Saturday, April 10, 2010

Nourishing the Soul and the Body

But isn't it the body and the soul? Yes, that is indeed the proper colloquial syntax, but a discussion I had with some friends and Vronsky the other night made me wonder that perhaps the reason for many American's schizophrenic relationship with food is that we are putting "soul" ahead of the "body."

Now, believe you me, dear readers, that I am all for an emotionally rewarding relationship with my meals, as was M.F.K. Food should be a sensuous experience, laden with memories and hopefully help create some new ones as well. Food should feed your soul, but its primary function, is and always should be, to give your body the fuel it needs, and I think part of the problem with modern diet is that people sacrifice giving the body the nourishment it needs for the more immediate emotional payoff. Eating for the sake of eating, which in the end, leaves both body and soul unsatisfied.

A friend of Vronsky's and mine, J, is opening a gourmet chicken and fish sandwich shop in Williamsburg (more on this to come!) and being so close to the ground in the food industry, J had some fascinating stories to share about how people impulsively buy bad fast food because of the emotional payoff, not stopping to consider what exactly they are putting in their mouths. Jamie Oliver tries to counter-act this by showing people a whole chicken, and then demonstrating exactly what goes into those chicken McNuggets. Needless to say, not a whole lot of chicken. Why not learn to roast or grill or stir-fry the actual chicken meat? Then, you will actually be nourishing your body, and hopefully your soul as is rewarding, and it will open up doors to different kinds of cuisine, recipes, and styles of food, bringing back the same soulful reward that one used to get from the un-nourishing, but familiar, McNuggets.

I am all for eating what tastes good, what you are craving, but I also have always tried to keep a mind to what my body needs to be at its best. After all, the body and mind are intertwined...if my body feels crappy, I'm not in that great a mood, and if I'm in a bad mood, a don't feel so hot physically either.

So what exactly am I getting at? Besides the classic "mom" mantra of "eat your fruits and veggies," I really do believe that trying to get the four "food groups" in your diet each day is not only healthy and good for you, but I think forces one to explore different options. Get away from that weak little side salad, and try some asparagus or some kale or some beets (me and my beets). For a starch, try some fingerling potatoes. Boil them up until they are 9/10ths cooked with a bit of salt, and then remove from the water with a slotted spoon, coat with olive oil and an Italian seasoning blend, and stick in the oven for about 15-20 minutes on a baking sheet. The potato skin will develop a nice crisp, but the insides will stay soft and delicious.

Looking to integrate more fruit in your diet? Slice up some apples and serve it with spinach, walnuts and some goat cheese for a great salad, or toss in some blueberries and raisins with some plain granola (I like the Bear Naked brand) and greek yorgurt or Stonybrook organic plain yogurt, perhaps drizzle a bit of honey on there too, for a delicious and healthy breakfast.

Put sprouts on your turkey sandwich in addition to lettuce. Stir-fry your chicken with snow peas, onions and some sweet peppers. Maybe even add some water chestnuts! If you have had a long day at work and are reaching for that spaghetti sauce in a jar, toss in some whole tomatoes, quartered, and perhaps some sliced celery and onions, or even some kidney beans to give it a bit more flavor and heft. Explore mushrooms and different types of beans as protein options, or experiment with different ways to prepare chicken. Explore and have fun, and never loose sight of what exactly you are putting it your body. The closer food is to its natural form (whole pieces of meat, fresh produce, non-refined starches) the more fun it is to cook and the more fun for your body to absorb!

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