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What we eat…

06 Nov

Growing up, some vegetables were a strict no-no almost always and some were forbidden on upvas(fasting) and other auspicious days, as my parents practiced a modified (modern?) form of saatvic diet. Of course, when there were strict rules about vegetables, the words eggs and meat were not even uttered. So, it is not very surprising that “we are what we eat” is ingrained in my psyche, though I didn’t give it too much thought until recently.

As cooking and food slowly piqued my interest, I wanted to know more about what I (and we as a family) are eating. That led me into looking for Farmers’ markets and local produce stores in my neighborhood where I could get vegetables and fruits instead of going to super-market chains. I started to shun even the organic super-markets as I got to know about food miles. That’s when I realized sometimes it is fine to eat the non-organic locally available in-season fruit, instead of an organic one transported all the way from Brazil or Australia. As with many other things in life, it is all about making the right choice.

Then, I got to read Michael Pollan and his many books but the one that I truly love is “Food Rules“. As the tagline says, it is truly an eater’s manual and every eater should read this book. It is one of those no-nonsense books that is not based on any new fancy studies which will be discredited 10 or 20 years on, but on centuries-old traditions from across the world. To make it easier for the reader, Michael lays out a set of rules that are easy to follow like:
a) Shop at the edges of the supermarket as fresh foods like vegetables, diary, meat are laid out here and not in the center aisles which are filled with processed junk
b) Avoid ingredients that you don’t understand or recognize – some are preservatives, some are stabilizers and you don’t know the long-term effect of these ingredients, so stay safe and avoid them. Better yet, if you don’t use them in your kitchen, why bother buying food with these ingredients?
c) Avoid any food your grand-mom (or great grand-mom) won’t recognize – as these are probably not from nature but from a food processing plant and better to avoid.
You get the drift. There are more rules in the list, which are also fairly easy to follow.

Reading all this made me realize, unless we grow our own food or live closer to where our food is grown, we will never really know what we eat and that is when I came across this talk by Joel Salatin of PolyFace Farms:
 

 

He has a very interesting story and an important message to say and he conveys that beautifully. I urge all you readers to listen to his talk and think about whether we are leaving the world as a better place than the one we inherited? For the last few generations, we probably did not but I don’t think we can continue like this for long…

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12 Comments

Posted by on November 6, 2011 in General

 

12 responses to “What we eat…

  1. zephyr

    November 7, 2011 at 3:48 AM

    That is an interesting observation. We are buying more and more processed food to save time, but in the process paying a big price both literally and figuratively. The video was too long and I heard it in snatches. but the link on food miles was good.

    I agree with Pollan’s views about buying stuff. I for one, never buy vegetables that I know are not in season, no matter how appealing they are. We eat the same cauliflower, cabbage, beans, carrots and peas taking different avatars through the week. And oh, palak and methi too 🙂

     
  2. zephyr

    November 7, 2011 at 3:49 AM

    That is an interesting observation. We are buying more and more processed food to save time, but in the process paying a big price both literally and figuratively. The video was too long and I heard it in snatches. but the link on food miles was good.

    I agree with Pollan’s views about buying stuff. I for one, never buy vegetables that I know are not in season, no matter how appealing they are. We eat the same cauliflower, cabbage, beans, carrots and peas taking different avatars through the week. And oh, palak and methi too — all through the winter. 🙂

     
    • A-kay

      November 7, 2011 at 10:42 AM

      I know it is a long video, but do take the time to watch it (in parts, if need be), zephyr. I liked his views and a lot of it are not very different from the centuries-old wisdom prevalent in India. Another video worth taking the time for is on Sugar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM. I am trying to stop eating sugar after watching this, not very successful given my sweet tooth, but hopefully will get there some day.

      Eating seasonal vegetables also makes sure you get fresher produce, compared to the ones that are refrigerated and stored for god knows how long. Not sure about now, but I remember amma buying veggies from the vendors on the street which means you get only seasonal vegetables. With the advent of super-market stores in India, am sure that is changing too. Apart from the squashes and green vegetables and fruits, I am really not sure when what is in season, although I am making more of an effort of late.

       
  3. shy

    November 7, 2011 at 6:29 AM

    pretty loaded post akay..very informative. will watch the video later and will check out the book.
    thanks for the tips/ links/ video adn the post itself:)

     
    • A-kay

      November 7, 2011 at 10:43 AM

      Girl, thank you for making me write on this. This post should have been dedicated to you, as you know. I forgot to mention that when I wrote the post, though.

       
  4. shy

    November 8, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    is it plums or prunes in the fruit tray pic?looks yummm

    hahha..you can update the blog with ‘dedication’ at the top with flashing RED in BIG BOLD LETTERS:)

     
    • A-kay

      November 8, 2011 at 2:05 PM

      Neither. These are jujubes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jujube) that I found in the Farmer’s Market last weekend.

      You are never the one to shy away from attention, aren’t you? 🙂

       
  5. Suman

    November 9, 2011 at 6:49 AM

    Please tell me more about – you are what you eat. I have heard it several times but never really understood the essence.

    Agreed – buying seasonal produce from the local shop versus the chain store is ideal, but personally we have not found it practical – you don’t get everything under one roof and often they tend to be expensive in terms of money, time and efforts! May be it’s a questioning of weaving into our routine!

     
    • A-kay

      November 11, 2011 at 2:30 PM

      Sorry Suman for not responding sooner. I will definitely keep you posted through this blog (or email you, if I read an interesting article). Your source of energy comes from food and if you are not conscious of what you put inside, then your body is going to react to it as it can and it is not always pleasant. Have you ever stopped to wonder why there are so many folks with diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases than ever before and to a large extent, it boils down to our eating habits and life-style. We eat a food that is richer than our ancestors ever-did with a life-style that is sedantary than our ancestors’ – double trouble, right there!

      You need not go to Farmer’s market, but am sure there are produce shops that carry local-grown vegetables and fruits and also, it helps if you stay in tune with what is in season. I agree that it is not easy, but between my local produce shop (if I don’t go to Farmer’s market) and Trader Joe’s, I pretty much get everything that I need in terms of groceries. There is an occasional errand-run to the local Desi store (rice, legumes etc) or Safeway, but that is not very often. So, I would suggest you experiment a little bit, toy with a few stores and routines, and settle with the one that works best for you. Hope that helps.

       
  6. UL

    November 11, 2011 at 2:06 AM

    lots to say on this…lots and lots, maybe i shall make a post of it, but i am marking this one for future references…i have been contemplating farmer’s markets more and more recently…maybe you will tip me over…as Suman says, anything you find more on this let me know…

     
    • A-kay

      November 11, 2011 at 2:34 PM

      You should make a post of it and I would love to hear your POV. I will write more as I read, learn and experience more.

       
  7. Anamika

    November 12, 2011 at 7:02 AM

    @Akay – nice informative post. Thanks for sharing those ideas and link. Could not keep LOL on Jujube as it reminds me of the Super Star hit dialogue once upon a time – ithellam enakku jujube..not sure which movie!

     

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