Monday, November 10, 2008


Sesame-ginger seared swordfish steak with sauteed shitake mushrooms, steamed broccoli spears and lemon-truffle risotto.

When I created this evening's dinner, I commented to L that perhaps I should blog tonight about Pride, one of the seven deadly sins that I am pledged to discuss this month. It is a very pretty plate, after all, and I am quite pleased that I made this whole dinner from my own imagination. (OK, I did have lemon-truffle risotto before at a restaurant, but it wasn't as good as this was, and I had it with scallops and something that wasn't broccoli. I don't remember what it was, but it wasn't broccoli.)

Then she took a bite.

"Gluttony," she mumbled around a mouthful, " because I could eat six of these."

So gluttony it is.

We live in a gluttonous society. Everything around us screams "more!" "Super-size it!" "A huge meal for six bucks!" "And you don't have to get out of the car!"

I am not sure whether I would call myself a glutton or someone who is really, really fond of pleasurable nerve responses.

I love food that tastes good. When I find some, I often eat more of it than I should. Often, my definition of what "tastes good" is perhaps more generous than is healthy for my waistline. Some foods, like this evening's meal, taste good because they hit all of the taste buds in a complementary fashion and leave a marvelous lingering sensation on the palate. Some foods, like mashed potatoes and gravy from KFC just taste good because they are salty, greasy, fast, and consumed hours before my period hits. Other foods taste good because they remind me of happy times or loved ones. I have a recipe for boiled chicken breast meat, potatoes and onions in a gravy made from the cooking stock and toasted flour that tastes not much without lots of salt and pepper, but it reminds me of my old French aunt-in-law from many years ago, and I love it. It makes me remember her love, and that can't be bad. Too bad she didn't love me with salads, though.

Food is probably the first thing I ever used to hide or squash my feelings. Sad? Have some ice cream. Hurt feelings? Have a candy bar or a cookie. Lonely? let's cook something!

As I grew older, I found other things to better stifle my feelings of inadequacy in alcohol and drugs, and those were far more efficient (and usually cheaper) than food.

When I got sober, I ran from my feelings in other ways, most of which I have addressed over the years. But occasionally I still revert to food to stifle things when I get too bad/sad/depressed/overwhelmed/etc.

Is that gluttony? I'm not sure.

wikki defines its origins in Latin as "Derived from the Latin gluttire, meaning to gulp down or swallow, gluttony is the over-indulgence and over-consumption of food, drink, or intoxicants to the point of waste..."

Aha. Waste. That was one of the things that originally hit me in my first consideration of the vast and complex concept of sin. It is wasteful.

I would also be inclined to believe that gluttony is harmful. Not to others, generally, although if someone goes hungry because of another's gluttony, that is bad, but gluttony hurts the glutton. We know all too well the price obesity takes on the human body. We also know how costly it is to society when you factor in health care costs, preventable diseases and everything else. It is bad, bad stuff.

But am I willing and ready to give it up? I don't know.

I suppose I can be ready to moderate things a bit. This evening's meal may have looked decadent, but each plate had an 8-ounce piece of fish, maybe a cup of risotto (rice and broth) a cup of steamed broccoli and an ounce of mushrooms. It was low in salt, low in fat and high in those good fish oils that doctors are always talking about. All of the portions are reasonable, and there were no seconds. The fact that it tasted so good made it feel like a forbidden pleasure, but really there was nothing to regret in the whole thing. And it was filling. I ate mine and was full. L ate most of hers and declared herself full. I call that a win.

Is tasting good a sin? Does pleasure come into this, or is gluttony just shoveling food in as fast as possible? I'd like to think that my enjoyment of food, even when I consume too much, is not about gluttony so much as it is about enjoying flavors. I enjoy pleasurable sensations. I like good flavors, I like nice smells, I like a good backrub, I like a beautiful sunset. Those things don't seem sinful. They are using the senses that nature equipped us with.

Who knows. This may all be one grand and complicated justification trip to keep me from attending Overeaters Anonymous meetings. I've been to those meetings, and I kind of liked them. They often just irritated me, though. I know what it feels like to have food run my life, to have food make my decisions and all that stuff like alcohol did all those years ago. My food does not control me today. Notice that I did not say "any more." Today. For today, I have a reprieve. How or why I don't know, but for now I am ok. I will do the normal recovering drunk thing tonight and thank my higher power for another day of sobriety, and I'll thank him for not letting food run my life today too. It is a gift I didn't work to get, and I am aware of that and am extra grateful. For today I ate mostly reasonable portions of mostly healthy food (ok, lunch was a bust, but supper was fantastic!).

Gluttony has been avoided, though through no real effort of mine. I am grateful.

And now, before I forget what I did and someone asks for the recipe, here it is:

Lemon-truffle risotto
takes 30-45 minutes or so
1 cup aborio rice
2 tablespoons white truffle flavored olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
3 cups chicken broth
juice and most of the zest from 1 lemon

Oil and onions in a heavy-bottomed pan, medium heat to sautee until onions are translucent but not brown. Add the rice and stir for a few minutes. You want the rice to be coated with oil and a little toasted from the heat, but not burned.
Add 1 cup of the chicken broth, making sure none of the rice is sticking to the bottom. Stir frequently until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Add the second cup of broth and keep stirring. Before you add the third cup of broth, grate the zest into the pot and squeeze in the lemon juice (watch to keep the seeds out!). Then add the last of the broth and stir until it is all absorbed. I started cooking the swordfish when I added the last of the broth. I started cooking the broccoli around then too. If you need directions on how to steam broccoli, you have no business trying any of this. Print out the page and hand it to whomever cooks in your home. And stay the hell away from the stove.

Ginger-sesame-crusted swordfish steak with sauteed shitake mushrooms.
takes about 10 minutes
two 8-ounce swordfish steaks
2 ounces shitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced.
1/2 cup raw sesame seeds
2 teaspoons powdered ginger
1 teaspoon powdered garlic
toasted sesame oil
soy sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil

In a shallow bowl or a plate, combine the sesame seeds, garlic and ginger. Make sure they're mixed around well.

Put the vegetable oil in a large frying pan and turn the heat to medium-high-ish (you don't want the oil to smoke, but you do want the fish to sizzle.)

Rinse and pat dry the swordfish steaks. Drizzle with a tiny bit of the sesame oil, rub it around to coat lightly and dip both sides into the sesame seed mixture and place immediately into the heated pan.

After about four minutes, turn the steaks and put the mushrooms in the pan to cook in the yumminess there. My stove is not level, so I have a convenient corner of the pan where all the liquid goes, so that's where I put the mushrooms. Drizzle some soy sauce (not much - maybe 1 tablespoon per steak and another for the mushrooms) and stir around until the mushrooms are soft and coated in the soy.

After four more minutes, flip the steaks one last time to re-sizzle the part with the soy sauce on it and get ready to serve.

I put the risotto in the bottom of a large pasta bowl dish and placed the steak on top with the mushrooms across it. I then drizzled a TINY bit of the toasted sesame oil over it, arranged the steamed broccoli and called it good.

It looks absolutely elegant, but was really pretty easy. Even cooking the risotto, which takes between 30 and 45 minutes and does require some watching ad stirring, it was not a lot of work. I was able to do some dishes in between the prep steps, and it all came together pretty well.

When dinner was done, Quinn the wonder dog helped with the dishes. Sometimes they like to get up and run off so she has to hold them down to make sure they are scrubbed thoroughly.


Robin said...

Gluttony, specifically for food, is definitely an issue with me. I love good food, really love it, but I can't seem to be satisfied with just a taste. If a bit is good, more is great. My bad habits are reflected in my waistline and growing unhealthiness too.

I'm working on it.

MRMacrum said...

Whenever a society gets to a point of relative calm and comfort, the seven deadly sins seem to come to the forefront. With nothing real to fight or overcome, we humans tend to find other more self destructive avenues to release stress that is always there no matter the circumstance. Gluttony is an obvious go to choice in cultures like this.

But gluttony is not just about food, nor is it just a personal fault. America is a gluttonous country. We consume just for the sake of consuming. Our society is based on a consumer dynamic that if not kept at a certain level, we actually begin to suffer real downturns. Just look at where we are now. The payback for 50 years of unrestrained consumption are now coming home to roost. Gluttony is an integral part of our economic model.

I have always been a glutton. I never refused seconds nor very often refused thirds. If there was food left in the pot, I felt sad. I had under performed that day. I guess that makes me a Good American.

CaroleMcDonnell said...

Great post!

Gluttony is being ruled by food. So even if one doesn't overeat, being ruled by one's appetite amounts to gluttony. Imagine, for instance, a thinnish woman who only wants to eat a flat boring little cracker. That;s all she wants. She could very well eat a sandwich or whatever is in the house. But she goes in search for this particular cracker because she has a hankering for it. That's gluttony. Because she has allow something to rule her. We might call it a craving, but it is nothing more than allowing the soul/spirit/will to be carried away by hormones/emotions/appetite. A glutton simply cannot say no to him/herself. A glutton is also a slave to new sensation. IT's akin to greed. But greed involves the need for external things.

The trouble with glutton is that folks tend to pick on fat folks because supposedly the sin of gluttony is obvious. But it isn't so obvious. It's a sin that tends to the desires of the flesh more than it tends to the spirit.

Bets said...

that recipe looks fabulous! I will try it soon -
(and thanks for stopping by my blog.)
Did you mean inspire the 7 deadly sins, when you decided to write about them? =: )

Queenie said...

Your dish was a piece of art and eating it would be like rolling around in Rembrandt's paint box, I can imagine. I am an avid, admitted glutton. If one tastes good, two will taste better. But I agree that the entire undercurrent to my experiences with food is how the food makes me feel: satisfied, less lonely, accomplished, like I'm being hugged by my mom? Although overweight, I'm still in good health so I say to hell with it and pass the plate.

Stickthulhu said...

First, the dish looks great and the recipe sounds delicious. I have several pounds of locally caught tuna in my freezer (I just had too much to eat at once!) and I wonder how tuna will fare...I may just give it a try!

Interesting thread of comments on gluttony/consumption and what drives them. Something tasting good is not a sin, by any stretch. Carbohydrate tastes good and sugar tastes sweet as a way of signaling our brain that this is nutrition we are "programmed" to feed upon. It's a purely biological trigger - like the nerve endings in our genitals that you refer to in your last post.

Thing is, our industrial, pertol/corn-based food chain has made things that taste good so abundant and (relatively) cheap, it's hard not to cross into over-consumption.

If you haven't already, read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. It will change the way you view food, as part of the American "culture" if there is such a thing, and as part of you. It hasn't made me come out and say "this type of food is bad and immoral/unethical" (and it doesn't attempt to picture it as such) but it has made me very, very aware of just what goes into the food we buy, eat and feed our kids. Absolutely awesome book; can't recommend it highly enough.