Monday, February 6, 2012

A Fondness for Food

Some articles pop-up out of the search engines, by the luck of the spiderbots and the online draw; this article I wrote for Karen Hanrahan of Best of Mother Earth, in June '08 keeps surging across cyberspace , so I thought that I would revive it, I mean revise sing the song of reinforcement to the green choir, friends who already know how to live well—but need reassurance or perfect reincarnation.

The original writing still exists in its other form:


Food has been on man’s mind ever since man has had a brain. Or so i assume. The act of feeding is a primordial animal need and concern, just ask any Frenchman.. Some cultures center on different aspects of eating; Asians have traditionally searched the balance of nutrients, as in Yin and Yang and its medicinal effects upon the body. Latin peoples have sought deep joy around family feasts. Jivaros have crystallized tribal unity around the dinner ritual, your head or mine? Sorry for interjecting terrible anthropological humor in the subject, but food is a serious topic, yes, yes ask any French chef <not know for humor>.

Movies have filled the box office on the single food theme, beginning with the 1987 Danish classic Babette's Feast, to deliciously portray an extravagant social feat. “Soul Food”, then the 2001 Tortilla Soup, and onto “ Like Water for Chocolate”.  Tears and saliva spilled over popcorn.
Obsessive food compulsion has permeated regional folklore, I was always puzzled by the American dictum of “ she must be pregnant; she craves pickles and ice-cream” I wondered how all the other women in the rest of the world could find out if they were with child if they had no such foods to clue them in? The survival of the species must be at stake....

The number of cook-books in bookstores and on neighbor's shelves surprised me as well, especially when the proud cooks displayed an amazing lack of culinary skills—despite the educational material at hand right there with glossy full page photos and how to forks at ready!..Perhaps the difference between the bibliophile and the instinctual cook was never so evident. I felt like saying, please throw the book in the stew, add pepper and salt with two bay leaves and a sprig of parsley.

Even more shocking to me as a new immigrant was the fact that a person of a 'certain age' would reach for the cook's bible to make pancakes, pancakes or pasta? And men were said to be able to boil water and barbecue a perfectly good cut of beef to death.

Of course when I was offered a Fannie Farmer's revised edition of her famous cook-book as a wedding present, I cried, my throat closed, my eyes shut and I spent the longest seclusion in recorded bathroom history. I was convinced that someone believed me inept and un-marriageable. Looking through shelves at the super-market, I am sure that many high school graduates are aiming for a total misuse of their home economics curriculum. There is so much shelf space devoted to  processed artificially prepared foodstuffs that it is increasingly difficult to find pure ingredients to nourish body and mind.

Food is more than something to chew on, animal instinct insures proper selection. Newly developed modern science has diverged from nature in the art of supplying wellness to society, consumers. Folklore used to be a vehicle of long held knowledge, but the diaspora has disseminated and confused the principles of food as medicine. When the Jewish philosopher physician Maimonides found chicken soup to be a cure for such respiratory problems as asthma, he did not know that scientists would corroborate his theories, eight centuries hence.

When the Egyptians worshiped the trusty garlic plant, they only had empirical savvy about its capacity to treat cryptoccocal meningitis. Then Pliny the elder, the Roman do gooder found it to be beneficial for thinning the blood, (among its many properties). I can just see an Italian mother serving garlic laden sauce to her ailing family, “eat and your Tuberculosis will get better”, well actually, researchers have indeed proven the efficacy of allicin against myco-bacterium Avium and especially as treatment for TB.

So what do the rest of us do on a regular day to improve our food intake? If it were only an act of nutrition, we’d trot over to some fast food place and stuff something in the dotted line that says "open face- insert here”, and presto, human is fed (up). I do know folks who would casually perform this soulless routine as feeding time. They can also simultaneously hold a conversation with co-workers and hold a cell phone by other ear. Is this a diminished ritual or a multitasking feat?

Attitude holds power in the pursuit of wellness, starting from the selection of fresh locally grown produce to the preparation of the food,. The connectivity between the supplier and the consumer can extend the value of the meal. Ever
since i was tall enough to order, I had a respectful relationship with the family butcher, i would stretch up and ask for my father’s preferred cuts over the market’s marble counters. Nothing but the best for those who appreciate quality. In this country we trust our local butcher at Hy-Vee, we treasure this although we seldom use the privilege.

Farmers markets provide joy, the anticipation of organic produce in a direct path to your table adds an essential pleasure to mere consumption. Green grocers do present a small array of locally grown produce. Here in the Midwest, Amish farmers offer seasonal vegetables, sorry, I grow my own, and drown in green gifts come harvest time, I swear I should not grow any squash, but then, friends may not grow any either and i' d be virtually squashless.

There is no evident continuity in the plastic wrapped processed meat or canned veges, the ultimate product has been intercepted by an army of middlemen on the search for rapid profits and long shelf life. Laboratories have provided clues to sensory enhancement and whole generations have been addicted to artificial sweeteners and flavors. The palate is fooled by clever additives and sweet mimicry of HFCs, but the body is not fooled my dear!

Just check the occurrence of common illness and related cause and effect of malnutrition.You will be able to correlate the lack of fiber to that digestive problem, or worse. Better serve a colorful palette of deep orange, yellows and purples to ward off skin and eye problems, build preventive immunity with deep shiny greens and yellows, add fruits of matching hues and be certain that between the crayon worthy dinners and a chew worthy cup of whole grain food, the doctor will still have enough patients, and you'll have money left for fun—or more real food.. i wish i had a handy camera to show and tell...

Hippocrates wrote " let food be your medicine”, he knew of the complexity of active phyto-nutrients in ordinary ingredients. A return to natural foods and carefully processed supplements would ease the health crisis in developed countries. Immune systems need the whole range of vitamins and minerals from a variety of plants and elements. Modern pharmacology has cleaved a divide between food and drugs, while the forty previous centuries had connected the art and science of food as wellness. Inseparably so.

The body knows, the nose knows.

take your senses on a daily trip to the markets and grow some primal instinct at the heart of your nourishment. Go on a window shopping tour of gourmet shops, buy small jars or pack of spices, your happy table will tell you stories to fill more than the stomach. There is a glow about the well fed person; and nature holds the mystery.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Miss Nadine!
    Just checking in to see how your new blog is coming along! Looking good! :)