With little effort

It's almost as much fun to photograph fruit as it is to eat it! I couldn't resist stopping to snap a picture as I put groceries away, August 2015.

It’s almost as much fun to photograph fruit as it is to eat it!
I couldn’t resist stopping to snap a picture as I put groceries away, August 2015.

“Whatever the season, and with little effort, your kitchen can be as headily fragrant as groves, orchards, gardens…bakeries, brasseries, coffeehouses, and tearooms.  If you view food and beverages as simply substances to be eaten and drunk quickly, you’re missing more pleasure than you could imagine.”  — Sara Ban Breathnach

Let’s just say I’m no gourmet cook. Fortunately, I don’t require gourmet food, and neither does my family.  During the appetite-intensive years when there were two hungry male teenagers with parents who could eat about as much as they did, my cooking ran heavily (no pun intended) to classic comfort menus with lots of recipes that contained Campbell’s cream soups. For special dinners I’d make yeast rolls from scratch, and Jeff kept fresh cookies baking on a continual basis. We ate voraciously and quickly. Life was good.

Life is still good, of course, but things in our home have changed considerably on the food front.  At nearly 60 years old, I’m here to tell you that everything you’ve heard about weight gain getting worse as we age turned out to be entirely true for us.  Jeff’s cancer has meant that he now struggles to keep weight on, not off, but chemo does cruel things to the appetite, so there is no such thing as a typical meal in our home anymore.  For different reasons, neither of us can eat as we once did.

It has not been as bad as it sounds. The changes in our food habits– habits being the prime influence on my eating patterns– have been beneficial in many ways.  I eat less now, and feel satisfied more easily.  I pay closer attention to what and how I eat, and try not to eat quickly. But I had to acquire these practices gradually after 40 years of never having to worry about my weight, other than during childhood when I was mercilessly teased about being a skinny beanpole. Getting over the “more = better” mentality took some time.

On the plus side, I’ve learned to savor food and maximize the enjoyment of each and every calorie.  I’ve developed a taste for fresher ingredients. I focus more on the sight, aroma and texture of foods and drink.  I sometimes browse in grocery stores as in the library, reading about exotic foods I have no real intention of buying or eating.  As with much that is beautiful and wholesome, food actually becomes more enjoyable when we back away from viewing it only through the lens of craved consumption, and contemplate its nutritional role as a crucial facet of our appreciation.

As Kelly (aka Boomdee) could tell you, I can happily live on a diet of nuts and tea, but I do love to indulge in the endless variety of flavor and fragrance that is so bountifully available to us. It’s really true that little effort is required, though I admire people who are gifted in the culinary arts.  For those of us less talented in the kitchen, we can still fill our homes with the delicious sights and smells of freshly brewed coffee or tea, sauteed fresh vegetables, or cheese toast melting under the broiler.  What’s cooking at your place today?

23 Comments

  1. Good morning, Julia! My, that bowl of fruit looks good! About a year ago, I was inspired to photograph my recently purchased fruit, too; however, my photos looked very different – all my fruit was labeled with bar codes! (Not each grape, of course.) I titled the series “Is a Still-life Still Life?”
    Your fruit looks like life (bar coded fruit: not so much).
    We’ve also started keeping healthy things out and available on the counters, including jars of almonds, sunflower seeds, and of course fruit, including the delicious and satisfying avocado.

    • Susan, I love that clever title. Bar coded fruit and tiny sticky labels can be a pain, especially since I often grind my dried citrus peels in the garbage disposal to clean and freshen it — I have to make sure those stickers don’t end up gumming things up in the disposal. Years ago I read a wellness guru whose dietary advice was simple and powerful: “Don’t eat anything that has to have an ingredient label, but if you must, keep the number of ingredients as few as possible.” Of course that’s not foolproof, what with pesticides, GMO, etc. but it’s probably a pretty good guideline. I do find that when healthy stuff is out and visible, I eat a lot more of it.

  2. Julia, I agree! I feel the same way about food these days. I just made a pot of Hazelnut coffee. (I love nuts, too. I eat lots of almonds.) 🙂

    • Patsy, that coffee smells wonderful! Here, have some of these freshly roasted almonds. I like to buy them raw, unsalted, and toast them just a bit. Though to be truthful, I rarely make the time to do that. But the smell adds to the coffee aroma. 😀

  3. You have inspired me. I was trying to decide about going to the market for some fruit for my lunch guests. One is a vegan and I never can make food to satisfy so many different palates so I have started to ask everyone to bring their own lunch and we can sit and eat together. But fruit goes with most meals. The little one loves grapes so hopefully, there are some tasty grapes in the store. 🙂 I am holding good thoughts for you and your family. We don’t need much food, just good food. Giant hugs. M

    • Marlene, that is a great idea to have everyone bring their own and then just add a few special touches, such as fruit. Also, I like your closing thought: “We don’t need much food, just good food.” That’s a great dietary inspiration to keep in mind. Not that I typically follow it, but it’s something to strive for. 😀 Thanks for your thoughts and warm wishes during this difficult time. Your encouragement means a lot. Sending Giant Hugs right back to you

  4. Dorothy Walker

    I agree with you about changing food habits. When my husband was having chemo he actually put on weight for early sessions, later he lost it.. All that aside, with only me to feed it is difficult having less food in the house, so when family visit I enjoy the extra preparation like yesterday when my daughter and grandson, 3, visited. After unseasonably hot weather it has turned cooler, the leaves on trees are beginning to colour, so what better than to bake some pear, walnut banana bread and rock cakes which we enjoyed straight from the oven. Keeping you in my prayers. Dorothy

    • Thank you, Dorothy. I really enjoyed reading about your treats. The coming of autumn always brings out the baker in me; it’s so appealing to be able to warm up the kitchen with such wonderful aromas. What is rock cake? I’ve never heard of it, or at least I can’t remember hearing of it. As I get older I like to imagine baking as a once-in-awhile thing for special visitors and grandchildren. Your comment was a lovely reminder of that ambition. I am grateful to have you here.

  5. Amy

    It has been very good for me to have someone to cook for the last few days. I usually eat cereal and lots of chocolate when my husband is away but I know that isn’t a good diet for Matt so I have made real meals. He loves whatever you put out so he is not hard to cook for but I love that he is so great about fresh fruit and vegetables. It made me more conscious of my choices so I hope I can keep it up when I don’t get to have him every day. Maybe we better just keep this up. I might actually loose some of this weight. 🙂 Love the photo.

    • Thanks Amy. I should have given you some grocery money or Matt might eat you out of house and home. I am sure he is loving all the variety. Thanks so much, for everything.

  6. Carolyn

    We are home and I did get a little burned. We were outside waiting for our room and it was so nice and I didn’t think about how much sun I was getting. Terry said that I look like I’m wearing a bib. Weather was great for us but good to be back home. Your picture sure does look good. I love fruit but could not stand bananas while I was taking chemo. I know how Jeff feels and it is a bummer. There are still things I don’t like but I can put away a jar of snack’ ms dill pickles in a heart beat, anything with vinegar. Better close and put away clothes. You all have a family hug for me. Love you guys.

    • Hi Carolyn, hope by now your burn has mellowed into a lovely tan. I too love pickles and can eat them by the jar. I actually like them better before they are chilled. I have been so sad to see Jeff unable to eat so many of the things he used to enjoy. We always got a big kick out of pigging out together. Hope you are having a great week. Love to you and Terry and thanks for your emails and prayers.

  7. He-he, your photo-gene is evident when you stop to capture your groceries in all their glory. You’re so cute J. You’ve made groceries fun. I can imagine the careful set up, maybe from a few different angels, click, click, up here, down here. Just like one of those fashion shoots with a big name model, but you do fruit shoots.

    You may live on nuts and tea but it sure looks great on you. You have a wonderful figure and seemingly endless energy. Not to mention, you were prepared when we met up with our DC squirrel friend. I’m sure he was extra social because you had a little squirrelly buffet in your handbag. You’re the squirrel whisperer of DC ! HA!

    Admittedly, I should eat more fruit. I like grapes and banana’s and strawberries and the odd mandarin or granny smith. But I should have more servings a day. I try to work them into our meals, two nights ago we had lemon ricotta pancakes with loads of strawberries. Heaven. xo K

    • You described my photo “fruit shoot” almost exactly; did you plant a mini-cam in my kitchen while you were here? Or maybe it’s cleverly hidden in Pauline’s light catcher? I get plenty of fruit and not enough veggies. But I have Jeff to thank for eating lots of fruit. He is very good about buying it and keeping it in front of me. Your pancakes sound fabulous. The squirrels are hysterical that anyone could use the term “whisperer” to describe my talk, hee-hee.

  8. Ann

    Julia, I love the idea of browsing in a grocery store the way I do in a library! Today is National Pimento Cheese day so I will go browse in my favorite cheese store rather than using this as an excuse to have pimento cheese on/with everything. 😇. Well, I may have just a little 😉

    • Ann, you and Sheila will have to get together for that Pimento Cheese party. I had no idea there was a day especially for Pimento Cheese. Be sure to let me know if there is a day for Pepper Jack cheese, cinnamon rolls or hot fudge sundaes! 😀

  9. Sheila

    Sunday finds us at Willow Tree and thoughts have been of you and your family, no matter where we’ve been or what we’ve been doing in recent days. Many prayers, my friend. Love to all, Sheila

    • Thank you, Sheila! Hope Willow Tree was good to you this past weekend. I’ve lost track of the days lately but hope to be back on something resembling a normal schedule before too long. Until then, enjoy those weekends and that Verandah for both of us!!

  10. LB

    Loving you, Julia.

    • Thank you LB. ❤

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