Edith Wharton, Designer

How this Fast Diet Lifestyle works: Eat these meals tomorrow, for a calorie total of less than 600. On another day this week, eat the meals from a different post, another day of eating 600 calories or less. Eat sensibly the other days of the week. That’s it: a simple way to lose weight and be healthier.

Edith Jones Wharton, in her many novels, wrote about ‘designing women’ who schemed to achieve their own ends. In her own life, Edith was an accomplished designer of interiors, landscapes, and architectural details. It started at an early age. One of the things that the young Edith Jones disliked about her mother was her decorating style — full-blown Victorian over-stuffed decor. After travels in Italy, Edith came to love simple, classical design elements. In 1897, Wharton collaborated with architect Ogden Codman on one of the first design manuals: The Decoration Houses. Building by the nouveau riche had reached a point of wretched excess and Wharton wanted to educate them. Get rid of the bric-a-brac, she exhorted, since “Trashy ‘ornaments’ do not make a room more comfortable.” The built-in shelves “filled with good editions in good bindings are more truly decorative than ornate bookcases lined with tawdry books.” Classic good taste should replace tacky kitsch, poor pictures, and bad furniture especially because of their effect on children: “[they] may, indeed, be fittingly compared with a mental diet of silly and ungrammatical story-books.” Her motto of “The supreme excellence is simplicity” was put to the test when she designed a country house that her husband and she could share in Lenox, Massachusetts. ‘The Mount‘ was planned with Codman [until they had a falling out] and completed in 1902. There, Wharton put all her decorating ideas into practice and the result is stunning. Although she drew from many styles, Wharton’s respect for Italianate features [rusticated corners and arched windows] shows in the house’s exterior and in the formal gardens which she planned. The interior rooms are light and airy and elegant — everything that late Victorian style was not. Unfortunately, divorce caused Edith to sell her beloved house in 1911. It has been restored and is open to visitors. Having been there, I would go again to be enlightened by Edith Wharton’s style.

For her love of Italian landscape and architecture, a breakfast involving a very Italian vegetable: zucchini. For dinner, a classic meal of the Gilded Age. You don’t have to be a Robber Baron to enjoy Lobster Thermador.

Zucchini Bake: 122 calories 6 g fat 2 g fiber 10 g protein 8.5 g carbs 88.5 mg Calcium   NB: The food values given above are for the egg bake and fruit only, not the optional beveragesPB GF  Fine breakfast for a summer day.

½ cup/1½ oz zucchini, sliced/grated, cooked 1 Tbsp fat-free cottage cheese, drained one 2-oz egg 1½ tsp Parmesan cheese, grated pinch garlic powder pinch herbes de Provence pinch cayenne pepper 1 oz pear OR ½ cup sliced strawberries -OR- 3 oz fresh strawberries Optional: blackish coffee [53 calories] or blackish tea or mocha cafe au lait [65 calories] or lemon in hot water  Optional: 5-6 oz fruit smoothie or berry-yogurt smoothie [88 calories]

Grate the zucchini on a box grater and steam it over water or ‘saute’ it in a pan with enough water to prevent sticking. Drain it in a strainer, then transfer to paper towels to dry off excess liquid. HINT: steam it the night before and let it drain in a strainer over night. Combine with the cheeses and garlic. Whisk the egg and stir into the cheese/zucchini mixture. Spritz a ramekin with non-stick spray and pour in the egg mixture. Bake at 350F. For 12-15 minutes – it should puff and be starting to brown. Prep beverages, plate the eggs with the fruit, and there you are: enjoying summer’s bounty.

Lobster Thermador: 269 calories 13.4 g fat 5.5 g fiber 29 g protein 18.4 g carbs 130.5 mg Calcium  PB GF  Lobster is wonderful for the Fasting Lifestyle, whether you get it pre-cooked or raw. The damage comes when it is slathered in butter. I think that butter masks the clean, pure taste of the lobster, so I haven’t dunked my lovely crustacean in it for years. This recipe is so elegant yet lacks calories to such an extent that I have added a very French dessert course: fresh peaches and raspberries.

¾ cup lobster, cooked and cut into chunks 1 Tbsp heavy cream 2 Tbsp Bechamel sauce [I always keep bechamel sauce frozen in small amounts.] ½ tsp Dijon mustard flat-leaved parsley, chopped, for garnish 3 oz green beans   OR Side Salad with tomatoes Dessert: 1 oz raspberries [fresh or frozen] + 2 oz peaches, cut into cubes [fresh or frozen]

Stir together the cream, Bechamel, and mustard. Lightly fold in the lobster. Heap into a ramekin, sprinkle on the parsley, and heat at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Cook the beans and put the fruits in a lovely bowl for dessert.

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