Lunch

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So my business recently moved to a new location. With this new location came a world of new and wonderful shiny things. But the thing I’ve been most excited about today is that I’m four blocks closer to the Sub-Shop!!! A tiny little restaurant that accepts cash only and is only open for 3 and a half hours a day on weekdays only. Why is it that a scarcity makes things seems to taste so much better? So today for a mere $6.50 I got to eat this salad of the Gods. It’s filled with mushrooms, olives, green peppers, tomato,banana peppers, pickles, carrots, chicken, and cashews, and topped with the dressing they make in house. Now that it’s gone I’m left contemplating how much of my future paychecks will be spent there. (A lot… Like-a-lotta-lot)

Sorry Rob.

Salad for Breakfast

I had to go into work super early today and didn’t have time to make anything for breakfast. But I knew I had a long day ahead of me and I didn’t want to try to do it on an empty stomach. Which ended up being a good idea, because it turned out to be a busy day. So I went down to the food court to see if anybody was open. And the only place that was was a chicken sandwich place. But they sell salads, so I figured I’d try my luck.

I tried their Cobb Salad, which I ordered with grilled chicken instead of the breaded chicken it normally comes with; and without cheese or dressing. The grilled chicken was served cold, which may have been because it was nine am and they were just opening, or may have been because that’s how they serve it. I didn’t really care enough to ask. I didn’t realize until I opened it up that it also had corn on it, which I normally don’t eat and mostly picked out with my fork, although I wasn’t overly concerned and I definitely ate some of it. Other than that it was served with some crispy pepper strips which I skipped because they listed some grain products in the ingredients, and tomatoes and carrots and eggs and bacon which I did eat.

I had the whole thing dry. And before I took a bite I really wanted to cover it with dressing. But then I tried it and it was awesome and I devoured it as quickly as I could. I still experience some of the old cultural programming that makes me think veggies don’t taste good unless they taste like ranch dressing. But as soon as I take the first bite I remember how amazing meat and vegetables and eggs and fruit taste and I don’t need to cover it all with cream sauce and croutons.

That simple cold salad of mixed greens and tomatoes and carrots and corn and eggs and bacon and chicken gave me the energy to power through a pretty busy day for about six hours until I took a break to eat another Larabar. Fruit Tart. And that got me through till dinner, when my wife prepared me an amazing spaghetti squash and meatballs. There was a time, not too long ago, when I would have been starving on 5000 calories before five pm. Today I had less than 700 total through breakfast and lunch. The more I eat nutrient dense food, the smaller my portions become and the longer they sustain me. It really is an amazing thing. Nutrition is so much more complex than “calories in/calories out.”

The idea of a salad for breakfast seems really crazy. When I was younger I remember thinking mockingly of that as “rabbit food.” Even as I got older and started eating a lot more salads I rarely thought of them as “main course” material, even with meat. I wanted something more. Something extra. Even when they were covered in dressing. Now I can eat a fairly small dry salad and run at top shape for hours.

Paleo doesn’t mean every meal has to be a salad, or you have to survive on nothing but shakes or granola bars, or starve yourself to get by. Most days I’m eating grilled meats and roasted vegetables and potatoes and squash and succulent fruits. Every once in a while I’m on the go and in a hurry and have to make due. But I’m finding the more I make the right decisions, even in a pinch, the easier everything becomes.

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Breaded Pork Chops and House Salad with Cheese

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Mrs. Sandwell and I went out to one of our favorite Italian restaurants recently. We specifically asked the waitress not to bring us bread and to leave cheese off of all our food. She gave us some static about it throughout the evening, repeatedly, but was generally a very good natured waitress. We enjoyed her service thoroughly and tipped her well.

We both ordered the same thing. A house salad, which was fantastic. And was delivered with Parmesan cheese all over it. And for the main course I was going to order a large antipasto salad, but the waitress sold me on the special which my wife also ordered. Pork Chops with Roasted Red Potatoes. “That sounds delicious!” I thought. And it was. It was also breaded pork chops, which I only found out when they arrived. They were also served with green beans, which was a delightful and unexpected surprise since the waitress didn’t mention them when describing the special to us earlier.

So even though I specifically asked that our table not receive any bread or any cheese, we got cheese on our salads and breaded pork chops, both without warning. We were also offered garlic bread and cheese on our dishes, despite having previously expressed our preference repeatedly. Our waitress even said, “Oh, I thought you meant the other cheese.”

We didn’t let any of this bring us down. We didn’t get bent at the waitress or make a scene. She really was a pleasant waitress. And we had a great date night. I’ve said before, “When someone else is doing the cooking try to be gracious about the results.” So we didn’t have the perfectly Paleo meal we had planned. That we had specifically chosen THAT restaurant to go to for. That didn’t ruin our evening or cause any drama. The breaded pork chops with red potatoes and green beans were fantastic. So was the house salad with cheese. It was a great meal, and one great meal with a few grams of food we don’t normally consume isn’t gonna be the reason my legs fall off.

It’s easy to get really caught up in what you’re focused on. And that’s good, because you really want to be conscious of what you’re ingesting and making intentional decisions about your nutrition. But sometimes life throws you a curve ball. I could have been a big jerk about the whole thing, and yelled at the waitress, and embarrassed my wife in public, and demanded I get my meal for free. I wouldn’t even have been that out of line. I couldn’t have been more clear about “no bread no cheese.” But instead we smiled and laughed and had a wonderful meal and went on our merry way.

The world at large doesn’t get it yet. The more experienced you are with Paleo, the more you encounter that. “No cheese” means “the other cheese.” “No bread” somehow doesn’t include bread crumbs. It’s all the time, everywhere. It’s people saying, “I don’t eat much bread; I only had a croissant and a muffin for breakfast and pasta for lunch and pizza for dinner and soda all day.”

You can rage at that, or you can chuckle at it. You can throw your food in the waitress’ face, or you can enjoy a delicious meal. Your choice won’t change the world. But it might change your evening.

We loved our dinner. And later we talked about how it’d probably make us feel a little sick, and how we’d probably experience a little bloating from it, and how tasty it was. And we’ll definitely go back to that restaurant. And next time I know to be more specific about my salad, and not to order the breaded pork chops. Instead I’ll get the grilled chicken or the antipasto salad, both of which are also excellent.

Learning how to live the Paleo lifestyle is more than just caloric math equations or lists of allowed or prohibited foods. It’s about education and objectivity and rational decision making. And at it’s most basic, it’s about having a more sustainable lifestyle. It’s about being healthy. And your mental and spiritual health is just as important (or more so) than the number on the scale or the size of your pants. It only makes so much sense to stand firm on a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese and ruin your evening and your marriage and bring long lasting drama and stress and negativity into your life by throwing a fit at a restaurant. Sometimes the healthy decision is just to enjoy your evening.