“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining board, which I have padded with our dog’s blanket and the tea-cosy.”
– Dodie Smith
In truth, as taken as I am with my new kitchen sink (the entire kitchen is new, not just the sink, and when I say new, I mean new to me because the kitchen, and the entire house, are decidedly old), it would not be a very good place to sit.
But, like Cassandra Mortmain, I find myself nervous to be starting a new project. There is nothing quite so unnerving as an empty journal, except, as I am coming to learn, a blinking word-processing screen. Nonetheless, I have steeled my courage and intend to make a solid go of it.
To help me along, I have years of learning at my mothers apron-strings, a few years of cooking for the same sweet and silly man, and a heavy shelf of cook books.
You may notice that between the creamy (and sometimes terrifying) La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E Saint-Ange, the delectable Julia, and the essential Joy, two cookbooks for diabetics managed to sneak in. And that, reader, is the real reason for this blog.
Several months ago my boyfriend Dan was admitted to the intensive care unit two days before we were supposed to leave on a long-planned and much anticipated vacation to Canada. I was going to try skiing again, he was going to persuade me to go snowshoeing, we were going to eat our way through Montreal. Instead, he found himself hooked up to an IV in New York Presbyterian. Dan was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. He took it with his usual cheery forbearance, while my mom accompanied me on an eating tour of the city (à di la and the Clover Club in Brooklyn, Veselka, Grand Central Oyster Bar and the Mermaid Inn in the city) and held my hand as I cried on the couch. Well. Not my bravest hour.
After our week of not-vacation, Dan and I came home to Washington, DC and I realized I was going to have to change the way I cook and the way we ate. I’ve always loved to cook, but cooking on a student’s schedule and budget in a student’s kitchen meant I ate a lot of pasta. When people ask what my go-to dish is, the answer is Pasta Puttanesca without the slightest hesitation. I could cook pasta puttanesca in my sleep, blindfolded.
(This is not as much of an achievement as it sounds. It is absurdly easy: gather together olive oil, tinned anchovies, 1 can of diced tomatoes (make sure the can contains tomatoes and only tomatoes–none of that basil and herb nonsense), some coarsely chopped pitted black olives, red chili flakes, a head of garlic and a jar of capers. Fill a big ol’ pot with water on top of the stove and pour some salt in there. Set the water to boiling–you will be done with the prep work before it comes to a boil. Cut up the garlic–you can slice it or mince it depending on your mood. I say two to four bigass cloves for two people, but know that I like garlic. Take some of the anchovies (I use about half a tin for two people, but I am anchovy mad. Normal people would probably like about 3 anchovies for this) and chop them roughly. Pour olive oil into pan over medium heat, and dump the garlic, anchovies, and three shakes of red pepper flakes in there. Heat for a while, until the anchovies start to look melt-ed-y. Open and drain your can of tomatoes, then dump that in there too. Ditto the olives, and oh, let’s say a tablespoon of capers. Put your pasta in the big pot when the water comes to a boil and cook to package instructions. Taste taste taste the pasta sauce; add salt as needed. The sauce can hang out on low, covered, while the pasta cooks. Drain the pasta, pour the sauce on top. A meal that actually takes less than thirty minutes, and costs less than ten dollars! Horrah!)
Dan is a Type 1 diabetic, which means butter, bacon and cream are still a-okay for him at the moment. The two things that really needed to change were the amount of carbs and vegetables we ate. Half of Dan’s plate is supposed to be filled with vegetables at every meal (this is actually true for all Americans, but this was the first time we were taking it super seriously). Dan takes insulin before every meal and bikes around the city nearly every day, so carbs can still play an important role in meals. Gone, however, are the days of a big pot of pasta counting as dinner.
The first few weeks, I carefully counted out the carbs in every meal. This was completely new territory for both of us. A big fan of butter and cream, I have never exactly been the type to think too closely about the nutritional value of a meal. Now I do, for every meal. It’s gotten easier for me to estimate the amount of carbs in a meal, and it’s easy enough to see whether half of a plate is taken up with vegetables.
It’s getting easier, but it hasn’t been easy. Dan’s diagnosis has absolutely challenged me as a home cook. I decided to start this blog to keep track of the food we eat and our efforts to find comforting, healthy options. I’m going to post recipes and nutrition facts as often as I can.
As a disclaimer: please don’t assume that these recipes will be perfect for every diabetic. Listen to your own doctor and your own common sense. Nutrition facts come from calorieking and should be taken as guidelines, not God’s own word.