October 2010


Durng my West Coast voyage through some former childhood haunts, I found myself in Albany, Oregon, the town where I grew up. A city: both rural and not. Neither urban nor suburban. Not even exurb.

Apparently, since I left several decades ago, that little city in the Willamette Valley became known for its Victorian neighborhoods. “Let’s go look at the hundreds of homes” squealed my good friend. Whoopee.  JUST what I want to do: drive by a bunch of old houses in Albany. Which, attitude aside, is precisely what we did.

Soft Ice Cream Joint

That is how we ended up at the Hasty Freeze ice cream hut of my youth. Dad used to take us to this tiny little drive-in. “Get whatever you want” he would tell my brother and me. Which really meant “I’ll get you a 10-cent soft ice cream cone.”
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So, before heading to Oregon — and just a few days after my return from Italy, I was sitting in my NYC apartment – okay still sulking a little bit about American versus Italian food.  A sulk I should reconsider.  First, I’m in the States, so get over it, dammit!  But also – I realize, no have to admit – I also ate what I damn well pleased while there.  Giving lie to my statements that

I never gain weight when I go to Italy!

Except, when I got on the scale upon my return and found out that a week of Janet Eats – Italian style – netted an extra five pounds in avoirdupois.  Oh boy.  Not bummed, mind you.  It is temporary.  And, oh so fun.

I found a quick option to my quest to eat like a Roman – but also keep fit, like most Italians.  I have always said – and this truism is, well, true.

You will not gain weight in Italy, if you eat their food in the WAY they eat their food.  You don’t, for the most part, see them walking around eating food, eating lots of desserts, eating in between meals.  Their fornos are a selected treat.  Not, as I did when I lived there for three months, a place to visit every day.  I have been happy to be vacationing a lot lately.  But, it does make it more challenging to eat healthfully.

  1. Challenge:  Away from home.
  2. Challenge: The food that is available is different, sometimes COMPLETELY different from your everyday choices.  And
  3. Challenge: Who WANTS to eat with limits and care.  It’s vacation!

So, now I face the wonderful opportunity to renew my commitment to healthful eating.  Good choices.  Veggies when I want them.  Steamed with a little olive oil.  Not at all something you even want to eat while on vacation.

You know, you gotta live.  In a way that allows for some indulgences.  If you are challenged, as I am, to eat healthfully on a regular basis (and, even at that, my friends tell me I’m pretty damn good at that) – you need to not judge yourself.  Pick on yourself.  Feel badly about yourself.  Enjoy the food that you eat when you eat it.  If that means a temporary weight gain, then just “man up” and eat the way you know is both best – AND enjoyable – for you.

And, I think I’ll try that recipe I read about from another Word Press Blogger, Iowa Girl Eats:

Baked Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

While visiting the parts of the Oregon coast I used to travel as a child, I tried some old, familiar & nostalgic food items.  And, a new place: once trendy, now just plain quality, locavore foods cooked in a sophisticated kitchen.

For the meal: the latter.  A place called Tidal Raves in Depoe Bay, Oregon.  There was a bit of a wait, so my old college friend and I left a name, were told “20 minutes” and headed out to explore the town I knew so well as a youngster.

While walking to “town” – we saw a crowd facing the sea, rapt with attention.

It was a blowhole.  A wild, out of control gush of water through a slit in the rock.  A veritable geiser.  Dramatic!   We felt it before we saw it.  “Is it raining”  “No,” said my friend, “just misting a little bit.”  That was strange because there didn’t seem to be any rain clouds above and no drops behind.  Turns out it was the misty fallout from the geyser gushing from a crevice near the road by the Pacific Coast Highway.   Cool!!

But, this is Janet Eats, not Janet Watches Blowholes at Depoe Bay!
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In the verdant land of Oregon, not just the peace-love-tie-dyed people are on the green side.  Green in that sustainable way, I mean.

On the coast of Oregon, in the most plebeian of food establishments, you will find little signs indicating the provenance of the food you are purchasing.  Or, about to eat.

Surfing at Agate Beach

In Newport, Oregon there are several “restaurants” that feature locally caught fish.  And on the menu or in the glass case, you see things like LC Big Buoy – meaning Line Caught aboard the boat “Big Buoy”.   The fish is, of course, fabulously fresh and delicious.  But, you know you are the in presence of people who understand “sustainable” at a very real level.

I put “restaurants” in quotations, by the way, because some of them are really fish markets with some tables and a great cook in the back who understands how to coax the best flavors from the catch of the day.

I do enjoy “food as metaphor” — for this practice in a old fishing port in the central coast of Oregon, shows they respect the very stores they deplete everyday when they catch what the Pacific has to offer.

On a practical matter, that means I have had scrumptious simple grilled halibut sandwiches.  Clam chowder with huge chunks of local clams swimming in a sea of white cream.  And, I haven’t even moved to Dungeness crab and salmon.

It’s in season is not just a slogan here on the Oregon coast.  It’s Life.

Maybe we just need to think of everyday eating the way we do vacation eating.  Or, maybe it is more about mindfulness.  I don’t know.  It is just that when I’m on vacay I consider all the wonders of what I eat.  Indulgences allowed, of course. 

Here I am in Portland, Oregon – the land of filberts, salmon and Pinot Noir.  Real farm to table stuff (though it makes Portlanders crazy when the Times writes about Portland cuisine).

It’s Sunday morning, a few hours before brunch time and we found ourselves at the Bijou, Cafe.   Yep, the comma is NOT a typo.  I am not sure what conceit is behind the punctuation but here it seems almost quaint.

Consider the menu board: spiced lamb hash with pear muffin on the side. Yum! Apple compote on oatmeal with whipped cream.  Double yum!! I decided on chantarelle (are they local? I ask.  Oh yeah, she says, a guy comes to the kitchen with a bucket of them!”) omelette.  With a side order of grilled cinnamon bread!

A little piece of heaven, I tell you.  I guess you really don’t need un caffe’ and un cornetto to make a meal a delight.