Well, Katie, one of those changes I was going to make after the New Year (i hate calling them “resolutions,” which are just begging to be unresolution-ized. no, that word is not in spell-check.) was to treat my body more like a temple and less like a bowling alley by eating whole, healing foods. When I eat healthier, my whole family eats healthier, and that seems like a good thing for all of us. So I dusted off a fantastic cookbook I’ve been recommending to everyone but not using myself and got inspired.
Anyway, for Christmas a few years ago, Chris gave me Bittman’s newest cookbook The Food Matters Cookbook. It’s right up my tree-hugging, healthy-eating, but-still-got-to-live-in-the-real-world alley. I love his straightforward, pragmatic approach to what can sometimes be guilt-inducing, unsustainable eating ideals. He knows the health benefits of eating less meat, processed foods, and sugar, but at one point he writes “I’m not perfect, and you won’t be either.” Instead he embraces a method you’re always encouraging me to try: moderation. It’s brilliant! He’s vegan everyday until dinner time and then eats and cooks what he wants. He says it’s fine to use white sugar in cookies instead of squeezing agave nectar out of your own cactus leaves, or whatever I was considering doing. He says that if not being able to afford organic is what’s stopping you from eating your veggies, than don’t buy organic. If you use richer, real ingredients–whole milk, real Parmesan cheese, and real bacon–you will use less becasue the flavors are so strong.
His main emphasis is that people cook their own food. That’s the best thing we can do for our diets. Once we get going in the kitchen (and his recipes are famously fast and simple) we will naturally become more invested in what’s in there, where it came from, and where it’s going. I re-read the intro to the cookbook for inspiration and it’s a summary of his other book by the same title. The main point I get from it is simple to remember and practice: eat more plants and less animal products. It’s better for your body and the environment. This seems like a middle-road approach that most people, no matter what their diet of choice, can agree on.
Chris and I are always playing around with what we eat. We’ve swung every way from vegetarianism to paleo. I’ve experimented with being gluten-free and dairy-free. And I’ve learned valuable things about nutrition from all these extremes, but the one thing they’ve all had in common is that, for our family and lifestyle anyway, they aren’t sustainable for longer than a few months. But I do take what I learned from each style and apply it to Bittman’s philosophy.
For example, on the paleo diet, there isn’t much choice for breakfast if you only look at traditional breakfast foods. So we started having vegetables at breakfast every day. (My favorite veggies at breakfast are all fast and green: broccoli, asparagus, and brussels sprouts.) This works right into Bittman’s plan, who points out that veggies are the one thing that should show up at every meal. You know I’m not a fan of children’s menus–I think it’s doing a disservice to kids if you assume for them that won’t want to try or like healthy “grown-up” food. Kids at our place eat the same things adults do. If they don’t have teeth, we stick the meal in the blender. This is when serving lots of veggies is great for the kids; it gives them some choice. I let them pick one they can try and say “no thank-you” to, and this helps them feel like they have a say.
So, our first breakfast with Food Matters was this: sauteed asparagus, sweet brown rice porridge with blueberries, (better than oatmeal, with a little milk, sugar, and vanilla), and boiled eggs with lemon and olive oil on top. And, I’m sorry to rub it in, but fresh-squeezed OJ from the oranges on our tree. Yum!
I know you make great stuff, too, like your Lemony Cous-Cous Salad and Wedding-Shower Egg Bake. Let me know what works for you guys when it comes to keepin’ it real in the kitchen. When necessary, maybe we can tweak some recipes to make Mark proud…