Keeping It Interesting
One of the complaints of long time whole-food eaters is how to keep the diet interesting, especially for those who eat whole, non-processed foods nearly 100% of the time. As people get away from the palette-numbing quality of processed foods they taste more subtleties in it. And with that often comes a desire to experience an even broader range of tastes and textures. I recently discovered the richness of nigiri sushi and the subtle tastes of high-quality fresh fish. The Japanese really hit upon something with the amazing and yet simplistic arrays of tastes and textures in raw fish. It’s an endless delight when the fish is fresh. The taste of a sea urchin varies from bay to bay and month to month depending on water temperature, season, the type of plants available and who knows what other factors. The same can be said of just about every food including freshly-picked vegetables and pasture-raised animals. Most of you have probably experienced the mouth-watering tastes of heirloom tomatoes right off of the vine. Even heirloom garlic and onions have subtleties to offer. However, after eating the same thing again and again, even eating nigiri and freshly picked vegetables can get old. So how do we mix things up to make it interesting and fun?
I see a few ways to accomplish this: find new raw ingredients, combine the same ingredients in different ways (recipes) and remove distractions when eating.
If you’re accustomed to grocery store vegetables you’re in for a treat when you sample fresh vegetables at a farmer’s market. These are typically held on weekends but many towns have them on a weekday as well. Most farmers will let you sample their produce before purchasing and I encourage you to do this. Going from store bought salad ingredients to farmer’s market ones will be like eating a completely different salad. And fresher produce has far more nutrients than the ones shipped on a truck and then layed out for who knows how long in the produce section.
Foraging for wild greens and vegetables, mushrooms, and shellfish is fun and rewarding. Look for a local foraging group to join or purchase a foraging book with good illustrations and try it on your own. Do be careful with mushrooms. Some poisonous species resemble edible ones so for mushrooms it is probably best to go with someone who is experienced. Again you will find a deeper subtlety of flavors in foraged food and the satisfaction of getting it yourself instead of relying on a distribution network.
Hunting gets a bad rap in many parts of the USA especially in the blue states. There’s a perception, sometimes substantiated, that hunters are crass and kill merely for sport rather than sustenance. The bad hunters are a minority and just because you hunt doesn’t make you crass and immoral. With a reverent and respectful attitude hunting is relatively defensible compared to eating factory-farmed animals. This is assuming that you are an accurate shooter and will train yourself well enough to avoid accidentally injuring or maiming an animal, rather than immediately killing it. We are the progeny of a multi-millennial tradition of hunting. We evolved to hunt. It is in our DNA. There are many steps to take before you can hunt and appropriately so given the sacredness of killing for food. Unless you know someone with access to good hunting territory it’s expensive to pay for access and an experienced guide.
Another way to experience the same food differently is to eat mindfully. Eating can be approached as if it were a sacred act. This means not just eating slowly but with an intent to open yourself to sensing the way food changes flavor as its chewed. This can only be done in the absence of typical distractions such as television, internet and even talking with other people. If you’re in the habit of focusing on something else while you eat it takes a bit of discipline to sit down by yourself and keep all the typical distractions shut off. If you can do this you will probably garner more satisfaction out of the food you’re eating. You will be eating consciously and are less likely to overeat. Mindful eating is a surprisingly rich and complex area. One blog plug cannot do it justice. A good mindful eating book is Mindful Eating by Jan Chozen Bays.
There are an endless number of great recipes and cookbooks to choose from. Lately I’ve been cooking out of Michelle Tam’s Nom Nom Paleo book. Investing time and energy into new recipes is an easy way to get out of a food rut and liven things up again.