufacturer the necessary amino acids to sustain all of your bodily functions. Throw in the mung beans and the papaya and you’re laughing with an overabundance of the building blocks for making any damned amino acid you think you need. As for the lombay leaves, I haven’t got a clue, it may well be that consuming these will use up more calories than they could possibly generate – hell they’re leaves for God sakes.

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