Chronicles of a writer abroad

Having beef with having beef, and other distractions


Salut! I don’t know about your parts of the world, but it’s getting cold here — we’ve had some days lately when the cold has caused me to gasp as I go outside. Last year, we saw hardly any snow in Zürich — though we arrived on January 2nd, it was too mild a winter for snow to fall often or accumulate. Looks like this year might be different, though. And while I don’t look forward to it getting much colder, I do think the city would look beautiful in a coat of white…

Here is a sundry list of things — apart from the ongoing quest to write a perfect (or at least publishable) short story — that have been keeping me occupied and/or entertained, the past few weeks:

  • Going ice skating for the first time in 8 or 9 years;
  • Attending a surprise birthday party (love these, so long as I’m not on the receiving end);
  • Debating with a group of friends about where to spend Christmas — looks like it will be in the highest city in Europe;
  • Wondering when the Christmas lights strung up around the city and my neighbourhood will actually be turned on;
  • Trying new varieties of cookies that have appeared in the stores for Christmas (so far, they all taste disappointingly like marzipan);
  • Discovering Nabokov. It seems unbelievable that I haven’t read this author before now, and I sense him becoming my new favourite, at least for the time being. We’re also birthday buddies (to the extent that you can be birthday buddies with someone who had already died by the time you were born);
  • Replenishing my iron stores. As alluded to earlier, a few weeks ago, I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia. The doctor asked if I hadn’t been feeling tired. I said that I hadn’t especially, but that running has been difficult for a number of months. She said she was surprised that I’d been able to run very far, given my levels. I was told it was imperative that I receive iron infusions, so I did — two sessions with an IV bag dripping a rust-coloured substance into my veins. It’s my hope that this will improve my running situation. It’s equal parts frustrating and relieving to think that this was the cause of my miserable summer training season in which I pushed myself continually but never saw any improvement in speed or stamina. Now that I’ve done the research, I know that iron-deficiency anemia commonly occurs among female long-distance runners, especially those (like me) who eschew red meat.
  • So, I’ve been Thinking About Eating Beef. My iron levels should have been brought to normal by now, but in order to maintain them (if I continue to run, which I will) I’ve been ordered by my Swiss doctor to eat red meat 2-3 times per week. This is something I’ve avoided pretty much entirely in the past due to my ethical leanings towards vegetarianism and my general dislike of the taste of beef – in other words, I “have beef” with beef. It’s true that there are plant-based sources of iron, but they are not nearly as effective or available to the body as animal-based sources (there are also iron supplements, but these are known to have a number of undesirable side effects). So, sadly I’m forced to compromise my ethics and tastes in order to improve my health. I know, I know: classic first-world problem. Stelian, of course, was not at all sad to hear that we’d be adding more red-meat recipes to our repertoire. If you have good recipes of this kind, I’d appreciate it if you’d send them my way!

What’s new and exciting in your world?


12 thoughts on “Having beef with having beef, and other distractions

  1. So much news – where to start? Davos sounds interesting to visit but does that mean you have to learn another Swiss dialect? I’m with Stelian on the beef front, especially when it is the only way for you to get rid of anemia. As for a recipe, how about a stew which can sit on the back of the stove and mutter away for an hour? Brown beef chunks (a cheap cut is fine) in oil. Add a chopped onion, carrots, potatoes, turnip (optional), salt and pepper to taste, a shot of Worcestershire Sauce if you like it. Add water about half way up the veggies, cover and let simmer for about an hour. (Have a look once in a while to be sure there is still water showing. Add more if necessary.) Just before serving, add a handful of frozen peas and let cook for another couple of minutes. Mix some flour and water and add a bit at a time, stirring constantly till the juices thicken. Serve with crusty bread and enjoy!

    • I do think stew is a nice way to eat beef. Thanks, Nana, for typing out your recipe. I shall have to try it! Love to you two…Oh, and there’s no hope of mastering the regional dialect in Graubunden. We’ll speak High German and hope for the best (it is usually understood).

  2. Oh wait! In our household, we rarely make stew without 2 cups of a secret ingredient: lovely, nutty sherry. 2 cups is a lot, but we make a big pot, all the alcohol simmers off, and it adds a noticeable warming flavour. But then, we’re meat-eating heathens to begin with!

  3. A new taste sensation! We’ll have to try it. Sherry has to be way better than water.

  4. when I can feel my iron levels getting a bit low I up my leafy greens quota! there’s a raw kale salad that I absolutely LOVE and have been eating a few times every week since the summer and because you eat the kale raw you get the most iron out as possible! things like other leafy greens, legumes and apricots are high-iron foods too. if you make sure to include vitamin c-rich foods in the same meal as a non-meat iron-rich food your body absorbs the iron a lot better (try adding lemon, papaya, guava, beets, strawberries, beets, a glass of orange juice etc.)

    my recipe for a delicious raw, vegan kale salad is as follows:

    -2 tbsp nutritional yeast (you might have to go to a health foods store to find this, apparently reformhaus and drogorie both carry it and I think it’s called “edelheffe” in switzerland)
    -1 tbsp tahini
    -1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    -2 tbsp water
    -1 clove garlic, crushed and smushed as much as possible
    -squeeze of fresh lemon juice
    -a handful of kale

    mix up all of the ingredients (except the kale) in a bowl until it becomes a dressing-like consistency. add in the kale and massage the dressing into the greens. eat and enjoy (maybe with a glass of grapefruit juice)!!

    • Hi Laura,

      Thanks for this recipe — it looks great! I do love spinach, chard, etc., but haven’t tried kale. Also, I’ve only just learned the tip about consuming vitamin C to boost iron absorption during my recent research. And in the same way that vit.C increases absorption, drinks containing caffeine/polyphenols decrease it, so no more drinking tea after iron-rich meals.

  5. Hi Kristen, we stir fry meat with lots of veggies. You could thinly slice a round steak, stir fry and follow laura’s kale salad directions. People do these cold salads with warm meat (cook to medium=pink on inside) on top. I’m not a big fan of red meat but the stew is infinitely variable, especially with *dumplings* on top! Enjoy your experiments!

  6. Not quite Nabokov, but related: you might like Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi. I agree with Laura on the leafy greens: spinach, broccoli and kale are my favourites. I like to wilt spinach in a DRY medium-heat frying pan–only takes a minute or so. I usually steam broccoli and kale, or put them in a stir fry. A good beef recipe: Brown some beef chunks in a frying pan. Add chopped mushrooms. Once the mushroom are browned, add a few splashes of cream and let stew for a few minutes. Add fresh dill and pepper at the end of cooking and serve over noodles or pasta.

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