Hungry Girl, Redux

I was fiddling through the shelves of the cooking section in a large bookstore that regularly sends me coupons, looking for cookbooks with calorie counts, when I came across the Hungry Girl phenomenon for the first time.

I am aware that this opening sentence is disturbingly revelatory, so I suppose I should just throw privacy to the winds now and come out with the whole story of why I set myself up to lay hands on a cookbook by a woman who calls herself girl, and has a cookbook of 200 recipes that are under 200 calories, which are made with ingredients like low-calorie tortillas and fat-free Velveeta.

For over a decade, I had an autoimmune disease that caused the lining of a particular part of my intestines to shred, which made eating anything other than bread painful. Then I had surgery in 2007, to take the shredded part out, which effectively cured the illness, for the time being anyway. In celebration, I ate and ate—anything from carrots to french fries, though I erred on the side of frits, washed down with beer: Belgian, preferably.

The results weren’t as bad as you might think, because I was also reveling in exercise after being basically bed-ridden for a few months. Still, I packed on a solid extra 15 pounds over the next year, and lost half by mostly skipping my newly beloved greased-up potatoes, then realized I would never lose the other half if I did not count and moderate my daily intake of calories for a few weeks (a diet, I believe this is typically called).

I have two great cookbooks with nutritional information (The Working Cook and The Whole Foods Cookbook). I wanted to buy a third, which I how I ended up in the bookstore, coupon and Velveeta-based cookbook in hand, horrified with myself, then horrified with my horror.

The only people I dislike more that the organic-food privileged people who populate the Bay Area and fust over which boxed cereal to feed their broods are the botoxed, unnaturally thin women of Los Angeles, who I imagine have processed cheese quesadilla delivered to their doorsteps on a regular basis. Was living in California for five years finally catching up with me?

I hate ideology, especially when it interferes so with basic pleasures: book browsing, cooking, eating, a body that finally works as it should.

Rather than buying a cookbook, I played around with a few recipes of my own, like Mark Bittman, a good New Yorker who thinks that a broiler is deserving of the name “kitchen appliance,” always says that you should. I came up with a few nice ones; here is my favorite:

Lazy Strawberry Parfait

Zest a lemon into a bowl; set aside. Slice 1 pint of strawberries and combine with the juice of 1/3 of the lemon, a tiny dash of vanilla, and a few tsp. of sugar in another bowl; set aside. Squeeze the rest of the lemon into the bowl with the zest, then add a small container (about 1.5 cups) of fresh ricotta and mix with 3 tbs. of sugar. Let the strawberries and the ricotta mixture sit for an hour, then divide the berry mixture into four bowls and top with the ricotta mix. Sprinkle each bowl with toasted almonds, crushed amaretti cookies, or both, and eat right away.

Take that, ideology.




Filed under blog reviews, feminism, Health

4 responses to “Hungry Girl, Redux

  1. 4everuppity

    Aside from trying the recipe (yum!), I wanted to look at the Hungry Girl link, but it comes back to Across the Pond.

  2. htg03

    Thanks for letting me know. I reinserted the link, but jic here is the website too:

  3. 4everuppity

    Thanks for fixing the link. I had a chance to look at the site. I’m glad you found something that works for—“intestines” and “shred” are not words that should ever be associated so more power to you!

    I’d never heard of this 200 calorie fad and have to admit to a bit of concern…perplexedness? Hungry Girl’s first sentence, “I’m not a nutritionist” struck me as kinda like, well, I sure hope not. I called her thing a fad, but is it one?

    I guess I’m looking for some analysis and curious because there was a really good interview with Michael Pollan. He wrote In Defense of Food and really made me think about what food is meant to do. The interview’s here, if anyone’s interested:

    I suspect he and Hungry Girl would have a smackdown, quinoa versus Uncle Ben-stylee.

    • htg03

      Yes, in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan wrote a chapter about corn that haunted me for years, in a gross way.

      He has a take on eating meat that I like too, that the chicken or whatever you’re eating would not be alive were you not eating it, so how is it raised (i.e., did it get to express it’s essential chicken-ness while it was alive?) is the important ethical question in eating meat to him.

      Bittman, a columnist for the NYT, is essentially vegan because he feels like there is very little humanely raised meat/animal product, though he is not against eating meat per se.

      I don’t know if it’s having an immigrant mother or what, but we didn’t really eat any junk food when we young– white bread and mayo, sure, but Doritos? Too expensive. So seeing what people eat makes me slightly ill sometimes, which in turn makes me feel like a huge snob, no matter the origins of my distaste.

      Pollan, for example, has another chapter in the OD about hunting boar and foraging mushroom. I imagine the self-rightousness just radiating off of Berkeley folk when I read stuff like that and it always makes me feel a little off to participate in these food conversations because of it.

      At the same time, it is a human rights issue– everyone deserves some fresh good food, and we all know that’s hard to come by in poor areas, or ex-suburban areas. I’m not anti-good food, and I’m happy that we all know about the corn now, and that people who can afford it can eat non- genetically modified fruits and non-irradiated organic meat.

      But I like what Bittman does, that simple and rather old-fashioned common sense approach to cooking that seems less like an expression of class status than forging mushrooms, and more of an appreciation for the goodness of real food, minus the San Francisco fart-smelling aspect of it all.

      Anyway, I think it’s fair to call Hungry Girl a fad, as it’s topping the NYT bestseller list.

      PS– In case anyone missed the fart-smelling San Francisco episode of South Park, here’s a link to a clip:

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