Friday, October 19, 2007

"Fillsome" Foods

My wife returns from Milan in a couple of days. Yesterday at the grocery store I stopped by the ice cream freezer and considered purchasing a tub of Häagen-Dazs (Vanilla Swiss Almond being my comfort food of choice). Then I considered how crappy I'd feel after consuming the ice cream. Then I wondered how crappy I'd feel if I made, from scratch, and ate my childhood comfort food: tapioca pudding. I bought some tapioca beads from the local bulk foods store, went home and got to work.

Tapioca custard is ridiculously easy to make. The beads have to soak in water for two hours, but that's as fussy as it gets. After that, you scald two cups of milk, stir in 1/3 cup of sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla, two eggs and the drained tapioca. It gets thick pretty quickly, and smells wonderful. The girls were curious, so I let them dip a spoon into the mix. "I want extra much!" said the younger.

I gave each of them about a third of a cup, and myself about a half cup. They tucked in, but were unable to finish. "Sorry dad," said the one who'd asked for extra much. "It's really good, but it's also really fillsome."

It certainly is. I had no trouble finishing my portion, but I also had no desire for more. Contrast this with the ice cream. Man, when I get started on the HD, it's difficult to quit before I finish the little tub.

The more I think about that, the stranger it all seems. The basic ingredients, if the HD label is to be believed, are more or less identical: milk, sugar, eggs, flavoring. Tapioca is a glutinous thickening agent, but it doesn't add that much body to the custard. How is it that something I make on the stove is more filling than something made in a factory? What, exactly, is the "process" that makes processed foods more binge-able?


DarkoV said...

Can't answer that last question regarding what makes processed food's bingeability, except to posit that buying and eating requires minimal thought and exposure while buying, making, waiting, and then eating takes more effort, thus possibly sending messages to the brain of the type, "Hey, easy there buddy! Remember how long it took to get to this place (or is that plate?). Slowly, very slowly with the spoon(fork) action."

There is a bakery 1/2 mile away run by a Czech woman. We treat ourselves to her cakes, which easily weigh in at 4-5 lbs, at least once a month. The bakery is of an open air design, so that while you're buying, you see her staff doing the heavy lifting, mixing, and decorating. There's visible work associated with the final product. Eating more than one fairly slim slice is a chore.

Wonder if it's the visible work that cuts the bingeability factor?

As far as your daughter's worthy wordiness is concerned, what better compliment can you receive on your food work than, "I's fillsome."

"I want extra much" is a subset of a kid's "I want much more than enough". Kids get the limitations (and the need to exceed them) of geometry (specifically cylinders) at a very early age. How they translate that innate geometric view into words is always an interesting experience.

dan h. said...

I am certainly no expert on nutrition, but some time ago I read an article stating something along the lines of.... your body had to work harder (therefore increasing the body's metabolism) to digest an apple (or other "whole" food) than, say, a box of cookies (something processed). So I always kind of took it that *processed* meant something along the lines of "all the human work has been taken out of it, so when you eat it it's just going to sit there as FAT."

As I said, I don't know if this is true, and please don't go quotin' me.... but it stuck in my head as a good reason to snack on fruits and veggies instead of sweets and salties.

Whisky Prajer said...

DV - you might be on to something, here. I know that from childhood on I've always appreciated restaurants that offer a public view of the kitchen, even if they're only pizzarias. Never been too crazy for the "Cook the food at your table" approach, mind you.

Dan-O - I guess what I'm wondering is, how does my processing differ so much from corporate processing? But maybe that's a question best left unanswered (so long as I want to keep enjoying HD ice cream)!

Peter said...

Could it be related to the use of high-fructose corn syrup instead of sugar in so many processed foods? I know they're supposed to be quite similar, but perhaps HFCS is a little slower to send the "I'm full" message to one's brain.

Whisky Prajer said...

I wouldn't be surprised if HFCS isn't one of the big differences. There doesn't seem to be any good press surrounding that stuff these days, does there?

Cowtown Pattie said...

Food from the heart is always more fillsome ;-)