Reviewing Expectations – Liver and Vacationing

What I’ve Been Up To

This past week was “Golden Week” in Japan, a combination of three back-to-back holidays and one of the busiest travel times of the year in Japan.  Not wanting to miss out, Valerie and I headed down the coast to Muroto, where we did some awesome hiking, ate traditional Japanese foods at a ryokan, and took time to appreciate the natural beauty all around us in Kochi.

Hiking through the National Park down by the beach.

The meal at our ryokan included: sashimi, grilled fish, pickled cucumbers, oysters, veggies, soup, white rice, tempura (didn't eat), and a fresh strawberry and slice of melon.

Rock formations along the coast caused by upheaval from earthquakes.

And the best part about it:  it wasn’t even planned.  We just up and went one sunny day.  We felt no pressure to stick to an itinerary or even stay overnight, but just let things play out as they would.  It was wonderful.

Vacation, far from being the stress-relieving time the name implies, often turns into more than we bargained for. Isn’t it only too true that most people need a vacation from their vacation after they’ve been going too hard for too long on too little sleep?  Usually, this is a result of trying to do too much.  It’s funny how our expectations of what vacation will be like (relaxing) and what we will do (everything possible) are so dissimilar.

My suggested solution:  don’t have expectations. Or at least, shift the focus of those expectations.  Plan on taking time for yourself, on slowing down, on absorbing the beauty of the world around you, on re-connecting with your loved ones.  You can’t rush these things, so don’t load your schedule with things to do.  And whatever happens, make your best effort to find the good in your situation (or the hilarity, as often enough).  Things always seem to go better if you can laugh about it.

You won’t always have the freedom to be able to up and go like I was this past week. You’ll probably have to do some planning and budgeting.  But maybe a little less planning and a little more leeway is just what you need to make your vacation work for you! (No pun intended.)

A Food Experiment

A couple of months ago, I was asked by a reader about how much I use organ meats in my diet, and if I had any tips on how to stomach the stuff.  My answer at that time was not at all and no idea.  Though they are nutritionally dense and would have been a part of our ancestral diet, I had never given offal much thought.  We never ate liver, heart, or kidney at home growing up, and I didn’t have the first idea of how to cook them, let alone enjoy them.  So I pointed them to two articles at Mark’s Daily Apple (#onlinefoodbible) discussing the basics of what to do with offal, and that was that.

This past week, however, I was inspired at the grocery store when I saw a pack of chicken liver.  I decided that one way or another, I would work this into my meal.  (#challengeaccepted!)  This was the result:

Some readers may recognize that this looks a lot like my “Sloppy Paleo Chili” from an earlier post – and they would be right.  I’ve already discussed how Paleo Chili is a great way to work a variety of veggies into your evening meal, but I wondered if liver could be ‘hidden’ the same way?  (Like when my mom used to chop up broccoli and bury it in her homemade pasta.)  Maybe it was a bit of a cop-out, but you gotta start somewhere!

So, we food-processed our veggies (carrots, peppers, onions, red cabbage, garlic) and sauteed them per usual.  We didn’t know exactly what to do with the liver, so I suggested blending it up and throwing it in the mix.  Valerie was hesitant, and after we blended the liver into a bloody, pasty goo, she looked at me and said “Are you SURE you want to do this?”  I was…pretty much.  Yea.  It was alright.  I mean, how bad could it be really?  Suddenly, I started to think that this was a bad idea.  But I’m nothing if not persistent, and so we soldiered on.  We threw it into the batch, added the ground beef and tomato sauce and spices (including fresh coriander which was baller) and there you have it.

Everything ‘looked’ the same. You couldn’t even tell the liver was in there.  But I was surprised at how much of a mental battle it turned out to be.  Valerie had a couple of bites and then encountered a chunk of “something” and opted for something different.  I chowed down, though admittedly I didn’t get any stringy bits (luck of the draw I guess).  However, I did notice that I was uncomfortable eating – I was shoving food into my face and swallowing fast enough that it barely touched my tongue, and used enough Tobasco sauce to drown a small horse.

It’s interesting how much my expectations of what it would taste like changed my eating habits, when in fact there was no distinction in taste or texture (for the most part) at all.  Guess I still have a little ways to go before I’m comfortable eating offal, but I’m glad I gave it a shot and will try some more recipes out in the future.

Here’s to expectations and the unexpected!