Category Archives: Eat What

The “Sorry We’re Out” Moment

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How many times have you been caught in a situation where, having identified something you can eat, the item is out of stock or not actually what you think?

I was at the western food stall just now, going to order grilled fish with salad, and some pasta by the side. “So sorry, we’re out of grilled fish. And pasta. And salad too. How about the fried fish?” Then goes the dieter’s brain. Calculate calculate calculate… this fat, that fried, so many carbocalories….. “Any more salmon?”

Thankfully yes. And fusilli in tomato sauce. And coleslaw. Not ideal, but better than fried fish.

“Is this breast meat?” I pointed to the picture of a grilled piece of chicken. “No, no breast meat. All thigh meat,” goes the Indonesian grill stall lady.

Chicken noodles, breast meat please. “Sorry ah, no more breast meat. Drumstick ok?” goes the Chinese noodle stall uncle. Before I could calculate, my mouth strangely said ok. It was an “out of ideas moment” – the sort that you regret making approximately 1.54 seconds after uttering. Or I was simply being too polite. Even though I hate drumstick. I paid up, resigned to the… let’s just call it an experiment. “Drumstick, extra 50 cents,” mutters the uncle matter-of-factly. Grrrrrrrrrrr. And it was an awful meal. Never do that again.

Two sets fish please. Mmmm, can I change the sides? “Sorry sir, the discount sets are fixed. Would you like the fries spicy or non-spicy?” The friendly chap at Botak Jones is a little apologetic. I’m after all a regular (of their Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken)  Umm…… one normal, one spicy please. You see the problem is that I’ve ordered already, so I’m too polite to change it. Especially when there’s a queue behind me.

One slice of papaya please. “So sorry,” the lady at the fruit stall frowns as she prepares to pack it, “The papayas aren’t sweet today. Would you like to have a slice of honeydew instead? They’re very sweet!” No, thanks, I said happily, the papaya is fine.

Fueling up before gym

Earlier in my training regime, when I tracked my eating item by item on paper, my trainer used to jokingly tell me that whatever I ate prior to coming to gym was all gone, when I looked exhausted after an exercise. He would always tell me that food, especially those refined carbs, would be burned away as fuel very quickly during gym. It was thus important to fuel up before gym.

EDIT: This applies more to those in my current stage – weight training. If you are in the weight loss phase, don’t eat too much, as it would mean you will gain more calories to get rid of, resulting in less weight loss. Remember I am currently too light for my trainer, so I can’t not eat – I might even lose more weight!

The best time is about 2 hours before the session. That’s when I can load up without any anxiety. My trainer’s original instructions a couple of months back was to eat 4 slices of wholemeal bread an hour before gym. (I can hear your groan – wholemeal bread?? How exciting. But really, I enjoy it. I enjoy times when I can eat carbs without guilt).

It seemed to improve my energy, and to some degree my weight. But I varied this a bit and found a nice formula:

2 hours before gym: 2 slices of wholemeal or multigrain bread, with peanut butter or marmalade jam. Optional: coffee or tea, one cup.

1 hour before gym: 2 slices of wholemeal or multigrain bread, same as above, or with a slice of cheese. Water.

Don’t eat too much towards the 1 hour mark – or risk indigestion during training. When I followed my trainer’s original instructions to eat 1 hour before gym, that’s what happened. It’s not his error per se, but perhaps because my stomach isn’t used to it. Either way, I find the 2-hour plan much more effective. It gives me energy for the session, and keeps my weight up…. just before gym, isn’t that convenient. It is also nice to be “snacking” on carbs at 5pm and 6pm.

And in case you’re wondering, after gym I’m definitely hungry again.

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Wisdom tooth extracted, definitely wiser

The first thing I quickly realized some hours after my wisdom tooth was extracted, was that the nurse/receptionist was right. I should’ve eaten a big sumptious meal before the surgery. The rest of the day was spent by this weight watcher wondering what to eat. While I know, of course, the classic choices (porridge, ice cream, yoghurt), I was not very inclined – all these soft, useless carbs….

It’s not that I wouldn’t enjoy them, I suppose. And yet, I did not relish having them. It seems I’ve truly become immune to the charms of carbs and sugars. It may seem unbelievable, but it’s true.

Immediately after the surgery, I was 20 metres into my walk home when I did a u-turn, the realization of hunger dawning on me, and made a beeline for… Kentucky Fried Chicken, at West Mall. There were no crowded queues. But there was also little choice for me.

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Yes, I decided not to speak too much, so I used my phone smartly. Next, I dropped by the mall’s traditional kopi house, Kopi Roti, and bought a set of 2 soft-boiled eggs, kaya toast and a cup of teh (tea). I was mainly eyeing the eggs (protein!).

As the day (and the pain) wore on, I quickly realized that little of the whipped potato or porridge(my mom cooked and came over) was keeping me full. Rather, they don’t last very long in my stomach. I was literally getting hungry every hour. I could even hear my stomach going, “Where’re my complex carbs, fibre and protein? *Growl*” The porridge simply disappeared, disintegrated by my higher-than-before-gym metabolism like so much flour in a fast-flowing river.

Is that it? Has my metabolism improved so much that I really have little use for quickly digested refined carbs now? Is that my body telling me it doesn’t enjoy these things anymore?

It’s my second day of medical leave, and I can’t describe how satisfying it was to finish my lunch of mashed pan-fried salmon fillet, with half a salted egg, tofu (and porridge). That’s proper food.

Strawberries, my original breakfast cereal staple

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A peek into the vegetable chiller compartment of my fridge. What you see – strawberries, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, dried cranberries, blueberries… essentially, is all mine. Over the course of the last few months I’ve gradually taken over the drawer of the chiller. I think my wife hasn’t realized it yet.

Strawberries. My original breakfast cereal staple. First Breakfast became a much fresher concept when I realized that strawberries added a burst of sparkle to the taste. Strawberries used to be the Fruit That I Did Not Know What To Do With, because it was too small, too expensive and I am not a baker. Also, strawberries across the modern ages has had its reputation spoiled by such artificialities as strawberry jam, strawberry ice cream/yoghurt and strawberry candy – all of which have successfully fooled generations of people that strawberry is supposed to be inordinately sweet. It is not, that’s just the sugar talking. I grew up thinking strawberries are classified as “sweet fruits”. You know, like mango and oranges. Until I ate a real one.

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OK to be fair, if you know how to choose (I’m still learning) and pay enough, you can have sweet – make that mildly, reasonably – sweet strawberries, like these Korean strawberries. I’m not going to ask anyone if these are genetically modified or generously fertilizer-ed. All I know is, over the last 3 or 4 months I’ve been buying strawberries almost weekly, and between Australian, New Zealand and Korean strawberries so far, the latter are consistently the sweeter ones. In any case, for the last month they seem to be the only ones in season. Don’t ask me about Japanese strawberries though. I can’t afford them.

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Indeed, price has always been an issue. For me, in Singapore, a bag of fruits is considered reasonable if it’s $2. I buy five American Gala apples for $2 at your typical supermarket. Strawberries tend to start at the $4 end for a box, which typically contains about 15 to 18 strawberries. It’s not, to me anyway, a cheap investment, especially since they do spoil faster, even in the chiller.

I’ve learnt that you should be careful buying strawberries that are on sale. These are at the end of the their shelf life and are liable to spoil within a few days in the chiller. Sometimes however, fresh strawberries really are on sale at a discount, so the trick is to visually check before you buy. Brightly coloured (reds and greens) strawberries good; wilted leaves bad.

Speaking of appearance, I read that strawberries really ought to be red, and those with whitish parts aren’t as good. This seems to be true, going by my buying and tasting experience so far. Another thing – I used to think strawberries, as depicted on gift cards and cutesy stationary – ought to be pointed and heart-shaped. Until my friend told me the really good ones are the ones shaped like feet – as in, splayed out at the end, not pointed.

Mould – in my own observations, strawberries seem to develop mould if they are kept in the same position in the box too long. So, after a day or two, I would usually remove the bubblewrap used to protect the berries during transit, and jiggle the box to reposition them in the box.

Over the months, the chiller in my fridge has rarely gone a day without containing some strawberries. I’ve grown so used to buying them that I no longer think much about the price (well, unless it exceeds $5). It is a nutritional superfood anyway and much better eaten in its natural form – I remain unable to appreciate strawberries in any artificial form. I do like blueberry tarts though, but that’s another berry for another day,