The Low Carb Luxury Online Magazine 

MAY 26, 2003     PAGE FOUR      
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  The Low Carb Connoisseur

          My Big Fat Italian Wedding Trip - A Tale of Low Carb Survival by Jo Cordi Sica
           "The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do."
                                                                      Walter Bagehot

Those of you who know me from the forum know that my life involves frequent get-togethers with my husband’s big Italian family. For the benefit of readers who do not frequent the forum, these gatherings always feature tons of bread, pasta, and homemade baked goods. Oh yes, and did I mention, I’m always in charge of doing the baking? Needless to say, I knew going into this way of life that there were going to be challenges. I wasn’t on Atkins a week when I was charged with baking the desserts for the first family gathering. I guess you could call it trial by fire, but I have learned how to survive these “carb-fests” without getting off track on my low carb lifestyle. Thank goodness, because this month I faced the greatest challenge to date: a 2000 mile road trip to my niece’s wedding. What follows is a recount of the challenges, victories, and lessons learned over 3 ½ days and 2000 miles.

(The adventure actually started before I ever left home with a hunt for the “perfect dress.” I finally found it, but it was a little tight through the waist and across the back. I loved it, so I bought it anyway. More on the dress later!)

Typically on a road trip, my husband and I munch away the miles. We set out on May 7, 2003 at 7:00 PM. Prepared for every contingency, my car was loaded with every low carb emergency food I could think of: pork rinds, beef jerky, pepperoni, nuts, cream cheese, protein bars, sugar-free candy, sugar-free syrup, and heavy cream. There would be no excuse to fall off my low carb wagon!

Our first stop for a meal was a Denny’s in North Carolina at 1:00 AM. I ordered an omelet – always a safe choice. I asked the waitress if I could substitute a salad for the hash browns and toast. Seems they were out of salad. They did, however, have green beans. Perfect! Being my usual comical self, when the waitress brought the food I inquired if everyone orders green beans with their eggs. She responded that, no, in fact, they do not, but America is a free country and I can eat whatever I want! I got the impression that she found me rather strange. Funny thing was she tried to sell us dessert. Apparently, dessert with breakfast is normal, but veggies with breakfast are odd! Oh well, as they say, why be normal?

We arrived in New Jersey at 10:30 the following morning. Since consuming large quantities of water while driving would make for a very long trip, I limited my water intake. Upon arrival, I ate a protein bar and chugged two bottles of water. I was never much of a water drinker prior to Atkins, so it amazes me how much I missed my water on the drive. I was delighted to find that the friend we were staying with was a fellow low carber! I felt as though I had arrived in a safe haven as I unloaded my heavy cream, cream cheese, and pepperoni into her refrigerator.

A short nap and a shower and we were off to the rehearsal. Within five minutes, my husband (a skinny carb addict whose diet would make Dr. Atkins roll over in his grave) was extolling the virtues of low carb to his brother. He may not be a participant, but he sure is a believer! The rehearsal dinner was held at a (where else?) local fine dining Italian restaurant. This was the first big challenge. I was hungry! For 18 hours, I had subsisted on low carb snack food. Bring on the meal! The first course was breaded calamari, (floured) eggplant rolatini, and warm crusty bread. Oh no! I smiled, sipped water, and passed the plate to my brother-in-law. After about 20 minutes, fearing starvation, I snatched up 3 pieces of calamari and scraped all the breading off. I decide I’d live until the salad arrived. Whoops – another course! This time it’s penne pasta. I think the waiter was offended when I politely declined his offering. Pass the water, please. Finally, the salad arrives. I do not ever recall a time when a plate of greens looked so good to me! I actually considered causing a disturbance and stealing other people’s salads while they weren’t looking. There was about a 30 minute break after the salad. (Hello, I’m starving! Where is my dinner?) More water, please. My veal finally arrives with a side of escarole. Yes, more green stuff! I was able to scrape the flour off the veal and finally have some real food. All the while, I am sharing with my sister-in-law the joys of low carbing. (Perhaps this was not the best venue for attempting to convert someone to Atkins?) No, that is not the end of the story. Naturally, there was dessert. And, of course it would be my favorite; tiramisu. Fortunately, I had worn a pair of pants that I had not been able to fit into in over a year and a half. I stayed focused on enjoying the pants more than I would the dessert. I also promised myself a carb free dessert as soon as we got back to our friend’s house. This was the biggest challenge because I had a piece sitting in front of me. I started to refuse, but my darling husband insisted I take it so he could have seconds. It just now occurred to me that perhaps this is why he is so supportive of my low carb program; he gets to eat my portions!

The day of the wedding started off easily. My low carb friend made scrambled eggs and sausage. I proceed to get ready for the wedding, doing hair and make up before tackling the (slightly too tight) dress. As I step into the dress, I ask my husband for assistance with the zipper. I warn him that he’ll have to use some force as it is tight. Surprise! In less than a week, the dress had gone from tight to comfortable. Actually, I had to “tug” it up a few times during the evening; it was strapless and a bit loose! The wedding was beautiful and we killed some time before the reception visiting with family. Fast forward to 6:00 PM. Once again, I’m hungry, as there was no time for lunch. Cocktail hour and hors de oeuvres begin. Scanning the tables I find hundreds of items – all breaded, fried, or in thick sauce. Time to engage the low carb radar, after all, this IS an Italian wedding, there must be some antipasto somewhere! I finally scope out some fresh mozzarella and sliced tomatoes and some harmless looking chicken. I also spotted some marinated Portobello mushrooms. Feeling confident with my choices, I settle in to eat. It was all so good I thought I had died and gone to low carb heaven. One thing kept nagging at me though; the mushrooms had a familiar taste that I couldn’t place. Finally, it dawned on me; teriyaki sauce! Oh no! Deciding not to panic over some mushrooms, I finished my cheese and waited for dinner to be served.

We arrive at our table to find a beautiful fruit cup of grapes and oranges. I dug out the lone piece of cantaloupe and set the dish aside. I was convinced that the low carb gods were smiling down on me when the waiter appeared with a Caesar salad. (Yes, I scoped out the room to see if there was an extra salad to be found, but no such luck.) Next, the champagne arrives. I take one sip for the obligatory toast. May I have some more water, please? Naturally, this is followed by soup. Not sure what was in the soup, I decided it would be a great time to powder my nose. I returned to the table just in time to pass up the little palate cleansing sherbet cones. Finally, dinner arrives and I am thrilled to see a heavenly chateaubriand. Skip the potatoes, gravy, and carrots, and I’m all set. One last course to survive — dessert. Fortunately, it was wedding cake and ice cream. If I had to face tiramisu again, well, I just don’t know what would have happened. As I sat sipping my water, my sister-in-law commented on how I have incredible will power. I opted to respond with the “not really, I just feel SO much better when I don’t eat that kind of food.” Right about that time, my husband, in the ultimate self-sacrifice, removed the temptation by once again, eating my dessert. I have to confess to you, that stashed in my evening bag was a pure delight dark chocolate bar. At the first indication of weakness, I was going to un-holster my weapon and use it! Throughout the evening, my husband raved about the wonders of Atkins to anyone who would listen (and even a few who wouldn’t.) Maybe I’ll buy him his own copy of DANDR to carry around for those times he feels compelled to witness to the “unsaved.”

The final leg of my journey involved a trip to an Italian bakery. No trip to New Jersey is ever complete without my darling hubby stocking up on authentic pastry and bread to bring back to the sugar and starch deprived south. While he was ordering a truckload of crusty bread, Sfogliatelles, and cannoli, I headed for the deli counter and bought my own truckload of pepperoni and fresh mozzarella cheese. Yes, I drove 1000 miles home with those pastries in the back seat. Actually, it made the drive rather pleasant. I simply explained to my darling husband that I was a carb terrorist, and those pastries were my hostages. One wrong move and I start executing the cannoli by tossing them out the window one by one. Let’s just say that the compliments were lavish all the way home.

All in all, it was a great trip. The biggest lesson for me was that I truly am in control. Sure, I could have justified indulging in some carb-laden treats, but I knew I would only feel bad afterward. To be completely honest, I had one other weapon in my arsenal. I kept reminding myself how Lora has never once gone off the program. I figured that if she could survive four years without getting off track, surely I could survive one wedding. I knew that the goodies would be wonderful only for the 30 or so seconds they were on my tongue. Feeling healthy and liking what I see in the mirror will last forever. I’m even looking forward to the next wedding. I don’t know when it will be, but I do know that I’ll be arriving in a size 8 dress.

                  Jo Cordi Sica
                  SPHR Organizational Development and Training

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