Before I begin, I think it’s interesting that The Profussor posted about fad diets on the day I planned to write about the carb-filled Italian food mecca that is Long Island. I LOVE Italian food, and would never want to cut that out of my diet completely without a really good reason. However, everything in moderation, right? My body just can’t handle a carb-heavy diet. Then again, I don’t know many people who can.
There’s something you need to understand about Long Island. A lot of people have a lot of misconceptions about the bedroom communities surrounding New York City. Admittedly, I was one of them until a few years ago. Long Island isn’t just a commuter exention of New York City – in fact, of my now-family and friends collected in northwest Suffolk county, the vast majority of them not only do *not* work in Manhattan, but they don’t even venture into Manhattan all that often. Long Island is a collection of small towns, some looking like sprawling suburbs, but many looking like cutesy coastal villages. Well, I shouldn’t say “looking like” – they ARE cutesy coastal villages. They just happen to also have a light rail line that puts you into Manhattan in about an hour. Get to know some Long Islanders, and you’ll see, they’re not all that different from 518ers — actually, if anything, many of the people I’ve met in my husband’s hometown remind me more of Glens Falls than anyone in Albany does. Sure, Long Islanders pronounce their “o”s more like “ah”s, and they overpronounce their “r”s, while upstaters don’t annunciate their “t”s and often sound like they’re speaking with their noses plugged … but once you get beyond the speech patterns, they’re a lot alike.
I mean this in a good way, mind you.
However, one of the key differences (aside from quick, easy, and cheap train access to Manhattan, that is), is really good Italian food. Sure, we have a few good places. But on Long Island, you can’t drive more than a mile without seeing an Italian deli or pizzeria or more-than-pizzeria-but-not-
The other regional specialty is bagels. There are fierce arguments as to whether New York City or Long Island has better pizza, and similarly, there’s the argument about bagels. I think NYC wins on pizza, but it is a close race. It’s not close on bagels. Long Island wins, solidly. Even the supermarket bagels are good, though why would you do that? Bagel cafes are as prevalent as pizzerias.
Anyway, after a few days in a row of bagels and Italian food, I felt awful. My diet consisted of refined carbs, cheese, and (very) limited amounts of protein, most of it loaded with nitrates, with no vegetables to speak of. I started fantasizing about whitefish and leafy green vegetables. What I wouldn’t give for a low-calorie meal with lean protein, loads of iron, and fresh greens. Okay, it didn’t have to be fish – I would have been happy with chicken. Or maybe a delicious stir fry! Oh, how I longed for these healthy foods! But, how could we justify going grocery shopping when we had no room in the refrigerator from all of the Italian dishes that kindhearted family, friends, and neighbors had sent our way? It would have been easier if it hadn’t been any good, but of course it was all delicious, even days later reheated in the microwave.
Now that my body has replenished with proportionate amounts of vegetables and lean protein, my mouth waters remembering that penne ala vodka. But at the time, my head was cloudy, my stomach was unhappy and uncomfortable, and I just in general felt lethargic. My body is so used to eating balanced meals (for the most part, anyway), that a week of what is one step above junk food was really taking it’s toll.
Monday morning, after I returned, I did a morning workout, ate some cereal with almond milk, had a hearty chicken noodle soup for lunch, and met my friends for a birthday dinner at Sake. I ordered swordfish, and though it was quite delicious, I found myself wishing I had just ordered the vegetables, because that was all I wanted. They were gone in less than 5 minutes of being on my plate – the swordfish wasn’t even cooked yet. Those of you who know me know how much I loathe even the smell of broccoli … and even the broccoli tasted good. I left most of the noodles on the plate.
My inner ten-year-old is flummoxed. I have turned into a health nut.