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Whenever I go on vacay, it is my sincere intention to eat healthfully while still enjoying the food of the town and county I’m in. Certainly that is/was my plan for my visit to Denmark.

This is a country where some 60+% of the land is dedicated to farming. Now, I admit I haven’t seen a lot of cows — but I have certainly seen cheese. Sometimes at lunch, always at breakfast accompanied by crusty, yeasty, mouth-celebratory (is that even a word?) bread. Blue, aged, smoked. All kinds, though there seems to be a inclination towards a semi-soft cheese called Danbo. It comes in many forms. Cuts beautifully. And makes a kick-ass sandwich, typically served open-faced.

When I made my first cheese sandwich here, I was given specific instructions: slice the roll in two horizontally. Spread a little mustard and/or butter, slice the cheese thinly usually with one of those wired kitchen tools made specifically for the task (a common kitchen tool here — in the USA we tend to have them around for cheese and cracker time). Maybe some slice of tomato. Eat. And enjoy. I once tried to make a traditional American “sang-wich” and have to admit felt a little barbarian trying to get my mouth around the bun and the filling. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not totally stranger in a strange land on this front. Of course, they make and eat sandwiches like we do. Just not so much.

Perhaps this is why even though they are presented with this foodstuff on a regular basis, the Danes are not a fat people. They eat naturally in moderation. And, as in many places around the world, bicycle everywhere.

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Just as I was about to accuse the Danes of eating only cheese in their sandwiches (which of course I knew was wrong thinking from this country of the fabulous smørbørd) — I am treated to an afternoon picnic by the sister and brother-in-law of my friend, the priest.

They thought it would be fun to take me on a little countryside excursion into the woods outside Odense (home of Hans Christian Andersen). The woods here, by the way, remind me of what I imagine the woods are like in Hamlet. Spindly medium-tall trees — I think they’re beech — one after the other after the other. Crowded together. If you were to gallop a horse through this fragile forest, you would be brushed by the branches, yet not thrown off.

We were in Hesbjerg Skov — it appeared to be some sort of hippie commune, though not retro in any sense. Apparently some 45 people, not counting children, are living off the land in this area. My hosts say the citizens are the type to commune with nature, but drive into town to work. At real jobs. I guess holes in the ground for toilets and shared dinners in a hall of sorts are not too high a price to pay for This Simple Life. They certainly looked just fine, thank you, to me.

We parked our car and walked for awhile until we found a pile of cut wood to fashion into seats and a table for our picnic. It was lovely. The hostess had gotten up early to make crusty fresh rolls (they were still warm) of graham flour. And, for the filling she made flattened meatballs of pork, called (and I LOVE this word) frikadeller. Pretty much pronounced like they’re spelled. Later, I called them “flubber masters” or “freakin’ blasters”.

De. Lish. Us. Pronounced like it’s spelled!

I am back at one of my favorite retreats. Well, I guess at this point, it is my Favorite, back East anyway. Forget the “one of” part. Kripalu. It is a yoga retreat in the Berkshires, a short drive from Lenox, Mass. It is a former monastery that has been turned into a school for Yogis and Aruyrvedic practitioners. It is also a place for visitors looking for wellness programs, or just a little R&R. You can practice yoga here three times a day, and do this wonderful moving form they call Yoga Dance. The yoga dance is very tribal, very primal, sweat-inducing, and LOTS of fun.

I arrived after a four-hour bus drive, sat next to a cool woman who commuted back and forth between her apartment outside of Boston and the Vermont woods where she lived with the boyfriend she met on You-Tube. When you leave the highly caffeinated world of Manhattan and land anywhere bucolic, it takes awhile to adapt to the deafening din of silence. Crickets in NYC mean no one has come to your nightclub. The smells, the views, the sounds of silence can be intimidating. I walked around, made myself at home in my spartan room (happy to see that the unknown roommate with whom I was to share the room had not arrived yet). A gentle yoga class, a delicious vegetarian dinner, some quiet time in the sun room until three 20-somethings came in to gab. Even then, I wasn’t in the mindset to be the librarian and “shhhhhush” them. I just went to my little room and fell asleep.
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There is a funny thing we weight losers do.  If we should find ourselves gaining weight (and who hasn’t) we find ourselves saying “I have gained a few pounds.”  Or, we will detach the weight loss from ourselves by saying “the weight won’t come off.”  As if it is a separate entity.

So, I am here to say that I have gained 15 pounds.  Not a “few” pounds.  Not “some” weight.  But, let’s be exact here.  15.  Fifteen.  One-five.  I have decided that it is important to say that.  I know I am not alone.  I want to show some courage here and acknowledge it.
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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

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.

It was a beautiful,  warm yet slightly overcast Wednesday in Roma and I tried some new experiences.   I caught up with a couple of my beloved Caravaggio paintings (Crucifixion of Saint Peter and Conversion of Saint Paul — both incredibile), and then thrust myself right into the 21st Century.

I visited Maxxi:  the new truly modern art museum, designed by the great Iraqi architect: Zaha Hadid.  The museum was — as the kids say — waaaay cool.  An interesting exhibition of the work of Luigi Moretti , the dude who designed grandiose spaces for Il Duce as well as the Watergate complex.

Afterwards,  I set off to find an intimate ristorante on a little side street.  The trattorias are, of course, all over the cittá of Rome.  I found this place called Osteria Margutta.  And, devoured a wonderful lunch of Tortellini stuffed with ricotta and walnuts — though they claimed it was zucca: pumpkin.  All covered in a luscious cream sauce.  Fabulous!!!   Or, as they say about food: squisito.

I’d show you a picture but oops I ate it all before I had a chance to take the snap.

Such is the wonderful adventure of looking for something new.  And finding something squisito!

When is a pigout not a binge? When you do it in the swine barn, of course!

I’m about to attend the MN State Fair where eating is not just a pasttime but a necessity. Or, as my fair companion puts it: I AM a professional.

Now, don’t get me wrong I’m not going to the great Minnesota Get-Together just to eat: there’s the crop art (pics made out of seeds and stems), the pigs and prize ducks, butter sculptures and two, count them TWO huge buildings dedicated to amazing Popeil products.

But, no doubt about it, this annual festa of food on a stick is a gourmand’s delight. Yes, gourmand. I mean: honey ice cream with sunflower seeds. Walleye fillets. Pig lickers: crispy bacon dipped in dark chocolate, served cold of course.

Still to come: the complete list and even photographic evidence.