with food, there’s always something new

Archive for January 2008

Welcome to indieats

Some of you know me, some of you don’t.

Since November, 2005, I’ve made my living as a line cook. I trained with Chef Sam Brown at Second Helpings. Last year, at the proding of Ruth Holladay, I started writing the Unfood Food Column for Indyrats.

To my surprise, I like writing and people are interested in what I have to say. As much as I like writing, though, I like cooking even better. So I’ve decided to put the two talents together and start this blog.

indieats is a food blog for independent eaters. I live in Indianapolis, so much of it is about Indy, Indiana and the surrounding states of Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Kentucky.

Buying and cooking local is an important movement which I support, but I wanted to expand the concept to independent eating. It’s looking at food as joy and pleasure while providing sustenance and nutrition.

This blog is my gift to you, independent readers and eaters. I love lively conversation and debate, so register and comment. Feel free to email me at susan@

You’ll notice the “independent” links on the sidebar. So much has happened on the indie food scene in the past few years. Great restaurants, high quality shops and stores, independent grocers and producers. I wanted a central, easy-to-use resource for you.

I’ll be posting at least three times a week, about a wide range of topics–recipes, food stories and some serious news about agriculture. I’ve learned so much over the past year–Indy and Indiana has a rich culinary history in danger of disappearing. I’m researching those stories right now and will soon share them with you.

You’ll notice I write about dieting, obesity and weight loss. I was never thin, but for years was normal, then overweight, obese and finally teetered on the brink of morbid obesity. I fought my way back to normal, and I did it by ignoring the food police. Weight Watchers Made Me Fat is a light-hearted post about my experience, but there’s nothing funny about being obese. I hope what I’ve learned helps others and I’m here to lend support.

Thank all of you who’ve read my posts and encouraged me while we built this blog. A special thanks to Andrew Holladay. Without Andrew, I wouldn’t have my own domain. Andrew registered indieats, worked out the email bugs, uploaded dozens of WordPress themes and found the pictre for the indieats banner.

Have a good time reading posts, clicking on links and registering.


Written by Susan Gillie

January 31, 2008 at 8:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized



Last Friday, SuperValu announced they’re pulling out of the natural foods market. Sunflower Market in Broad Ripple is closing. Local media covered it and blogs gave finer nuance to what it means and what it says about Indy’s support of whole and natural foods.

I thought about the people losing their jobs.

It’s never easy being out of work. Filing unemployment, writing a resume, interviewing, a full-time job without the pay. Right now, the economy is shaky, none of us knows what’s gong to happen. We’re all fearful.

Sunflower was a ray of sunshine. Maybe the prices weren’t as low as promised, the selection mediocre, and for my taste, way too many convenience foods. But it had a funky, neighborly feel and staff were friendly and helpful.

Hard as it is to lose a job, it’s even harder when you’re part of something new. You have high hopes and commitment to the purpose and vision. When it fails, you fail.

My condolences to workers and the management team of Sunflower Market–in Broad Ripple and other locations in Illinois and Ohio.

For now, I’d like to make an offer. Anyone reading this blog who has a job or jobs available in the grocery or food service sector, I’ll be glad to post it on this blog. Any Sunflower Market employee who needs help preparing a resume or wants job coaching, contact me at susan@

Written by Susan Gillie

January 30, 2008 at 3:46 am

Posted in bloggage

Informational Cascade


Nora Ephron is back.

She never left, of course, she shifted from mistress of magzine essay to screen writer. In the last few years, she’s returned to the fold and entertained us in the New Yorker and O.

Now Nora Ephron is blogging.

She’s a woman of my own heart. In her post on omelets she has this to say:

protein is good for you, carbohydrates are bad, and fat is highly overrated as a dangerous substance.

She talks about informational cascade, a phenomenon described in the New York Times as a truism taken as fact until someone debunks it. Ephron says:

doctors are not deliberately misinforming their patients; instead, they’re participants in something known as an informational cascade, which turns out to be a fabulous expression for something that everyone thinks must be true because so many reputable people say it is. In this case, of course, it’s not an informational cascade but a misinformational cascade, and as a result, way too many people I know have been brainwashed into thinking that whole-egg omelettes are bad for you.

My favorite informational cascade? Oatmeal, soymilk, upteen glasses of skim milk? They’re fair game, but no, my favorite is “drink eight glasses of water a day.”

I’ve known for years this is nonsense. It ruins your appetite and bladder. You don’t need to be a chemist to figure out there’s lots of water in fruits, vegetables and other foodstuffs. Besides, it’s not a normal way to live, keeping track of how much water you drink in a day. People have been on this earth for a long time and only in the last two generations did this water thing get out of control.

People in the desert, riding camels, do you ever see them with bottled water slung under their arms? No, they stop and get a glup when they’re parched.

Now, medical researchers on our own IUPUI campus debunk this old wives tale.  I stand vindicated. Doctors Aaron Carroll and Rachel Vreeman published their findings in the December, 2007 issue of British Medical Journal.

“The first belief they explored — people should drink at least eight glasses of water a day. This advice has been promoted as healthful as well as a useful dieting or weight control strategy.

“When we examined this belief, we found that there is no medical evidence to suggest that you need that much water,” said Dr. Vreeman. She thinks this myth can be traced back to a 1945 recommendation from the Nutrition Council that a person consume the equivalent of 8 glasses (64 ounces) of fluid a day. But an important part of the Council’s recommendation has been lost over the years — the large amount of fluid contained in food, especially fruits and vegetables, as well as in the coffee and soda people drink each day should be included in the recommended 64- ounce total. Drinking excess water can be dangerous, resulting in water intoxication and even death, the study authors note.”

So there, quit drinking all that bottled water. Save your pennies and spend them on fresh tarragon, mortadella or cipolini onions at The Goose Market.

Food as pleasure, not virtue, makes you a happier person.

Written by Susan Gillie

January 28, 2008 at 2:04 pm

Posted in food is health

sewer harpy

Food blogs came of age last year, and with growing power and influence, came controversy. Chefs and restaurateurs feared the fact that anyone can say anything about their restaurants

I view blogging as an important tool, discounting blowhards who blast restaurants behind the cloak of anonymity. This week, though, I read a disturbing post that made me uncomfortable.

I was clicking around, looking for bloggage, landing on an Indianapolis Star restaurant review. This is what the reviewer said:

Pretentious and overpriced.
this restaurant has as much chance of surviving as Brittney Spears does of not doing something completely mental ever again.
Dressed in a suit, and with 2 very attractive and impeccably dressed clients, we were greeted at the door by a twentysomething host who was compirable with the Maitre’D in “Ferris Buellers Day Off”. After looking at us like we were dressed like the 3 most horribly dressed homeless people he had ever seen, he asked if we had a reservation. We thought he was joking and we actually laughed, because the place had been open an hour and was EMPTY. He then literally rolled his eyes at the fact that we had the audacity to not have a reservation and suggested rather curtly that “…we may want to make one next time…” We’ll make sure to do that next time…Wouldn’t want to have any of the crickets in there waiting for a table..

The food, albeit unique, and tasty, was so ridiculously overpriced it was borderline laughable, unless you would like a $12.00 eggplant panini.

Definitely not worth eating here…It’s not even worth the “Well we tried it” experience…Especially when you have to literally pass YATS to get here.

Craig Claiborne set the bar for restaurant reviews. Reviewers visit multiple times, eat across the menu. Standards of journalism used for other stories are used in reviews.

The Star’s “review” meets none of Claiborne’s criteria. It meets no professional standards because it wasn’t written by a journalist. Instead, it’s a rant by a Cheeto-eating coward hiding behind a handle.

I don’t mind rants or mean people. I admit, I like slumming on Chowhound and reading nasty comments. On the boards, though, you know your reading opinion. From the MSM, you expect objectivity, especially when the headline says THE REVIEW.

We’re aghast at racial slurs the Star allows readers to post on TalkBack. A badly written, grammatically incorrect screed about food pales in comparison, but to the chef/owner and to the employees who work at this restaurant, it has damaging impact.

We don’t know who wrote it (possibly a competitor?) or what qualifications, training, experience allows him or her to judge this restaurant. I’m not a student of popular culture, but hell, even I know you spell Britney with one t.

Entrepreneurship is rare in Indy, especially in the restaurant business, and putting the stamp of MSM credibility to these comments is unfair.

Written by Susan Gillie

January 24, 2008 at 3:42 pm

Posted in bloggage


Beware the tri-bean salad. Two venerable indie restaurants are closing, Fletcher’s of Atlanta and Glass Chimney (wait, there’s hope, braingirl says Fletcher’s may reopen).

Workers at a meat plant in Delphi contracted a brain disease similar to one found in workers in Minnesota. Nuovo food writer, Jennifer Litz, reviews Petit Choux chocolate-inspired creations.

Local dietiticians, Annessa Chumbley and Ruthanne Hilbrich, started Flourish to help bariatric patients navigate the food scene.

Written by Susan Gillie

January 24, 2008 at 12:31 pm

Posted in bloggage

Magical Thinking

Originally published in


As a working cook, I prepare food in front of customers. Cooks hate the open concept, but I love it. Customers give instant feedback, making me better at what I do. Right now, I work the grill station noon to 7:30 at night. That means burgers and fries. Monday everybody’s back to work. It’s obvious they all made the same New Year’s resolution.

They ordered the grilled chicken sandwich.  

Normally customers don’t order this sandwich and for good reason. It’s awful. The breast is a mass-produced, skinless, boneless, soulless piece of meat the consistency of composite sawdust. The box says “up to 15% of a Solution.” Food alchemists concocted sodium potions to give this synthetic poultry taste. Each breast is at least 5oz., almost one third of a normal adult’s weekly allowance of animal meat. 

My customers are trying to eat “Heart Healthy,” buying into magical thinking that boneless, skinless chicken or turkey is good for them.  

Here’s the kicker, they ordered it with cheese. Over half of them had french fries. 

The problem is calories count. Do the math: chicken breast and bun 493 calories, slice of cheese 94, fries 509, for a total of 1,096 calories. A hamburger, with lots of veggies (lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles), without cheese and fries is 446 calories.  American cheese isn’t even cheese. It’s “a cheese by-product made from a combination of natural cheese, vegetable-based gums, dyes, emulsifiers, and stabilizers. (Steven Jenkins,  Cheese Primer).  

French fries, nothing more than deep-fried, cancer bombs. Ragging on french fries is like kicking puppies. don’t give them up, just save them for special occasions. Order fries at Peppy’s–they make them with real potatoes. Or live large and eat pomme frites with aioli at Brugge’s or Taste Café. 

Surviving the lunch crowd, I prepped for dinner. I’m allowed a certain amount of freedom to improvise so I make a sandwich special every night. Monday’s was Salad Sandwich, inspired by Hank Stuever’s Washington Post article, The List: What’s In and Out for 2008.

Panini out/Banh Mi in. 

Banh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich traditionally made with chicken, scrambled eggs, shredded pork, grilled pork or pork meatballs. The meat’s layered on a Vietnamese style baguette, with pickled carrots, radishes, chili peppers, cilantro and then topped with a Vietnnamese-like mayonnaise.  

You can see a street vendor making Banh Mi at Making Banh Mi Thit @ Cho Ben Thanh Market   (No refrigeration, no hand washing station, I don’t care what Anthony Bourdain thinks, ouch!) 

My version strays from the original, but I’m trying to entice vegetable-challenged Hoosiers to eat delicious food and dump the pound packers.    

Ginger’s Salad Sandwich 

  • 6 oz baguette or Hoagie bun
  • olive oil
  • 2 oz grilled or roasted chicken, sliced paper thin
  • a handful of spring mix
  • 4 cucumber slices
  • small handful of grated carrots
  • 2-3 springs of fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic/mustard vinaigrette

 Lightly toast inside of bun with olive oil. Layer chicken on bun, then spring mix, cucumbers, carrots and fresh cilantro.Drizzle sandwich with balsamic/ mustard vinaigrette. 

Balsamic/Mustard Vinaigrette 

  • ¼ cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • salt
  • pepper
  • ½ teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon Maille mustard
  • 1 cup canola oil

 In a food processor, blend balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, honey and mustard. Blend for 2-3 minutes. Slowly add canola oil. Refrigerate vinaigrette, it lasts for up to one week.

Written by Susan Gillie

January 10, 2008 at 3:06 pm

Posted in food is health

Scott Hutcheson’s Resolution Muffins

Originally published on

Scott Hutcheson (The Hungry Hoosier), like the rest of us, made food-related New Year’s resolutions. Continuing his 2007 resolution to eat more slow food and less fast food, he’s come up with a great recipe for an egg muffin. 

I’m not a breakfast eater. As I’ve said, oats are for livestock (am I the only one creeped by the fact that Purina makes breakfast and pet food?). When I read Scott’s recipe, I tried it right away. And, oh, those muffins are so good and so easy. They’re clouds of billowy eggs. 

You can find Scott’s recipe on his website The Hungry Hoosier.

Try making these muffins. With Scott’s recipe, you can vary ingredients to whatever’s in your frig. You don’t need three kinds of herbs, chipotle or whatever exotic ingredient is popular. Portions are controlled, and if you have children, you can make these in smaller muffin cups. 

Just make sure you have good eggs.  

Since my New Year’s resolution is to cut down on meat consumption, I made a variation of Resolution Muffins.  

Asparagus Muffins

  • Olive oil
  • 12 Asparagus tips
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 7 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon half-and-half
  • salt
  • pepper
  • grated nutmeg

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a six-serving muffin pan with cooking spray and place the pan on a baking sheet. Mix the eggs, salt, pepper and half-and-half in a bowl. 

Saute asparagus tips in olive oil. Place two tips in each of the muffin cups. Grate about 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese into each muffin cup. Pour egg mixture over the asparagus and cheese. Stir with a spoon to mix ingredients. Top with grated nutmeg. 

Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a wired rack.  Muffins can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days or put each one in a freezer bag and freeze. If frozen, thaw and microwave for 30 seconds. 

Scott’s writing, radio and television programs contribute to the dynamic Indy food scene. He’s starting a Hungry Hoosier column for Indianapolis Monthly featuring local farmers and producers. He and Christine Barbour, another great Indiana food writer, wrote a book which will be published this Spring. 

If you haven’t read Scott’s writings or heard him on radio or seen him on TV, make it a resolution to do so.

Written by Susan Gillie

January 7, 2008 at 4:44 am

Posted in food is health

Weight Watchers Made Me Fat

Originally published on


Overindulgence takes its toll and it’s the time of year when we vow to lose weight, once and for all. Newspapers, television, magazines are at it, reporting the latest weight loss advice, parading svelte “half their size” dieters to show us we can do it. INShape Indiana’s ads target flabby Hoosiers, and today’s Indianapolis Star reports 16 companies are joining the good fight.

In the midst of all this enthusiasm, Weight Watchers is the gold standard of weight loss. Many of those “half-people” profiled in People magazine lost 100+ pounds by joining Weight Watchers. In an industry based on vanity, riddled with gimmickry and quackery, Weight Watchers towers above others. Their program follows government guidelines, adapts to latest scientific findings about weight loss, nutrition and healthy lifestyles. Clarian, in its “Call for Change” offers on-site meetings to its employees.

Not everyone embraces the program. Weight Watchers success rate is no different from other weight loss programs. Since 1981, obesity skyrocketed in the U.S., especially among women.

I’m not impressed because Weight Watchers made me fat. I joined the program, ate amazing amounts of food, lost over 30 pounds, gained it all back, plus a few more, joined, rejoined and ended up weighing a whopping 236 pounds. The good news is I finally came to my senses, did my homework, went back to eating the way I did before Weight Watchers, and am a normal weight.

I started Weight Watchers in the late eighties. After years of wearing a size 10, I’d gone to a 12. Health was the last thing on my mind. I wanted to look good in clothes.

First meeting, horrors of horrors, I weighed 167 pounds. Goal weight was 158-132. I dedicated myself to the program, measuring and recording every morsel of food. I bought prepackaged popcorn, rice cakes, sugarless jams, low-fat everything, and, of course, all the Weight Watchers frozen dinners.

Diligence paid off. I was a size 8 bitch and looked smashing.

Trouble was I’d traded real food for processed and was hungry all the time. I tried sneaking around. I’d be good all week, weigh in, sit through a meeting, then head for the nearest restaurant for a platter of nachos. Soon the dam broke; I was sneaking away from work in the afternoon to buy one-pound bags of candy.

I went from 138 pounds to 175 (8 pounds more than when I started Weight Watchers). I rejoined, lost 25 gained 32. The spiral continued. I went from 175 to 182 to 190. Then I went over the edge, 200 lbs, and never went back to Weight Watchers. I stayed in the 210-220 range for a number of years, jumping to a whopping 236 pounds.

January 2004, I woke up one morning and realized, “I can’t live like this.”

Obesity didn’t create health problems. My cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure were normal. But my legs hurt, my body was sluggish and I just didn’t feel right. There was one other problem. I gained weight because I was eating more, and as I ate more, I was never full, always hungry. I felt like a starving madwomen, always on the lookout for food, food, more food.

I had no idea what to do. I knew not to go to Weight Watchers, or to any other weight loss program. I also knew not to listen to any weight loss guru’s advice. If what they were saying was true, then why was I (along with the rest of the country) fatter?

I remembered Julia Child. In the 1980’s, when so many of us embraced the low-fat lifestyle, Julia knew better. Diet food is what you ate while waiting for the steaks to cook. Cholesterol became the enemy and egg hysteria swept over us. Julia suffered ridicule but stayed the course and spoke the truth. She pointed out the obvious. Foods high in nutrition are high in cholesterol. She advocated a lifestyle of moderation and portion control. In her memoir, My Life in France, she calls it the belly-control system. Pull your stomach away from the table. 2004, I followed Julia’s advice.

I cut down the amount I ate, nothing drastic, just 300-500 calories a day. Within a few months I lost 12 pounds.

Here’s the kicker. I stayed at that weight for a few months, cut down the amount again. I’d lose another twelve pounds, level off, and reduce the amount of food. I didn’t exercise until I was less than 200 pounds. I did’t shell out a lot of bucks for a gym.

I just walked.

By the end of 2004, I weighed less than 200 pounds. By the end of 2005, I was in the 180’s. In 2006, my weight dropped to the 170’s. Last fall, I broke the barrier, I weighed 168.

Just one pound heavier than when I joined Weight Watchers and thrilled to be so thin.

As I lost weight, my eating habits changed. To keep from being hungry and over eating, calories needed to count, so food had to taste better. I dumped convenience foods for simple scratch cooking. I banned low-fat foods from my life. They taste artificial and make me hungry. I put real cream, not skim milk in my coffee, cutting down to one cup a day.

I quit listening to common wisdom about “healthy” foods. Oats are for cattle, not humans, and soymilk is a crime against humanity (and as we are finding out, not all that good for us). I read, Food Politics by Marian Nestle. It explained in clear language why I and so many people have a weight problem. Food is a growth industry and we have grown along with it.

The problem isn’t just a matter of personal choice, or ability to control one’s behavior. It’s a political, economic issue in which our country needs to make a major shift in thinking and behavior. Last year I read Mindless Eating Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink, research that compliments what Nestle is saying.

As we enter 2008, I thought about making a weight loss goal and decided against it. I’m a size 12, look great in clothes, with great health and stamina. All my numbers are in order, so why bother? Instead, I’m concentrating on things that will make a difference. Restrict consumption of animal protein to 18 ounces a week. Add more calcium to my diet. Spend my food dollars wisely and support local farmers, markets and restaurants that commit to food as quality of life not just quantity of profit.

November, 2005 I started my job as a cook. One of my customers lost over 100 lbs. One day while I was on a break, I sat down with her and exchanged weight loss stories. She’d lost weight through Weight Watchers and espoused the low-fat, eat all the vegetables you want mantra. I knew it wouldn’t last, but she was so proud of her accomplishment. I didn’t tell her Weight Watchers made me fat.

Sure enough, hunger hit her with a vengeance last year and she’s packed it back on. When I see her now, she avoids me. She smiles and waves, but looks down so our eyes won’t meet. She doesn’t want to show her shame; she doesn’t want to show envy. I want to take her by her shoulders and tell her, “It’s not your fault.” You were told lies. There’s a way to do this.

I can’t invade her privacy; I can’t get through to her. I can share what I know, however, with you readers. If you want to know more about managing weight, or just want support and encouragement, feel free to contact me.

Email me at susan@

Written by Susan Gillie

January 5, 2008 at 4:42 am