For a Diet Without Excess / Jorge Ortega Celaya

The planet has become a place of obesity; now more than ever before, the elements combine to allow people to store excess pounds in the form of adipose tissue. The convenience of junk food, the tendency to remain at home to distract ourselves — either in front of the computer screen or the television — and even the shortage of pleasant and desirable areas for physical activities in some of the big cities are just some of the reasons why ever more people resign themselves to a look that really is not that satisfying.

Now, someone could question me about my knowledge that many delicacies of haute cuisine, while they do not include ingredients as harmful to health as fast food, they do have a high calorie count and, ultimately, they will also lead to abdominal fat.

In fact, the pleasures of a gourmet experience is so intense that many prefer to declare themselves fat, as they could not give up their steak with mashed potatoes and butter and your piece of rich cake.

If I were to suggest to people to forsake the pleasures of good food, it would be contrary to the reason for my profession. Precisely because of the worship of good food, I defend the idea of not giving it up. Most people visit a restaurant no more than once a week.

So … are you going to blame your weekend pizza for your discomfort with the scale or all of their daily intake of sausages in tomato sauce with white rice and pots of ice cream, fried foods and cheap candy?

Do not feel guilty for pampering your palate from time to time, only reflect whether it’s not better for you to change your bad eating habits rather than forgo the exquisite sensations of an occasional meal.

Again mathematics help us, if you have five daily meals (including snacks of course), it would add up to thirty-five meals a week, if one of these is in your favorite restaurant, what weighs more? A copious dinner in style or thirty-four sinful excesses of carbohydrates in unnecessary snacks and rice?

People who pay attention to their health, for example diabetics who seek to remain stable and know the food they consume need to be compensated for, or those with a heart ailment, are informed about what they must do and not do, what activities and foods to avoid. So if you know you have a tendency to obesity, or already are obese, why turn your back on this reality? Would it solve our problems to feel bad about ourselves in the mirror? Learn from those with ailments such as those mentioned above who yet maintain a responsible attitude to their health care with a proper diet. Don’t look for something to blame and get started in learning about nutrition and physical exercise. When you feel the health benefits of these habits and note how it reduces your waist, you will be ready to enjoy a Sunday with your favorite pasta washed down with a nice Chianti.

16 April 2012

Facing, But So Far From, The Sea / Jorge Ortega Celaya

To my knowledge never before were the themes of food and dining so fashionable in all types of publications. Even in the latest issue of the journal Voices an article of this kind appears, although the writer addresses some issues in a somewhat superficial way.

Obviously the author of the lines mentioned shares with me a taste for seafood and shellfish, gifts to the palate and the sea offers up the raw materials used by chefs around the globe. The article is based on an analysis of the alleged indifference of the Cuban people to consuming products from the sea, the author’s perplexity that there are not examples of seafood among the most famous Cuban dishes and the irony of being surrounded by water and not bringing fish to the table.

First of all, I do not share the idea that we Cubans are indifferent to good fish and exotic crustaceans, the hottest restaurants in Havana have always featured a number of specialties in these foods, La Divina Pastora,  Don Cangrejo, Puerto de Sagua and other places that are more or less successful attempt to market their offerings, so their countrymen no longer need go to the Floridita to savor a Lobster thermidor, nor is it that they prefer the vulgar hot dog. Economic constraints are the reason that sites like this have few domestic customers, and so should never be a meter of the tastes of a people.

It’s the same with fish; the seafood establishments, the only sites authorized to market the products of yore, hardly ever have specimens that have spent centuries in the freezer, and at exorbitant prices, not at all affordable to the average Cuban, or perhaps you can find shrimp grown in captivity, of course of bland flavor.

In my case I wouldn’t think of buying a grouper one of those businesses, nor acquiring a fat sea bream hooked in the warm waters off Chivo beach, fish for some of the adventurers with cameras and fins that abound along the capital’s coastline. Third and 70th? Palco? Certainly I would not suggest to you to acquire your fish there, no further comment.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of the article to me is when he says that seafood is bland and requires a lot of seasoning, something that puts it further outside popular preferences. Allow me to recall some of the nonsense that illustrates how easy and convenient it is to prepare the tributes of Neptune: With just egg whites and salt you can cover a whole snapper and bake it, and it is delicious when the salt crust is removed. Any fish filet or lobster tail can be spectacular on the grill or barbecue, with just salt, pepper, and a touch of butter. Garlic shrimp are also simple and complex plates include lobster thermidor, which I mentioned before, which has fallen into disuse, particularly the infamous lobster made with coffee and other preparations along this line.

It is not complex to cook seafood and shellfish, gentlemen, if you follow the basic rules such as sealing the pieces at high heat and avoiding drying them out by overcooking. I agree with the Voices contributor that Cuban tables should enjoy the presence of other foods much more often, but I don’t think it’s the indifference of my compatriots that is the reason for the exile of snapper and lobster from our kitchens.