Monday, June 16, 2008

Curried Zucchini Soup: This One's For the Ladies

I was eating my 90-calorie Light Probiotic Pomegranate Berry Medley La Yogurt this morning when I ran across this:

Her name is Sarah Haskins, and she’s hilarious. Beyond that, she also has a great point: yogurt? And diet products in general? They’re all aimed at women. Beyond the occasional NutriSystem appearance by Dan Marino, I can’t think of a single diet ad directed towards men. Can you picture one? Can you even make one up? What would it look like? Maybe four or five John Goodman-esque frat guys, standing around an untouched pizza, moaning about their flab? Or John Madden and Charles Barkley trading tips on the lightest Subway sandwiches? Maybe a re-animated John Wayne espousing on the wonders of fat-free cottage cheese? (“Well, there are some things a man just can't run away from … like his love handles.”)

I bet it’s hard to imagine ads like these, because they don’t currently exist. Somehow, diet products have become a stereotypical chick thing, like pink toenail polish and caring about The Hills.

Why does this happen? Why do diet campaigns specifically target women? Do we naturally worry about our weight more than guys? Are we more health-conscious in general? Do we inherently dig lighter foods? Or, do the ads tell us we should worry about our weight? Do they say over and over that we need to be on diets, so we can look and feel like the beautiful stick people pushing Yoplait?

Me, I think it’s a combination of both. I’m all for free will and self-control, but it’s hard to deny advertising’s role in our self-perception, from what we eat to what we wear to what color pink we paint our toenails. Even at 30, even with an MA in media analysis, commercials affect the way I think about myself. And I don’t like it. Just once, I’d like to see a gang of happy, curvy moms throwing down over who gets the last super-sized Snickers bar. It might not win a Clio, but it’d make me feel better.

Which brings us, in a (very, very) roundabout way, to Martha Stewart. I would guess that 99.9% of her fans are women, and between her magazines and television show, she creates a lifestyle that’s nearly impossible to attain. Yet, I cut her way more slack than easy-solution diet products. Maybe because she doesn’t pander as obviously. Maybe it’s because her DIY lifestyle is way, way healthier than quick-fix yogurts. Maybe I just like her nail polish.

Whatever it is, she made this Curried Zucchini Soup. And a soup that’s delicious hot and cold can never be a problem.

Curried Zucchini Soup
Makes 4 generous servings
Adapted from Everyday Food.
Note: I apologize for yet another incredible picture. ("Incredible" here meaning "terrible.")

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
Kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 pounds zucchini (about 3 medium), sliced 1 inch thick
1 baking potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

1) In a large pot or dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and 1 tablespoon salt (not a typo). Cook until onion is tender and a little translucent, 4 or 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and curry. Cook 30 seconds to 1 minute, until fragrant, stirring constantly.

2) Add zucchini, potato, and 4 cups water. Jack up the heat. Once it comes to a boil, drop heat to medium-low and cook for 10 or 15 minutes. Veggies should be tender at the end.

3) Add half the soup to a blender. (If blender is more than half full, you might have to split this into three batches.) Puree soup. Repeat for second half of soup (and if necessary, batch #3). Serve.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
142 calories, 3.8 g fat, $0.67

1 tablespoon olive oil: 119 calories, 13.5 g fat, $0.10
1 medium onion, chopped: 46 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.18
Coarse salt: negligible calories and salt, $0.01
2 garlic cloves: 9 calories, 0 g fat, $0.10
2 teaspoons curry powder: negligible calories and fat, $0.20
1 1/2 pounds zucchini (about 3 medium): 109 calories, 1.2 g fat, $1.48
1 baking potato: 284 calories, 0.3 g fat, $0.61
TOTAL: 567 calories, 15.1 g fat, $2.68
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 142 calories, 3.8 g fat, $0.67


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