Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Do Chef's Get Writer's Block?

If they do, does the restaurant close? What causes a chef to get this writer's block? What would you even call it?

Writer's block is fundamentally a lack of creativity in the moment. This is usually due to an inexplicable lack of inspiration or motivation. You aren't aware of it consciously yet, but there is something that just isn’t there anymore. The spark plug that would ignite the engine block is gone, and nothing happens when you try to turn the key.

Lights are dull. Wine has no taste. Food merely keeps us alive.

I was standing a grocery store a few days ago, and realized I couldn’t hear anything. Not in the sense of the ambient sound, but I couldn’t hear the groceries speaking to me. I had no connection to that which I used to bring me so much creative joy. I haven’t even touched a pan for more than 2 months. Why? As a chef, I have always been able to draw from that which moves me to cobble pieces of life together into sustenance, but in my current state, I can't. Even my writing has stopped flowing. I haven't been able to hold a thought long enough to put pen to paper and provide a meal for the mind.

Too much noise in my own head. What I wouldn't give for the smell of sautéing garlic in my own house.

I miss the taste of food. But I cannot create. I am a fridge in a bachelor pad.


- The UE

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Dare the Bear

Tomorrow, I compete in my first real triathlon, Black Bear in Lehighton, PA, along side one of my best friends and in front of our closests supporters.

650m Swim
11 mile Bike
3.1 mile Run

My meals this week have consisted of lots of fruit, whole grain breads, healthy fats like avocados, and lean meats or fish. Nothing fried or processed. After the race, Im eating an entire pound of brisket!!!!

I plan to get out there, be smooth and fast, and CRUSH IT!!!!

This time tomorrow, I will officially be a TRIATHLETE!!! This is but the first step in the road to Iron Man 70.3 in October. Heeeeere we go!!!

- The UE

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cinco De Mayo (and the Triathlete's Burden)

Happy Cinco de Mayo guys! Here's to those French being good for memorable wine easy defeats in battle.

I only wish I could enjoy this day more. My first triathlon is on May 22nd (http://www.cgiracing.com/2009Events/BlackBearTri.aspx), so for the month of may I am totally off the sauce, to ensure peak performance. ARRRRRGGGHHH!!!!!!!!

There's always next year. Fare the well my latin friends...

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Simply Smarter

Do you remember in the late 90’s / early 2000’s when Chevron really started pushing Techron? Their entire pitch was based on the premise that their fuel was the best to put in your car. It has technology to help your car run longer. Techron could help clean your engine parts. It even kept the new car smell longer (ok, maybe not that). The point is that Chevron started a movement focused on how the intake of a vehicle can vastly improve its performance. Shell premiered its own line of enhanced gas products. Valvoline debuted its line of oil enhancing products focused on keeping engine parts clean and smooth. Day after day we continue to be bombarded with messages expressing that what goes into a performance vehicle (or even your neighborhood minivan) has a direct correlation to how well that vehicle runs.

So what about the vehicle of the human body?

Lately I have been trying to answer the question of nutrition for triathlon training. As you would expect, most of the literature suggests that I have a balanced diet consisting of the healthiest of foods – whole grains, natural fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish. But why? Isn’t a calorie a calorie? Does it really matter from where I source my carbs, proteins and fats if they all total the right figures? Why can’t I live off of the McDonald’s menu?

These are all questions I have had floating around my head (read: stomach) as doubts to the science of fueling my body to perform. But to sustain biking dozens of miles, or running a marathon, or even just making it through a week of training without severe digestive issues, I have realized that my body must be treated like the performance machine it is. As I progress through this lifestyle, I realize more each day that I am asking my body to be a Ferrari, but feeding it the cargo for a garbage truck. How can I expect to be the fastest on the race course if I am weighing myself down with Big Mac’s that don’t digest fully? How can I aim to drop unneeded body fat when I am fueling my body with the low density lipids and trans fat laden in chili con queso? I have recorded evidence that I perform much more strongly after a dinner of sushi and edamame than a cheeseburger and fries.

Recently I have actually had to come to grips with the effects Mexican food has on my body pre-training. As you may have noticed from previous posts, I have a deep rooted passion for Tex-Mex foods. However I have noted through my scientific process of journaling the foods I eat (down to the actual calories and nutrition mix detail), that certain south of the border foods take the air out of my tires pre-training. I have thus sworn them off before training, and will only enjoy them on my off days. I’m fearful of what other foods will fall off my list. Will I no longer be able to enjoy a nice glass of wine with dinner? Are the days of the chocolate chip cookie numbered???

My current deliberations have led me to believe that to properly fuel my training, I need to adjust my intakes to align more closely with the foods our bodies were meant to digest. That means increase of beans, carrots, fruits, fish, etc. That also means a significant decrease in the amount of alcohol, cheese, FOIE GRAS, and other unnaturally occurring materials entering my body. Just thinking about what sugar can do to a GAS TANK has led me to cut way back on sweets (farewell tiramisu).

At the end of the day, my goal is to be the fittest, fastest and foodiest triathlete there is. The quest to not be this guy continues…

- The UE

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

GUEST POST: I Was Just Thinking….

I can’t help but be overwhelmed by the enormous amount of press and attention that has been given to the “predicament” that African American women face. The predicament, as you might have already guessed, is the high percentage of unmarried African American women due to the apparent dearth of suitable African American males women have to choose from as mates. This topic has really taken on a life of its own! It has made its way to talk shows (such as Oprah: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HvQel-sIKwM), national news (such as ABC: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJGMAhWpDF8&feature=related), hair salons, books, magazines, tweets, facebook status updates, and movies alike. I won’t engage in the “great debate” here.

I do offer a perspective on the topic, however. At second glance, the scale that balances the number of suitable mates for African American men and women may not be so lopsided against the women as many would like to think. I surmise, that for many, the scale is actually lopsided against the men. The “problem” facing African American women may go beyond a simple comparison of the number of educated men to the number of educated women. Indeed, it comes back to supply and demand. However, a more granular level of analysis is required.

What seems to be overlooked in the “ great debate” is that attraction is a two-way street. It’s natural for a person to be attracted to a particular type of person. However, that other person must also be attracted in return. Furthermore, it is likely that the quality that person A likes in person B, is the same quality that person B admires in other people. The laws of attraction are real. Like attracts like. Depending on what qualities one values in a suitable mate (and the priority one places on those qualities), a person can have an easy or difficult time finding a partner. Similarly, depending on the personal qualities one has, he or she can find the same ease or difficulty in finding a partner. On this premise, I believe that some African American men (particularly those driven, educated, attractive men) have a more difficult time finding a suitable mate than their female counterparts.

Consider this: when most people think of essential qualities in a life-long companion, thoughtfulness, physical and inner beauty, financial security, confidence, religious, ambitious, loyalty and other thoughts may quickly come to mind. What if, for the African American man, fitness and healthy eating habits were top priorities? What if, before evaluating anything else, these men look to see if the other person is not only fit but also truly embodies a healthy lifestyle by her adherence to proper nutrition and physical activity? What would be left for these men to choose from? What if the man had a simple request of: I want my partner to not only be fit, but of a normal weight (as defined by the Dept of Health or the Center of Disease and Control)? Is that too much to ask?

I recognize this is a sensitive subject within the African American community, but I also believe this is where the problem lies. Standards have fallen far too low. How has it somehow become inappropriate to talk about proper health-much less demand it? There are legitimate reasons why a healthy lifestyle is paramount. The vast majority of illnesses and diseases can be traced back to poor nutrition and lack of sufficient exercise. The implications of poor health can certainly be quantified as well. A study by McKinsey and Company showed that health care costs associated with those who have a BMI of 30-34, 35-39, and 40+, are 18%, 55%, and 91% greater, respectively, than those individuals who have a BMI less than 25 (considered normal). It’s not necessary to document all of the psychological negative implications being overweight and obese can have on a person as well.

According to the Office of Minority Health, a division of the US Department of Health & Human Services, “African American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese compared to other groups in the U.S. About four out of five African American women are overweight or obese”. That is about 80%. Therefore, if you are an African American male, who is unfortunate enough to want an African American woman that is neither overweight nor obese, you have a starting point of 20% of the population to choose from. From that pool, you then must sift through the other qualifiers (age, location, availability, desirable qualities, etc) to find a suitable mate. Unfortunately, this is a grim scenario that faces many African American men in this country (and is not being talked about). Furthermore, I would guess, the more successful the man, the more inclined he is to want a woman who is not overweight or obese.

Somewhere along the way, four major issues have developed: 1) Health/fitness have been discounted 2) People stopped holding themselves accountable 3) It became “superficial” and “disingenuous” to want someone who was of normal weight and had a proper level of fitness 4) People have become naïve to think that it’s fine for them to be attracted to individuals who exhibit a certain quality (like being in “great shape”) and assuming that the other person wouldn’t be looking for the same thing.

So what happens to these men who can’t find any available women who exhibit the one quality that they deem most important? My guess? Just like any other scenario in nature or business-one adapts and finds a market/environment that has the product/supply that is sought after.

Adapt or die.

“Le Penseur”

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The Triathlete's Dilemma

It’s clearly been a while since we last spoke, and that is entirely my fault. For the last 2 months I have been focusing all my energy on a new goal - becoming an endurance athlete, specifically a triathlete. The combination of distance swimming, biking and running have proven to be one of the most awe inspiring and respect demanding events of my life. I've never been more challenged or fulfilled physically.

And while I have enjoyed countless benefits from training for such a task - better physique, higher levels of energy, more mental discipline - I have suffered a serious degradation in one of my most coveted relationships. Food and I have become very distant over the last 8 weeks, and I honestly haven't decided how I feel about that. My mentality has changed from someone who looks at a piece of tiramisu and swoons, who tastes wine and indulges, to someone who sees cheese and stands down because he knows it will weigh him down in the pool and is too much saturated fat for his body to process for fuel efficiency.

What happened to me???

I have been in a maelstrom of self-conflict, fighting between two sides of the same coin. I love food, but food is a big part of training for triathlons. One would think that burning up to 1,000 calories in a workout would earn you the right to eat whatever you want, but alas. You have to consider the balance of carbs, protein and fat. Incorporate the timing of meals. Layer in the types of carbs and proteins you are ingesting - are they slow release, quick absorption, and should I be eating these now, before or after my race? What's the all in caloric intake I need? What are the components of nutrition best suited for performance? All these things swirl in my head as I combat the urges to bath myself in ice cream, cookie cakes and lots and lots of brandy. The biggest problem in this lifestyle is its scientifically proven that it is impossible for a salmon burger to taste as good as a medium rare kobe beef burger with melted American cheese and whole seed mustard. Healthy and tasty eating are almost naturally diametrically opposed.

So what have I done? I have tried to approach eating as a part of training, with a clear plan, consistency and determination. I have slipped and gorged on pizza and bbq. And I have paid the price for such with cramps, stomach aches and sluggish physical performance. I can't drink like I used to. One glass of wine gets me woozy. Yes, I am now the cheapest of dates. It is a day to day learning process, but I am determined to find a way to enjoy flavorful, filling foods without sacrificing the science of nutrition training a triathlete needs.

Buy stock in Whole Foods...they will be getting ALL of my paycheck.

- The UE

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Nature's Alternatives to Viagra

Got to love the NY Times...


And let's not forget posts of long ago...


Hope you have a good Valentine's Day. Love hard every day!

- The UE

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Morning After...

The below is an email from a close female friend of mine. This might have been the greatest email I have ever received.

So I was out in BK for Superbowl. Got completely obliterated and while the good news is, the only meat that ended up in my mouth was of the bovine type -- I ended up having a culinary threesome with a couple of cheeseburgers. I think I ate them in the space of 10 minutes.

I woke up the next day -- burgers long gone -- greasy, gritty, disgusted with myself... telling myself I would never, ever, ever do that again (with two burgers)...

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Australia - Better Late than Never

Australia was a whirlwind of experiences, sounds, sights and tastes. From the all-too-familiar urban landscapes of Sydney to the sprawling red landscape of Melboune, I spent 12 days travelling in and around the urban areas of southeast Australia trying to understand just what is Australia? Why do I have preconceived notions about its history as a convict repository? Why do I think that everyone owns a "barbie" and only grills shrimp? How do the locals REALLY feel about Crocodile Dundee and Hugh Jackman?

After spending much time drinking, eating and talking my way around Australia, I found myself not only fulfilled as a culinary - but as a social ambassador. These are excerpts from my letters home.

I hope you can make the trip yourself soon. Enjoy!


Sydney has been a whirlwind of experience. I feel as though there have been several realizations regarding our perception (or misconceptions) of this continent. One thing I would encourage you to do if you visit here is spend some serious (sober and not) time observing and interviewing the locals for conclusions about their culture. What do they like, what are they embarrassed of, how do they receive you, especially as a black woman who might be mistaken for slight Aboriginal heritage. All these are questions and topics on my mind as I wander these streets, and I have sought answers wherever I've been.

Regarding food, Sydney has been good. Given our limited time, we haven't gotten around to diving deeply into the local stereotypes (like kangaroo or emu meats), but I feel that will happen eventually. What I can note is the relative freshness of ingredients, particularly the seafood for obvious reasons. One convo I had with a stewardess seemed to confirm that Aussies have a palate less inclined to flavor assault, as ours is, and as such, the flavor profile is much more nuanced. I have found an appreciation for the multiple uses for pineapple and other fruits in savory cooking that Aussies have managed to find.


Melbourne is a red, wide and hot town. The first thing I noticed upon arrival in the actual city is the green life. My thought was that Sydney was lush and rich with flora, but that perspective changed here. I feel reminiscent of my former exploits in bohemian life (the boy scouting, the raving, the beach bumming, etc), as the people again are some of the most friendly and intelligent, but also more obviously, some of the most laissez-faire. A short saunter down the boardwalk will make this clearer. The stars come out here - a mere glance to the sky reveals more heavenly bodies than Bondi, with clear visibility of Venus, Orion's belt, and other constellations. I can only fantasize about what the sky in more remote locations can offer.

The food is all so fresh and thoughtful, that I am excited in every opportunity to eat here as my anticipation grows more and more each meal. Kangaroo, as I have had it (homemade) is slightly less tough than beef, and sweet like a roast-fatty and succulent. So far we have tried meat pies, variations of yogurt dips, the FRESHEST fruit, and the best home cooked meals.

The home cooked meals genuinely symbolize the welcoming spirit of Melbourne. I have yet to eat out while here, because my family and our friends alike have opened their hearts and homes to give us food and love. This place has such an open, warm spirit that rekindles my bohemian soul and reminds me of the struggle I have between my over achievement and laziness.

And in true Aussie spirit, I realized I began, and ended, my two week journey with fish and chips. Adieu Australia. Until we meet again!

- The UE

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