When I went away this summer on that maniacal cooking gig, as well as giving up my peace of mind, sleep and showering, I gave up eating simple carbs. The first three being, thankfully, temporary. I’ve always been a diehard starch lover and used to claim that I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) give up carbs to save my life. Specifically flour and its spawn, bread (oh toast, my love) and pasta. And baked goods made from scratch? They’ve always held a power of their own over me. A force that my seduced taste buds and addled brain have often been too damn hepped up on sugar to resist. Something made all the more difficult when baking for the café and catering has meant tasting an inordinate number of muffins, cookies and alluring confections. Because, after all, you’ve gotta taste what you make—and sell—you know?

So, being away, and working with a budget that didn’t allow for flour-filled items like bread and baked goods, I gave my system a much-needed release from carb loading. You can’t eat what you don’t have, and I adapted very quickly, also choosing to forgo most other grains. I’ve been aware for a long time that my off switch for sugar and wheat is faulty. I’m seemingly powerless over the cravings. When I bake it, I eat it. And often too much of it. There have been long stretches in my life when I’ve stayed away from sugar because the highs, lows, and resulting brain fuzziness have been too difficult to deal with. Do you know that full-body sensation that hits when you eat sugar after abstaining for a good while? It’s a crazy assault: like dark chocolate dipped in trans fat and marinated in crack … It tantalizes before it flattens you.

My week away was the beginning of once again removing “noisy” foods from my diet. I upped my vegie intake (not difficult for someone who was vegetarian for 18 years) and ate simply but well. And when I came home, I decided to squeeze out soy, legumes, grains and dairy (which I have limited tolerance for). That is, until a couple of nights ago, when I arrived home too late to grocery shop and the kids needed dinner stat. And since the take-out options in my town are pitiful—starch riffing on starch—I pulled the trigger … and ordered pizza. Then stupidly ate many slices. And then more stupidly ate peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. And most stupidly of all, developed wicked gut rot and a marathon migraine.

A few points of discovery: Having been a baker for eons, I don’t actually need to taste sweet little morsels to know they’re consistently killer. In this I’ve decided to trust. Now I make others at work (happily) do the taste testing. Also? I feel better when I reach for protein instead of carbs. Let me clarify that. Despite feeling what I perceive to be sublime happiness the instant sugar hits my tongue, given that one bite leads to fifty, I can pretty much guarantee an ugly ending. Protein is my smooth landing when I’m on shaky ground with cravings. My energy level is more evenly sustained and I don’t get food hangovers. Which all poses a challenge, and one that won’t go away any time soon. I absolutely love to bake: the heady scent of breads and sweet things on the rise, the smile on other people’s faces when tasting, the rhythmic rolling of dough, the delight in decorating and transforming cake into something so pleasing to the eye. But I need to make peace with these cravings, and I know that sugar and I are better friends from a distance. I’ll continue to bake and occasionally enjoy something myself, when I’m not held hostage by sugar cravings, and I’ve reinstalled my off switch. When I can distinguish cravings from hunger.

Protein=meat=I love it more than sugar. In fact, since ushering out sugar, grains and limiting legumes, I have developed outrageous cravings for red meat. And the only thing I want with it are salad greens and vegies. I think about meat all the damn time. For now, anyway. I find it quite shocking and more than a little bizarre. And last night, for the first time ever, I cooked myself steak at home. Now, I used to grill steaks in a restaurant, and apparently did a great job of it, but I seldom cook red meat at home. I’ve always been a little uneasy about a pan on a stove top (especially my electric stove) matching that result. But it was incredible. I knocked it out of the park. Cravings are a curious thing, and the irony of buckling to one and not another isn’t lost on me. I just happen to find that my mood is more stable and my body truly feels better when protein trumps simple carbs.

I’ve also got a fascination with, and renewed appreciation for butcher shops. And while I occasionally feel somewhat like an unsure outsider (as though they’re a secret club with butcher lingo and meat knowledge as the handshake) I know that most butchers want people to ask questions. Last night’s visit to a newly opened, locally-sourced meat shop satisfied my need for a fix on so many levels. I had a great time talking to the two Toronto transplants (butcher and chef) who run the shop, sourcing their meat with care and expertise, and felt totally comfortable asking questions. I walked out with a nice little stash, and my cafe-owing boss and I traded samples in the car like a couple of crazed, hardcore carnivores.

Alright, moving on … There could be more to this weekend than chasing meat dreams! Like walking in the woods and refinishing a drafting table I scored for 35 bucks, for instance. There’s been an empty space for some time now, waiting to be filled by just the right desk/table, and it’s about to happen. So excited! Photos on the horizon.

I hope your weekend plans are mighty fine … and just as tasty!

photo taken at: sanagan’s meat locker