{pulling back the curtain} What Dianna Really Eats

Christina asked each of us to do a post about what we actually eat, as opposed to the virtuous front we sometimes project as From Scratch Club.  I think I lie to myself about what I eat sometimes, so I decided to do a brutally honest photo diary. I meant to do it for a week, but on day three I forgot my camera so that was the end of that.  However, I took photos of my meals and snacks for two full days, September 12 and 13, 2012, and it made me reflect how much my eating habits have morphed since my kids lived at home.  I work full time, cook three or four times a week, and rarely eat out unless it is a social occasion, dinner with friends, or a son visiting who wants to get out of the house.  If my husband is not home I am capable of standing over the sink eating bread with peanut butter for dinner for days on end.  I buy salads at work at least two or three times a week when I am too lazy or too distracted to pack a lunch.  The thing that I learned from my two-day photo diary is that I eat more processed food than I want to admit.  But I also learned how my kids continue to influence what I eat.

What I Ate for Two Days: A Photo Diary

Of all the food pictured here, the only thing I think is actually worth eating is wild boy stew with a side of home made tofu.

yogurt and blueberries

carrots and hummus
hardboiled egg
elderly banana with cafeteria coffee
Lebanese food wagon lunch with my friend Nina
peanut butter toll from Stewarts
no greens dinner by Michael of eggplant, potatoes, chicken
grapes in late afternoon

One of the great pleasures of having your children grow up is having them cook for you. I have learned a lot from their cooking as they venture out into the world and come home with new flavors, recipes and techniques. Only my 23-year-old son Rudi doesn’t cook,but I assume he will learn at some point.  Max tends to make salads with meat or fish, simple, elegant, tasty, nutritious, as well as a mean flourless chocolate cake. But my middle son Jacob, who has always been the free spirit of our family, makes my favorite dish, wild boy stew. He became inspired to cook this way after hanging out cooking with a bunch of Dinka friends who spent their childhoods escaping genocide and who ended up in the U.S. through an immigration program targeting the Lost Boys of Sudan. His stew always tastes better than mine, possibly because he is much less fettered by social convention than I am.  Maybe he is just a better cook.  What follows are the basic parameters that I have discerned from watching him make stew.

Wild boy stew with homemade tofu


First, find a big cast iron pot or pan. Add some olive oil and simmer a chopped onion and a handful of chopped hot peppers, seeded or not, depending on your taste preferences, for a few minutes until the onion pieces are translucent. This is your base.

Either go outside and hunt for whatever you can find, or look in your refrigerator to see what you have. Pick things from these groups:

1) meat/fish/tofu and/or drained, cooked beans (the Dinka use beef, Jacob mostly uses boneless chicken)

2) spices and herbs including, but not limited to, chili powder, adobo, basil, cilantro, salt and pepper

3) vegetables of any kind, it doesn’t matter what or how much

4) whole or halved mushrooms

5) fruit that can withstand a little cooking, e.g. under-ripe peaches, pieces of apple, pineapple

6)  broth to cover everything

7) juice of one lemon

Cut the meat/fish/tofu into forked-sized pieces. Wash the vegetables, peel if necessary, cut them into forked-sized pieces. Wash the mushrooms, but leave them whole if they are not too big. Peel the fruit if necessary, cut it into fork-sized pieces.

Add the meat/fish/tofu/beans and spices and herbs to the onions, cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until browned or partially cooked.  Add any vegetables that need longer cooking time, like broccoli or carrots, and cover with broth. We use boxed vegetable or chicken broth most often unless we have home made in the freezer. Water works if you don’t have broth.

Bring it all to a simmer, stirring often, until the firm vegetables begin to get tender and the meat is getting cooked through. Next add mushrooms and any softer or pre-cooked vegetables, like red peppers or left over corn. Simmer about five to ten minutes, toss in the fruit and lemon juice. Simmer until the fruit is tender, a few minutes, then push the solids aside and, in different spots around the stew, break one whole egg per person into the liquid and cook for about five more minutes until the egg is set.

ingredients in this stew besides spices etc were chicken, mushrooms, broccoli, red peppers and mango

The result is amazing. The fruit and eggs set off the spiciness of the hot peppers and the dish comes together into a scrumptious whole with interesting chunk-sized parts.

Spoon the stew over rice in a bowl and make sure each person gets an egg.

{Eat sitting on the ground with your back to the trunk of a tree.}



3 Comments Add yours

  1. WIld Boy says:

    I always thought I was the conservative one

    1. Dianna says:

      Compared to?????

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