Monday, July 25, 2011

I've forgotten how to feed myself.

Recently I discovered a lecture by Evita Ochel, a holistic nutritionist. She takes on the question of what one should be eating, and her answer is overwhelmingly this: plant foods, whether it be vegetables, fruits, or nuts and seeds. She's particularly a fan of raw foods. If you have time to watch the video, I recommend it. Even if you don't think you could adhere to that kind of diet all the time, there are some wise tidbits within.

But even though the video was intended to quell my fears about what I should be eating, it only got me started down a line of thought that has always defeated me: who is right in this debate? What should I be eating?

Evita is right: everyone should be eating more plants. Vegetarians, for example, don't suffer from the "diseases of civilization" like heart disease or diabetes, and I've even heard that they have better sex drives! (Although this might be a sexy way of just saying that their health is better overall.)

However, awareness of the advantages, both environmental and physical, of eating locally is only growing. I started out my investigation into local foods with Barbara Kingsolver's delightful Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, in which she describes her family's year of eating only foods from the 100-mile radius around her small farm. As jealous of her description of rows and rows of tomatos makes me, she's aware that not everyone has access to land or the time to garden on such a large scale. I like this. Nobody's going to listen to someone who makes them feel bad for not owning a farm. You can read about some of the benefits of local food here, although it's just a list for starters. Some of the things that have pushed me to eat locally in recent months are local food's lighter carbon and pesticide footprints, as well as assurance that the hens laying my tasty eggs are pretty happy gals. I call that food karma. If you haven't been to the farmer's market lately, now is one of the best times to go! There is a wide selection of meat and dairy, and many, many vegetables are in season. The growing season is a time of feasting for me and Mr. Robert.

But that's the thing--the growing season has to end, and then it's not really possible for one to eat raw vegetables if you're trying to eat more locally. So do you opt for organic veggies that have been flown thousands of miles (at times) or do you break out the things that are still around in December, like canned veg you've put up, grains, meat and dairy?

There are almost as many diets as there are cultures--the Eskimos' traditional diet features almost entirely animal fats, for example. Yet they still thrived. I think this is probably because these foods weren't Frankenstiens, like many available today. The list of dangers is endless, from untested food additives to GMOs to pesticides. Often I find myself knowing more what I shouldn't eat than what I should. It's the in between questions that are harder: is my pure Jersey cow milk bad for me like tainted milk? Should I buy these bright peppers from California when it's winter and I'm craving something fresh? Should I risk offending my host because I don't know where their meat came from?

Food confusion may be as modern as a sack of Monsanto soybeans. For now, I'm just going to do the best I can and the things that make my body feel the best! It's amazing what you can learn when you tune in--I stopped drinking diet soda because I finally noticed that I had a headache after each bottle--yuck. I wonder what was happening in my poor little brain.

Robert and I are planning to post some locally-sourced meals here soon, so stay tuned.

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