Cooking is the ‘food language spoken’ by the person who is responsible for the rhythmic production of meals in a home. Often bought through from the original family fare, cooked by the mother traditions of the cultural cuisine, using products found in the local market stores, creating tastes and habits that make for feeling of being ‘at home and at ease’. Depending on the stability of the culture of the area, recipes and eating habits can harken back many generations.
Then along comes the relatively recent sciences of chemistry, biology, bacteriology, health and wellness, energy, disease causations and studies into the relationship between nutrition and health generally. All this information and more has bought a huge new awareness to bear on what and how we prepare and eat as food. Bombarded with do’s and don’ts by the media, health tips on the news, trends and fads, pharmaceutical breakthroughs etc. it hard to chose where to stand as an individual when it comes to overall health.
Food producers of all kinds of course, fiercely protect and promote their ways and means of providing items to put in the market place. Everyone has to eat to live and the economy of the planet has now a vested interest in putting new, improved, broad based, economically produced products in our mouths. As the planetary networks of the food industry now encompasses and swamps the world with brand name products, so the products themselves need ingredients that don’t spoil and that attract the modern palate with sweet and salty ‘hooks’.
Since reading The China Study[i] by T. Colin Campbell PhD, and Thomas M. Campbell ll., and taking the online nutrition course with e-Cornell University, I am more knowledgeable and aware of the nutrition/health connection. This strangely had not yet made a big change in my ‘spoken food language/cooking’ until I made time in my life to go to the computer and start writing this article! I am on the alert now for other research and studies; I’ve just read with new eyes and interest about ‘Food Combining’[ii] and ‘Super Foods’[iii]; we drink fruit and green smoothies [iv] regularly as meal replacements and we are in the know about hidden sugars[v] in food and how to read the white labels[vi] on products with some new understanding.
Old habits do die hard, egg and toast for breakfast, cheese and bagels for lunch, meat and potatoes for dinner…………..wrong, all wrong! Proteins and starch fight each other to be digested properly, the food combining information tells me. Some people suffer with indigestion, not realizing that the problems their systems cope with at each meal could be caused by this fight and resulting fermentation, making inefficient use of the nutrients they consume.
Tyhson and I have slipped into some new eating habits. We have a glass of water on rising in the morning, before each meal and last thing at night. We eat a serving of fruit first thing before breakfast. We try to have our dinner salad before the main course and wait a while after dinner before eating a token desert of yoghurt and a little fruit and dark chocolate. We use nut or soya milk instead of dairy milk and Tyhson uses cream in his coffee and tea- not 1/2 and 1/2. He uses Stevia as a sweetener. Meat serving size has been reduced to 1/2 a chicken breast each, 1/2 a steak or pork chop etc, measuring about the size of the palm of our hand. We eat wild salmon or lake trout at least once twice a week. Organic fruit, vegetables and eggs are bought from local famer’s markets when possible. Making a refrigerator soup[vii] once in a while keeps the cook creative and helps to use green grocery products from languishing too long in the crisper drawer or cold room.
The perils of vegetable oil was my latest eye opener. From McDougalls’s cookery book[viii] My take is that fats and oils might do well to grease the ‘wheels’ of an automobile, they taste vile and why would I need to eat them disguised as a cooking aid? We take the same oil in the nut or food in its original un-processed form, why slather more on? Our joints and organs need fat, but not sooo much. So I learn that sautéing doesn’t have to be done in oil or butter, it works pretty well with water too. Oil is used to stick salt and sugar to snack foods like chips and crackers! Looking at dressings for salads, the coating action- pretty gloss, produced on your greens, is from oil of course, the flavour is from the vinegars and spices. The God of Oils is from the olive. Notice what happens when that is kept in the refrigerator, it goes opaque and thick. Imagine what happens in your stomach when you drink a glass of refreshing ICED water during and after your meal. All the fats and oils you have just eaten get thick, heavy, and inhibit the digestion of your food, then the excess ends up in the blood stream and thence to plaque on your artery walls. A warm cup of tea or hot water with lemon after the meal makes more sense if you have to wash the oily, fatty food down.
All this leads me to realize that we eat, chew and swallow food far too fast for most food to be processed as usable nutrition, mixing with the enzymes of saliva and stomach acids in the digestive system. This rushed eating is a crazy habit, as if the food is going to rot if left on the plate in front of you for very long! As the chief cook all my life as wife and mother, the aim was to get everything at once on the plate, on the table, hot and ready to be eaten, I could then sit down too! This leads the family to eat the most favourite or hot food first – the meat, then the vegetable and lastly the salad! WRONG! I now know that is the opposite way our bodies need to be fed for optimal nutritional benefit i.e. 1.salad, 2. vegetables, 3. protein or starches. The gut is like a freeway with no lanes. Fast digesting salad, eaten last, will overtake the meat, mixing with it and wreck the well thought out plan of digestive juice locations in our bodies. Much burping and etc results! Meat needs a long time to digest, so is better eaten after the speedily digested things have been consumed and are on their way.
The epicurean French diet is of one food at a time served in strict a strict order washed down with wine. But what of the cook? She/he needs to be in the kitchen all the time getting the next course ready?
We could have other reality checks happening here!
- ‘Slow food’, savoured, chewed well and in the order dictated by the digestive juices don’t jibe with present day time constraints.
- Don’t talk with your mouth full!; meal time is the only time when the family gets together to discuss things; you have 30 minutes to get done- before activities, meetings or TV program; the waitress is hovering; if you want seconds you have to finish first, etc.
- Pot Luck Suppers- you’ve got to be kidding! Just take some of everything and let the devil take the consequences after dinner!
- Smorgasbord/buffet restaurants could be a good solution if we have the strong mindedness to stick to a plan.
The colour of food is often equated with nutritional goodness. Brown food, does that appeal to the eye of the stomach? How about wild rice, beans, quinoa, chia, flax seed, curry, lentils? When in Egypt some years ago, I noticed that most of the food was brown. It tasted brown to me then. My Western trained palate thought food needed eye appeal to taste good. Give me the plastic colours of white rice, with brilliant greens, red, yellow, purple and blue. Regardless of the nutritional value, a rainbow on my plate must be better for my
body! If I only knew, if only my body could have been able to speak of what it really needed to keep me healthy, slim and satisfied!
Have there been subtle messages to us from the Universe when the food producers found hazards such as foot and mouth disease amongst herds of livestock, mad cow disease, bird ‘flu, Listerosis in processed meats? Was all this trying to warn us off the consumption of meat protein, especially from an over managed and chemically manipulated, insensitivity to other life forms ‘industrial’ product? Unfortunately these livestock problems got the Scientists and Biologists working to produce more products to dose up the unfortunate animals and add more ‘new unpronounceable ‘ceuticals’ to our food, so we unwittingly consume so much more of a ‘chemical soup’ than ever.
With all this awareness, like an artist with new art supplies, we are changing our food palate, to create new tastes for the healthier way of eating. We can eat amazing LOADS of nutritious food when it is Live, Organic, Attractive, Delicious and Satisfying. We spend much more time on the outskirts of the food stores away from cardboard packaged goods. Not vegan, nor fanatical about it all, just more aware and healthy, we are ready to get going planting our garden as soon as the snow has melted.
Serah Roer, Certified Master Vegetarian, is available for free 15 minute consultation. 250 836-8236
[i] The China Study. Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health. T Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell ll Benbella publishing.
[ii] Food Combining. A step-by-step Guide. By Kathryn Marsden. Element Publishing.
[iii] Super Foods. The Food and Medicine of the Future. by David Wolfe. North Atlantic Books Publishing.
[v] www.TheBellyFatCure.com Ultimate, Indulgent and Classic Menus and shopping lists. (Certainly not into food combining here!)
[vi] Recommended by the above. Sugars. 15 Grams per day. Carbs. 6 Servings per day. Check the white label on products.
[vii] Sauté onion in a little water. Chop veggies and steam with the onion for a few minutes. Add your choice of stock to cover vegetables and cook gently until soft. Blend for a smooth soup, add any cooked leftovers for your unique recipe.
[viii] The New McDougall Cookbook. 300 Delicious Ultra-Low-Fat Recipes. John A. and Mary McDougall. Plume Publishing.