This Time It’s Simply About The Calories

Piedmont: Great Wine, Great Challenges
I’m a snob. I admit it. When it comes to food, it’s got to taste good. Because I intend to really taste it. To enjoy it. To savor it. Every bite of it.

But Thursday, after many long, hot hours biking the grueling hills of the Piedmont region of Italy, we were hungry. Really hungry. The hills took us much longer than expected; we had no idea what it really means to be in shape for riding hills!  And the snacks we carried? We downed those within the first couple of hours.

So we rolled into a tiny town, known for its hazelnut production. Now give me a dessert with hazelnuts and chocolate and I would’ve been just fine. But that didn’t happen—no bakeries in sight. But it didn’t take us long to identify the only eating establishment around. Think retro, stale, cigarette-smoke-filled air luncheonette before it turned quaint and chic.

In our broken Italian we ordered the only Panini that sounded acceptable. Oh, and a salad.  What comes to your mind when you think salad? Fresh, crisp vegetables? A brilliant assortment of colors, flavors, and shapes? Think again. They offered what is known as Russian salad—a heaping mass of mayonnaise, containing diced potatoes, peas and a speck of carrot.  We had it along with the white bread sandwich packed generously with cheese. And I neglected to mention (how could I forget?)—that there were two rolled up sardines with olives. At least they added some color.

Well, I ate at least 90% of this lovely meal. And I hated every bite. (Although given my sweating from the unseasonable heat, the sodium rich sardines and olives were much appreciated.) This was so far from the fabulous cuisine I had heard so much about and had begun to enjoy my first day in the Piedmont (more posts about those meals to follow). The Piedmont, after all, is know for the Slow Food movement, amazing wines (Barolo, Barbaresco and Barbera) and white truffles (these are intense mushroom like fungus, not chocolates, my friends), with their distinctive flavor which embellishes foods with a mere drop of a truffle infused oil.

At this point, exhausted and overheated, depleted of energy, it was strictly about the calories, the fuel. I wasn’t going anywhere without eating this awful meal. I had no other options. I couldn’t find my voice in this language I barely spoke, and I suspect there were no other options, given the appearance of this place. Yes, mayonnaise-laden salad with a bland cheese sandwich was the only answer. Simply non-negotiable. There was nothing else to do but eat it.
Provence, not Piedmont!
What’s the meaning of this post? It’s not about my disappointment, of things not going as planned—that could be a whole other post. It’s not about adjusting expectations, because who could have expected this? Never mind that the biking was a total drag, nothing like our fantasy rides through Provence with climbs we could manage and stunning varied vistas to distract along the way.

No, the meaning is much more literal. Sometimes it comes down to Nike’s message—Just Do It.

For those of you who undereat—I know there are times when you are not hungry, and eating seems totally unnecessary. And when a fat-containing food may overwhelm. Or you question why you have to eat more than everyone else around you. Or the uncertainty of a meal’s content leads you to want to choose the safest route—food aversion. Or the allure of not eating, or restricting, promises a pleasant disconnect which might be so welcomed at this moment.

As for the overeaters and binge eaters (and anorexics, too)—skipping meals or snacks certainly sounds promising. Why take in those extra calories when a coffee will suffice? Because sometimes, you need to just do it. And when you’re feeling hungry even if no one else is, you need to just eat—because you need to begin to listen, to trust your body and its signals. Because you so deserve to be well nourished. Because your size has nothing to do with your need for nourishment in the moment. Yes, you too, need to trust it’s okay, it’s necessary to eat. And that you deserve to eat, regardless of what others’ glances may suggest, in spite of the messages from family members you hear or replay in your head, regarding your need to lose weight. Be in the moment, and trust that you should eat.

A cool drink after a long day of unmanageable hills and bad food!

I won’t be heading back for another Russian salad-filled lunch in the Piedmont. But I’m pleased I was able to fuel up for the challenging ride back. In the end, we enjoyed a lovely meal at dinner, and a refreshing drink just after unclipping from our pedals.
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