GRAND BAHAMA ISLAND — Here we eat a lot of fish; it's our most plentiful food. Baked sea bass, grouper and snapper all make good, healthy eating.
If I really had to give up stuff like that forever, my newly healthy body would very quickly be a thing of the past. That's why so much of my time in the last year has been spent learning how to cheat my taste buds.
This is probably the only moral form of cheating you'll ever be able to practice, so I recommend it to you as both a source of health and devilment.
First, look at the things you like to eat and isolate the ingredients that make them bad for you. Then find a way to eliminate, or at least modify, that particular ingredient.
My former pancakes were made with whole milk (lots of cholesterol) and eggs (lots of cholesterol in the yolk) and then covered with the sweetest, most calorie-laden syrup my taste buds could find.
My spaghetti sauce used to be loaded with cholesterol and extra calories, too. Ground beef and sausages were the culprits here. But with a little experimentation I was able to make a sauce with no meat and virtually no fat that tasted and looked just as rich.
The point is to think about the ingredients and be innovative in changing them.
To spur your creative streak, here are two of my own adaptations that seem to be popular with my friends on the island.
PANCAKE SYRUP: Mash 1 banana in a frying pan with just enough orange juice to give it the consistency and sweetness you like. Heat it until it's bubbly, then add cinnamon (and artificial sweetener, if you need it). Pour as much as you like over pancakes made with skimmed milk and reduced egg yolks.
VEGETARIAN SPAGHETTI SAUCE: The more vegetables the better. First, you have to make the "base" for the sauce.
In a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, saute 2 finely chopped medium onions and about 4 cloves of minced garlic. (If you don't have garlic, use garlic powder--not garlic salt--when you add the spices.) Whistle a tune for a couple of minutes, and then add two large cans of crushed tomatoes, the next bigger size after the 1-pound can. I like Italian tomatoes here, incidentally. But any canned tomatoes will do. Just whack them a bit with a sharp spoon in the pot to tear them up.
Now add a small can of tomato paste and stir it in well. Eyeball the pot. Does that look like enough base for the number of people you're feeding? If not, add more tomatoes and tomato paste. Remember this is just base; there are lots of vegetables to come.
Roughly chop the vegetables you like (or would like to clear out of the fridge). Green peppers, carrots, broccoli (stems are great), yellow squash or zucchini and mushrooms are all good. I like cauliflower, too, but don't add till about 20 minutes before dishing up the sauce.
Now for the special zip in the sauce--the spices. I throw in a teaspoon each of dried basil and oregano, then about 1 tablespoon of dried parsley. Chopped fresh parsley is great. Don't forget the garlic powder to taste, if you have no garlic cloves. Finally, splash in hot pepper sauce till the whole concoction has some authority. Simmer for at least 45 minutes. Vegetables should still have some crunch, but not too much. Ladle over spaghetti and sprinkle on Parmesan cheese.