Posted in A Day In the Life

Love and Nourishment

I’ve been hungry for a lot of things in my life that had nothing to do with food and everything to do with the way I fed myself. It’s been a lifelong journey to figure out what nourishes and what simply sustains me. Nourishment, at its heart, is really about love.

My dad and I were the only two people in the kitchen. I remember it being a time and place where people had left or were leaving and life seemed frighteningly different. Was I visiting him? Was it after the divorce? I must have been four or five years old. He put a plate of raviolis down in front of me. I’d watched him open the can, dump them into a pot, and heat them up. He smiled at me. Maybe he winked.

            The way the memory has embedded itself in my brain is that we were side by side, and I was acutely aware of the motion of raising the fork from the plate to my mouth, almost as if I were doing it slow motion in tandem with him. Oh my God, those raviolis. They were absolute ambrosia, the best thing I’d ever tasted.

            Fast forward twenty years, and I’m living on my own. I’m thinking about my dad, as we’ve recently reconnected, and we’re going to see each other at Christmas. It’s been twelve years. In the emotional soup of being angry at him for being absent in my life, feeling excited to see him again, and feeling a love in my heart that seems a little out of place, the memory of that meal nibbled at the edges of my hunger. I became inspired to hunt down those raviolis.

            I’m not sure I knew what I was after on my quest. I think it may have been a deep longing to connect with my dad in that primal way where we were so close that we moved our forks in tandem. I wanted to repeat that taste, that time, when I was four or five years old, alone in the kitchen with my dad, safe and loved.

            Taste is a complicated thing. The textbooks will tell you how important smell is to taste, but they rarely mention how important emotion is to taste. I believe it was the tone that was set between us, a small slice of remembered intimacy, that put me on a quest to capture the childhood delight of canned raviolis.

            They weren’t hard to find. The can looked like the same one I remembered from twenty years earlier; maybe the illustrated chef on the front was a little more modern. The grocery store had the cans placed at eye level, three aisles over from the crackers and chips on the right.

            I rushed back to my apartment, my mouth watering. I opened the can, heated the raviolis, and put them in a bowl. They smelled just the way I remembered them. I sat down, picked up my fork, expecting the same kind of ambrosia rush—and … Oh no! They were horrible. The texture was pasty, and the sauce had a sickeningly sweet aftertaste to it. The stuffing didn’t resemble cheese at all, and I questioned whether or not it had even come from a cow. The whole bowl was kind of mushy. How could I ever have loved these so much?

Was it my undeveloped childhood palate, which responded indiscriminately  to salt and sugar and mush? I tried to make it funny, but the truth was I was disappointed and sad. I couldn’t explain the sorrow at the time. Now I see that it was my longing to reconnect with the dad I hadn’t seen in twelve years, the dad I remembered from our canned raviolis meal so long ago.

            I threw the rest of the raviolis unceremoniously into the trash‚ the lingering odor of them no longer pleasant. My kitchen smelled of disappointment and the fake flavor of fast food, of junk food. I realized that I could never go back and that the past would never let go of certain places in me.

            Years later, I was telling someone the story about how great the raviolis had seemed when I was a kid and how horrible they were when I got older. In the retelling, I spoke about being in the kitchen with my dad and the combustion of love, security, and canned raviolis. That experience resulted in a sense of being nourished in mind and body—and I realized in a rush that it was never the raviolis that were so wonderful; it was rather sitting with my dad, doing the small, simple thing of sharing a meal. It was the spirit of that moment that stays with me to this day. So often, comfort food isn’t about the food at all, and so often, it’s the smallest things in life that truly nourish us.

        

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The biblical adage that man does not live by bread alone is not a treatise on carbohydrates but a directive on nourishment. Intent. Connection. Love. Nourishment is about the moments in our too busy lives that give us pause to stop and appreciate the things that fill us. Sometimes it’s a meal. Sometimes it’s the company, and sometimes it’s the way the light hits the front porch in the morning. How we nourish ourselves and with what is a richly complex process that evolves as we age. I ask myself this question:  Does it nourish me. I ask this question about food, about people, about things I want to purchase, and also about situations.

            Asking the nourishment question is another way of asking how I love myself. But somehow the question of how to nourish—and with what—seems more specific than the question of how to love—or whom. I trust that love is something that arises as a result of who, what, and how we nourish others and ourselves.

            I think that most of the world’s problems can be solved by people sitting around a kitchen table. The nourishment of family and friends can assuage sorrow. The nourishment of food can help us celebrate life and heal. How we nourish ourselves—with what and with whom—is a huge, complicated process that informs our life every single day.

            May your life be nourished by calm, love, goodwill and joy.  And, may you enjoy the sweet, the savory and salty of life in nourishing gratitude. 

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Kitchen Prayers

Tasty Food Abundance in Healthy Europe

A couple of days ago I wrote about “A Place At The Table,” a documentary film now in theaters and also on Amazon.com.  This is something that everyone should see.  As a result of my writing about that film, a friend sent me a You Tube link about a gentleman in South Central Los Angeles named Ron Finley.  Mr. Finley demonstrates for us what one person can do; how one vision, one heart can make our world a better place.  We have a real problem with hunger in our country.  We cannot turn a blind eye any longer.  Good people, hard-working people, people who have hopes and dreams for themselves and their children do not have enough food to eat.  And when they do have food, more often than not, it is the wrong kind of food–food that is filled with empty calories and little nutrition.  It is this kind of food that makes people fat and sick.  Obesity is linked to food with calories but no nutrition.  Ron Finley has an answer to that problem.  It’s simple.  It’s cheap (a lot cheaper than the health costs of subsisting on junk food) and if you are like me, I’ll bet it will fill your heart and your head with your own ideas about how you can create a better world by starting with your community.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=EzZzZ_qpZ4w

Watch the You Tube video and tell me what you think!

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Do People Know How to Eat Anymore?

Food Network: Cook or Be Cooked
Cook or Be Cooked

Caution, Proceed With Care:  Food Rant

Seems like food is always in the news these days. Food corporations have huge public relations and marketing machines to tell us how to eat. In the past few weeks I have seen several food related news stories, starting with horse meat in your burger.  Nobody likes the idea of eating a pet or a pony. The “how did horse meat get into my hamburger” question seemed like a no-brainer. The problem is this: when you have such a high demand and a high push for beef, there are bound to be some other things mixed in there at some point. It’s like the cafeteria ladies at my old junior high who used to stretch the amount of hamburger meat that they had by adding oatmeal to it. It was cost-effective and I imagine that adding a little horse meat helped stretch the budget too, or in a corporate sense, helped to stretch the margins. Food is more than food, it’s big business.

Then came stories about all the additives in food, something about GMO’s and finally an article about how many calories you have to burn to lose a pound of fat. These are stories that circulate every 8 to 10 weeks along with some latest tidbit about how you shouldn’t take a multiple or  you should definitely should take a multiple vitamin.

We Are Overly Focused On Weight and Not Focused Enough on Nutritional Eating

Our choices in food have become too convoluted, too complex. Real food, nutritious food doesn’t require secret sauce and a bun. The highest calorie foods are the cheapest foods and contain the least amount of nutrition. They are filled with chemicals that make people crave them. They are the staple of the poor, and the recklessness of the not-so-poor, and that’s a whole other blog.  Restaurant food is often saturated with more than just fat. That oh-so-great and satisfying taste is the result of too much sugar and salt and who knows what kind of oil. It’s a lot cheaper to cook with lard than it is olive oil. Think “savvy cafeteria lady.” Our taste buds have become jaded by the bastardization of what should be a pinch of flavor and turns out to be a sickening pound. The food industry feeds directly into our health industry, supplying a steady stream of diseases that are oft time preventable by simple dietary changes.Fruits and vegetables

There are a lot of people out there concerned with weight loss, that enroll in programs that provide low-calorie pre-made, pre-packaged food delivered right to your door. That kind of food will never have the same nutrient content of fresh food, nor will it be as energizing. But it will be convenient.

How Many People Really Use Their Kitchen?

The industrialization of food made us forget how to eat, in less than a couple of generations. As a child of the 1950’s, I remember seeing the cover of a magazine touting the convenience of canned food. It had a picture of a woman pushing a shopping cart filled with everything from canned ham to canned corn and peas. That mentality has brought us to worshiping at the altar of convenience, and we tend to hold convenience higher than we do nurture and nature. A home cooked meal made with fresh foods is bound to be more nutritious than a drive thru Burger King. But that home cooked meal demands that someone spend actual time in their kitchen and in today’s fast paced society that is often not possible let alone desirable.

I was lucky. My mother and my grandmother cooked and I was taught to cook in their kitchens. More than that, my grandmother lived on a farm, so I got to experience snap peas fresh from the garden. Half of the peas got shelled on the back porch and the other half went into my mouth and were better than any candy. I understood that real food came from the garden and my taste buds grew accustom to early summer lettuces and late summer squash that needed little seasoning to taste delicious.

By the time I left home and discovered Adel Davis, I was not intimidated by whole wheat bread recipes or vegetable stews. Coming of age in the 60’s and 70’s with the back to the land movement, instilled in me the value and the delight of fresh fruits and vegetables. To this day, the local Farmer’s Market is my favorite culinary experience. I know that cucumbers, tomatoes and basil, that were in the fields yesterday, will make the best salad with a little Balsamic today.

iStock_000018212527XSmallSharing Food and Sharing Heart

A meal tastes better when you share it with family and friends; when you spend some time, focus and energy in the process of cutting and chopping, cooking foods slowly or combining them raw. When people sit down at my table they heap appreciation upon me for fresh soups and salads, for stuffed squashes, none of which came from cans or boxes. I nurture my guests with food. They nurture me with community and conversation. Mealtime is now a ceremony of gratitude to the earth and her bounty, and to each other.

People have forgotten how to eat and that is why our country is fat. Processed food and fast food is not real food. These days I eat a modified Paleo diet. I eat this diet because as I have gotten older, I am aware that grains cause inflammation in my body and therefore pain. Staying away from processed grains causes me to sleep better and function with less physical pain. I don’t worry about weight because I do not need to count calories when I am eating so many fresh vegetables and lean protein. People have to find a “lifestyle” diet that is right for them, and whether that’s vegetarian, Paleo or raw, the bottom line is this: real food is fresh and comes from the earth not a package. Vegetables are your friends. You do not need nearly the amount of salt or sugar that you think you do and honestly frying foods stops being tasty when you start eating fresh.

Sharing My Morning DrinkiStock_000018045957XSmall

Like most people, I live a busy life. I get up early to prepare and pack a lunch for my husband and I. I also make us a breakfast shake that is simple, nutritious and energizing. One of the things about being overweight is that often people eat more food in an attempt to get energy. Processed food is not energizing, but fresh food is! Here’s my breakfast shake:

This serves two people.

In a Vitamix or strong blender throw together
1 can of Thai Kitchen Lite Coconut Milk (approx 8 ozs)
½ cup of frozen or fresh blueberries
One cut up pear
One cut up apple
Two slices of fresh ginger (about the size of a tablespoon)
3 to 4 leaves of fresh chard

Mix/blend on high and add a little ice if you like. It is tasty and nutritious with the added bonus of being energizing.

So that’s my food story and I’m sticking to it. Have you found a lifestyle diet that works well for you?Are you a fresh food person? iStock_000015526675XSmall