By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
While many are delighted with weight loss, it has become our family’s nightmare. My husband learned that he’s been losing four pounds every month. He can’t afford to lose any more since he’s underweight.
The doctor’s order is, “Eat, eat, eat.” Here is the dilemma. Since last year, George has lost his appetite to eat. Home cooking, which used to be exciting to him, had suddenly turned to be ordinary, predictable, and unappealing. His health appears to be fine, but his energy levels have been low, and his face looks pale and sunken. His disinterest in food is a cause for alarm.
Our dinner routine is, he does all the washing and cutting, and I am the head chef. I can only come to one conclusion: He doesn’t like my cooking, period. Even though I don’t take it personally, something needs to be done to increase his appetite.
Should I be fired?
I don’t have an ego problem. If he doesn’t enjoy my cooking, we should be looking for alternatives. I just hate to see him losing weight continuously.
My style of cooking is geared towards clean living — simple cooking with less fat and red meat — more chicken, veggies, and seafood — low heat as opposed to high heat to preserve the nutrients. I enjoy fresh ingredients and their original taste. However, it might not be the most delicious way of preparing food.
For instance, butter tastes good. Do I use it? No, animal fats are bad for our heart. More sodium would enhance flavor. Yet, I put little salt and no MSG in my cooking. And no white sugar. Honey is my replacement for sugar.
Sad to say, my purpose of a healthy lifestyle backfires. Perhaps, I am being too cautious in my cooking. What needs to be changed? His behavior and mine.
The past few months were stressful for my husband. In early March, I went back to Hong Kong to take care of my mother’s funeral. The timing was bad. It coincided with my son’s trip to Asia, which was planned a year prior. My husband was left alone to manage the Northwest Asian Weekly’s operations. He had to take over my work, as well as my son’s responsibilities. What were his eating habits? Work first, eat later. Sometimes, that meant no lunch or breakfast. When he is stressed, his appetite lessens. Okay, if you are overweight, skipping meals or eating less makes sense. But if you are already skinny, where do you get the fuel for your body? It will impact your muscles, your immune system, and your bodily functions.
One time, he would ask for permission to eat when we were dining in a restaurant. It sounds ridiculous, but that’s the way he is — family first. “Son, do you want the asparagus?” he said. He loves asparagus.
“Just eat them,” I said. “You don’t need to ask for permission.”
“Dad, please don’t ask me. Next time, just put the food on your plate,” my son said.
Healthy eating might not work
What is apparent is, my husband is tired of the same old, same old. It dawned on me recently at the Delta Airlines-Korean Airlines’ partnership celebration, held at the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue, that he not only wanted good food, but rich flavors, fancy cooking, and colorful spices to please his palate. With glee, he devoured all three courses, including bread, a walnut salad, an entree with salmon and steak, and dessert. That’s not a small dinner. It was a while since he had such a big meal.
I guess as we age, our taste buds become less sensitive. He keeps complaining that home cooked food has no taste.
After the Delta event, we had a dining spree in town. First, it was a steak dinner with delicious salads mixed with almonds, beets, and kale, wild mushrooms, lobster bisque, and baked potatoes at the Capital Grille. Two days later, we dined at the Elliott’s Oyster House with Rockefeller oysters and pan-fried oysters and other dishes. Then three days later, an Italian dinner with lamb chop and beef brisket in Pioneer Square. The last meal of the week was at Dawat Indian Grill and Bar with naan, chicken, and Mediterranean-Indian style meatballs. This week, we were at Jade Garden for dim sum.
By the way, my cooking also evolves and adapts to heavy sauces and colors. Instead of bland and light cooking, I marinate the meats longer with more spices, and add more sauces such as tomatoes, mapo tofu, roasted beef base paste, and garlic. We use Vietnamese pork ham consisting of fish sauce and pepper when we stir-fry veggies, so the taste is more interesting. Gone is my insistence for maintaining the original taste of the ingredients. We still buy fresh and quality ingredients. At this point, taste matters more in my family meals.
Every other day, we would order a course or two from different restaurants in the International District, so we have a variety of entrees on our dinner table. Our dinner consists of three to four dishes in addition to soup and rice. It looks attractive and makes us feel hungry. The objective is for our family to be satisfied and happy after every meal. Last week, we achieved that by making eating an adventure at home and outside in restaurants. I don’t recommend eating out so often each week. This was meant only to kickstart George’s appetite.
Oh, I noticed that my husband’s face is a little more round this week, and he has gained some weight. One week of intense planning for what, when, and where to eat, works. I make sure he never delays eating anymore. Food is for nourish our body, as well as our soul.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.