Remember how we told you that the world wasn’t going to end in 2012? Turns out that we may not have been entirely right. We just returned from Japan where we saw, with our own eyes, the chilling scene of people in cages feeding monkeys who roam free. It’s a clear harbinger of the apocalypse, although it is worth acknowledging that it has nothing to do with the Mayan calendar. Evidently, Armageddon will look more like the Planet of the Apes.
If you have a bottle of wine you’ve been saving, now is an excellent time to pop the cork. You’re also going to want to spend some time in front of a mirror practicing the words, “Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!” If you giggle, even nervously, it will be interpreted as a sign of weakness by our simian overloads.
Knowledge of the coming monkey rebellion—we assume it will be referred to as the Monkeypocalypse—is not all we brought back from our trip. We also learned that staying on DYC is more than a little difficult in cultures with rice-based cuisines, particularly when we don’t know enough of the local language to say, “Extra veggies, no rice.”
If you follow DYC on Facebook you already know that we just returned from two weeks in Asia. The trip was, by all measurements, incredible. We shopped the historic markets in Hong Kong. In Kyoto, Japan we drank from the stream of longevity at water temple, Kiyomizu-dera. We hiked to the top of Tokyo Tower to take in the view of skyscrapers spreading to the horizon in every direction. After ringing the Peace Bell in Hiroshima, we ferried across to the Shrine Island Miyajima where at the top of Mt. Misen we discovered our favorite religious icon ever: Weightlifting Baby Buddha. (In fairness, he may be holding mochi pounding mallet rather than a barbell, but since we’ve been unable to unearth reliable information about him, we’ll stick with our interpretation.)
The only place we had any difficulty on the trip was in our attempts to hold to the rules of Drink Your Carbs. We knew that we would compromise our diets. Travel is always a series of compromises. More importantly, our desire to try new foods means that on vacation we always eat all kinds of things we’d never consider consuming at home. At the same time, we try not to allow our vacations to become an excuse to force-feed ourselves like geese in a foie gras factory. We try to strike a balance. We don’t want to restrict our experiences, but nor do we want to undo months of healthy eating for the sake of a crappy hotel buffet. Our usual rule is: if a food is new we go for it. Otherwise, we stick as closely as possible to the rules of DYC and save our extra calories for either an upcoming meal which justifies the indulgence or a few drinks after the day’s touring is done. We are as selective in spending our calories as we are spending our money in the local markets.
When we visited Las Vegas a year ago, the sole purpose of our visit was to see how DYC held up to the institutionalized excess that Vegas represents. Part of our success was due to familiarity. We know how to order in US restaurants so that we get a satisfying meal while skimming off the worst dietary offenders. For example, the DYC Burger swaps out the bun for a salad and the fries for a pint of beer. We have learned to make similar modifications in nearly any American restaurant. In Asia, however, we didn’t know enough Chinese or Japanese to ask if a dish was sweet or savory. Most of the time we ordered by pointing at pictures on the menu or at the fabulously realistic plastic food in glass cases out front. We tried to point at items that looked DYC Compliant, but we had decidedly mixed results.
We did find a few perfect DYC foods. Andrea managed to order a bowl of ramen without noodles, thanks to Google’s Translate app. The chef swapped the noodles for beansprouts and her order ended up being the favorite on the table. We got lost in Tokyo one evening and wandered into a Yakitori restaurant small enough to fit inside of a Cadillac Escalade. It was a one-man operation. He sat and greeted customers at the eight-seat bar, took orders, poured sake, grilled the meats on a tabletop grill, and even bused and washed the dishes. His menu was pure Yakitori. The only options were grilled skewers of various parts of chicken and duck as well as a few seasonal vegetables. No rice was served. No dessert was offered. The chicken wings, which are rarely a food that stands out, were incredible. Our opinion of those little drumettes has been forever transformed. The duck was similarly perfect. The chicken livers were crispy on the outside and spooky in the middle, making them easily the best we’ve ever tasted. It’s unlikely that our chef had heard of DYC. We were not able to communicate enough words to ask. But his one-man show stands out as the perfect expression of everything DYC advocates.
Our DYC meals were, however, the exception. Nearly every other meal included rice, even when it wasn’t displayed amongst the plastic food out front, and ended with something sweet. Because we were on vacation, and most of the sweets were made with mochi, red bean paste and other allergy-friendly ingredients, we allowed ourselves to indulge. As a result, we returned home serious carb junkies.
For the past week we’ve been in Austerity Mode, not to lose weight but rather to kick our carb habit. We crave starch and sugar in a way neither of us has experienced for years. The intensity of those cravings has surprised us. Steve swung by Walgreen earlier today and, while he is loath to admit it, the snacks on the shelf looked terrifyingly edible. And by snacks, we’re talking about plastic-wrapped 100% artificial “baked goods.” For the record, the reason they wrap those foods in plastic has nothing to do with preserving freshness; it’s to keep them from gathering dust. There’s no need to keep them fresh since they’re injected with all manner of synthetic ingredients to insure that they age without any noticeable degradation. They are the Joan Rivers of food. Anything that can be done is being done to insure the exterior hull retains its alluring shape. When these foods look appetizing, you know that you’re a serious sugar addict.
As our week in Austerity Mode wears on, we find ourselves no longer looking as hard for a sugar fix. On the bright side, we only need to resist for a few more days before our cravings disappear altogether. We’ve been through this before. It’s never easy, but it’s predictable. Somewhere between day seven and day ten our addiction will have been broken and we will be fully released from the monkey on our back. At least until the Monkeypocalypse. When that happens quitting sugar won’t help because the monkey will no longer be metaphorical.
The question that must still be answered is: if people in China and Japan eat tons of high-carb white rice as well a lot of sweets, why don’t they have the same obesity problem we have in America? We will be attempting our answer to this question in DYC Asia - Part 2.
You’ll have to wait until next week to find out whether our answer is brilliant or plain stupid. This is either the perfect Hollywood cliffhanger or the setup for a massive disappointment. As kids, we vividly remember waiting all summer just to find out the JR wasn’t even shot in the first place; the entire crappy season was nothing more than a dream. [Editor’s note: If you don’t get this ask someone over the age of 40.] Part 2 could go either way. The only way to find out is to tune in next week.
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