It’s a frequent question we get working at the Test Kitchen — with good reason. It must be so awesome to be surrounded with so much food, all the time! (We agree, it’s pretty amazing.) Do you eat everything? (Not always, but often, yes.) Do you guys gain weight working here? (There’s a “five-pound-a-year” rule, admits Christopher Kimball.)
We’re not going to lie. It’s nigh paradise being surrounded by bites of wine jelly or doing our duty tasting vanilla ice cream, but in all seriousness, good health is a day-in-day-out consideration. How does a food lover or cooking professional keep fit when eating is part of the job?
We asked around America’s Test Kitchen for tips on staying in shape when dealing with food is a constant. Here are a sampling:
It’s a tasting — not a buffet — so eat only what you need to taste. Just because we offer plenty doesn’t mean you have to eat the whole sample. Also, just because you are used to eating dinner, it doesn’t mean you are actually hungry and need a meal. There’s been plenty of times when I go home and snack on some carrots or broccoli.
Oddly, bringing in your own food really helps. It feels like you’re carrying coals to Newcastle, but if you have a normal lunch, it’s far less tempting to sample everything you see. And around here, you see a lot. Also, people here are workout fanatics, doing power yoga, weights, biking, running, walking miles and miles, etc. I recently got on the bandwagon and started biking to work.
Channeling Anton Ego: If I don’t love it… I don’t eat it.
When eating’s part of the job, it’s hard to remember sometimes, but you can definitely just say no! When you’re working in the test kitchen all day, people come by all the time and offer up a wide variety of snacks and treats ranging from rugelach to rib-eyes, and while they may all be good, because they’re mostly in-development recipes, they’ll be available for sampling every day until the recipe is done. With that in mind, if I am having lunch in-house, I’ll pick out the recipe I feel like sampling most that day and wait for those leftovers to come out, denying most (not necessarily all — no one’s perfect!) everything else that comes along. Basically, although the steak and the strudel may both look delicious right now, there’s always tomorrow.
When I started working here, a test cook was working on butterscotch pudding and having people taste it. Before I started, I did not know that announcements for tasting things would come over the intercom, interrupting the workday with this and other announcements (I think the other big project at that time was baked ziti). I hadn’t had real butterscotch pudding or homemade baked ziti in a very long time, so of course I ran downstairs whenever I got the word that it was happening. Of course, this was in the middle of reading and thinking about any number of dishes to get excited about, and I was constantly making lists of recipes that I planned to try at home. I haven’t put on weight while employed here these last 4 years so much as gradually assume a prone position with a fork in each of my greedy hands. I am a marathon runner anyway, so discovering that we have not one but two bathrooms with showers here led to my salvation: I started running to work. I couldn’t do this every day, so on the opposite days, I often rode my bike. So far, so good — the weight is stable. But since it’s only a matter of time before metabolism and age makes its natural transition and constant, daylong eating catches up with me, I also work out with a group of people in a boot camp 2 times a week. I guess I could just start cutting back on the food? …Nah.
I try to incorporate as much leafy greens as possible into my diet when I don’t have to eat for work. It took a few years, but I’m coming around to the fact that I just don’t have the same luxuries “normal” people do — I don’t keep snacks like chips and cookies around the house, I rarely order dessert, and I pretty much count on spending the bulk of my allotted calories at work. Also, biking to work has been exceptional for building a workout in to my day, and I loved the exercise so much I rejoined the gym and go at least 2 times a week.
I go to Crossfit! And I keep eggs on hand at all times so I can do a quick and light scramble for dinner if I’m hungry.
A large proportion of us cycle instead of drive to work. In fact, of the 5 in-house Cook’s Illustrated test cooks, 4 of us bike every day (and the 5th takes public transport, which requires a lot of walking). Other than that: If cookies are broken, the calories fall out. That spiral staircase counts as cardio. You know that move that cooks do where they pour something into a liquid measure and bend over and peer at the level? They’re actually sneaking in squats.
And now for the Silly Question of the Day…
How do you stay fit as a food lover?
Leave your silly answer in the comments!