I am so un-sexy.
I went to Vegas this weekend for the first time. I’ve never really been the “Vegas”-type, so figured a mini-reunion with two dear college friends would be the perfect excuse to get there. I had to first ask, what do people in Vegas wear? Well, it quickly became evident that the outfits of choice were “dresses” that looked more like large bandages and shoes with 6-inch heels and covered in ponyhair.
My outfit of choice tends to be yoga pants and Merrills.
We had a wonderful time; for me, the food (duh) and the people-watching are enough to get me there (of course, if anyone wants to give me $5K to go spend more time at the blackjack table, I’m happy to oblige). You will some upcoming tidbits of my favorite eating places (thanks to the master of finding good food in Vegas, N!) over the course of the next several months. However, what Vegas really got me thinking was how to balance excess and enjoyment when it comes to food and food change.
Vegas, as many of you know, is a place where modesty and minimalism are not quite the “thing.” From the indoor gondolas at the Venetian to the giant flower balls at the Wynn to the Monet done up in flowers at the Bellagio, it’s all about grandeur and bigger-than-big.
That also goes for the food – the countless buffets and the 3-foot plastic containers of happy juice. I won’t lie, I fully enjoyed my food – some of the best food I’ve had (thank you, Jose Andres and China Poblano). Yet even amidst all that enjoyment and yes, excess, I couldn’t help but think of all the food insecurity that still exists outside of the bubble of Vegas. Just last week, Gambia announced that 70 percent of its crops failed. One in six children in the U.S. live in food-insecure households.
Given that there is no need to have a $200 piece of fish (no thank you, Bartolotta) when that $200 could pay for an entire family’s month of food in some places, I questioned: is it OK to enjoy some excess even while others suffer? In a place where balance isn’t the goal, the excess of food didn’t seem to phase most people. In the midst of stuffing myself, it occurred to me that balance is critically important.
Being aware of injustice does not necessarily mean being austere. Fighting the good fight does not necessarily mean feeling too guilty to enjoying some things. The key is to remain aware and cognizant of inequity and injustice, and to act. Whether that action is an act of kindness – spending a few hours a month volunteering for a children’s nutrition program or at a food bank – or a conversation with friends and strangers to prompt a shift in perspective, the act of acting is what is important.
I won’t lie, I enjoy my food, and sometimes, to a bit of excess. I’m not going to pretend and lie to you and say that I never overspend when I know that there are people who don’t have much. But I also am not going to pretend and lie to you and say that I don’t care and try to do my small part, whether giving time or goods or raising awareness, to fight for food equity and justice.
So I suppose it’s finding balance and being cognizant of the ugly while appreciating the beautiful.
One of my other challenges in balance is my food (of course). I love flavor and spice, and always equated flavor with meat, but I am also trying to lead a more vegan diet (I said more, not 100%). I love Indian foods, curries and masalas, but trying to do more plant-based foods. A wonderful way to find this balance is with this delicious recipe – vegan (if use vegan naan) and full of flavor and spice.
Balance. What Vegas doesn’t quite have. Yet at the same time, it is a place that forces us to remain honest and centered amidst the excess and grandeur.
Whatever the commercial says, what stays in Vegas…doesn’t always stay in Vegas.
Sweet Potato Naan
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1-inch chunks
1 Serrano chile
1 onion, chopped
2 TB curry powder
1 TB cumin
1 TB ground coriander
1 TB garam masala
1 bag baby spinach
Salt to taste
Naan (home-made or store-bought)
1. Heat oil in large skillet. When hot, add onion and cook 6-8 minutes or until translucent and golden.
2. Add spices and stir for about 30 seconds. Be careful not to burn, but spices should be fragrant.
3. Add sweet potatoes and cook until tender about 18-20 minutes. Add water if necessary so potatoes don’t dry and burn. Sweet potatoes should be fork-tender.
4. Add spinach and cook until spinach wilts. Salt to taste.
5. Warm naan if it isn’t already.
6. Serve sweet potatoes over naan.