When I was a kid growing up in the US, there was this tremendously popular western series called, »Kung Fu« that had a huge following among me and my friends. The show’s gauntly character, Kwai Chang Caine, was a wandering apostle of Chinese philosophy with a black belt in Kung Fu. He was portrayed by a the actor David Carradine.
The soft-spoken Caine used proverbs and aphorisms to solve conflicts that arose along his lonesome journey across the American Old West to find his half-brother. But where his fortune-cookie wisdoms didn’t persuade the antagonists, his lightning fast fists and feet certainly could – and some butt would be kicked in each episode.
Second only to reruns of “The Wild Wild West“, “Kung Fu” was a favoite I’d watch almost daily. I particularly enjoyed the flashbacks of when Caine was a young boy in rural China. Each episode would have at least one of those flashback scenes – seemingly shot with a soft lens or one that had been covered with a thin layer of vaseline – where a mentor at the Shaolin Monastery in Hunan Province where he was raised, would instruct the young Caine, referred to as »Grasshopper« in martial arts. More importantly, at least from my point of view, the mentor would emphasize that it was crucial the young apprentice be mindful of everything going on in his life; socially, emotionally, spiritually and, yes, culinarily.
For some reason, “Kung Fu” popped into my head while twisting and turning and bending my body to get to the correct configuration during one of today’s more gruelling poses.
It was my eighth consecutive Bikram Yoga class today and I suppose I momentarily lost my ability to concentrate at a 100% level. A while later, as I was regaining consciousness from Savasana (the dead body pose), I started to feel really hungry. I’d not eaten anything prior to the class and it was now almost 10:45. A wide range of food ideas started flowing over me. One of the first was pizza. I figured I could be generous and perhaps treat myself to a few slices of freshly baked pizza pie. If for no other reason, than to commentate my weeklong accomplishments on the yoga mat.
Like the next guy, I love pizza. Most people do. Pizzas smell good and if you’re lucky, they taste great, too. And a pizza is still a relatively inexpensive option when dining out.
Finding a really good pizzeria, you know, where the crust is thin, the dough chewy and the sauce zesty, can, however, be a big challenge. Quite frankly, I’ve not eaten many really good pizzas in my life and very few in Sweden. Pizzas do the job, fit the bill and fill you up…but it’s sort of the old emperor’s new clothes syndrome. Nobody seems to acknowledge (or, worse, care!) that generally speaking, pizzas are flavorless and made half-assed. Not even the most reputable pizzeria in Malmö makes a pizza worth an honorable mention – despite the wood-fired oven the owners claim makes their pizzas so fantastico. Honestly, they suck. A pizza is only as good as when there’s been some mindfulness poured into the dough, sauce, seasoning and toppings. Sadly, that’s rarely the case. People that run pizzerias, wherever in the world, seem only to be in it for the money. There is no passion. No mindfulness.
As I was slowly walking out of the yoga studio, sweaty as can be and still not sure what to eat (or, where), I came to the realization and conclusion that it would be extremely counter-productive to eat a pizza for lunch after a 90 minute workout. It would be like eating a half a loaf of bread.
On my up the stairs to my apartment and shower to cool off, I reasoned that if I’m going to be seriously mindful about what I eat, I need to look at the face value of my choices. And when it comes down to it, what is pizza if not baked bread covered with tomato paste, fermented milk (cheese) and whatever toppings. And as fulfilling as that may be, there’s actually very little nourishment in a pizza. It’s comfort food. Plain and simple. Sure, a pizza is usually easily accessible, you stuff your mouth with it, feel full and content (at times, painfully so) – and then a few hours later, whatever’s left of the pizza leaves your body without having done much for it.
Long story short (too late, I know), I ended up going back to the same place I’ve been eating at for the past week. A corner restaurant where I am served by the same sweet waiter (an older guy with a super-high pitched, Mickey Mouse voice), order the same exact dish (stir fried vegetables with tofu and steamed rice) and leave the same tip (10 baht).
Tonight, together with an old friend and his family, I’ll splurge a little and celebrate my culinary mindfulness – at Dimitris organic Greek restaurant.
The pizza above comes from a shoot I had for Smarta Kök earlier this year.