That’s good eatin’
by Brittany Grace
Getting ready for a health and wellness fair over the weekend, I noticed a pattern in my reading on sustainable and conscientious eating. We are often instructed how to eat well, but not so often are we told why we should.
Organic, farm-to-table, sustaina- zzzzz…they’ve all become buzzwords that we use without processing their meaning. We sometimes buy organic grapes, when they’re on sale, and then other times, we’re not really sure what our grape skins have on them, nor do we know where they came from, but we buy them anyway.
What difference does it really make whether we buy local, or from far away? Organic, or treated with pesticides and preservatives? Can are bodies really tell the difference? Can our palates?
Growing up, my mom cooked from scratch more often than not. I remember platefuls of homemade “cat-head” (big as a cat’s head) biscuits, robust tomato sauces, juicy pork roasts, and impeccable fruit crisps for dessert. After many a meal, my dad would finish his plate, eat seconds, then push back his chair and say, his north Floridian accent thick as pancake batter, “that’s goooood eatin,” with a wide grin on his face.
My sister and I would be nodding in agreement, wondering how a side plate of sliced tomatoes or freshly shelled beans could possibly taste so perfect. Now, I know why: because mom was shelling beans that had just been harvested, and slicing tomatoes in mid-summer, at the peak of their flavor. This was southern, seasonal eating in the eighties and nineties, before it had a name.
Good Eatin’, 101
– Buy and enjoy whole foods – whole foods being those whole in nutrition, without being processed or pumped with additives, hormones, or preservatives. Read labels. If you don’t know an ingredient, and it has more than 2 syllables, don’t eat it.
Doing this elevates your knowledge and awareness of what is going into your body. This makes your body happy.
– Eat a variety of foods! This means switch up your diet to include a myriad of colors, tastes and textures: purple, green, orange, yellow, red, brown…the more, the better! The average American consumes 60 percent of their calories from corn, wheat, or rice. This is largely due to the popularity of processed foods, which are laden with additives and fillers, and can make you feel sluggish, grumpy and bloated.
– Try it, you’ll like it. Broaden your epicurean horizons! Trying something new and different can open the doors to new ways of incorporating nutrients into your diet. Also, don’t be afraid to try something again that you once did not like. Your taste buds change over time, and they also sharpen after you decrease intake of fats and sugars and increase your consumption wholesome foods (carrots, or tomatoes, for example. They’re sweet)! The way a food is cooked can also alter its taste for you: fresh, springtime, oven-roasted asparagus does not seem remotely related to canned asparagus.
– Eat local; eat seasonal. The former gives way to the latter. Eating foods produced and sold by local farmers means you’re eating food that’s at the peak of ripeness, instead of food that’s been prematurely plucked, or food that been treated post-harvest with chemicals in order to preserve it as it makes its trek to you. On average, food you buy at the supermarket travels 1500 to 2500 miles before you lay eyes on it. And, fruits and vegetables grown by mass producers often have water pumped into them to make them bigger and more visually appealing. A large piece of fruit today often times has less nutrients than a smaller piece of the same fruit of a few decades ago.
– Eat organic fruits and vegetables when you can. More than 80 percent of common pesticides are classified as potentially carcinogenic by the National Academy of Sciences. Click here for more (extremely helpful) information.
– Savor your food! You will eat slower, with more enjoyment, this way.
I dream one day our generations’ eating habits will be looked upon as we look at other generations’ smoking habits. Our grandkids will recoil at the thought of feeding their children high-fructose corn syrup and benzyl phenylacetate. They will plant year-round gardens, frequent farmers markets with fervor, and wonder why anyone would go to the grocery store more than once a week. They will eat good food, and will bond over plates of simple, ripe vegetables and grass-fed beef. They will live happily and healthfully. At night, these grandkids will dream of their kids – our great-grandkids – becoming slow food delegates, and farmers, and horticulturists. They will be eating, and living, good.
Broccoli salad with pomegranate infused cranberries– this was the result of cleaning out the fridge recently. I thought that broccoli was an all-winter vegetable, but it turns out, it is not. My broccoli did not come out of my yard or a nearby farm – I got it at Trader Joe’s. When I took it out of the fridge for this salad, I realized: broccoli grows in December, but not January. My seasonal eating intention sometimes goes to pot, and I have to tell myself that intentional eating within seasons is a constant learning process. This salad also reminded me that resourcefulness – using bits and pieces of what you already have to make a new, whole something – is a delightful method for kitchen creation. The velvety chevre mixed in with the broccoli gives the salad an extra dimension of creaminess.
One head of broccoli or broccolini
1/2 red onion
handful of dried cranberries
1 cup of pomegranate juice
pecans (8 oz. will do)
Chevre (goat cheese)
Soak cranberries in bowl with pomegranate juice overnight. The next day, rinse broccoli and let dry; chop heads of broccoli into small pieces – do the same with the onion. Preheat oven at 400 degrees (or 375 if you’re using a 1960’s stove, like me, that is crazy hot); toast nuts for a few minutes – when you begin to smell the nuts wafting through your home, they’re ready! Drain the berries. Add nuts, onion and pomegranate-infused cranberries to broccoli. Use your hands to break up goat cheese into small pieces, and sprinkle these pieces onto the chopped broccoli. Toss mixture gently, and top with kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper. Serve with a quick dressing of 1 part balsamic vinegar, 2 parts olive oil, a few dashes of dijon mustard, and any herbs you may have. Viola! A creamy, green delight.