Forgetting What Hanger Feels Like

What’s your danger zone?

Mine used to be anywhere between 11:00am (sometimes as early as 10:30) and lunchtime.

I had another danger zone typically somewhere around 4:00pm (again, sometimes as early as 3:30), when I HAD TO EAT SOMETHING.

When Hanger Strikes

Hanger (or the combination of hunger and anger) can strike swiftly and without warning.

One memorable occasion was early in my relationship with Chico. We were heading up for an overnight in the mountains towards the end of our first summer together.

We’d breakfasted early on toast, jam and coffee (a typical Spanish breakfast). With our preparations, though, it took us a while to get on the road.

Then, on our way up to the mountains, we stopped to pick up a picnic lunch. We packed it away, ready to pull out on our bike excursion later. By the time we checked into our bed & breakfast and got on our bikes, it was AFTER FOUR PM.

Chico said, “Let’s cycle out a ways and stop to eat by the lake.”

He remembers this as the first time he ever saw my death stare. A cold glint appeared in my eye and I said, “No. We are eating NOW.”

Needless to say, we ate then.

Crippled by Hanger

It used to be that I could not fathom going to a grocery store between 10am and lunchtime.

If I ventured into a supermarket at that witching hour, I was sure to fall prey to the buy-all-the-food-because-I’m-so-hungry demon.

And don’t even THINK of having the kids with me when shopping at that hour. My hunger and their pestering would prove just the alchemy required to produce an EXPLOSION of hanger.

It could get ugly.

Hanger Evaporates

Today, though… Today, I went to the grocery store at 11:30am. I hadn’t had lunch.

I didn’t buy a single item that wasn’t on my list. I didn’t have a meltdown in the store when I couldn’t find the Babybel cheeses. I didn’t feel like I needed to stuff my face with food as soon as I got home.

Why was today different?

Probably, because finally, after working at it since September, I have managed to level out my blood sugar.

Gradually Getting Less Hangry

I’ve told the blog everything. I told you all when I decided to start counting calories. I told you of my frustration when I spent so much time feeling hungry.

I also told you about reading up on the benefits of a higher-fat, higher-protein, lower-carbohydrate diet.

I gradually started to up my protein intake and make veggies my main source of carbohydrate. The impact on my weight was visible on the scale almost immediately.

Even without doing anything as drastic as the “induction phase’ of the Atkins diet, my body seemed to be responding to the changes.

But for a while, I still felt hungry. I’d even finish a meal and still feel hungry. The combination of that hunger and my frustration led to quite a bit of hanger, not gonna lie.

Then Suddenly, One Day, I Wasn’t Hangry

I can’t tell you exactly when it happened because it was so gradual.

The Bug has his lunch break from 10:30am to 11:30am. It’s a ridiculously early lunch. It used to be, however, that I was hungry enough to join the boys for lunch at about 11.

Then one day, as I got the boys’ lunch ready, I realized something.

I wasn’t hungry.

I didn’t feel like eating lunch with them. So instead, I brewed myself a cuppa and sat down with them while they ate.


Without noticing it happening, I had succeeded: I had managed to get to a point where my blood sugar levels don’t dip and spike the way they used to.

Sure, I feel hungry. But it happens much less frequently and with far less urgency than it used to.

Generally, I find myself eating less, eating less frequently, thinking (and obsessing) less about food, and worrying less about snacks.

The Result

The result is that I feel a lot better. I’m slowly and gradually losing weight, a pound or two a week.

Back in September, when I started counting calories, I took out my tape measure and noted down some numbers.

The other day, when I was feeling a bit down, I decided to check my measurements.

The difference is dramatic. I can feel it in my clothes, but seeing the centimeters melt away really provided a much-needed boost.

Ongoing Debate

I know there’s a lot of debate about what constitutes a healthy diet. It’s one of those irrationally emotional arguments we get into.

Much like politics or religion, diet and nutrition are fast becoming one of those topics you shouldn’t raise at a dinner party.

I am in no way qualified to tell others what is best for them. All I know is that I have rarely felt better than I do now.

Not even when I lost weight successfully on Weight Watchers or during my short-lived stretch on Noom.

If I’m feeling good physically, emotionally (though there are still ups and downs), and about the way I look, then I figure I’m doing something right.

And I’m going to stick with it.

Pizza Perfection

It’s not every day I pull off five (nearly) perfect pizzas.

But today, I (nearly) did it!

(There was just the one that didn’t slide smoothly off the pizza peel and turned out looking a bit more like a calzone, but it was still delicious!)

Using the NYT’s pizza dough recipe from Roberta’s pizzeria in Brooklyn, I have yet to make a bad pizza.

I’ve certainly made ugly pizzas, but narry a bad one!

My First Pizzas

Back in January, our Bug asked for pizza for his birthday dinner. He had meant Papa John’s takeout pizza, but since his grandfather was visiting and family friends were joining us, I nixed that idea tout de suite.

I went in whole hog. I ordered a pizza stone and pizza peel on Amazon, and started researching good pizza dough recipes.

I bought 00 flour from a fancy grocery store (turns out Giant has it, too), and made the dough a day in advance and let it rise in the fridge overnight.

On his birthday, we had guests for dinner and I was making a dish I had never made before. I was breaking my mom’s cardinal rule of entertaining: Always serve a dish you’ve made before and know you can make well!

What the hell. The kid wanted pizza.

By some miracle, the dough turned out perfectly. I put together three absolutely delicious pizzas.

Granted, the kitchen looked like it had been hit by a bomb and there was flour EVERYWHERE. But the pizzas were good.

Fast forward to today

I’ve had a few disasters between that first time and now. The fact the pizza turned out so well for the Bug’s birthday must have been beginner’s luck.

Each disaster has been a learning opportunity (don’t overload the pizza!), and almost every time I make it, it gets better.

So I was super proud of the pizza I made today.

Not only that, I was super proud of myself for being so organized that despite there being flour everywhere for the pizza making, cleanup was a breeze.

I’m really getting the hang of this…

Next time the challenge will be to sneak some vegetables onto the boys’ pizza.

Culture Shock

As I wrote recently, I’ve been enjoying some serious brain candy reading these days.

I’ve read several books in Jasmine Guillory’s Wedding Date series. These books aren’t quite romance novels, but nearly. They’re rom-coms!

Girl meets boy, they fall for each other, their relationship moves along swimmingly until there’s some kind of conflict or crisis that splits them apart. But soon they realize they were made for each other and make it up in a funny/romantic way. Happy endings all around!

From Here But Not From Here

Guillory is from California, and all of the books I’ve read have been set in L.A. or in the Bay Area.

I live on the east coast of the U.S., and while it’s the same USA, there are a lot of cultural differences between east and west, north and south in this country.

Also, though I am American, I have lived the vast majority of my life outside of the United States. My husband is European, I myself and a dual citizen.

So while I’m here, I never feel really from here.

The Biggest Culture Shock

The biggest element of culture shock that has hit me since being here, and since reading these books, is all about…


Food is a big part of Guillory’s novels. Of course it is! Her characters are going on dates, which most often involve eating together.

But what strikes me as so strange is WHAT and WHERE they eat. And all the snacks!

First Off: What.

Donuts. Pastries. Pizza. Tacos. In-N-Out (a California thing, I think?).

Even the one character I’ve encountered who likes to cook (Carlos in The Proposal) mostly eats takeout.

Granted, Guillory’s characters are busy 30-something-year-old professionals. They’re career-driven doctors and lawyers. They start off single in the books, living in their own flats or houses.

When I was a single young professional, I didn’t do much cooking for myself, either. It’s no fun to cook for one!

But damn. Reading these books and seeing what they eat, I wonder how her characters stay so trim in their mid-thirties.

Secondly: Where.

Here’s a list of where Guillory’s characters eat:

  1. On the couch
  2. In the car
  3. At their desks
  4. In bed
  5. In a restaurant

Taking most of their meals on the couch?? This, to me, was the biggest culture shock. In all three books I’ve read, she’s specifically said that someone or other doesn’t even own a dining table.

Even when I lived in a tiny one-room studio flat, I had a dining table. Every meal that I ate at home, I sat down to eat it at the table.

Not Just In Books

And this has been a general theme in meeting new people and going into other people’s homes in the States (something we haven’t done since February, mind you…).

Dining tables are covered with stuff. They’re clearly not where the family eats.

I remember living with a college professor and her family one summer during my undergraduate studies, and I was deeply surprised to learn that their family of three rarely sat down for a meal together.

Mostly, they ate take-out on the couch.

I thought this was just a weird quirk of that one family, but I have since encountered it so many other places.

And What is With the Snacks??

Reading Guillory, I’ve learned about “bag snacks” (snacks carried in one’s purse), “desk snacks” (snacks stored in one’s desk drawers) and “car snacks” (presumably, snacks stored in… cars).

Elsewhere, especially among families with kids, I’ve noticed that snacking is a HUGE thing in the States.

Parents on the playground are always armed with food distractions like Goldfish, cookies, crackers, gummies and more.

Don’t get me wrong: we eat two snacks a day. One mid-morning and one mid-afternoon. Sometimes our snacks are on the go, like at the park or the playground. But as soon as it’s time to eat, my boys are washing (or wiping) their hands, they’re sitting down and they’re staying on their butts until their food is done, or they’re full. This, I’ve learned, is unusual (“How do you get them to sit still and eat?” one mom asked me.)

Food as an Event

Really, the key thing that brought on culture shock for me was the fact that eating in this country doesn’t seem to be much of an event.

Growing up in Switzerland (with American parents, mind you!), eating was An Event.

For all meals (and most snacks, too!), my family would sit down together. They happened at about the same time each day, and each meal had a clear beginning and end.

Dinner, especially, would begin with grace and end with asking, “May I please be excused?” and carrying our plates to the kitchen sink.

The act of sitting down to eat together was so important to my parents, that I still remember the year we didn’t take any summer vacation to the States. It was because that year, Mom and Dad had paid for a nice dining room table with 8 chairs and a matching sideboard.

Sticking With It

Even though I’m learning that this is not how many Americans approach eating, I’m sticking with it.

Maybe it’s because I absolutely hate the feeling of crumbs on a couch or on a bed, but I will NOT STAND for food anywhere but on the table.

It’s also how Chico grew up, and to us, it’s a natural thing for our family to gather together to eat.

The Beauty of Culture…

…Is that you can take it anywhere.

And the beauty of the United States is that there are so many intersecting cultures here that you can go from one house to another in a neighborhood and experience something of culture shock.

Who knows? Maybe when the pandemic is over and we actually have people over to our house again, someone will experience culture shock in our house.

What I Have Just Cooked is Pure Deliciousness

Ladies and gentlemen, I have just made the most divinely delicious dish.

“Surely, you exaggerate!” you say?

I do not.  And don’t call me Shirley.

(I guess that joke only works when spoken.  Oh well.  Moving on.)

Tonight I made sofrito, a basic Spanish fry-up of onion and other veggies, including grated tomato.  This base is then incorporated into all kinds of dishes.  Tonight, I made it into an arroz con ternera, or rice with veal.

Chef José Andrés
“Made in Espain!”

My Chico and I have been thoroughly enjoying José Andrés’ “Made in Spain” (pronounced “made in espain” of course).  We don’t get PBS, but we have been watching his program online, here.  Inspired by his show about Castilla-la Mancha, I decided to delight Chico this evening by preparing the dish José Andrés makes on this show.  Here’s how I did it:


  • 500g veal ragout (José Andrés used rabbit, but I was fresh out)
  • plenty of olive oil (preferably Spanish!)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic (whole and still in its skin)
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • paprika
  • saffron (if you don’t have it, as I didn’t, you can use turmeric, but use it sparingly)
  • 2 large tomatoes, grated (don’t include the skins)
  • mushrooms (about 225g – you can use whatever kind you like)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup medium-grain rice


  1. Season the veal.  Heat a large pot (preferably not non-stick, I used my largest le Creuset pot) and add a generous amount of olive oil to the pan.  Make sure it’s nice and hot.  Carefully add the veal ragout pieces to the pan and brown on all sides.  Remove from the pan and leave all the lovely juices behind in the pot.
  2. If necessary, add a some oil to the pan until the bottom is well coated.  Let it heat up.  When hot, toss in the onion, green pepper, garlic clove (smashed, but not chopped) and bay leaf.  Let it cook slowly for 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Meanwhile, grate the tomatoes into a bowl.
  4. When the onion & green pepper are nice and soft, add good heaping teaspoon of paprika and a pinch of saffron or turmeric and stir it around quickly (careful: the spices can burn very quickly, so be sure to mix them in well). Then toss in the tomatoes.  At this point I also added a splash of white wine for flavor, but that’s optional.
  5. Cook until the liquid has reduced and the mixture is a nice, deep red.
  6. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes until they’re soft.
  7. Add the meat back into the pot and stir it around.  Cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
  8. Add the 4 cups of water and bring the whole thing to a boil.  Add salt to taste, then cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
  9. Throw in the cup of rice and stir it in well.  Keep stirring for about 5 minutes, until it simmers again.  Then cover, and cook on very low heat for another 15 minutes.

Voilà!  You have just made a delicious Spanish meal!  If you can get your hands on saffron, it’s worth it (though it is hella expensive).  If not, like I said the turmeric can work.

Chico gave it rave reviews and even made a face like the one José Andrés makes.  It was awesome.

¡Buen provecho!