So, about giving up fried food…

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I failed. 

I had really good intentions, though.  It seemed like my decision to completely cut off fried foods from my diet was the right thing to do; but it was impractical.  I have noticed that I eat fried foods less than I did before, but taking it out of pool of available foods was just too much.  When I really started paying attention to what I was eating, I realized I was eating at least one fried food a day. I also realized that when I had a late-night craving, it was always for something fried.  Unfortunately, the only way to get fast food at night is by frying it. So what the heck are we supposed to do?

Let’s talk a little bit about what’s happening and what you and I can do to overcome this.

First, just accept that fried foods taste good.

Fried foods are crispy on the outside and warm and juicy on the inside.  This creates a party in our mouth and makes us feel good.  When you’re devouring a fried porkchop, there are all sorts of chemicals being released in the brain – sort of like a food high.  And keep in mind that our brain actively seeks out the things that give us the most pleasure. Understanding this, it easy to comprehend why we want it, and in some ways there’s not a whole lot we can do about it. Or is it?

Second, realize that other foods taste good, too!  

This requires you to put down that chicken wing and pick up some celery.  I mean, really, at some point it’s about the choices you make.  Remember what you just read about the brain? Well, how about you try to find enjoyment out of something else – maybe even something healthy.  And don’t just try it once. You have to try something like 2 or 3 times (at least with foods) before you can say you really don’t like it.  Your mouth is always shocked the first time, so you have to give it more than one opportunity to make a decision. 

Third, remember that [almost] everything is good in moderation.

Too much fried food, too many vegetables, too much water, too much wine, too much sex, too much work, too much play, well, you get it…Too much of anything is bad.  Generally speaking, fried foods aren’t all that healthy. But it’s ok if you have it once in a while.  I’ve succeeded in reducing my intake down to 2-3 times a week. Judge me if you want, it’s progress.  Pay attention to the next time YOU eat a fried dish.  Are there multiple fried dishes on your plate?  Did you just eat fried food for lunch?  Can you get the same thing baked?

In conclusion, fried food is delicious and addictive.  But other, healthier foods are equally delicious and addictive – if you open your damn mind a little.  But don’t do too much of anything because that’s not really solving the problem.  Just like your car, your body runs on fuel.  The body’s fuel is food.  If you’re putting crappy stuff inside, you’ll have crappy performance.  Keep that in mind when you’re deciding how to stuff your face. 

Yours truly,

Dr. Bruce Devon

 

 

Review: Allen and Son’s BBQ, Chapel Hill

This past weekend, I broke away from the “hustle and bustle” of DC and opted for a more relaxed pace.  I took the 5 hour drive down to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to visit a friend.  It’s a charming city with lots of good food.  I visited several restaurants but I’m only doing a FULL review for the restaurant that stood out the most.  I’ll give brief summaries of the other restaurants at the bottom of this posting.

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The first restaurant I visited in Chapel Hill was Allen and Son’s BBQ – the original A & S location (there’s another one on the other side of town).  I know that it doesn’t look like much from the outside but the food was great. When I stepped out of the car the first thing I smelled was trash (there was a dumpster about 50 yards in front of us). Once inside, I noticed the decor wasn’t spectacular. I seem to remember a picnic checkerboard tablecloth on the tables. I was greeted by an employee who said that we could sit anywhere we wanted and that someone would come our table shortly. Don’t you just love that? I felt like I was at their home. Not like DC, where you’re greeted with “do you have a reservation” as opposed to “hello”. Bastards.

So, this place is known for its BBQ. There were awards and certificates all over the place. And instead of going for an old favorite (fried catfish) I decided to go for the moneymaker – ribs. My meal came with coleslaw, a choice of French fries or potato salad, and hush puppies. I went for the potato salad so as to not have too many fried foods.

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(Sorry, I’d already started eating.)

Along with my food I had an Arnold Palmer – seemed fitting being in the south.

I’ll start with the things I liked the least…

Coleslaw: I don’t like coleslaw anyway. That being said, it wasn’t bad but I didn’t eat much if it.

Potato salad: So, you know you can’t eat everybody’s potato salad, right? Well, this one was kind of tangy.  A little too much mustard for my taste, but still not bad.

Ribs: Lord, they were falling off the bone. The meat was tender and well-seasoned. I did not add a single drop of sauce (which is highly uncharacteristic for me and BBQ) because it was already perfect. The sauce was tangy and you could taste some of the vinegar which I loved. I destroyed the ribs.

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Sweet potato pie: Delish. They warmed it up and served it with lump of whipped cream. I made sure that each bite had some crust (you know we love some crust). This was a predominantly white establishment but it tasted like my momma was in the kitchen.  Everyone ordered desserts and they were all delicious – which is where some of these family-owned business drop the ball.

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Lastly – the hush puppies. So, this was my first time EVER have hush puppies.  I’d always assumed I would not like them. But they were awesome. They tasted like someone seasoned them like meat and then fried them.  Mmmmmm.

I give this place 4 out of 5 Bs. The server was friendly, slightly less attentive than I would have liked but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt given that the restaurant was busy. The place closed at 8 and a slew of people poured in at 7. I highly recommend this place if you are ever in Chapel Hill.

 Mez (Mexican) BBB – really good food and ambiance, really average service

Char-Grill BBb – it was aight. Just aight.

Beer: Hacker-Pschorr Weisse

Hello friends,

I recognize that it has been a while since my last post.  You may not know this about me already, but I’m a really good procrastinator.  I’m also forgetful and not always good at prioritizing.  Thus, these things all contribute to my sporadic posting.  I may try to work on it, but I don’t know how far I’ll get.

Anyway, it’s time for a beer…post. 

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Currently, I am working my way through wheat beers and I seem to like this category more than the pale ales.  The wheat beer I tried most recently is brewed in Germany (the apparent capital of wheat beers) by Hacker- Pschorr.  http://www.hacker-pschorr.com/en

They have a great website with lots of good pictures and process explanations.  They, too, brew in accordance with the German Law of Purity of 1516.  I’m tired of typing this without knowing it means so I did a little research.  It turns out that this is a real “thing”.  Sometimes the law is called Reinheitsgebot which translates to “purity order”.  Basically, the Germans were beer purists aka snobs.  Initially, the beer could only include certain ingredients, and for the most part, that’s still the case with just a few exceptions.

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So, how does it taste? I didn’t like it as much as the Franziskaner but it was still tasty.  I used a Weizner glass in order to accentuate the taste and features of the wheat beer.  Honestly, I can’t tell if it made a difference.  The beer was slightly cloudy but had a pretty, golden color.  Overall, it had a good smell (smelled like wheat) and went down smoothly.  I had the strongest urge to cook a bratwurst and have it with it – which makes sense given the beer. 

Have you tried Hacker-Pschorr before? What were your thoughts? 

Next up: Weihenstephaner.  

Brawn: Is This Fried? Good!

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(me at the gym)

If we’re friends on social media, you have probably noticed that I’ve been hitting the gym…A LOT.  Part of the reason is that it’s addictive. I feel so healthy and youthful in the gym.  And I feel like I’m surrounded by other people who feel the same way, which reinforces the way that I feel.  I also feel very attractive.  I mean, what’s better than giving yourself the sexy eye while doing a bicep curl in slow motion – even if it is only a 15-lb dumbbell?

The other reason I’ve been pushing myself is because I want this to be a lifestyle change and not a fad.  I’m almost at the point where the gym is becoming a habit and I really want exercise to be a regular part of my life. 

But, before I finish, I must make a confession.  I’ve been hitting up this hot dog joint (http://www.fostersgrille.com/ totally awesome place!) about 2-3 times a week and getting a meal that’s about 2,300 calories – a delicious grilled hot dog, a full order of onion rings, and an extra thick milkshake.  Yup, it’s delish.  But I started thinking – “this seems a bit odd…working out this hard and then pigging out”. 

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(you totally just licked your lips)

I realized that I have to change my eating habits, too, which makes me sad. I love unhealthy stuff, especially fried food.  I thought it would be a good idea to learn more about the stuff I put in my body so I started researching about it and was overwhelmed with the amount of [confusing and contradictory]  information out there.  So, I’m making a pledge to not have any fried foods until I fully understand what it does to our bodies.

Here’s the question I’m trying to answer: Are fried foods healthy?

Notice I did not ask a leading question like, “how healthy are fried foods” or “at what point does fried food intake become unhealthy” which would assume that we already know that fried foods are healthy/unhealthy.  There’s a lot of information to break down for a slow guy like me so when I finally understand enough to post about it, you should be able to understand it well. 

What are your pain points for unhealthy foods?  Any other fried food fanatics? 

F*cking Piano :-(

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For about the past month, or so, playing the piano has been a frustrating experience.  Here’s why:

  • It seems like I’ve been playing more wrong notes than normal
  • I cannot play more than two arpeggios in a row without a finger fumble
  • My thumb, my thumb, my thumb…it’s so big and clunky that it’s always striking two keys at a time
  • I don’t feel like I’m making progress learning about how the fingers work with the wrist and how it all works together with the arm

At my last lesson, my piano teacher told me I was being too hard on myself and that I was doing an excellent job.  She said that I was much farther along than I thought and that she was proud of my progress.  But if you know me, you know I didn’t really hear a word she said.

At this stage in my piano career, learning is very slow but sometimes very rewarding.  When playing slowly, I feel that I am developing sound technique (which is paramount to me) and I can really appreciate the process.  Sometimes, though, the process can be painful, repetitive, and outright discouraging.  What makes it worse is that I have a natural tendency to be impatient and strive for an unrealistic level of perfection. 

The logical part of me realizes that piano playing (like any other skill or sport) requires patience and dedication – regardless of one’s level of natural talent and ability.  To help remind me of this, my totally awesome piano teacher (Gretchen Sterling http://www.scmusicarts.com/) said that I should look at piano playing as a science project.

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Here’s what most pianists do.  We hear a song we like, find the sheet music, and try to recreate what we heard in the recording.  Of course we never actually reach the level of the recording and then we get frustrated and quit.  But what about scientists?

Even though they understand a peer’s hypothesis on an academic level, they are very careful to repeat every step of the experiment themselves – but they don’t try to recreate anything.  They carefully observe every step in the process, take painstaking notes, and are always open to the idea that the other person’s findings were wrong or that their own findings may take them somewhere unexpected.  Either way, they’re ok with the results; the important thing is that they don’t rush the experiment or they would run the risk of botching the whole deal.  The experiment itself, then, is just as important as the end result.

To take it a step further, isn’t life kind of like that?  It’s really good to have a plan but we should remain open to adjusting it.  Isn’t it better to enjoy and appreciate both the highs and the lows? That way, when the “music” ends, we won’t be so worried about how the song was played, but more about the meaning behind the notes.

So, simply put, (and back to the piano) I’m learning to relax and enjoy the learning process.  And a big thanks to my awesome piano teacher…who’s also apparently my therapist.

This Beer Tastes Like Bread!

The next phase of my beer conquest introduced me to wheat beers.  “Wheat is a terrific base ingredient that provides brewers the opportunity to utilize additional ingredients to influence aromas and flavors” (from Total Wine & Beer’s Total Guide to Beer).  And even in my non-expert opinion, I agree. 

Altogether, I’ll be trying 3 different wheat beers and the first one I tasted was Franziskaner Weissbier, brewed by Spaten-Brau in Munich, Germany.

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This brewery has been producing fine beers in accordance with the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516 for over 600 years.  Here’s what it looks like and here’s a link to the site.  My initial review of the site is that it has a lot of good info in a very crappy layout. 

Anyway, keep reading for my [brief] review.

http://www.franziskaner.com/

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I thought that the beer tasted very “beer-y”.  It was also very “bread-y”, like, it totally tasted like wheat bread…which I loooooove.  Lastly, it was very smooth and clear at the same time.  Other than that, there wasn’t a whole lot more complexity to its taste or texture. 

I’ve tried a few different pale ales and wheats, and the wheats are definitely winning for me so far.  This beer was more cloudy as it was unfiltered and created an immense amount of head.  And the head stuck around a lot longer.  This is because of the higher levels of protein in wheat beers. (See? I’m learning).

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Have you tried Franziskaner before? What were your thoughts?

Next up:  Hacker-Pschorr Weisse 

Brawn: Wanna Workout?

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My first BRAWN post.  And instead of choosing to write about how little I feel I’ve progressed or how frustrating it is that I haven’t found a workout partner, I will choose to write something positive – like how I’m proud of myself for being dedicated.  In fact, the gym is becoming a bit of an addiction now.  About halfway through the workout, I begin to get this feeling of near-euphoria and a burst of energy.  I also find myself checking out my bod more in the mirrors.  I seem to do my reps really slow so I can admire my muscle structure.  I know it sounds kind of vain but it’s the truth!

Anyway, if you’re looking for a really good fitness app, I highly recommend “Fitness Training” by Eltima software. 

http://fitness.eltima.com/

There are hundreds of exercises and pre-programmed workouts.  Each workout has a text description as well as photos and videos to help with instruction.  It has a good logging feature too (weight, reps, measurements, etc) so that you can track your progress.  I also just noticed this morning that you can play your music through the app, too.  I think it cost me $2 but it was well worth it. 

Happy Hump Day!

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Bach: 2-Part Invention in D Minor

Whoooooa. The blog is supposed to be about Bach, brawn, banter AND beer – but I’ve only posted about beer. LOL. This fact does not accurately reflect how much I love Bach, specifically playing his music. He’s a musical genius. Even without knowing how to read or play music, Bach’s music is beautiful to hear. BUT – when you begin to analyze it musically you realize how incredibly complex and beautiful it is at the same time. EVEN STILL, none of this compares to when you actually play the music and interpret it yourself.

Even as an amateur pianist, I aspire to play my music perfectly. This is reeeally hard, especially with Bach, but I did it! Only once. A few days ago. The piece I’m finishing now is a short 2-part Invention in D Minor. Here’s a professional recording. (Once I get a camera, I can record myself and post it for you all.) This guy does a pretty good job with the piece. He plays all of the right notes and at the right speed. My only critique is that he does not let the music “breathe”. To play it all the way through so fast doesn’t really give the music a chance to “settle” with the listener. A few well-placed rallentandos would have made this an “A” performance. He still gets a “B” though.

Enjoy!

Beer: Agave Wheat

I asked the waiter to give me something similar to Shock Top and he recommended Agave Wheat – an unfiltered wheat ale. I like it! It smells good and tastes very smooth, almost kinda sweet.

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