Nature has everything to teach us if we are willing to be still and spend time being with her. A few weeks ago a robin chose to build her nest under the portico that offers shelter above our front door. It was a good place–protected from the elements and other critters, like the neighbor’s cat. For days, the robin named Isabelle by my husband, scattered building material all over the front porch and we watched through the window as she carried one strand at a time to the small ledge. It seemed an impossible task, but one day we looked outside and there was the perfect, most beautiful nest ever.
Isabelle spent days sitting on the nest and a little research revealed that robins gorge themselves on worms and grubs in the morning and the lay one egg in the afternoon. They do this until they have the desired size of family, I guess. The eggs hatch 12 to 14 days after the last egg is laid. A patient mother, Isabelle sat on the nest day and night and we avoided using the front door so as not to disturb her. Whether it’s a human or a robin, impending motherhood does make a woman beautiful and Isabelle had a special glow about her.
Here is the surprise: Isabelle’s husband, whom I name Igor—brought worms and fed Isabelle as she sat on the nest. Sometimes Isabelle just needed to stretch her wings, and Igor would perch on the nest guarding the eggs. Before this miracle unfolded above my front porch, I never would have described a robin as “macho,” but Igor is a macho guy. When guarding the nest he had that “don’t mess with me or my family” look to him, a puffed up chest to emphasize the message.
It was touching to watch how he protected his family, gave his wife a much-needed break and brought food to her. A few days ago the eggs hatched. At first we couldn’t see the babies, but we saw that both Isabelle and Igor brought food and were feeding something in the nest. Then one morning we saw two bald heads with mouths open wide accepting food from mom. I am still not sure if there are two or three babies, but I imagine that we will find out as they grow.
Isabelle and Igor got me thinking about my marriage. My husband isn’t what I would call much of a romantic, but like Igor, he brings me food, never fails to ask if I need or want anything when he leaves the house. He holds my hand when we are watching movies and he keeps an eye on the oil levels in my car. I know that he would protect me with his life and he encourages me to stretch my wings. He would make Igor proud. It’s a practical and mature love that has an organic sweetness to it that far exceeds a dozen roses.
Nature can teach us a lot about how to live a balanced and happy life. Having Isabelle and Igor show us how it’s done, helps me observe the natural world with a renewed sense of wonder and curiosity. Sometimes, well most times, humans think we are the be all end all; that we know everything and that we are a superior life form. I don’t think so. I think we have more to learn from the natural world than we realize. In fact, it may be our salvation.
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.
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.
Sharing 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 Drink
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?