If I shop at a large grocery store in suburban Atlanta on a Saturday morning, I see other women marching through the doors in a rainbow of spandex and other bright, body-hugging materials. I almost expect to find a set of ellipticals on the cereal aisle or weight-lifting equipment placed just beyond the freezer case.
“We work out,” their tight, shiny outfits tell the rest of us. “And then we buy kale!”
Exercise tones our bodies, but what we eat becomes us.
The food we consume, including the liquids we drink, transforms into the bodies that house our souls. Once I saw food this way, my choices changed. I explored a variety of eating styles and philosophies over a period of several years, gradually adopting my current status of “thoughtful omnivore.”
Joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture, which offers produce boxes or other forms of “shares” after a harvest) when I lived in Illinois taught me to love foods I’d never liked. That CSA changed my opinion of bok choy and several other vegetables, and after handling farm-fresh produce, I have a better sense of how to buy those items in a grocery store as well. Some foods I’d disliked had simply been encountered past their prime, or not cooked properly. (That CSA also wrote a short cookbook for its members.)
Efficiency is sometimes at war with taste, nutrition or just texture. I haven’t owned a microwave in years. I have no fear of them; I just prefer the texture of foods reheated in my toaster oven, regular oven or on my stovetop. A little water in a covered pot lets you steam many foods back to life.
Reheating can, on occasion, ruin a good thing. I love to blanch my kale, then briefly cook the softened vegetable in olive oil with a bit of garlic. It’s edible after an evening in the fridge, but I’d rather leave some of it raw until I cook it for the next meal.
More cheese, please…
I remember buying a copy of Breaking the Food Seduction by Neal Barnard. I kept that book, and I still cook from it sometimes. In addition to a section full of recipes, Breaking the Food Seduction addressed various types of foods and ingredients and the addictive aspects that can drive consumption. When I reached the chapter on cheese, I rebelled. I went downstairs, opened my “cheese drawer” in the fridge and cooked up a grilled cheese sandwich to eat as I read. He made such good points, that I did opt out of dairy for several months.
I learned two primary things from that book.
- Our taste buds have a “memory.” After a few weeks of abstaining from a particular food, I didn’t crave it anymore. My taste buds forgot their addictions.
- Candace with no dairy = very scary. I’m already a tiny person, and I dropped weight, too much weight. I also didn’t feel “healthy” or strong anymore, even though some people handle veganism quite well. I realized we each have to find our own formula, and one good book that helped me see that is Food and Healing by Annemarie Colbin.
What we put on our plates is personal.
But authors don’t determine our choices. These are individual decisions we must each make, after consulting our bodies as well as our hearts.
Sometimes, I eat for convenience. I opt for something fast and not particularly good for me. But overall, I’ve found that eating well is an investment in my energy, my creativity and my health as a whole.
Eating on autopilot will not nourish us as fully, I believe, as eating mindfully. Whatever dietary choices we make, we can eat consciously and with conscience, considering how our selections affect us and the world we live in.