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rhyme and reason

December 29, 2009

Since my blog is still pretty new I thought I’d discuss a little about why I eat what I do.

I grew up on the coast and always liked seafood but never liked chicken, beef, eggs, or milk.  As I became aware of where my food came from, I became uncomfortable eating flesh.  In junior high school I officially deemed myself a vegetarian.  I gave up fish but included dairy in my diet and continued to eat eggs (as long as I couldn’t taste them).  Initially, I was not the healthiest vegetarian.  My mother used to refer to me as “the vegetarian who doesn’t eat vegetables.” 

When I was still vegetarian after going off to college, my family finally stopped thinking my vegetarianism was a “phase.”  My aunt bought me a book about vegetarian nutrition for Christmas, which I got around to reading the following summer.  I loved the book and changed my diet to include vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.  I replaced soda with water.

Through the years I have brought dairy, eggs, and fish in and out of my life.  At this point in my life, I eat occasional dairy, mostly in the form of local goat cheese.  For me, I need to be comfortable with the source of my food.  Last year there was an episode of Top Chef (season Fabio) that was filmed at Blue Hill Farm.  The day after the episode aired I was amazed when several of my omnivorous friends commented on how disgusted they were by the episode.  If I could eat a steak, enjoy it and be at peace with where it came from, I would eat it.  But I’m not, so I don’t.  I am, on the other hand, perfectly comfortable sprinkling chevre from a local farm, which I can visit any day of the week, on my homemade pizza. 

Speaking of local farms, I am obsessed with farmer’s markets.  I love meeting local farmers, trying varieties of vegetables I’ve never had before, and crafting a gourmet meal out of my fresh market finds.  We have a small yard and a garden of our own; although I am not the best gardener (more on that when I discuss my goals for 2010).  Lucky for me you can watch kale grow whether or not you remember to weed and water, so I do enjoy walking out into the morning dew and cutting kale for smoothies during the summer and fall.

I worked as a waitress in “fine-dining” restaurants through college and during my first year as a mommy (so I didn’t have to work full-time at my day job).  Spending a lot of time around well crafted food broadened my palette (for wine as wellJ) and nurtured my love of cooking.  I love turning whole unadulterated foods into a divine dinner.  I enjoy the processes of cutting vegetables, soaking beans, and kneading bread.  I believe health starts with food preparation; our digestive process starts in the preparation phase as well when our salivary glands begin to produce digestive juices at the sight and smell of ingredients. 

In terms of ingredients, I eat pretty much any non-meat whole food.  I eat potatoes but skip splenda.  I try to avoid soy protein isolate but include less processed fermented soy products (tofu and tempeh) in my diet.  More or less, I eat with the seasons; a lot of soups and roasted vegetables in the winter, more salads, fresh fruit, and smoothies in the summer.  I have a two year old and work full time so I certainly do buy crackers and granola; so I look for short, recognizable ingredient lists in my processed food purchases.

I’m not perfect by any means.  I don’t think it’s healthy to stress out about food or their roots to a point where it takes over my life.  If I go out to dinner with my husband or am traveling for work I may consume a little conventionally produced dairy from the other side of the country.  Likewise I don’t eat white flour or sugar regularly but I will definitely eat a piece of cake at my best friend’s wedding. 

My advice to friends who are trying to eat healthier or lose a few pounds is to be more conscious about what you’re eating as well as what you’re not.  Instead of starting out with a rule about not eating bread, try setting a goal of eating vegetables with every meal.  When your tummy is full of nutritious whole foods, you won’t miss the empty calories.  And, in my experience, when you approach your food choices consciously you feel more emotionally satisfied as well.

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