Barbara: The Joy of Food

IMG_4982First a note: I’m having a hard time keeping up with weekly posts here on Wellness Wednesdays.  Perhaps I’ll post every other Wednesday and you’ll get more substance.  I wrote a pretty crappy blog earlier today, but I hadn’t one of my rare sleepless nights last night and honestly, I phoned that baby in.

But after writing that blog, I started cooking. It was simple stuff, vegetarian tacos with a new base to substitute for ground beef. It’s my mother’s recipe, with chile beans and softly fried corn tortillas drained on paper towels.* I love them, but I haven’t found exactly the right substitute, and I was trying again. The play of cooking restored me and gave me a better idea for a blog.

If you’ve ever read any of my books, you know that I love food and cooking. I love to cook for people. I love to cook for myself. I love browsing farmer’s markets to find the produce that’s just exactly right this week.  I love puttering around with recipes, inventing new ideas, figuring out how to showcase something stunning, like fresh mission figs or the best cantaloupe I’ve ever tasted (which I found last week, by the way, a Rocky Ford (which is only 60 miles away), as big as my head. It smelled like an afternoon filled with sunshine and hummingbirds and tasted like candy, the very essence of summer mornings) or one of my favorite things of all time, baby red potatoes taken six minutes ago out of my garden.

This week, I harvested the first of my potatoes. I never grew them before I had this garden, but Christopher Robin’s mother sent me potato bags from England a couple of years ago, and told me what to do, and I was hooked beyond all reason. I have figured out that it costs me about 3 x as much to grow a pound of potatoes as to buy them, but it doesn’t matter.  This is why:

It’s a hot sunny afternoon and it’s finally The Day. I carry a colander out to the garden with me and clear a spot of weeds and little rocks. I upend the bag and there are the jewels, purple red potatoes, so pristine, so perfect that you’ve never seen the like in your grocery store. They’re all sizes, from fingernail to Texas Roadhouse Spud size, and all of them are cloaked in that bright, tender skin. I handle them carefully, gently, their dewiness easily bruised and injured. I think about people who never eat potatoes because they’ll make you fat, or because they’re too high in carbs, or because they have a high glycemic index (true), and think we are too far away from our food.  If you pluck an ear of corn from a stalk or dig a potato out of the ground or watch a peach ripen all summer long, just waiting for that one, perfect moment, you are invested and respectful of food. You don’t stuff yourself. You don’t overdo it. You don’t throw it away, knowing there is another bag of potatoes at the store, another pile of peaches, another stack of sweet corn at the market.

We have moved a long way from the true joy of food in our current society.  Part of it is our diet diet diet mindset, but most of it comes from being so far from the sources of our food, far away from farms and ranches, far away from backyards bursting with produce and maybe a chicken, from a barn where there was a cow or a goat who gave us milk, far, far, far from the slaughter of a cow or a pig, an elk or a deer, to see us through a long winter.  We have lost a sense of our connection to food, what it really takes to get nutrition to the table and into our bodies, and therefore, we have lost perspective.

Most of us don’t have the land or the inclination to grow all of our own food (and it’s very time consuming to boot!) but we can get to healthier attitudes and get a lot more joy out of food by taking a few steps to be aware of the food we’re eating.  When you’re cutting a zucchini, think about the plant, then the flower, then the tiny baby vegetable, then the hands taking it off the plant and getting it to market.  Think about your eggs, and where the chickens live.  Think about the peaches and where they are growing and who does what to bring it to your table.  Maybe think about growing some tomatoes on a patio or some radishes or potatoes in a pot next year. Put some potted herbs on your kitchen window, or dig up a few cubic feet of grass and put in some vegetables or a fruit tree next year.

And this week, consider heading out to your local farmers’ market. Pick up some stuff that was in the fields a day ago.  Working with what’s in season connects us to the natural rhythms of seasons, and it tastes amazing.

Have you been cruising the farmers’ markets? What’s fresh and great in your neck of the woods? Do you have something getting ripe right now in your garden? What will you do with it? 

*The substitute was the best one so far. Boca ground crumbles stirred with onions and olive oil, then a vegetable bullion cube.  Yes, I know this is not particularly whole-foods or local-food friendly, but one does what one must at times. The tacos are worth it. Here is my mother’s recipe:


Barbara: Eat The Veggies!

We all know we’re supposed to eat more veggies, but it often feels like another chore, another bothersome, unenjoyable thing to add to our list of bothersome, annoying chores.

The weather here has finally been cool and rainy, which we really needed to put out fires and fire danger.  I needed it so that I could get into my garden and pull weeds and check the progress of various things.  The heat and smoke has meant the tomatoes and cucumbers are still stunted, the corn is only calf high, and most of the other veggies are hardly even appearing.  I grow flowers, too, all mixed into my hippie-suburban backyard, though the cats put their collective paws down over chickens.

The wonder of the garden is that many things are still doing well. Beneath the growing vines of some scarlet runner beans were some leftover radishes, fresh radishesand the last of the monster spinach, looking as robust and healthy as Popeye himself. This is an heirloom variety I decided to try, and the leaves are as big as my forearm and very smooth so they’re easy to clean.

As I stood in my kitchen, washing the veggies, I thought about the days and nights, the sunlight and the wind, even the smoke, that had gone into the molecules of the vegetables. How amazing! I took a bite of that big, beautiful purple radish and thought about how the hours of sunlight, the water, the earth and worms moving around it to produce this one radish. By eating it, I was taking in that sunlight, that rain, the days just passed, the moonlight, the birdsong twittering in there. I mixed the spinach into orzo with lemon and garlic for lunch–feeling magnificent about my eating choices.  Who could ever feel badly about eating that food? How nourishing!

That’s how it is with veggies, especially when you can visit the local farm stand or farmers market or grow some in your backyard. Continue reading

Krissie: All About Us

So reality begins afresh and I got on the scale, as promised. 225.3 — down another almost 5 pounds (I’d gone up to 230 point something). So this is a new low, which is pretty amazing considering I’ve been ignoring what I eat.
But now it’s time to behave again, even though we have the committal and guests coming up on Saturday.
I’ll go into more in the next few days, but for now, for this week, here’s my plan.
1. Watch my food again.
2. Catch up with all the writing business stuff I missed
3. Do the revisions that I kept putting off.

Here’s what I will NOT do.
1. Be too hard on myself. I’m not even going to attempt to go to my mother’s apartment today. We’ve made great progress and I need a day off.
2. Let the pressure of too many things overwhelm me. I’ve got so much catching up to do that I know I simply won’t. But I’ll do my best.
3. Force something that’s not happening. If writing is too much I’ll take a break. Ditto the apartment. ditto everything. I’m hoping for warm weather so I can float in the pool and listen to audio books for a breather.
So I need warm weather, a caterer for Saturday (I’m running out of options — everyone’s busy) and calm. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

What’s on your agenda? What do you want to accomplish? Anything you want to avoid? I know that’s a negative goal but it you have the positive ones as well that balances things out.