Flash in the Pan 

Spring cleaning

I love food, and it’s this love that gets me arm-deep in the food chain, prying pearls of inspiration like wisdom teeth from the mouths of experts— the chefs, farmers, home-cooks, butchers and bakers who make the world of food go ’round. It’s this love that keeps me in the kitchen, day after day, working to perfect my recipes in hopes of enhancing your gastronomic experience.

Yes, I love food—so much so that I eat it all the time. But today this love will go unconsummated.

Fasting is a common practice incorporated in scores of health and healing philosophies, as well as many religions. It’s considered a way of cleansing the body, reaching a state of clarity, and giving the gastrointestinal system a rest. But to me, fasting is sacrilegious, counterintuitive, something I’d never think of doing without some kind of serious nudge.

Perhaps that just means I needed to fast even more. 

Specific scientific studies have found virtually every observed non-photosynthetic organism lives longer if it doesn’t “eat” as much as it could. While the data on non-obese humans is still being collected, this same idea has been supported by plenty of research on mammals, including monkeys and mice. Earthworms, meanwhile, were coaxed to live 10 times longer than normal with a regime of fasting.

As for me, I’ve been feeling a little sluggish lately. Lots of heartburn, too. Lying in bed one recent Friday night, feeling bloated with don’t-remember-but-you-can-be-damn-sure-it-tasted-good, I decided the following day was the time to go for it and commence my fast. The next morning I stocked up on carrots, apples, celery and ginger, since some fasting allows for the intake of juice. Thus began my day of eating juicily.

When the first pangs of hunger kicked in, I whipped out my Champion juicer and made myself a carrot/apple juice, with ginger. Although it didn’t do much to fill the void in my stomach, I could feel that potion in my whole body. It felt majorly nutritious.

Then I made a carrot/celery juice with a touch of garlic. That was really good too, but I put too much celery in, which made it surprisingly over-the-top earthy, overwhelming the carrot. (Later on in the day I tried again but with less celery. It ruled.)

After juicing, you want to clean your juicer right away—when you can simply rinse it clean with hot water and no soap. After I did just that, I was still feeling kind of clingy around the kitchen. It was part hunger—wanting at least to be near food—and it was part idle time. I mean, if you take away cooking and eating from my schedule, there isn’t much left.

So I decided to stay, and spent as much time in the kitchen as usual. Only today, in the twin spirits of fasting and spring cleaning, I spent my time cleansing the kitchen.

A few hours later in my gleaming kitchen, my stomach was growling and my mind was a bit wobbly. My thoughts fixated on food, getting dizzy on thoughts of rotisserie chicken, enchiladas sprinkled with cheese and a big greasy breakfast with coffee. I wasn’t craving salad, but I would have eaten pounds of it.

Thawing on the counter was a bag of two-year-old frozen apricots. (Last year was an off-year for apricots; I don’t think a single apricot ripened in the whole valley. Luckily, the year before that I totally scored. And now, with apricot trees blooming around town, I’m ready to cleanse my freezer.) After all that kitchen cleaning I didn’t want to make another mess with the juicer, so I just blended apricots in water. I figured the extra fiber in the skins, which my juicer would have filtered out, would help cleanse me.

By evening the ache in my gut had dulled. Mentally, I was in a somewhat unusual, floating space. I was feeling a bit metaphysical and mystical, or at least very lightheaded.

“Your breath stinks,” said my girlfriend, unimpressed with my proximity to enlightenment. My halitosis was probably the result of my liver and muscle-bound glycogen stores breaking down to sugars in the absence of carbohydrate intake.

Lying in bed, I was happy to realize I would soon fall asleep and be instantly transported to morning, at which point I could finally eat breakfast. But it wouldn’t be the usual big greasy breakfast. I wanted this fast to be less like boot camp and more like a clutch, helping me shift dietary gears. After a long winter, it’s time to bust into spring with more fiber and less grease, and get ready to pound the salads of summer.

I’m not done with bacon, necessarily. I’m just turning it down a notch—a little greasy breakfast rather than a big one. But I’ll enjoy it even more. Because if there’s one thing I learned by fasting, it’s how much I love food.

Ask Chef Boy Ari: A little help from my friends

Last week I answered a question about keeping deer out of the garden. I thought I handled it pretty well, but on a recent walk across campus I realized that I left out some key information.

Two middle-aged women were shaking their heads sadly over some chewed-off iris stubs. 

“If they’d have used Liquid Fence, this wouldn’t have happened,” lamented one of them.

“Pardon me,” I said. “What’s Liquid Fence?”

“You spray on your garden to make it stink so bad the deer leave it alone,” she said.

“It smells like cat piss,” said her friend.

The first one leaned in close and confided “Actually, I think they should call it liquid shit.” They both giggled like schoolgirls.

Liquid Fence is available at most local hardware stores. It’s made of garlic, eggs, xanthan gum, potassium sorbate (a food preservative), and sodium lauryl sulfate, which is a food additive used to make things frothy, like whipped cream or toothpaste. Sounds pretty benign, and worth recommending, but I wouldn’t brush your teeth with it. Now onto this week’s question:

Q: Dear Chef Boy Ari,
My mom and her husband are limoncello freaks, and they make batches of it every couple months. The process involves soaking lemon peels in vodka before adding sugar water and more vodka. Mom’s recipe calls for soaking 40 days, but some recipes say you can do it in 10.

We want to know how long you really have to soak the peels in order to excrete their oils into the vodka.  Any ideas?

—Curious Limonhead

A: Dear Limonhead,

I’m stumped, so I’m sending my assistant Kate to Italy next week to research this. In the meantime, I say try the 10-day soak and tell me what happens.

Send your food and garden queries to flash@flashinthepan.net.
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