The Art of Real Food [part I]

20 Tue, 2010 § 1 Comment

To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.

~La Rochefoucauld

Vegetarian.  Omnivore.  Vegan.  Flexitarian.  Flirt.  Raw Foodist.  Warrior.  Paleo.  Superhero.

Do you know which of these you are?  It’s crucial to know which label you fit; otherwise, how will you know what you “can” eat?

I’ve dabbled with everything from Raw to Ayurvedic to Vegan to something deemed Superhero (similar to Macrobiotic Diet) by Alicia Silverstone.  Each enlightened me to some extent about food & helped me really think about what I was putting in my body & why.

While I rely heavily on nuts & seeds, too many make me feel heavy & icky; Raw & Ayurvedic also helped me realize I better digest some vegetables lightly steamed or roasted over raw; Vegan opened my perspective concerning protein & made me rethink dairy; Superhero was nourishing in the fall & winter, but when spring & summer hit, so many beans got old & my body & palate craved more.  I also grew extremely tired of the phrase “you win some, you lose some” when it came to food deprivation.  Why?  Why should depriving ourselves for the “greater good” always rule?  Yes, eating ethically is important, but not one label alone encompasses ethical eating.

My greatest gains from these experiments in food?  1) I’ve learned to listen to my body.    2) I’ve also realized I hate restricting myself to labels [in every aspect, but we’re just talking food today].  It’s not about being “perfect” according to a certain label but about doing what feels best for your body.  [This differs from just following mindless cravings.]

I love food.  I love the planning…the choosing…the preparing…& of course, the eating.  This was not always the case without even realizing it.  As I’ve simplified my habits to eating local, seasonal whole foods & learned to connect with these in a positive way, my food view has changed.  Rather than seeing it as something that will make me fat, I’ve realized food nourishes & energizes me.  My body not only needs it to meet the demands I challenge it with, but simply to survive; so why not appreciate & enjoy the experience of food?

By eating a simple, clean diet, I’ve tuned into my body & dialed down cravings.  Now I can tell the difference between “I think I want this” & “hi, I’m your body, I need this”.  Eliminating sugar & refined flours was a huge step toward learning to listen.  Cleaning up the way you eat – this might mean caffeine, sugar, additives, refined food – will really help fine tune your ability to sense what your body actually needs.

As I’ve changed the foods I eat, my palate has also changed.  I’ve found myself craving — & falling in love with — foods I’d never have guessed I’d even like [kale, collards, bok choy, live sauerkraut, on & on].  I’ve also witnessed this transition in Dave.  Once a hater of spinach, that is his choice salad leaf now; & lately, he’s been wanting mushrooms, which he truly despised in the past.

Along with focusing on whole foods, we’ve also committed to eating seasonally & locally.  The seasons provide the perfect backdrop for healthy, balanced eating.  Changing of the seasons is essential for balancing earth’s resources as well as its lifeforms.  Are we so arrogant to believe we know better than earth?  By eating seasonally, you enjoy food when it has the most flavor, nutritional value & is most affordable.  You gain even greater freshness from foods that are locally grown.  As if we haven’t heard “better for you; better for the planet” enough — have you tried it yet though?  True, we really only eat tomatoes when they are at their peak, in summer.  But, Oh. How. We. Love. Those. Tomatoes.  You will never appreciate food more.

My appreciation has continued to grow as I’ve developed a habit of thinking about the source of my food & the life from which it came.  How far did it travel?  How was it grown/raised?  What was the quality of its life?  What is the effect on the planet?  On others?

I pause before each meal & contemplate the process of its journey until reaching my plate.  This connection runs deeper when you’re thinking about vegetables being planted, cared for & harvested as opposed to a bowl of mac n’ cheese that came from a box.  A realization of a great love for animals has also struck, which has made it more difficult to eat meat — especially when the thoughts are those of suffering & crowded stalls — obviously, the source here has become of great concern, so Dave’s meat comes from small farmers whenever possible & is, of course, organic/grain-fed.  Currently, I am only eating fish.

Food choice is obviously personal & a very touchy subject; it mirrors religion in sacredness to people.  Eat for yourself but please don’t do so ignorantly.  The true art of eating means considering the implications of what is on your plate.  What does ethical eating mean to you?  Does this food nourish?  Can you connect with this bowl of macaroni & cheese?  Or are you left feeling empty?

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