Food Fatigue / Food Cravings: A Few Thoughts

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In the 1970s, Aunt Edna told my family about a new low carb diet that allowed bacon and eggs (as much as you wanted!) and yet still lose weight. The idea was completely new.

It seemed too good to be true. I’m sure she had heard about Atkins’ book (Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution: The High Calorie Way to Stay Thin Forever; D. McKay Co., Publisher; 1972) but I don’t recall hearing his name until many years later.

The diet swept through my small town as it did through the rest of the nation. Suddenly everyone was figuring out what “carbs” meant — breads, rice, pastas — and banishing them from the table.

People were losing weight… and buying mints by the cartload because the diet puts the user into ketosis: truly horrible bad breath.

Then Limited Food Choice Fatigue set in.

People started craving a piece of cornbread or a big bowl of rice. (At the time rice * was a huge industry in southeast Texas. Rice was a several-times-a-week dish at our dinner table. Then the cheap Chinese imports arrived and the farmers went bankrupt. To my knowledge, only one local family still farms rice in 2016.)

* People are sometimes surprised water-intensive rice production would take place there. But when people think of “Texas” they’re usually thinking of West Texas from the movies — hot and dry. It’s a huge state. Southeast Texas is wet and muggy with average annual rainfall of 63 inches. 2015 was a “wet year” and the area received 83 inches of rain.

But this is about food fatigue. What it means to have a restricted diet and soon feel as though you simply can’t eat it anymore.

That’s how I felt in Morocco. In restaurant after restaurant, the same things were offered: tagines (stewed meat) couscous (steamed vegetables over the grain couscous) harira (a thin tomato soup with bits of egg in it.)

In Tetouan there are no restaurants that serve Western cuisine… or for that matter any “foreign” food — no Chinese, no Japanese, no Indian — just Moroccan. Being a Westerner, some foods the locals ate were off-limits so my choices were even further restrained.

I would open a menu then close it again. I’d leave half my plate untouched. Often I felt hungry. I lost weight.

(Quick story: while eating at a restaurant we heard a loud screeching outside. One of the waiters opened the door. Two cats were going at one another with claws flying and high-pitched screams and growls. Suddenly they separated and one of them ran into the restaurant and into the kitchen. No one seemed concerned.

After about 20 minutes the cat wandered back in as if nothing had happened. It curled around one of the legs of a table nearby and remained there for the rest of our meal. Seeing cats in restaurants was common, but I never got used to it.)

But then watermelons arrived in the street markets. They were superb and I ate them like there was no tomorrow.

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One of the (many, many) bowls of watermelon I devoured

While I ate I would have these sensations, as if I was being transported. I grew up loving watermelon and my dad still raises them. Occasionally I get a good one in Sonoma County, where I currently live.

On a walking tour through one of the markets, we came across a man selling homemade candies. He’s known for his peanut brittle and he offered me a sample. It was nearly as good as my mom’s.

I had the same feeling eating the peanut brittle, as if I was temporarily at home again. I didn’t feel homesick in any traditional way. I simply wanted to eat foods I knew and loved. I bought a big bag and ate the whole thing in one afternoon.

Foods create taste memories that are inextricably tied to our notions of safety and being where we’re known. It was more than simply missing something — I needed to experience those tastes, as if my body recognized some fundamental lack and therefore created intense desires. I found myself dreaming of fried chicken, of fresh salmon, a really fine steak, salads, cold strawberries…

On our final night, Rachel drove us to a restaurant on the top of a mountain with gorgeous views of Tetouan.

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In the far distance you can see the thin blue strip of the Mediterranean Sea.

The owner had carved out sitting areas in the mountainside; the restaurant has been around for more than 35 years and still doesn’t have a sign. You have to know where to go.

His restaurant serves one thing:  bowls of seasoned tomatoes and onions with either kefta (meatballs) baked in it, or sardines. I don’t trust meatballs made by others… so I ordered the sardines.

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The bowls with a pepper in the center are sardines, the others are kefta. It tasted better than it looks. Even so…

We didn’t know they would arrive in such big bowls (blackened because they’re put directly into the fire to cook.) They were served with six huge rounds of bread. We also ordered two mint teas and a large bottled water, shared by three people. The cost? 35 dirhams each, including tip. Approximately $3.50 USD.

No silverware is used. You tear off pieces of bread and scoop up the food. No napkins. Within ten minutes our fingers were stained red. I noticed that all of us were holding our hands up like women waiting for their fingernail polish to dry. Fortunately, someone found tissues in their purse and we were able to more-or-less clean up.

More than half of my dish remained uneaten. I couldn’t…

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Goats were nibbling on the hillside five feet away from our table.
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… and chickens were everywhere…

It was a lovely evening and we chatted about our experience of being at GOA the past two weeks and our plans for returning home.

Bill emailed to ask me what I wanted for dinner when I returned. I told him fresh salmon, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli. And I wanted to cook it myself.

Back at home in Forestville, there was a 2 1/2 lb. slab of freshly-caught King salmon in the fridge ($52… welcome to California) and a huge head of broccoli. Potatoes were already in the pantry.

It was a feast! I seasoned the salmon simply with salt and pepper then pan-seared it, made mashed potatoes with butter (and two tablespoons of cream cheese for richness) and steamed, oh, about two pounds of broccoli. (The next day I used more salmon in a creamed pasta dish with fresh dill and green onions.)

I woke up in the middle of the night with heartburn. But I didn’t care. After taking some Tums I crawled back into freshly washed sheets, in my very own bed.

The next morning I couldn’t wait to make breakfast. I could finally have over-easy eggs (from our chickens) a huge platter of bacon and toasted English muffins with plenty of butter and three-berry jam. We keep nearly 20 chickens and so eat a lot of eggs, and I missed them much more than I expected.

After six weeks of espresso (Cafe Americaine — “American coffee” — is served in Paris and Barcelona but it’s terrible; instant coffee is served in Morocco) freshly-brewed and piping hot coffee using our own just-ground roasted beans was the best thing in the whole wide world.

Last night I fried chicken legs, wings and thighs, stewed squash with onions and made rice. I ate till my eyes crossed. How long will it take for me to eat my way through these food cravings?

14 thoughts on “Food Fatigue / Food Cravings: A Few Thoughts

  1. I’ll echo the sentiments here that it’s been such a pleasure to get to follow along on your big adventures, Bart. Thank you. I especially enjoyed the watermelon and peanut brittle parts here! Also discovering you have all those chickens! 😉

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  2. I’m glad you are home, for your own diet’s sake! lol I’m afraid when it came to sardines or meatballs, I would have had to stick to rice.. potatoes would be good too, if they had them. I’m so glad I found you in time to hear about this wonderful travel adventure. I think because of health and finances, my travel days are over… sigh. It was great fun to share your adventures, and I thank you for so brilliantly writing about them! Hugs!

    David

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  3. Welcome home!! We recently had the excellent good fortune to spend six months in Paris — albeit low on the hog, which is difficult given the high prices in Paris. An individual serving pizza can easily cost $30. No starred restaurants for us, nosir. Actually hardly any restaurants, mostly eating at home. Paris has a chain that sells nothing but frozen foods – Picard – and some of their foods are amazing. But at the end of six months we were looking forward to Costco for a hot dog and drink for $1.50 or a large slice of pizza. Mexican food. Fish and chips. We wanted “our” foods at “our” prices. Don’t think you can beat the Morocco prices, but one definitely misses the home tastes.

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    1. Thanks for the welcome home Dierdre! Six months in Paris — what a treat. And yeah, to make that work… corners must be cut. But, hey, to have that kind of time in such a magnificent city. “One of these days” after Bill and I are retired I’m going to drag him off to Paris for a couple of months. (And I like those Costco hotdogs, too.)
      Bart

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  4. Oh Bart yes welcome home. Nothing like home cooking … you starving man you.
    I too have so enjoyed your posts and all the pictures.
    What an experience you have had.
    You know the Island I live on is off the Western coast of BC ??!!!
    You are so welcome to come and visit me anytime.
    sierra

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    1. Hi Sierra,
      I didn’t know you were so “close” at all. And maybe I will come visit one of these days. Our little local airport flies daily to Seattle, and I think I’m going to take the train from there to Vancouver (plans still in flux…) 🙂 My pal Jeff is flying in from Houston and arrives a day or two before I do.
      Anyhow, thanks for the Welcome Home and for following along.
      Bart

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  5. Welcome home to your own table, Bart! I hope to see you sometime this summer. And again, thank you for my virtual trip around parts of this wonderful world via your exquisite writing and photos. xoxox

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    1. Hi Jennie,

      Thanks for the welcome home — it’s good to be back. I have two more trips planned: a couple of weeks in Texas to visit mom and dad and to attend our 63rd family reunion on the 4th of July (it started when dad returned from the Army.) I’m going to Vancouver, BC — my first trip to Canada — in late July.

      See you soon,
      Bart

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