Sunday, March 22, 2009
“Gourmandism is an impassioned, considered, and habitual preference for whatever pleases the taste. It is an enemy of overindulgence; any man who eats too much or grows too drunk risks being expelled from its army of disciples.”
-Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, from The Physiology of Taste
It’s been some time since I’ve last posted to this blog. The reason for this is that the thoughts and experiences that I’ve had on food recently follow a very different theme then what’s preceded. I think that in order to transition, I should offer up an explanation.
With gluttony as a current culinary trend, and my own hunger to taste and try every artisanal pastry and locally produced pork product that I can get my hands on (not to mention grower champagnes and hand crafted cocktails) - my body, more than my appetite really, decided that now would be a good time for a break. So I offer these new taste experiences and intellectual discoveries up in this blog as a “palate cleanser,” if you will. My own cleansing has taken various forms, eventually (I hope) evolving into a way of eating that is more creative, exciting and healthy than it was before.
First of all, let me say that years ago, after travels throughout the U.S., Europe and South America, I began to think about how homogenous the western diet is. This culture primarily subsists on meat, cheese and bread (“Meat Cheese Bread” happens to be the name of the latest gourmet deli here in Portland), often loaded (polluted, in my opinion) with some form of sugar. You only have to walk into a roadside mini-mart, neighborhood deli, or attempt to find a restaurant with entrees missing these components to see this.
You may have noticed that food intolerances (gluten, milk, etc.) and allergies (wheat, peanuts, soy, bananas, etc., etc.) are becoming increasingly common, and it seems, prevalent. I have many friends myself who struggle with these things. I find this all incredibly intriguing (piqued by what I’ve read in recent years about industrial farming and agriculture). And apparently, so do many physicians, as a study in 2003 of over 13,000 Americans found 1 in 133 gluten-intolerant. I myself have experienced digestive “issues” shall we say, which prompted me to try out life without gluten (this means no wheat, rye, spelt or oats, unless they’re certified gluten free). Not easy. I could go into my own personal findings but let’s just say I feel and look much better.
Whether you have food allergies or not, think for everyone, it is important to your health and vitality to diversify your diet. Mix it up, cook something you never have before; buy one of those really exotic looking vegetables that you can’t identify at the farmer’s market. That’s been a mission of mine for a while—fascinated by those beautiful, odd vegetables like kohlrabi, sunchokes, kabocha squash and romanesco.
I find it so interesting how many quick diet books are still being written, products and drugs for weight loss are on the market. I believe that food is medicine and when you’re feeding your body what it needs, you look slimmer and more attractive for it. And, this usually centers around the avoidance of sugar, alchohol and gluten grains. One can reflect on their own diet and feelings after eating these things to realize that. It is baffling to me that we are all still searching for easier fixes, considering that Brillat-Savarin came to this conclusion almost two hundred years ago. He noted this all the way back in 1825, in the Physiology of Taste, after conversations at the table with many overweight acquaintances who only wanted more bread, potatoes and rice than they had on their plates. “And it is from such dialogues that I made clear to myself a theory which I had formed quite apart from its human connections, that the principal cause of any fatty corpulence is always a diet overloaded with starchy and farinaceous elements...”
Most of this probably comes from my own struggle - if it were healthy for me, there’s a good chance I would just live on pastries (a variety of sweet and savory, of course). Unfortunately, this has proved to be the opposite of what feels good for my body, so I began searching for alternatives. This has been difficult, yet at the same time, fulfilling. It has required A LOT of cooking. The challenge of this, for those of you who are “epicurious” like myself, is really exciting. Without these foods in easy reach (or recipes for that matter), I’ve had to create many of my own, and have come with some surprisingly delicious dishes and flavor combinations. Some would call all of this work, but it’s actually been a lot of fun. So, to follow will be some of my new taste discoveries and recipes for healthier living. Don’t worry, I still go out to eat a lot, and enjoy my fair share of pork belly and sausage, so I’ll still write about that too...