When I moved to California, Pastina was next to impossible to find outside of an Italian specialty store. Here in New Jersey, boxes of Pastina line the shelves of every grocery store. Growing up, I was plagued by severe ear infections, and my Sicilian mother would make me heaping bowls full of these little pasta stars, mixed with butter and salt, whenever my ears would ring and bleed; for me, Pastina remains the epitome of comfort food.
But not even Pastina sounded good last week, during our second snow day of the season. Usually teachers love snow days as much as the kids, but I woke up with nausia, a fever, and a soar throat. So Gary, our friend Chaya and I sought out some relief from the cold at the bottom of a steaming bowl of hot ramen soup at Rai Rai Ramen in New Brunswick, NJ.
Pictures from Rai Rai Ramen by Amnet NY Times
It was so delicious - salty and sweet, with hot steaming noodles to slurp up.
And wouldn't you know it - this Martin Luther King Jr. long weekend, I once again came down with a fever, soar throat and joint pain - and once again, Gary and I went in search of some comforting food. This time, we found ourselves at a vegetarian mecca: Maoz Vegetarian - which is a "fast food" chain specializing in authentic falafel and vegetarian food.
The restaurant chain has not only gotten some major press, but it is also pretty easy to spot - it's floor to ceiling green tile with a couple of wooden benches. In addition to six US locations, there are Maoz Vegetarian franchise restaurants in The Netherlands, UK, France and Spain.
Maoz's "Meal Deal" - Picture from Maoz USA WebsiteI ordered a falafel and Belgian fries, and loved every bite. Perhaps you are noticing a trend? While all of my comfort food is delicious, for the most part it's also simply prepared and vegetarian.
Gary and I are both trying to eat more organic food, and be socially responsible in our food choices. What does this mean? Basically, it means that we are trying to eat real food instead of "edible foodlike substances", and we won't eat meat unless it comes from an organic farm that raises and slaughters its own meat, such as Griggstown Farm or Simply Grazin (both in Princeton, NJ). Our general lifestyle change has been inspired by Michael Pollan's books (In Defense of Food, Omnivore's Dilemma, Food Rules), Foer's book Eating Animals, and food documentaries including Food Inc. and Fresh.
As a cancer survivor, it's important to limit any exposure to harmful carcinogens, and controlling what I put into my body is a critical step in my ongoing fight against a recurrence of carcinoid cancer. Now, if I drink milk - it's whole milk from grass-fed, hormone-free cows; if I eat a granola bar - it has only a handful of organic, easily-recognizable ingredients... I check labels, I do research, I make sure I know what I'm digesting. I think that every cancer patient should read and watch the above resources, so that they can learn what to eat in order to increase their (and the planet's) chances of survival. If you don't have time to read a book or watch a documentary, try using a mobile-tool such as "fooducate" (for the iphone) to help make healthier choices in the grocery store.