Traci Anello

Food is art


Leave a comment

Inflammation??

There comes a time when you have to take complete responsibility for your own health. A doctor is a handy person when something feels broken or not quite right. That’s the ‘go to” person when it feels like it’s someone else that needs to make the decisions for you. It usually starts with routine blood work. You get the blood work back and everything looks good. That’s good news right?? Until you decide to Google the results and see what they actually mean. What are these letters, abbreviations and numbers? Less than and positive signs that you learned in elementary school. Together they all mean your health status but together to the untrained eye, they’re whatever the doctors tells you they are. Fair enough.

Not good enough for me at that particular moment. I notice one that looks to be a bit higher than the Google results say it should:CR-P. What is this?? So I call the doctor and I’m fortunate enough to talk to one of his nurses. She says it’s inflammation. So I ask what that means and she says it doesn’t pin point the source. She said it’s a little high but not to worry. So we end the call and of course, I worry. As time goes on, I’m at ease with the thought that maybe it was from a sore back or a head ache and next time it’ll be fine. Fast forward three years and I go for a routine blood check as part of a physical. Well, well. Once again the CR-P comes back “a little” high. It’s the first thing I ask the doctor to look at. Once again, she asks me if I have any pain or if I’ve had a headache. I say no and it’s dismissed anyway. this just didn’t sound right to me. I was having trouble losing weight even though I was going to the gym. I was exhausted more than usual. I just couldn’t concentrate. None of these were red flags?? So I decided to pay more attention to my body.

I was at a local health food store and saw a magazine that caught my attention. It said “The 7 hidden causes of weight gain”. So I picked it up and that night I made a cup of tea and sat down to relax and read my magazine. What kind of help could this magazine possibly bring. The article really got my attention. One word in particular: Inflammation. There’s that word again. Certain foods become an intolerance. I’m very familiar with gluten and the host of problems it causes. There it is on the list along with dairy, soy, eggs, sugar, peanuts and corn. It dawns on me that a few years ago, I had taken the gluten out for quite a while and remember not having any joint pain. There’s some validity to this article. I read the entire thing and I’m convinced I need to try this. They recommend a book by JJ Virgin so I download the book and read it in two days. In the meantime I find two co-workers are taking out flour and refined sugars. I’m happy that one of them is a chef so I know we can bounce some good ideas off of each other. They seem to be doing pretty well.

I thought “I can do this”. Then I started to think about what I had to give up. I love cheese. Taking dairy out is like ripping the pacifier out of a baby’s mouth. And bread?? Wait, eggs with cheese too?? This was a good time to go for a walk and think about what I was about to get myself into. It didn’t take long. The compromise is weight loss and no joint pain. I CAN do this. I get home from my walk and immediately throw away what’s in the fridge. The new groceries I had just bought earlier that morning got bagged up and given away. Back to the grocery store, Trader Joes to be exact. I love brown rice and lentils. I can have that along with organic meats and fish. Every morning I make a breakfast shake with organic spinach, raspberries, coconut milk, spring water and some protein powder.

I want to say that today is day 6. I feel pretty good. I have periods where I feel like crashing. My co-worker says that the support group he goes to talks about that as a common occurence. the support group leader explained that your body is working over time to repair the damage. That will exhaust you from time to time. Makes sense to me. I never weigh myself because I refuse to measure my accomplishments with the scale. there are so many variables with a scale. For me, it’s how I feel. JJ Virgin says “7 pounds in 7 days by taking out the 7 foods”. I had a pair of jeans that I was hoping to fit into. I have to say, they fit pretty good!! That’s the motivation I needed. More importantly, it means there must be a lot of really good things going on inside. Things I can’t see but I sure can feel.

You’re supposed to keep these 7 foods out for 21 days and then slowly re-introduce them back into your system one by one. Tonight I decided that I actually like this new life style. I like knowing I’m doing really good things to my body.

I think the most important thing I’ve learned is to listen to your body. If it doesn’t sound right or feel right then you need to pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you feel as though your doctor isn’t listening to you, then find a new one. That’s what I did and my new doctor is wonderful. She’s open to listening to what I have concerns with. She gives me the time to explain and then she gives me very good advice. She’s open to natural remedies and doesn’t pick up the prescription pad as soon as I say the word “discomfort”.

Inflammation is not a kind word. It’s something that I have decided to pay more attention to. I can only hope that through diet and education, I will continue to improve that number with my next physical’s blood work. Every single thing I put in my mouth is my decision. I enjoy whole foods and juicing fresh vegetables. I love making new healthy dishes that I can share. I’m looking forward to going to the “Farm-acy” as soon as the farmers markets open up. I’m doing good things for my body now. I need to take the best care of it because it’s the only one I have. As long as I keep in mind that what goodness I put into my body I will get out, I’ll do okay.

Love these new jeans!

20130402-222852.jpg


Leave a comment

Day one: Self care

It’s been a while since I’ve sat down and wrote anything. Life gets in the way sometimes and when the focus is taken off of self, chaos looms. I say this because in the last 90 days what were actually some pretty marvelous events that have happened were perceived as losses not gains.

Recently I started a new job. I left my former job because of the negativity that surrounded every working moment. In a business where I developed the entire product line (gluten free products to be exact), it should have been celebratory to the gluten free community. It was quite the opposite for me. So in a sense, I guess leaving that job was my first step at taking care of self. It was a very large sacrifice in income, about 50% but what I gained was far more rich. Leaving a negative environment is like releasing the body of harmful toxins. Making the step to leave is the hardest but once you walk away, you feel the presence of light, a very calming light. You can breath better, sleep better and give yourself a nice pat on the back for what you did achieve. What they do with it is beyond my control so I needed to appreciate what I did and created and move on. My new position doesn’t pay as much but I have benefits that are very important. I have a daily commute of 30 minutes each way which instead of being a nuisance is actually My Time. It’s 30 minutes every morning and evening that I have to relax and reflect.

It wasn’t until the last couple of that I had time to think about it. I’ve been home sick. Something I have never done before. I have never missed a day of work until today. The stress and anxiety it brought me when the doctor said to stay home a couple of days was incredible. Until today. Today was the day that gave me time to think about why it’s okay. It’s about me. I have to take care of me. You would think a woman in her mid 40’s would already be doing that but not me…until now. While I was laying on my bed, I thought of what was important to me. I’m the third day into my antibiotic, so I know it’s getting better. I wanted to go to the gym. Then I wanted to take a nap instead. So I looked over at my cat and gave him a little lovings pat and decided today I’m going to the gym. I got up, got dressed and put my sneakers on. I got to the gym and did the 45 minutes of cardio I struggled to do.

The hardest part of this struggle is before I lost everything, I was going to the gym 6 days a week and loved it. It was my life. I was in great shape.Everything evolved around the gym. I had confidence and I could do anything. I had the energy. Every morning and lunch was a yogurt shake and then a salad for dinner. I loved it.  Then, life took some turns that I didn’t ask for help with. I thought I could do it. I hated asking for help. I would help anyone, but I just couldn’t ask for it. That was a life lesson I’ll never forget. Soon I was depressed. I stopped going to the gym. The 50# I had lost were right back on. I couldn’t think of exercising. It was horrible. First the business and then the house. I felt like some source larger than life itself was just plucking things from me left and right. Eventually I tried to get back into it but I think I was just too depressed. It didn’t matter. Why try. It was a self pity party that lasted 4 years. No time off or vacations. No flying to NYC twice a year to visit the city I love so much. It was all done. I lost it.

The last couple of months I would buy fitness magazines, take an occasional trip to the gym and start juicing. I would juice everyday.I loved it and I still do. Every morning was going to be the one. Back to the gym 5 days a week to start and I’ll be back into it. Then something or some thought would send me back. I’d buy a bottle of wine and a fitness magazine determined to start tomorrow, or the first or on Monday. Ugh.

This time at home has given me time to think about me. I want to get back to the gym. The only way I can is to just get up and go. It seems as though the only thing I can control is my body. Only I have the means to make it work or not. Yes, I’m determined. It’s not a Monday, or the first and I didn’t wait until tomorrow. I got up and went today. It’s a struggle but I’m determined. Eventually I’d like to run a 5K race. That’s my long term goal. My short term goal is to return tomorrow and repeat today.

 I can do this. I can build my life this time for me. I built a home and a business. I have to stop looking at them as losses and see them as knowledge gained, lessons learned.

Today I am asking for the help. I’m asking for support. I’m just looking for encouragement. If you’re a runner, any beginner tips would be helpful. If you’re someone who has thought you lost everything and now see that from a different perspective, I’d love to read your story.

Today is the first day.

20130122-192256.jpg


Leave a comment

Seeing Christmas again

The previous several years I’ve owned my own business and also helped others. The holidays are a time for work. It’s the big season before the worst quarter in the food industry. So Christmas was always on the back burner.

I remember when my daughter was very little, I didn’t even realize I was down to one shopping day. It was Christmas Eve and I’m at Toys R Us doing my shopping. Now don’t think I didn’t care. Far from it. I was just working ridiculous hours. I ran through the store with my shopping cart and racing the clock wearing a chef coat. I couldn’t help but ask the clerk if I was the only one shopping like a mad woman. Luckily, she said I was one of many that day. I wondered if there was a club for working mothers like myself but then again, when would we have found the time.The good news is she got some really nice gifts that year. I always got her the most creative things. Fast forward 15 years and we are at the bakery working late on December 22nd. My daughter turned to me and said, Ma, we never got a tree this year”. I did a quick panic and then called a friend who was selling trees. He said there are three trees left and to help myself. It was raining and we drove down to his restaurant and saw three pathetic trees leaning against the building. Fighting back tears because I felt as though I failed another Christmas, she says the right thing, “Mom, we saved a tree. It’ll be beautiful”. When she was little, we would go to the tree place and find the most pathetic looking tree. It was small, bony and almost lifeless. I taught her that we can take this tree home and show it some love and it would be the most beautiful tree ever. Every year we did this. And now this particular year, she was teaching me. We brought the tree home and it was very beautiful. The staff at Mike’s got the biggest platter of homemade brownies as a thank you.

Now after being in food service for almost ever, the holidays become a source of work and quick naps. It was always a little tough to enjoy. So this year I decided no tree. It’s just another holiday and I have to work.

Then it happened. I walked past a patient’s room and saw a beautiful little tree all decorated. It was incredible. It made we walk into a small room and cry. I thought about how wrapped up in working all these years to actually stop and enjoy Christmas. I dreaded shopping and working every year. But this person wasn’t shopping or working. They were in a bed, in a room with their tree, just the two of them. I thought about it and decided this year I will buy a small tree, decorate it and listen to music. My daughter was happy to hear I bought the tree. She asked if I would wait and decorate it tomorrow with her. She wants to makes some appetizers, listen to music and tell stories. I’m thrilled. I was just going to sit and have a glass of wine and get through the holidays. This patient changed all of that for me. This person without being aware of it, made me think about what Christmas means to me. This person helped me to stop and smell the roses. Those roses. I’ve been missing that opportunity all along.

Tonight I walked through the store and decided that I wanted a Victorian tree. My home is Old English with beautiful art work both from well known artist and my favorite local artists. A Victorian tree was perfect. Tomorrow I’ll post some pictures of it when it’s done.

I was seeing Christmas again. For me, it’s not about the shopping or receiving gifts. It’s about love and peace. This year has brought me a great source of love, peace and happiness. That patient gave me the most perfect gift this year. He gave me the gift of Christmas and what it really means.

20121218-205107.jpg

20121219-200335.jpg

20121219-200349.jpg


Leave a comment

When speechless is a good thing

The last couple of weeks I have been battling this annoying cough. The one you have to just wait out. So with some over the counter meds, hot green tea and gurgling here and there, I’m beginning to combat it. Then, two days ago, my voice vanished. I woke up and it was gone. Not sure where it went but it peaced out sometime during the night.

With every obstacle comes a lesson. I decided to limit my speech for the next few days. This ,my friends, is not an easy task for me. I’m Sicilian so when the mouth is moving so are the hands. When the mouth isn’t moving, the hands are lost. My body is confused. Then suddenly I realize something very important. I’m listening. I’ve stopped to listen. What a concept. Incredible things I’m hearing. It’s like stopping to smell the roses but better. It’s okay not to talk. It’s okay to hear how the other person views the world in whole sentences. When you can’t speak, you pay more attention after the initial shock wears off that’s it’s just not your turn.

For a while today we worked in silence. It wasn’t a bad thing at all. Silence was actually a pleasure. Until my co-worker decided to sing the song “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” completely off-key. My hands couldn’t take it. They had to say something. I put my hand straight up as if to say STOP. Please. The hands were content they had the opportunity to say something today.  We both laughed and realized silence can be fun.

The funny thing for me is when I’m in the kitchen, I generally have Jazz playing in the background. Other than that, I work in silence. I love to get into what I’m making. Creating dishes makes me happy. My hands are too busy to coordinate with the mouth. I love to cook. Some of my best work is done in silence. I used to work with a chef de cuisine. He permitted no talking in the kitchen. He was a master. You didn’t dare breathe. It was like watching a symphony of food being created in front of your very eyes. I loved to find any reason to walk through that kitchen just to see him work. With my hands in my pockets, I would make a brief stop and observe. I learned something everytime. His silent kitchen brought harmony throughout the night. It was incredible.

Wedding cakes are very similar for me. I have to be by myself and I permit no talking. It’s all about precision. Silence is the master. It puts me in a world of creativity. It all has to flow uninterrupted. From start to finish, it’s a private world of thoughts that are reserved solely for this cake. Silence is good. This was important lesson that I passed on to my culinary students.

The next time you have a cold, cough or you just can’t talk, it’s okay. Take some time to listen to what’s going on around you. Silence is a good thing. And if you’re anything like me, you might have to sit on your hands while someone is talking to you because without the mouth to execute a good sentence, your hands can really blow the message with the wrong gesture. Being Sicilian isn’t a bad thing but learning self-control with your hands is beneficial.

I’m thankful I had this opportunity to be quiet. Being speechless has been  a good thing today.


Leave a comment

Sometimes you just have to ask

“You can’t always get what you want. But you just might get what you need.” Rolling Stones

Never a more true phrase spoken. Thank you Mick Jaggar.

As I start my new journey, I think of what I want. I actually was able to imagine where I wanted to live and the type of place I was looking for. I just simply asked. The universe answers in mysterious ways. Within 48 hours, I found what I was looking for. I’m living by the water in a safe and happy place. That was pretty cool. So if it worked for my home, it must certainly be an effective way to achieve a good job. Not so easy. Or is it?

As I move along in my career, I decided that I wanted to step out of the kitchen and write about food. I didn’t want to write a typical cook book about making cookies and a weekend carrot cake. I want to write about food, the love of food. I want people to realize just how important it is in our everyday lives. There are people out there who are happy making a pork pie or Salisbury steak because they have to but then there are people who really love what they do. These people want you to receive the love they put into your food. Thought. Actual thought about what you might like and how to make it not only eye appealing, but taste amazing. A meal that you will be looking forward to having again before you even leave their house that night. That’s the type of food I want to write about.

I want to write about creating dishes for people who suffer from allergies. Teaching them how to think back to what they really miss and recreating that with them. It can be done. My ideas about how to approach teaching are very simple. Just find something you never thought you could have before and I’ll teach you not only how to have it again, but how to make it even better than before. The allergy scene is a growing one. I feel there a lot of options out there to try. My theory is: Why not make it yourself and put the love into it and share it. There so many options for so many allergies. I have a book that is ready to be published. It’s all types of cuisines adapted to the most common allergies. It’s an easy book that speaks to you as you read it. It’s like I’m standing right next to you in the kitchen. I want to travel and teach. I’m so close. I have a deal with the universe: You get me to this place and I won’t be a pain in your backside. I’d love to travel to different countries and learn their techniques. A lot of countries are gluten-free by default. It’s what they have available and how they use it. Maybe a show dedicated to people with allergies. That sounds more like my cup of green tea.

I know what I want and I think I know what I need. I may not get what I want but I know I will be provided with what I need. All I have to do is ask.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”

Leave a comment

20121118-201730.jpg

This is my favorite quote. It applies to so many things: food, art, people, situations, journeys and so on. I just finished putting this print up from the Portland Museum of Art in Portland, Maine. It’s a beautiful picture painted by and signed by Dahlov Ipcar. I had the pleasure of meeting her at the museum. She is a beautiful person. She writes books about cats and paints pictures of animals. Apparently when I hung this painting up, my cat knew that. He walked over and took a quick look. Then he decided to see it in a different angle. Doesn’t matter what I thought. It was his moment and he was taking it all in. He, at that moment, was the beholder.

The beauty of art is everyone has their own vision of what it is and what it means. It doesn’t mean that one person is incorrect from another. It’s their interpretation. It’s an opinion. It’s not wrong…ever. Just like your idea of what you’re seeing is your vision. It’s never wrong. It’s what it is at the time you viewed whatever was in front of you.

Food is a lot like art. Actually, food is art. We all like different cuisines for different reasons. What we like is our opinion. A chef is an artist that uses his or her talents to create a dish that will instantly catch your eye whether it’s being set down on the table next to you or right in front of you. We eat with our eyes. But let’s take one step back. It starts long before you walk in the restaurant. Sometimes it starts with a recommendation from a friend or family member.The way it’s described (their opinion) will either turn you off or keep you listening. Most people describe the food, the atmosphere and just as important as the food, the service. So you decide to try this place based on their opinion. It’s always a good idea to look a recommendation up online. There are usually menus to look at and reviews to read. Hopefully the menu has pictures of the entrees and attractive descriptions. This is where is starts. So you get to the restaurant and the first thing you experience is the hostess. The meal actually begins here. If the service is very good, the meal will only be better. You get your menu and drink and the experience continues. You can’t help but look at what is placed on tables around you. If it smells great and looks just as good, you’re in for a treat. The person that recommended this place is a good friend. I’ll save the opposite reaction for a different blog. This one is about beauty.

From the time you order, to the time the order goes in, the chef is already at work. This is like painting 100 pictures in less than 2 hours. The chef has to combine terxtures and flavors that in thier opinion, will please your every sense. Once your dinner comes to your table, beauty will be in the eye of the beholder. Everyone is staring at your plate while you’re staring at theirs. It all looks good. Like a fine painting, you give the look of approval with a simple nod and a smile. Everyone has an opinion about their meals. It’s good. It’s not so good. It’s beautiful or what happened in there?? I’ll definitely be back or not so soon. It’s judge and jury when the plates hit the table. The canvas is quickly altered but the original painting is still in your mind every time you think of this place.

Based on that experience alone, your opinion about the entire experience will either guide the next person to or away from this restaurant. Much like art. If you go to the museum and really enjoy what you see, you’re more apt to recommend a particular place. It’s all in the presentation. It’s the same for music, movies, theater and even sporting events.

The beauty about this is that we all see things differently. If we respect the fact that each of our opinions are just that…ours, than we can share the beauty.

I have to admit, after my cat got up and went on to do his cat things, I went over to the print and layed on the floor and looked at it. I thought maybe I’d see something a little different. He might have been on to something. His angle gave me a different perspective. I didn’t quite get what he was looking at but who am I to judge. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


1 Comment

The start of an amazing journey

I think I’m about to embark on a pretty interesting journey.

In the last few months, I have begun to clean up some pretty bad decision-making. One by one each debt has been getting paid. A lesson attached to each and every mistake. Trust was always a big thing for me. I grew up with a Sicilian dad and a hand shake, a good firm hand shake, was a good reason to trust someone and a deal. Well, enter the 2000’s. Those days were long over but I hadn’t caught up to that yet. So I made a business deal and chose a contractor for my house that I thought I knew and sealed them both with a hand shake. My first clue was at the closing for my business when the bank looked at the actual deal and asked me if I was sure I wanted to do this. I had put my home up for collateral. My partner put up nothing. But I had a new home and about to embark on a new business. I could do this. When the bank asked me one last time, I should have gotten the clue. I didn’t. Long story short, I lost the business 5 years later and my home. So some would think this is horrible. I’ve lost it all. Or did I? Physically, yes.

These were very expensive lessons to learn from a monetary value. They hurt from a personal view. My heart and soul went into both the business and the house. It was everyday. The business was 24/7. Up early, run the bakery, drive deliveries to Massachusetts at night and start all over again at 4am. What was I thinking? I could do this. No actually, I couldn’t. It all spiraled out of control. I got really sick one summer. I had an xray and a spot was discovered on my lung. Within a week I was being biopsied for Hodgkin Lymphoma. What was going on?? It all happened so fast. I couldn’t breath. The coughing was obnoxious. The last thing I remember in the OR was being asked if I like to play golf. I was out in seconds. The sugeon came in and said the biopsy was fine and I was sent home to rest for a couple of days. Rest? Were they crazy? Not at all. My daughter made me stay home and rest for two days. It was then I realized, this isn’t going to work. It’s not worth it. I watched what I was putting my daughter through and it just wasn’t worth it. But then I thought once I felt better I can still make this work. All the while ignoring my gut feelings and all the messages around me. My daughter swears I got sick just so I could rest a couple of days.

Finally the Winter of 2010, I decided it was enough. I closed the doors. The truth is, I felt great when I locked that door. I lost everything in it though. It was a tough one to walk away from but it’s then that I realized how important my life was and how materials really didn’t matter. It wasn’t a loss. I truly did the best I could. It was a wonderful place. People traveled all over to eat there. In the end, it was an increase in the lease that helped to seal the fate of the business. Not a total loss though. It was a gain of friendships, contacts (which would prove to be vital a few years later), knowledge, growth and most important, spiritual growth. Even though the debt was massive, I wasn’t going to let it get any worse. It took until this Fall but the business is all paid off. The house is about to come to an end as well. With a closing any day now, that too will be put behind me.

What was important was making the step to close the doors, both of them. Now materials really didn’t matter. I wasn’t going to determine my self-worth by what I owned. I’m a daughter,a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a co-worker and most important a mother. I feel I have been successful at all of these. Not because of what I own but because of the love I have for each and every one of them. Suddenly, my self-worth was becoming how I valued who I was. I was learning about Self.

Now the journey begins. I have a new place to live which I love. Through encouragement from my friends, I would imagine what I wanted for a house. It had to be safe, healthy, cute and by the water. I accomplished all of those. I absolutely love my home. Now my focus is on work, full-time work. I love what I do at Hospice. I was talking with a co-worker today and I told her that calling this a job just doesn’t seem right.It’s so much more than that. She said, “It’s not a job. It’s a calling.”. She’s right. It’s the most amazing place I have ever been. That’s part-time. So now I have to focus on the fulltime. It will to be something I love. It’s all about the journey.

I have been writing this blog as well as a few magazine articles. That’s the best side work I do. I love to write. I’m honored to be published in a few magazines already. It’s great work and you can share what you do with complete strangers. The important thing is you’re helping someone.

Now life is taking an interesting turn. My newest playtime hobby is painting. I decided to take a class and it was wonderful! I have been listening to more jazz and thankfully I have a friend that has similar tastes and he has been educating me on different types of music. I can’t get enough. All of this knowledge. Learning about things I love. Next on the list:Travel. I really want to travel. I want to learn about different cultures and recreate these dishes for people with food allergies. If I can do this, they too can experience other cultures without the fear of what they are eating. My goal is to someday have a show where I can recreate these dishes for everyone to enjoy regardless of your allergy. I have 6 cooking shows under mt beslt right now so I know that’s what I want to do. That day is coming very soon.

As a chef I often say sautéed onions, celery and carrots are the trinity of food. Travel, food and music are the trinity of life. My new journey is about making good decisions for myself. It’s about experiencing the trinity. It’s about learning, loving and experiencing all of the amazing things life has to offer.It’s about always trusting that firm hand shake but following up with a legal contract. It’s about listening to my gut always and having faith it’s all going to turn out exactly the way it’s supposed to.

This is the start of a fantastic journey.

20121103-205845.jpg

20121103-210024.jpg