By Bonnie Fishman / San Francisco Bay Area
In preparation for a minor medical test that I took recently, I was required to fast. I was looking forward to it as two-plus days out of my life when I wouldn’t obsess about food: What am I going to eat? What am I going to cook? What interesting combinations of ingredients can I put together? At which store and when will I procure said ingredients?
Let’s face it, most of my time is spent thinking about food. I’ve been this way my whole adult life. It’s no wonder that I spent my career in the food business and owned two gourmet food shops. I was always happily surrounded by food. Have an itch for a nosh? No problem, food at my fingertips. And what a selection of snacks it was! Cookies, brownies, muffins, prepared salads, paninis, fruits, vegetables, and so on. I was a kid like in candy store, but I was in a bakery!
My own kids enjoyed their visits to my shops too. They would take spoons into the walk-in cooler and scoop away at chocolate ganache, cream cheese icing, and vanilla pastry cream. Let’s not forget the raw cookie dough. I wonder if they realized at the time how lucky they were.
But is it normal to ruminate about food most of any given day? I suppose that if one considers it like what an artist or musician does with their time, it makes it okay. It’s my craft, my persona, it’s who I am. I am what I eat, for God’s sake!
I got to wondering whether I was the exception to the rule or whether many of us foodies think about food and recipes all day long. I asked my good friend, Rick Halberg, a renowned retired chef from Detroit. He said “Not 24/7…maybe just waking hours. I think about hospitality at least as much as actual food. The gift of feeding people and all that it entails, whether in a restaurant or in our home.”
That pretty much sums it up for me. I, too, ponder how I will serve things and on what platters and dishes. I invite people over so I can cook and serve. Don’t you wish you lived near me?!
I have always enjoyed waiting on people. Serving food is the ultimate gratification because who doesn’t enjoy eating, especially when someone else is doing the cooking and cleaning up afterwards? Even when I’m a guest in someone else’s home, I can’t help but to pop up and begin to clear the dishes. It’s a knee-jerk reaction.
If I’m being honest, it’s not just thoughts about cooking and making up recipes. Most of those ideas are pondered while I’m swimming laps or driving. Now that I write this column, I have even more to contemplate about what my next story will be. If I write about a specific ingredient, like last week’s cabbage article, I roll around some possible recipes I can do with that item. But I confess, I spend way too much time thinking about what I’m going to eat next. Do any of you out there have these musings?
So back to my two-and-a half-day fast. I spent an inordinate amount of time lingering in bed so the hours of the day didn’t stretch out endlessly in front of me. I enjoyed a strong cup of coffee, and everything seemed normal. But when I went for the second cup, I wanted to reach for my usual mini blueberry muffin. Nope, not gonna happen. I couldn’t go swimming because I am unable to do laps on an empty stomach. No food, no swimming.
I toughed it out the first day, feeling a bit liberated from not thinking about what I was going to eat next. A bowl of lemon jello, not a culinary highlight, would have to quell those thoughts!
By the second day, being halfway through the fast, I was doing fine physically and mentally. I didn’t crave eating. Things got easier. By day three, 64 hours in, I could again focus on what to eat next and break my fast with. A go-to favorite after Yom Kippur is noodle kugel. I’ll make that!
Noodle kugel is a sweetened pudding, often with raisins and cinnamon. I have served this to people who have had no prior knowledge of it and they’re just not sure about the idea of sweet noodles. Their reaction to the dish is fun to watch.
When I make my kugel, I line the bottom of the casserole with sliced apples for a little surprise. I also substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream to lighten it up a bit. The amount of sugar can vary, depending on your sweet tolerance.
I should add that my fast was a First World issue. I have enough to eat, I’m not food insecure like millions of people in this country and around the world. I am most fortunate and do not take this for granted.
Tell us here at The Insider if you have all-consuming thoughts about food and if and when you fast, what do you like to dig into when it’s time to eat!
Yield: 6-8 servings
1/2 lb. wide egg noodles
3 lg. eggs
1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 lb. small curd cottage cheese
1/2 lb. sour cream or 2% plain Greek yogurt
1/2 c. raisins
1 lg. tart apple, peeled & sliced thin
Boil the noodles in salted water until just tender. Drain. Rinse under cold water and drain very well. Reserve.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Blend in the cottage cheese and sour cream. Fold in the noodles and raisins. Spray a 1 1/2 - 2 qt. shallow casserole with pan release. Arrange the apple slices on the bottom of the dish. Pour on the noodle mixture, smoothing the top. Bake, uncovered, in a 350° oven until set, about 40 minutes. If it begins to brown too quickly, cover with foil. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Bonnie Fishman attended the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London. Later, she owned and operated Bonnie’s Patisserie in Southfield, Mich. and Bonnie’s Kitchen and Catering in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. She has taught cooking for over 35 years and created hundreds of recipes. She is now living in Northern California.