Posts tagged nutrition
Posts tagged nutrition
My January Food Goal: Supermarket-Free Zone
I remember during my college days, which if I wanted to be cute I’d say weren’t too long ago, my roommates and I would carpool to the grocery store. Moving from the sweltering humidity of central Florida through the doors into the frigid air-conditioned cold, I felt like I was entering an alternate world. My eyes would light up: Disneyland!
Yes. You read that right. Moving to the US from Germany, my experience of American supermarkets was akin to a theme park visit. As my roommates patiently waited by the cash register, I combed through what felt like endless aisles of prepared foods. Deep-fried, brightly-colored, caramel-covered, frozen something on a stick. Super-natural ingredients that should come with their own cape. Bold lettering, cartoon figures left and right. An entire aisle of esssentially identical toast bread in different shades. What wonders! Wheee!
Now, mind you, despite my fascination, I standardly walked out with only a few products I knew from home that elicited the question: “Where did you find that?” It made me wonder how the Pumpernickel (dark bread) I had bought was, to my roommates, the strangest product in the store, but the moral of the story is —- there’s a lot of questionable things in American supermarkets that, while highly entertaining, should probably not be consumed.
Of course, to say I’ve always lived a healthy life would be a lie. I did end up indulging in the delectable stickyness that is Nutella by the jar-full, made meals out of a package of cookies or magically made a whole tub of ice-cream disappear. Ta-da! Such habits resulted in a hefty 20 pound weight gain that took intensive training for a few half marathons and eating a clean athlete’s diet to undo.
My mother still likes to tell the anecdote of how, as a child, I would somehow spy some non-organic food in the kitchen and spontaneously break out into tears. According to her, I would then refuse to eat the food. I find this organic robo-vision hard to believe given other streaks of genius in childhood such as hiding a candy stain on my sheets by preemptively cutting a giant hole into the sheet before handing it over for laundry. Nonetheless, it makes for a wild story.
So let’s pretend I really was destined to appreciate an organic, clean diet, and that my fatty processed foods phase was really just that - a phase. I still end up shopping out of convenience. My work day lunch, almost without exception, comes directly from the Whole Foods salad or hot food bar. All things considered, eating prepared or processed foods probably isn’t much healthier when they contain organic ingredients. I’m beyond sick of dissecting labels trying to find products with ingredients I can pronounce and envision before my inner eye. So…
This January, I will not shop at supermarkets.
One month of food sourced only from local farmers’ markets, or specialty stores like small, independent butchers and bakeries. I’ll run through the self-set rules later this week, but just know that though this goal will be a challenge to adhere to, I am giving myself a few sanity outs. Step 1 of good intention: Made veggie soup (above), so when I get up late on January 1, I don’t fail right off the bat. I even ended the year by learning something new.
And what are your food goals for the new year? Will you join me in this quest for health?
When did food become a required source of entertainment and excitement?
I must admit, I’ve often fallen prey to it myself. Recently, I found myself staring into my fridge lamenting that the wonderful, fresh selection of potatoes, lettuce, etc. was actually “boring”. At that moment, my mother brought me back to reality and kindly pointed out that food is not intended to be a source of entertainment. Duh. Yet, it had eluded me in that moment. I vividly remember my grandparents relishing a boiled potato or a slice of crisp bread with true and pure appreciation every day of their life.
So, what has happened to the times when having food to eat, let alone enough food, was a blessing to be thankful for? When the entertainment from food came not through bright packaging and the made-up stories it tells, but from family meals, conversation, culture, tradition, nature and all other factors that make up a healthy food system?
These days, colorful television advertisements sell happiness and lifestyle as part of processed foods that you can zap into a semi-edible state in seconds, though of course what you buy will look nothing like what you’re sold. Superheroes and toys elevate everything you really should be avoiding into a completely unrelated and unnatural dining experience. Eating has in some ways become an attempt at recreating fast food slogans in your own life. Are you lovin’ it?
Contrary to that very wide-spread problem, California in particular has seen a vibrant revival of an appreciation of real, slow food. With the abundance of farmers markets, excellent restaurants with locally sourced ingredients and the proximity to “America’s salad bowl”, one of the most productive agricultural regions in the US, it has been easy to be swept up in the enthusiasm for healthy eating.
The ironic part of it all is that as I move away from boxed supermarket purchases, I lose not ony the fake, industrialized foods and the fake entertainment they sell, but also gain real excitement about food. Turns out the sheer variety of real foods you can eat is much more exciting than anything a marketing department has made up. I stopped by the small Sigona’s market today, for example, as I missed the farmers markets this weekend, and walked out with a hop and a skip. Who was this person, excited to bite into her walnut-stuffed date, carrying baskets of nuts and fruits for snacking? Who was this woman, excited to take her life’s first bite of fresh fig, admiring its textures and visual beauty, sauteeing her own raw almonds in avocado oil and pink sea salt, marveling at the fun of squashing a ripe, red raspberry onto the ceiling of her mouth? Today, that woman was me, and it still shocks me every time I catch my pure enjoyment of handling fresh foods.In a way, discovering the foods I should have been eating all along makes me feel like an excited child all over again, and that’s a wonderful side effect indeed!
I never had any interest in cooking or how food grew or tasting new flavors unless they came wrapped in branding I recognized, but that’s all changed over the last year. Thank you, California!
What’s the latest thing you’ve tried that has expanded your mind and your tastebuds?
During my mother’s recent visit from Germany, we spent countless hours soaking up food culture and nutrition information, waxing poetic about our family heritage and how much appreciation of and approach to food differs between generations. We watched mind-blowing documentations about the food industry, and cooked up a storm with our much-anticipated California farmers’ market produce.
Other than changing how you yourself eat, though, my mother raised an interesting question: What can we do to change the food culture that permeates America and most of the world? What can we do to contribute to a return to natural, healthful eating that allows us to listen to our bodies as we were always intended to?
Enter some fabulous and worthwhile projects on Kickstarter.com. For those of you who haven’t heard of it before, Kickstarter is a terrific online avenue for projects of all kinds to raise awareness for their idea and funding to make that idea become a reality. You donate to the cause in exchange for a creator-defined piece of the project. It’s like getting to try on the shoes of an angel investor for a day, minus the billion dollar price tag.
I’d like to share a few of the projects that piqued my interest due to their potential for positive influence on different public health areas - whether further increasing our appreciation of fresh and seasonal meals at a new city-rooted restaurant in San Francisco, providing access to fresh fruits and veggies in the now infamous food deserts across America, or documenting the struggle of farmers in Oaxaca, Mexico to maintain the diversity of their crops. In addition to supporting projects you are interested in, campaigns on Kickstarter actually give you cool things in return. Do good, feel good, be rewarded? Alright!
Without further ado, here are a few interesting initiatives to check out:
Please watch the video above to learn more about this exciting new restaurant, scheduled to launch in San Francisco in the fall of this year. The menu will change with the season, with ingredients sourced fresh from local, California-grown farmers’ markets. Basically, you’ll be eating just like nature wants us to. You’ll get to look forward to a fabulous root vegetable menu in the fall, and regain the excitement of the first fresh strawberries next year rather than grabbing the ever-ready and ever-half-frozen strawberries from your supermarket. Need I mention that the fresh, seasonal sourcing will lead to full-bodied flavor explosions? Yes, explosions. That’s right.
If that’s not reason enough to support AQ, consider some of the benefits you could ream from showing your allegiance: May I interest you in a free drink at opening ($10), your name on a brick in the restaurant ($25), a culinary class at the restaurant ($50) or for those who are truly swept away, twice yearly dinners at the restaurant for as long as it is in business ($1500)?
AQ restaurant needs ca. another $21,000 to realize their vision. You can contribute anything from $1 here.
Stockbox aims to address the challenge that families living in food deserts - areas of the US where there are no grocery stores or markets selling fresh produce, but only convenience stores or big-box stores selling packaged foods - face. While many of us California residents are surrounded my organic farmers markets and have the salaries to cover the associated costs, many individuals involved in harvesting the produce do not have access to these luxuries. The same goes for many rural and urban parts of the country.
The Stockbox project is about $11,000 away from being able to open a test pop-up store and food education center in a parking lot in Delridge of Seattle, WA, where many residents must currently go without access to fresh foods or take two different buses to reach the nearest grocery store. I’m particularly impressed with this project because it combines two of the most important factors of changing the way we eat - we need both the education and access to be able to make healthy choices. Without both, we’re stuck in a fruitless fight, pun intended.
Though this truly is a charitable support you should consider giving, there are also perks if interested - reusable grocery bags, limited edition food-focused art prints, exclusive dinner with the founders of Stockbox, etc. Go take a look here.
Support one woman’s quest to document the shift in farming practices as they contrast with the interest of preserving cultural history in Oaxaca, Mexico. Erica Bacon’s journey will result in an essay, photo essay and be suplemented by a collection of native recipes. In exchange for your support, you can choose to receive a postcard from Erica’s travels, a hand-bound copy of her completed documentation, or a home-cooked Oaxacan meal served by Erica herself. To learn more, click here. Erica needs about $400 more to make the documentation of her trip a reality. I can empathize with this cause because doing something similar one day is a passion and a dream of mine. Go Erica!
Certainly, Kickstarter is full of interesting ideas to address the topics of food, public health and travel. Have you seen any particularly though-provoking or entertaining ones? Are you considering supporting any of the above?