Yesterday when I was in the car with the mother of one of the high school students that I tutor, we started talking about her brother-in-law who is in the hospital with pneumonia. She mentioned that he is overweight and that for years his wife and the rest of the family have been trying to get him to be healthier. I mentioned my fruitless attempts at trying to "healthify" my father, who is very overweight, but who just doesn't want to seem to listen to anything that I have to say on the subject. I recently got into a fight with him and declared that as payback, when I move back to New York I am going to go over to my parent's house every weekend and throw out all of the food theyre not allowed to eat. In addition, I said I was going to institute an exercise policy such that if they didn't exercise for at least a half hour every day, I wasn't going to visit with them, I would just come over, throw out the food and leave. Tough love, but someone's got to do it.
Anyway, that's really not the point of this anecdote. In response to our conversation, the mother said that food is something that so many people struggle with because its something you have to deal with every day. It's not like alcoholism or cigarette addiction in which you could, in theory, go cold turkey and walk away from the things that haunt you for the rest of your life. You have to eat irregardless of your relationship with food, and that is why losing weight (and sometimes gaining weight) is problematic for so many. Then she said something that really struck me, which was, "Food is not love. Food is just food."
Now, I spent a lot of time thinking about this statement because, as a health conscious individual I completely agree with this statement. I think a lot of people eat or don't eat emotionally, which can lead to a whole slew of problems. But as a foodie and someone who loves to cook and eat, this is heresy. Food is NOT just food. It is so much more than that, and sometimes it can be love and comfort, most poignantly when it is shared with those you care about. Sometimes a good meal really can make you feel better. The more I ruminated, the more I realized that there is a distinction between the food that is not love and will never be love and the food that is and always will be. Twinkies, potato chips, McDonald's, and Entenmann's cakes and other such cheap quick fixes are not and will never be love. But a great home cooked meal/dessert made from fresh-sweet-savoury-mouthwatering ingredients eaten while sitting around the table and talking about the day's events can more often than not offer the mental solace that we need to help us wake up in the morning. The latter kind of eating, I think, rarely leads to an unhealthy lifestyle, which is something we can so easily forget but should always remember.
Now that I've rambled long enough, I am going to get to the good stuff...the FOOD. I came up with this sandwich idea when I saw a cooking light recipe for a guacamole-esque cream cheese spread. The original recipe suggested that this be eaten, alone, on a bagel. I decided that was ridiculous and started thinking about what flavors would complement the subtle butteriness of the avocado. My mind, of course, went straight to my trifecta of veggies (bnut squash, sweet potatoes, and eggplant), and that was how this sandwich was born. I have enjoyed it every day this week and will certainly be sad when it is all gone. But to comfort me, I will be having a big slice of Whole Foods carrot cake for dessert tonight (my birthday cake, as I told my roommate that I would be happy with anything that had cream cheese frosting)...and I will love every bite!
Roasted Butternut Squash and Guacamole Spread Sandwich
Serves 5, partially adapted from Cooking Light
3 oz neufchatel
1 3/4 lb butternut squash
1/4 cup cilantro (I probably used more)
1 tbsp lime juice
1/4 tsp salt
tabasco to taste
10 slices bread or whatever carb you want to eat this on...pita, wrap, etc.
For the spread: combine the neufchatel, avocado, and cilantro in a bowl and mash with a fork until smooth. Add in the lime juice, salt and tabasco and mix. Refrigerate until ready to eat.
For the squash: Cut into slices. I cut it in half lengthwise and then sliced the halves. Spray with PAM, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake at 400 for 40-50 minute or until soft and tender.
Spread the spread (hee hee) on the bread, add the squash, and devour!
I am submitting this to weekend herb blogging which is being hosted this week by Laurie of Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska.