When I was a kid, I ate a lot of pasta. An excessive amount of pasta. Angel hair with a dollop of non-chunky marinara sauce. Not spicy, minimal flavor and enough to just coat each strand of angel hair. I also ate chicken. It had to be white meat only. Not on a bone. Only a chicken breast, cutlet or nugget. Covered in teriyaki sauce, ketchup, marinara sauce or bread crumbs. I ate assorted veggies and fruit, pizza among other things but had a very limited diet.
In 2008, my friend, Nikki and I traveled to Barcelona and went to Mercado de La Boqueria which if you’ve been there, you know the excess of meat and fish that is hanging and sold there. I immediately ran out, turned to Nikki and said “I’m done” and that day was the last day I ate meat. I’ve never looked back.
In becoming a vegetarian, I definitely took on a lot of carbs. More than I already had been – I loved my pasta so much. I continued to have a very simple taste palate and had become more selective as I became a vegetarian.
While spending time in Tel Aviv, I discovered and was open to new foods. I tried tomatoes for the first time (yes, I had eaten tons of ketchup and marinara sauce but picked every tomato off of my salad). I realized that tomatoes in Israel were that much better than those in the states but atleast was open to the concept of them. I learned to love quinoa and realized that it was an excellent source of protein. The foods I tried continued to be really simple, but to me, I was atleast diversifying my food intake.
About a year ago, I was at my beloved Momofuku Noodle Bar with two friends eating the usual: ginger scallion noodles (no shiitakes) and ricecakes. My friend turned to me and acknowledged how hot the ricecakes were and I sort of laughed. I didn't think they were so hot. Okay, I thought they were hot but I didn't find them to be unbearable and enjoyed the kick that they offered.
From that moment on, I decided to try hot and spicy foods. I had always eaten the blandest of foods but maybe, just maybe I would actually like them.
I became absolutely obsessed with eating spicy foods.
Last month I ate shishito peppers three days in a row after never eating them in my life and anxiously awaited a really hot one. I started putting Mike’s Hot Honey on things. I added hot sauce to recipes. I started putting ginger, cayenne and turmeric in everything – I mean everything. It got a bit obsessive but I was simply so excited to diversify my palate especially with new flavors and spices.
Well, with everything – I was reminded of the concept, everything in moderation.
After eating all of these foods in large quantities, I realized that my body couldn’t handle it. I’d never eaten these things in my life and I wasn’t slowly introducing them into my life – I was going full speed ahead. My body shut down. It couldn’t handle this much of something new. I started to get sharp pains and realized I needed to take a break and go back to my bland foods.
I was disappointed but over the past few years, I’ve been extremely in tune with my body and wasn’t going to reject listening to it and its signs.
I spent a week eating bland foods – dreaming of ginger, cayenne and hot sauce. I finally feel that I’m at the point of being able to reintroduce these foods and spices into my diet but need to be more cautious about it.
So what’s the lesson? Everything in moderation! It’s not just with food – it’s with everything. Anything in excess is never a good thing. And most importantly, listen to your body because it knows what it wants and will give you signals that can clue you in on what you should or shouldn't do to it.