Friday, January 4, 2013

Being Baked Alaska

Just leave it to dieters to blog using food metaphors, but let's face it, most of us, when we start out on a diet (lifestyle change, walk of doom, valley of the shadow of death--whatever you choose to call your current calorie counting endeavor) we find ourselves constantly thinking about food.

Two days ago, I didn't even know what Baked Alaska was.  For Christmas, my husband and I got the family this calendar that has assigns a funky holiday for everyday of the year.  January 3rd was the Anniversary of Alaska's statehood, and as an activity, the calendar suggested that the family enjoy some "Baked Alaska."  Of course, "what's Baked Alaska?" the family wanted to know, so off I rocketed to search my cook book index for some explanation.

It had to be a dessert, didn't it?  Just what I need around the house: dessert.  "So, don't make the dessert," you say.  BUT I HAVE TO!  "Why?" you ask.  Because the calendar said so.  It's like an assignment.  I spent money on the calendar.  I got everyone all excited about the calendar.  Now I must obey the calendar, right?  I simply have to make this mystery dessert.  It is my destiny.  Bake it and they will come.  Bake long and prosper.  At times, I am such a sad, sad human being.

So what is Baked Alaska?  As it turns out, Baked Alaska is sponge cake, covered in ice cream, covered in meringue, and then baked at high heat for about 6 minutes until the meringue browns.  The closest thing I could find to sponge cake at Walmart was sugar free Angel Food cake, so that's what got slathered in all the other ingredients.  The fireworks were cancelled.

My son didn't eat enough of his dinner to be included in the experiment.  My daughter ate a couple of bites and pushed it away; she thought separating the yolks from the egg whites to make the meringue was much more exciting than eating the actual dessert.  The best descriptive term that my husband and I could assign to the sugary concoction was "interesting," so if stickiness is any indicator of approval, the baby was the most enthusiastic fan of the dessert.

So here I am, meditating on the deeper meaning of my dessert--pensively considering the tragedy of wasted calories.  Alas poor waistline, I knew thee well!  Parting from the melodrama, I realize that most of us who are on the verge of a lifestyle change are one big Baked Alaska. 

First ingredient: sugar free angel food cake.  We are mostly made up of these lightly considered, empty calories.  We are not fat--we're fluffy.  "And besides," we protest, "we're sugar free!"  The angel food cake is all the lies we tell ourselves in order to back away from true commitments.  "Well I use fat free salad dressing, and whole wheat pasta, and 1% milk, and 93/7 hamburger.  And I only had one piece of cake."

Insert your own fallacies, but inside the fluff, there are usually hidden contingencies--such as the 1/4 cup of fat free dressing that drowned your salad, or the mega plateful of whole wheat spaghetti that left you in a carb coma, or the cocoa puffs that floated in your 1% milk.  Nobody knows it but you, but you ate the whole pound of 93/7 and you scoped the cake out and created a strategy to get the biggest piece of cake with the most frosting without anyone noticing.

Second ingredient: Ice cream.  So maybe you think the angel food cake bit was a little harsh.  Am I pointing fingers?  Absolutely not.  I'm being brave enough to be honest.  I didn't write anything up there that I haven't done myself, and I'm telling you.  Most of us are scared to death for people to really know how we think about ourselves and about the food we feed--not to our bodies--but to our minds and emotions.  The ice cream is fear--cold, creamy, brain-freezing fear.  I've never met a dieter who wasn't just a little bit afraid of failing.  Most are more than a little afraid; most are almost frozen into solid inaction.

Third ingredient: meringue.  Meringue is made by separating egg whites from egg yolks, and beating just the egg whites with sugar.  You beat them and beat them and beat them until they become something else entirely--thick, sweet, meringue.  Our meringue happens, when we choose to let the little white lies we've been telling ourselves stick around.  Then we mix them with a nice sugar coating, so we don't take them seriously.  Then we go to the gym and beat ourselves up a couple times and week and use that as justification for our next overdone meal.

And there you have it.  Next thing you know, it's swimsuit season, and you haven't changed a bit.  You and your angel food abs, your ice cream thighs, and your meringues mamacitas are out on the beach in the hot sunshine.  One more year as Baked Alaska.  Not this year ladies.  This is the year of the Tiramisu.  This is the year of the Lady Fingers.  We're going to be honest with ourselves, we're going to be brave, and we're going to make our exercise count for something.  When swimsuit season comes, we're gonna be ready, and we're gonna be oh, so much more than "interesting"!

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