Thursday, May 28, 2009

Five Free Foods

A friend posed this question: if you could pick five foods that would be free of calories for you forever, what would they be?

Further elaborating the question to try to get to the essence of what it's about, I decided that we'd say the foods would be free of all digestive impact. No worry about calories, or sugar, or fat, or gastric distress, or reflux, or lactose intolerance, or diarrhea, or blood sugar. I also concluded you couldn't choose ingredients or overly broad categories, or it becomes more about finding an ingredient used in a lot of things than actually picking the foods you want free. So you can choose "cheese" and it would cover eating chunks of cheese, or a slice of cheese, or cheese on crackers, or even the cheese on a cheeseburger since it's still recognizably a piece of cheese and can still be separated from the rest of the dish. But it wouldn't include the cheese melted onto pizza, or the cheese baked into a cheesecake.

So chocolate is a no-brainer. After that, I find myself surprised that I'm not really picking my favorite dishes because those are mostly things I don't get often enough (and probably wouldn't want every day anyway) due to cost or availability. So even if I prefer veal parmigiana to pizza, it makes more sense to pick pizza because I will have that more often. Instead, I'm picking the things I want to have and can have often but really shouldn't.

My first four are chocolate, ice cream, pizza, and nachos. For the fifth, though, I'm torn. Some ideas:
  • Bread: Just because it's so all-pervasive, and really good bread is a simple treat. If this could be considered to include bagels, then that makes this a very strong contender.
  • Bagels: If bagels are their own item, I might have to choose it anyway.
  • Pork: This one's pushing on the definitions boundary. If pork includes bacon and sausage and ham, then pork is a good candidate just because of its flexibility. That said, I find myself picky about ham and sausage -- sometimes I'll have a slice of ham I really like, but most of the time I find ham blah, and I don't know how much of that is different kinds or preparations of ham and how much is differences in me. Same thing with sausage. I like bacon well enough especially in BLTs but I don't know how often I could have it. If pork means just pork, not also those other cured and prepared forms, then it's definitely off the list. I like a good pork roast from time to time, but sometimes I don't even like that that much, and there's no question beef is a better choice.
  • Beef: Back when I loved steaks this was a stronger contender than it is now, but it's still a good one because so many things are basically beef. Since the beef in a burger, in a steak fajita, or even in a beef Wellington, are all still recognizably beef and still separable from the rest of the dish, I think they'd count.
  • Cheese: I go through phases of liking to snack on cheese, but then, cheese isn't really that bad for me anyway, not in the quantities I eat it.
  • Pasta: I like pasta well enough but again it's not that bad for me. Besides, since Siobhan no longer likes it much, I get very little of it nowadays.
  • Tamales: A very strong contender, even if I can only get the freezer-food tamales I get at CostCo, because they're so yummy and yet so fatty. But I can't readily get good tamales (the freezer ones are pretty good, but not like handmade), and making them is just too much work to have more than a few times a year at most. And CostCo could stop carrying those frozen ones any time and then I'd have none. If there were a tortilleria around here, tamales would probably be my choice.
I have a feeling I'll think of more good choices. I'll post them as comments I guess.

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