By Paul Suplee, MBA, CEC, PC-3
When I was much younger, I raced mountain bikes throughout the East Coast in the Sport and Expert classes. It was an exciting time, fraught with self-imposed poverty and long training rides throughout Baltimore, state parks, reservoirs and midnight sprints through North Avenue after getting off work.
From a food standpoint, it was a fairly carefree time of Ramen, “2 for $2.22” Big Macs, 2-liter bottles of Coca-Cola, copious amounts of spaghetti and as much sugar (cheap foods) that I could put into my body to stay fueled.
I was broke, so I could not eat out, except for the incredibly calorie-packing cheap deals at fast food restaurants, and I did not cook at home, as it would mean stockpiling the pantry with ingredients. Meat was a luxury that was seldom eaten. Adored, but not eaten.
Not owning a car for quite a few years that I lived downtown, my bike was my primary mode of transportation. As such, I got pretty fast. And carb-loading was the name of the game back then. If I had a big race in New York or Georgia (which would naturally lead to significantly more travel time), I would carb-load for two days, and then I would keep glucose packets in my jersey as I raced to keep myself from bonking.
There is nothing worse than practically passing out in the saddle on a steep descent, I can assure you.
And then, after the race, I would feast on a standard that my racing buddy Jay still laughs about.
I can still see the faces of other riders, standing in astonishment as I, at a skeletal 149-pounds at 6-feet, 2 inches, would slowly and purposefully eat through an entire box of Twinkies, finishing it off with a 20-ounce bottle of Coke.
Sure, I would have my Cytomax during the race, and some sort of pre-race goo, but this was my go-to after big races. And then I would crash for a couple hours. Honestly, I don’t know how I’m not dead yet.
My diet wasn’t much different than when I first got out of the military in San Diego in 1992. Young and single, it was pretty much a diet of aforementioned Ramen, pasta, cereal and beer.
I played lacrosse for a season for Orange County before moving back east. After a semester of rowing, I realized my love of mountain biking and transferred to school in Baltimore to be closer to my team.
And all the while, my diet never really changed. Junk food was what I could afford. Junk food was what I was accustomed to. My relationship with food was not exactly the healthiest, and I guess much hasn’t changed, as evidenced a couple days ago online.
I made a stark and very personal observation in seek of fellow sufferers. I cannot stand drinking water. It literally makes my skin crawl.
I knew that it would summon a variety of reactions, and it most certainly did. But, what shocked me the most was how many other people loathe drinking water. And, I mean we are talking a deep hate.
Don’t get me wrong; I still drink water because I know I have to, but it is not something that brings me any joy or relief. I don’t touch artificial sweeteners (what is the point, really?) and as I’m trying to watch my sugars, that means water it must be.
It’s like a cruel joke; like Salieri to Mozart. Why give me the need to drink water, and then give me this level of disdain? Oh well, some universal mysteries are not ours to understand.
There are some thoughts that could explain the great water mystery, and they are interesting, but I will leave that to you to investigate on your own.
For now, I will just share this amazing and simple meat dish, one that I would have given anything to eat all those years ago.
Barbecued Sichuan Spareribs
1 rack fresh pork spareribs
1 tsp. Crushed Sichuan peppercorns
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. Ground star anise
1 tsp. Cumin
oil for frying
3 cloves fresh garlic
2 Tbsp. Fresh, crushed ginger
3 pieces charred scallions, whole
1 Tbsp. Hoisin sauce
2 tsp. Oyster sauce
1 Tbsp. Sesame seeds
1 c. Soy sauce
2 Tbsp. Brown sugar
1/4 c. Sliced scallion greens
• If there is a membrane on the curved back of the ribs, peel this off. There is no comparison between ribs with this and ribs without. This is a very important part of the process.
• Cut the spareribs into individual pieces and season well, rubbing them with a mixture of the pepper, salt, anise and cumin.
• Allow them to sit in the refrigerator for at least two hours, covered.
• Heat a small amount of sesame oil in a wok and quickly cook the garlic, ginger and charred scallions for a minute or so. It is very important that you do not burn the garlic, or you will have to start all over again
• When the ginger and garlic have a touch of color to them, add the hoisin, oyster sauce, sesame seeds and soy sauce.
• Add the brown sugar and adjust any seasonings.
• Thicken with a small amount of slurry made from either cornstarch or tapioca. You want it to be just thick enough to coat the ribs and stick a little bit.
—Paul Suplee is a Professor
of Culinary Arts at Wor-Wic
Community College and
owner of boxcar40.
Visit him at www.boxcar40.com.