My Love Affair With Food

Ain’t it the truth!

My name is Christopher and I am a foodaholic. I do not mean to poke fun at or trivialize alcoholism, however, I do believe that addiction to alcohol is similar (not the same) as addiction to food; no doubt that I am highly addicted to the consumption of “good” food. I will not, however, be seeking a cure or remedy.


[ foo-duhhaw-lik, –hol-ik ]


— a person having an excessive, often uncontrollable craving for food.

A few things right up front:

  1. I have felt this way since I was a small boy.
  2. If I were told that I could eat bland food and live another 20 years or eat delicious food and only live another two, I would choose the latter.
  3. I believe I was born with the ability to distinguish between good food and mediocre food.
  4. I dream about food more than I dream about sex. That wasn’t always the case.
  5. I am perfectly content to dine out alone — food and wine being the perfect dining companions.
  6. I choose most my friends based on their love and knowledge of food (there are a few exceptions; calm down Julie).
  7. I love lists and menus are sort of similar to lists. I love menus.
  8. I like how my taste in food evolves.
  9. I like to grow food.
  10. I love how food brings people together.

“People who love to eat are always the best people.” – Julia Child

A Bit of Background

I consider myself a food snob. I will not eat just for the sake of eating. I eat for the flavor, taste, and for the pure pleasure of excellent food. I love texture and spice and I love street food. I am a carnivore; unless I’m told I will die tomorrow unless I cut meat out, I will eat meat until I die. A good steak and a glass of wine gives me more pleasure than poker and I love playing poker.

The food I eat does not necessarily have to be deconstructed, molecular, Michelin star, five star, pure gold leaf, rare, expensive, fortified, modern, home grown, top chef cooked, hand selected or from a high-end restaurant . . . it just has to be good. I love rich food, healthy food, straight from the garden or sea food, food truck food, restaurant food, street food, pasta, more pasta, ethnic food, prepared food, my food, cookbook dishes, friend’s food, family food, chef’s food, and snack food.

I first got to know good food at home and in the homes of family members. My father worked in an Italian restaurant six days a week most of his adult life and he often took us out to dinner on his day off; there were a lot of us in his immediate family.

There are so many types of cuisine and/or street foods that I love, it would be impossible to name them all. Italian will always be my favorite cuisine; although I was raised on Southern Italian, I passionately love almost all Italian food. I also love Thai, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Moroccan, Jamaican, Scandinavian, Southern BBQ, fried chicken, hamburgers, frankfurters, in no particular order.


Dad’s mom taught him how to cook. My father taught me how to enjoy food, how to source good food, why handed down recipes matter, and how food can take you out of a funk. He was passionate about cooking and feeding people. My dad’s cooking made me happier than just about anything else.

Mom’s Side of the Family

My mother had very little family. Her mother was Russian. My grandmother loved Eastern European food, but she was too old and frail to cook when I entered the picture. My mother’s brother was a butcher. He loved meat and he knew how to cook it. Other than that, he was a horrible human being: self-absorbed, big gambler, verbally abusive, homophobic, and a bully. Did I mention that he was horrible?

My mom made a handful of good dishes. My father tried to teach her how to cook, but my mom did everything fast and without much consideration. There were certain foods she enjoyed, but sauteed broccoli rabe (garlic, red pepper flakes, and extra virgin olive oil) was probably her absolute favorite. It is for this reason that I order it whenever I see it on a menu and I saute it whenever I can find it in a market (I’ve never seen it in Portugal where I live).

Dad’s Side of the Family

My dad and his family were born and raised in Italy. Dad had four sisters (Mary, Rose, Grace, and Alice) and they were all amazing cooks. When we got to eat at any of their houses I would be up all night the night before. I would think about what I would be eating and I would shiver with anticipation. I only really knew two of his four brothers (Tony and Nicky) and honestly couldn’t tell you whether or not they cooked, but Dad cooked.

I can say without a doubt, that my father was the best cook I have ever met in my life. I know that sentiment has a great deal to do with how I felt about my father, but he instinctively knew how to make food taste good. He mostly cooked Italian dishes, using only fresh ingredients from the best markets and food sources.


I have several friends who are excellent cooks. I love invitations to their homes and I love their food. I cannot name them for obvious reasons. Some friends are afraid to cook for me. It’s sort of sad because making the effort is everything and I’m not as fussy as people think.


After years in academia, I fell upon a position at the French Culinary Institute (FCI). There my obsession with food was out-of-control. I ate food prepared by students in our kitchens or at L’Ecole, our restaurant, nearly five days a week. It was also my responsibility to dine out at restaurants owned by former students, alumni chefs, and jury (chefs who judged student finals), new hotspots, and restaurants that might be looking for new talent. I had an expense account that never lasted very long. It was like a game and I played it well. I worked out twice as hard so that I could eat and not feel guilty. It didn’t work, I did feel guilty, I was consumed by guilt. I left the FCI and the guilt went away. Sixteen years of obscene eating and drinking.

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Cooking makes me happy, it calms me down, it satisfies me in so many ways, it provides an opportunity to feed people I care about; food is my crack cocaine. I never take food for granted. I was born with a stomach issue that kept me from eating many types of foods and drinking many beverages. Surgery fixed this problem five years ago and now I can eat or drink anything. This surgery was available thirty years ago, however, not recommended by most gastrologists until recently. I consider myself fortunate to have found a good surgeon in Maine and I am forever grateful for modern medicine and good health insurance.

Breakfast is different everyday, however, I admittedly love cookies or cake in the morning. I don’t do it every day, but I do it a lot. It’s the coffee cake combo that does it for me. Never more than a couple of not-so-sweet cookies or a small piece of cake — lemon pound, chocolate layer, carrot, orange, banana bread — I try not to discriminate. Eggs on occasion, oatmeal, avocado toast, pancakes — I love it all.

I’ve been making lunch my “big” meal for a few years now. I prefer to cook, but I do go out on occasion. I like to go to the market early in the morning and choose what I’m cooking for lunch. Yesterday I spotted gorgeous veal steak at the local butcher; I grilled that with eggplant and roasted potatoes with fresh thyme from my terrace. Not a bad lunch.I paired all that with a Portuguese red. You can get a bold and beautiful red here for four euros.

I like leftovers for dinner. Something I prepared for lunch the day before or frozen leftovers. I also occasionally prepare a charcuterie plate with Portuguese cured meats, cheeses, some sort of fig or honey spread, olives, and toasted baguette (there is a French bakery in Tavira, a few towns over, where I buy my bread and rolls and freeze them). French bread will always be my absolute favorite. When I travel to France, I buy a fresh baguette almost everyday. A French pastry as well; they’re hard to resist.

Kitchen gadgets are the best. I splurge on good pots & pans and all of my kitchen appliances are high-end. Try to sell me the most expensive jeans or sneakers; fat chance.

Beer, Wine, Soda and Spirits

I hated beer until later in my 30s. I would only have a beer with pizza or a burger. I dated a Spaniard who loved beer and that changed everything. I started trying beer from all over the world and now I have to say that I like it almost as much as I like spirits . . . almost as much.

I couldn’t drink white wine until five years ago (stomach issue); now I drink it all the time. However, red wine is my true love. I enrolled in a couple of wine courses at the FCI, but I have a lot to learn (that part is fun). I would have to say a good French Bordeaux is my favorite, followed by Italian Amarone, Spanish Rioja, California Cabernet, Portuguese Alentejo and South African Syrahs. There are dozens of other wines and grape varieties I love to drink. Pair a great wine with excellent cuisine and you have heaven on earth.

Spirits make me happy, but there are a few I favor: Kentucky bourbon, French armagnac, Russian vodka, Cuban rum, brandy, and Swedish aquavit (snaps).

I often concoct my own crazy cocktails, I make homemade limoncello, and I have a fairly nice collection of wines (the wine refrigerator helps). I am not a connoisseur of anything. I know very little and I like what I like.

Sweet Versus Savory

I will leave it at this: a good savory dish will always be my first choice, but I love dessert and I enjoy baking. Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies with walnuts are my all-time, absolute favorite sweet.

Famous People I Knew (know)

My position at the French Culinary Institute and my involvement with the James Beard Foundation, afforded me the opportunity to work with, dine with, party with and/or meet, the following famous people (yes, I am name dropping): Julia Child, Anthony Bourdain, Isabella Rossellini, Larry Kramer, Joan Rivers, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, John Lithgow, Rosemary Clooney, Samuel Jackson, Joan Allen, Jacques Pepin, Andrew Soltner, Al Franken, Star Jones, Christine Baranski, Brooke Shields, Paul Bocuse, Lidia Bastianich, Alice Waters, Marcella Hazan, Joan Nathan, Barbara Fairchild, Massimo Bottura, Dana Cowan, Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse, José Andrés, Eric Ripert, Daniel Boulud, Aarón Sánchez, Ferran Adria, Bette Midler (30 seconds of bliss), Marcus Samuelsson, Al Roker, Anne Burrell, Ina Garten, and others. They were not all nice people, but I like to think I held my own around them. Several of the people I named were gracious and lovely; a few became friends.

Food is and will always be the greatest love of my life; Alejandro a close second.

“There is no sincere love than the love of food.”

— George Bernard Shaw

A Handful of recent food and beverage choices:

Upcoming Travel

Liverpool in two weeks to see a friend and Beatles sights/attractions. Toulouse in April, Berlin and Amsterdam, end of April and May, Geneva in June, Milan in July, Nantes and Pomic in August, and a Northern Europe Norwegian Line Cruise in October. I’m cutting back, so that I can be home more with Paco and the country I have come to love. I’ll write about some of it and keep other parts to myself.

Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Leah Stewart and me. This was a good day.

Vanity at Any Age

Before I even type the first word I realize that if I’m going to write about vanity, I’ll have to reveal thoughts I usually reserve for my journal and trusted friends. I will try my best not to rant or overshare.

“The surest cure for vanity is loneliness.” Tom Wolfe

Image result for vanity quotese


I’m about 20 pounds overweight and I hate it. What I hate even more, is that I care about it so much. I go back and forth between loving food and wanting to be slender. My weight is about the only thing about my body that I can control and I, like so many others, have very little control. My face is my face and I can’t/won’t change it. I do the best that I can with skincare — meaning that I keep my pores clean and I moisturize. This part all makes sense to me for a number of reasons. First, the minute I let myself go, that’s when it all goes south; drinking too much, spending too much, watching too much television; it’s a slippery slope. It all goes back to moderation; doing most things to excess, is not positive or healthy.

For me, vanity means giving too much thought to physical appearance. I want to care, but I’d like for it to be a healthy amount of caring. For example, I don’t want to be fat, but if I want a slice of cake, I’d like to eat it without feeling guilty about it. A good part of this is looking good for dating. I know how much emphasis I put on potential partners taking care of themselves and I know that others will judge me the same way. Unfortunately, this is how we’re wired.

What I Have Done to Look Good/Better

  • Denying myself — At various times in the recent past, I have denied myself something I really wanted (e.g., dining out, another piece of cake, buying ice cream at the supermarket). I do it all day, everyday. Monitoring your own behavior and actions is not a bad thing; what is bad, however, is when you impose your own restrictions on others and when you deny yourself happiness.
  • Plastic surgery — I had a nasty scar on my face (under my mouth) that I had cleaned up. I don’t compare this to plastic surgery to rid oneself of sagging eyelids or an extra chin — not judging here, I just haven’t done it and I do not intend to.
  • Laser work — I have had small oily glands zapped on my face over the past thirty or so years. This is a genetic issue I’ve always hated. I’m usually left with a tiny scar and if I cannot see it, I assume others cannot either.
  • Facials — I’ve been getting facials since I was 20 years old. I do them myself now. I once purchased placenta to smear all over my face for deep cleansing (I still have some); it wasn’t cheap. Every once in awhile, an extravagant present to yourself can be a healthy thing.
  • Improving my daily routine — I wish I’d known about toner was I was a teenager. I use face toner everyday and it does close your pores. It also makes your face feel cleaner.
  • Go to the gym five or six times a week — I’ve been going to a gym since graduate school. As an undergrad in North Carolina I mostly ran around the track to keep my weight down, and at that point in my life I was shy about my body. This was when I started running; can’t do that anymore because of a bad knee. When I could no longer run marathons, I lamented running for two years. Running was my emotional therapy and I still miss it a great deal. Yes there are other physical activities that can take the place of running, but a runner’s high is like no other.
  • Had some work done on my front teeth — I was born with a minor birth defect:  my two upper front incisors never grew out. I had caps made to fill in the gaps. Until I could afford to have this done, I could not smile with my teeth showing. I also had surgery at 21 to push back my lower jaw. I had a horrible underbite (lower jaw stuck out further than my upper jaw — I believe Michelle Obama has the same affliction). I saved up to have it corrected. I blame it all on my mother’s smoking while she was pregnant to me. I know that most of what I am describing was cosmetic, but imagine at age 20 looking in the mirror and seeing all of these flaws. I couldn’t do anything about losing my hair, however, I could fix my teeth and improve my skin. I’ve become much more relaxed about my face. At this point in my life, the best I can do is take good care of what I have.
  • Removed a large mirror from my bathroom — I had a floor-to-ceiling mirror that I hated. It took 16 months to have it removed because I couldn’t justify the expense. In its place is a beautiful piece of marble and I love it. Do whatever you have to do to feel better about yourself.

What have you done?


What I Tell Myself

Like most people, I have these little conversations with myself that sound something like this:  You need to eat less because if you gain too much weight you’re going to have problems with diabetes or other health related issues. Also, your clothes won’t fit. Okay, go ahead and have that piece of cake, but no other desserts today. Don’t look in the mirror, it will make you feel bad about yourself. You look pretty good for a 60 year old man. It doesn’t really matter because at this age nobody wants to be with you anyway.

People will read my thoughts and say, “Nonsense, you’re an attractive guy and you have a lot to offer.” That’s all well and good, but the truth of the matter is, we feel what we feel and the human condition is unique for each of us.

I keep telling myself it’s all about balance and moderation — the yin and the yang, the highs and the lows, the peaks and the valleys, and the do and the don’ts. Sometimes I feel that I have grown tremendously and at other times I feel that I’ve regressed.

Some of the other things I say to myself — you may or may not relate to this:

  • You’re fat
  • You’re unattractive
  • Nobody wants to be with you
  • You have a double chin
  • Your back looks terrible
  • There is more, but I can’t bring myself to type it

All of these awful thoughts undermine good mental health. If anyone else said any of these things to me, I’d be furious with them, but I take it to heart when it comes from my own thoughts; the dark side of vanity. There is hope for me yet; there are times when I actually feel good about myself.


We’re Not Alone

Societal pressure — We feel pressure from all around us; however, pressure from society as a whole is difficult to combat. The pressure to be young, look young, and think like the young, is strong. Many of my friends laugh at me for going to bed at 9:30 p.m. “You act like an old man.” Good night is my reply.

The Media — People in magazines and on television look so freakin’ good. It’s difficult not to compare yourself, but obviously, it’s better if I don’t. A few years ago I started to see bald men modeling. I was pleasantly surprised by this since “fat and bald” are two descriptors that usually go together. I’m hopeful that the media is giving thought to doing the right thing.

How we’re raised — My mother had a horrible obsession with weight. My sisters all had some form of an eating disorder and I think her sons had unhealthy issues with weight as well. Imprinting is difficult to overcome.

Culture — Some pressure to look good is probably a good thing — sort of a way to keep ourselves in check. Unfortunately, some cultures take it too far. I’m not talking about plastic surgery. Although I wouldn’t spend money on major work to my own face or body, I do not judge people who do. What I am referring to is professions where the way you look determines whether or not you are promoted or able to keep your job. The damage this can do to an individual is impossible to measure and sad to think about.


How I Can Help Others

Disclaimer:  I cannot and do not speak for everyone. When I share my thoughts, I never claim to be an expert. I write about men as a man; I write about women as the brother of five sisters, as a son and as a friend of many women; I write about gay men as a gay man; and I write about the human condition as a human being. What I write about is also based on what I have read. All of it is either firsthand experience or conjecture; please do not read more into it.

Gay men — It is difficult not to generalize a bit:  gay men are a lot like women when it comes to body image. Could be a feminine thing for some; could be who we identify with? Part of it is the gay culture in the States; gay men tend to want to be with younger men — youth is revered. There are only so many younger men who want to be with older men, so this is an obvious supply and demand problem. You have a good many older gay men trying to look younger and they’ll do whatever it takes to be “young.”  This part of the gay culture worries me. People sometimes take these things to the extreme and the results can be pretty scary. One of the many reasons I love RuPaul, is that he does not take himself too seriously. Vanity is not a bad thing in and of itself; however, issues arise when one’s thoughts concerning body image are imposed on others.

Older men — There are a good many men out there, gay and straight, who struggle with body image issues and the challenges of being seen. We get older and become invisible. Invisibility is tough on the psyche. Self-worth does just disappear when you hit 50; we need to feel good about ourselves until we no longer can feel anything.

Women — Women (from what I have been lead to believe) are expected to do whatever it takes to look good. Look good to whom? To their husbands, their bosses, their fellow passengers on the train, to the person in the mirror? I have seen that kind of fierce pressure make a person do horrible things; hurtful things to one’s body and damage that is irreversible. I know that this is a problem that has existed for centuries, but I still have hope that woman will take control of their own lives and do what is best for themselves. I admire woman who are strong and determined, despite the men in their lives who believe that they are second class citizens. Sure there has been progress in progressive societies, but as long as one culture on earth minimizes the equality of women, all women are adversely affected. The same is true of humankind in general.




Weight — A constant struggle because I love food; sometimes rich food, sometimes sweets, and pasta. I’d like to lose a few pounds. I don’t believe my current weight poses a health risk; however, losing some weight would satisfy the vanity box.  I haven’t been able to check that box for 20 years.

Diet  — Always trying to eat more fruit. Otherwise I eat fish, lean meat, vegetables, whole grains, maybe two beers a week, a glass and a half of wine in the evening, and too much hard alcohol. I currently average about six cocktails a week and I’d like to cut back to three.

Sleep — When I sleep well, I look better and when I look better, I feel better. There are things that I do that make for a poor night’s sleep (e.g., alcohol, staying up late, worry). My memory is short when it comes to vices.

Disposition — When I’m upset about something or worrying, I look awful. I’m often upset about the smallest, stupidest, silliest things. I want to have a sunnier disposition.

Open mind — An open mind and an open heart, is so important for how you look and feel. I want to be less judgmental.

Writing — Writing about superficial matters (i.e., being bald), helps me keep my life in perspective. I need to keep writing.

Be Present — I’ve written about this several times. Let me just say that when I practice mindfulness, I am a much happier person.


I had this tattoo done this week. I associate tattoos with youthfulness, so I guess it’s making me feel younger. I now have two tattoos and I intend to stop there.

There is a tiny thread hanging off of my sock (see photo above). You have no idea how much that loose thread bothers me. That pretty much sums up my life.