Friday, December 2, 2011


Did you slip back into any old habits that you wish you hadn't? Did you gain any new habits that you wish you would have walked away from?

There is no way I am going to write about all my vices. I just can't do it. First of all, there isn't enough room on the whole entire internet to fit what I may write about all of my vices. Secondly, I don't want to alienate everyone I know (both physically and electronically). I'm just going to stick to two vices. Maybe three. We'll see.


I started out this year by watching what I ate and counting calories and it helped me lose a bit of weight, I think. I don't have a scale in my apartment, so I judged how much weight I was losing by how loose my clothes were feeling. I made salads. For dinner. Just salad. I watched portions. I tried using a ten inch plate instead of the usual twelve inch plate. I tried only going out to eat once a week, and when I did, I looked for the low-calorie options. I started cooking at home more often than not. The usual take-out and delivery joints I used to frequent started calling me to make sure I was still alive.

But then things got away from me. I have a small kitchen. It's hard to make some of the great meals I wanted to make because I just didn't have the room. And although it may be cheaper than going out to eat, it's still pricey. Living on a budget and cooking healthy is difficult. I'm surprised there are not more fat poor people out there. All the low-cost foods are the bad-for-you foods. Canned soup. Frozen dinners. Cookies and snacks. Ice cream. That stuff is all bad for you. It's full of salt and additives and junk. I'm not 100% sure that the pepperoni on frozen pizzas is actually made of meat.

So I would buy cans of soup and pasta or rice mixes instead of making my own soup or making my own pasta meals. I would buy cookies so I had something in the house to snack on. And I would buy ice cream. Ice cream is definitely my downfall. And although I started using a smaller bowl and I stopped putting extra chocolate sauce on it, I still have it every evening. It's part of my nightly ritual. It's not that I have to have it, but I just feel odd if I don't.

I do still make meals at home, when I can. I am becoming really good at the one-pot meal. Especially Dirty Rice. Ask me about that some time. It's delicious, easy, and I think it's good for you too! If I had a bigger kitchen I would cook at home all the time. But maybe that's just an excuse. Maybe I'm lazy. It's so easy to throw a can of soup in a bowl and nuke it. It's so easy to pop a pizza in the toaster oven. And I'm telling myself that because I'm not going out to eat or ordering in the food is better for me. I bought this food from the grocery store. But buying a can of soup and buying the ingredients to make soup is two entirely different things.


Although I stopped drinking coffee in 2010, 2011 has been the first full year that I haven't been on the junk. If you would have told me five years ago that there would be a time when I didn't drink coffee, I would have punched you in the face. My younger self would never quit coffee! There's no way. Coffee is a nectar from the gods. It is natural and it is perfect.

I have worked at just about every coffee shop and cafe in Buffalo, and even some that aren't around any more. And before that I frequented them regularly. There was a coffee shop near the corner of Allen and Elmwood called Topic that I used to go to all the time. It was really tiny, but it shared an amazing patio with the restaurant next door and the owner, Bob, was the greatest dude ever. I used to go in and order a double espresso. And every time I did, he would ask me if I wanted a short shot or a long shot. And every time he asked me, I would say, "Um... I'm not sure. What's the difference?" So he would give me a double long shot and double short shot for the price of one double shot. I'm pretty sure this is how I got addicted to coffee.

I worked at coffee shops and coffee houses in Rochester. I worked in cafes in Buffalo. I sold espresso to old Italian men at soccer matches. I pulled shots of espresso mixed with Sambuca in the Elmwood Village. I brewed Sumatra beans for executives in thousand dollar suits on Main Street. I made mochas for drunks on Chippewa. And the whole time I learned everything I could about coffee.

I learned the best temperature to keep a coffee bean. I learned the best way to grind the beans, depending on what it was being used for. I learned how to pull the perfect shot of espresso (both long and short). Lattes, Mochas and Cappuccinos became second nature. I could steam or froth milk while timing the espresso shot all while telling a customer a funny little anecdote. I knew all the different coffee beans from all of the different regions of the world. I knew that Colombian was a nice mild blend with minimal acidity, while French Roast was a good full-bodied bean with high acidity. But if you wanted the perfect cup of coffee, it had to be made with beans from Sumatra.

And I drank it all the time. In the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening. At work I probably drank an entire pot, if not more. And after a while it started to take a toll on my body. I would get shaky and I felt like I was going to pass out. So I cut back to only drinking it in the morning and early afternoon and only after eating something. Then my doctor told me I should cut back on my caffeine intake. So I switched to decaf, but let's be honest-- just because it tastes like coffee doesn't make it coffee.

That nectar that I once cherished so much was no longer part of my daily regimen. I was sad at first, but then I realized I wasn't so shaky as I used to get. I started feeling better. I still love coffee. I just don't drink it any more. I can probably still pull the best shot of espresso in Buffalo. But that would just be testing fate. I'm not sure if I trust myself being that close to coffee any more.

Would my 2011 be better with less food and more coffee? Possibly. But I doubt it.

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