Thursday, September 26, 2013

My Family’s Food Legacy Lives On

Sometimes I wish I grew up in an ethnic/cultural group that did not adore food, a culture where food was something necessary to keep one alive, but that is about it. Then perhaps I might be slim and trim.

Then again I also wished my forebears were tall so I would be tall. Then I found out some were tall. I am the shortest one in my family. Go figure.

But I digress.

I was fortunate or unfortunate enough, depending on one’s perspective, to be raised in an environment where holidays and social functions revolved around food. Or it seemed that way to me as a child. 

It did not have to be a special occasion for food to take an honored place in my family’s life.

Sunday morning brunch, for instance, was a major meal. The star was usually fresh bagels purchased warm, just out of the oven from the local bagel bakery. Occasionally other items would dominate, but we never tired of fresh bagels.

How does that impact me decades later?

I remain a bagel fan, relishing bagels with cream cheese and a thick slice of fresh tomato and onion.

We used to add lox to our bagels. I think we had lox often; at least that is what my (possibly faulty) memory recalls. My family was not affluent by any means, and we went through some tough economic times. If certain foods appeared regularly at our house they were, if not inexpensive, reasonably priced. Lox has since become an expensive treat, which is a good thing.

The smoked fish contains lots of salt and fat. And a three-ounce serving is 99 calories – including 33 fat calories. Not a healthy mix.

And that bagel? A calorie-counter’s nightmare.

A Thomas’ original English muffin (the best English muffin on the market) contains 120 calories and 9 fat calories.

An Einstein plain bagel (not the best, but nutritional information was available) contains 320 calories. And that is before any toppings.

On the positive side only 9 of those calories are fat calories. But the bagel contains 520 mg’s of salt.  Even if you do not know what mg’s are, 520 is a big number. (mg = milligram, but that probably does not help visualize how much salt that is.) There is a lot of salt in bagels. Too much salt is not good for us. Actually too much of most delicious foods is not good for our bodies, but once again I ramble…

So add some cream cheese to that bagel, tomato and onion (veggies are good for you!), and enjoy along with a glass of orange juice and a cup of coffee. No sugar in the coffee, only fat free half and half added.

That cream cheese, by the way, cannot be ignored. A one-ounce serving of Philadelphia cream cheese is 100 calories – 81 of them fat calories.

I could put something else on my bagel. I tried nonfat cream cheese, but this is one item food scientists have yet to find a really tasty low fat or no fat alternative for.

Bagel, OJ, coffee.

I already consumed a good portion of one day’s calorie intake, according to today’s guidelines for a woman my age. If I had not grown up eating bagels it might be a lot easier to consistently eat healthier, less calorie-laden foods.

Not that I eat bagels daily, but it is hard to resist stopping and buying a warm, fresh one as I pass the bagel store on my way home from the gym. I usually ride my bike, getting fresh air and additional exercise. I am hungry and it is almost lunchtime. (Bagels are not just for breakfast anymore.)

I do not stop every day, but I do stop on too many days.

My inherited foodstuffs include a lot of other foods of dubious healthiness as well as foods that were, and still are, nutritious and delicious as well as healthy.

Another food no-no nowadays is fried foods, including some items prepared by my grandmother. She made the best French fries I ever tasted.

I resist frying up a batch for me or anyone else.

On the other hand I still eat French fries. Occasionally. When eating out.

I suspect I am doomed to be a foodie because my family cared about food - preparing food, cooking food, eating in, eating out, eating between meals, celebrating food, and even growing food.

An inheritance I willingly accept.

With a few changes.

A nod to calories and healthy ingredients, and the recognition that sometimes items may have to be forever thrown on the scrapheap of food history.

Like tongue (I shudder just typing the word…). Never liked the stuff anyway.


  1. Yep, tongue and any organ meat can definitely go in the bin. Most anything else in moderation...depending on the definition of moderation.

  2. But aren't you saddened by people who have no love of food? They have no idea what they're missing!

  3. Once upon a time I enjoyed bagels, and then I discovered how many calories is in one. I didn't know that about the salt, either. I don't eat them any more, as I have found alternatives that are healthier. :-)

  4. Bagals are growing in popularity here in UK. In London and other major cities I am certain they have bagal bakeries but here in North Yorkshire - and certainly where we live we have to make do with the mass produced processed version - which no doubt does not taste anything like the proper ones you will be talking about, hence my not really liking them.