The Challenge of Three Food Resolutions
by Sandra Brandt
As I write this for the article submission deadline, we are still experiencing the beauty of unexpectedly mild autumn weather. It seems like much too soon to make any New Year’s resolutions. But then one might say, quickly resolved, quickly forgotten. So why not start thinking about it well in advance? Indeed, why not start practicing in advance? Anytime is a good time to start.
We live in an era of fad diets, where great resolve and great changes are embarked on at almost a moment’s notice, or at least at the mere publication of yet another new diet book, complete with compelling testimonials, often including famous personalities. The resolve and the changes are also often abandoned just as quickly, or else they just tend to quietly fade away, or even come and go, keeping hopefuls believing that sooner or later it will all miraculously come together and the promised results will be realized.
Many people have been impressed with and participated in the “David Suzuki Nature Challenge,” which encourages everyone to make one or more specific commitments to interacting with the world around them in a more ecologically-friendly and sustainable way. To paraphrase the Tao Te Ching, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” and then one more, and one more…
So how about an ecological food challenge? The ideas are familiar, but the actions take some focused intention commitment. Perhaps one could start with committing to changing priorities for one meal a week and gradually expand from there.
Here are my top three (simple but not always easy) food resolutions I would like to practice living by:
1. EAT LOCAL
This is a trendy food idea these days. But have the big box purveyors of imported foods gone out of business yet? Far from it. We’ve got a long way to go in making local eating an established way of life. Patronizing your local Farmers’ Market (some operate year round), Community Shared Agriculture (CSAs), shopping at retail stores that deliberately give space to local products, and making direct purchases from local producers—all these can take a bit of extra energy and determination. But the information and the goods are definitely accessible with a bit of research.
2. EAT SEASONAL FOODS
We all know that walking through a supermarket doesn’t give one much of an idea of what foods are in season in one’s own part of the world at any particular time of year. But you can tune into this information with learning and practice, and of course it goes hand in hand with resolution #1 above. And even if you don’t yet have easy local access to the full range of desired foods and have to rely on imported produce, it is still a good idea to consciously pick out items that would typically be available (either fresh or preserved in some way) in your locality at that particular time. Both local and seasonally-appropriate foods tend to harmonize better with our body’s energy, resulting in generally better health, including physical and emotional adaptation to each season in daily life.
3. MINIMIZE PACKAGING
I am often surprised by how easy it is to be persuaded to buy a food item based on an attractive package, and then when I use it, experience the regret of how much waste the packaging creates. We are often advised to read the ingredient list before making food product purchases. But we don’t often remember that there was a time, only decades ago, when ingredient lists weren’t an issue because it was more common to buy the single ingredients as staples, often in bulk with minimal packaging requirements, and then cook one’s own food dishes at home. Imagine not having to pore over all that ultra fine print on packages and still wondering what on earth many of the ingredients are! It’s a project in itself, but becoming more conscious of bringing your own shopping bags/boxes and even saving and reusing produce bags is a rewarding endeavour. Once you get used to it, it can become quite habit forming. Of course, this applies equally to non-food purchases.
Here is one exercise in combining these good intentions with deliberate action… this can provide great eating for a winter weekend with a high probability of various leftovers to incorporate into coming weekday meals:
The Easy Going Weekend Chicken
This works really well in a large 7-quart crock pot/slow cooker, but can be adapted to stove top and oven use too. For best results, start with a locally produced, free range chicken.
- Place a large chicken, preferably 7 to 8 lbs, in the slow cooker. (Or use two small chickens.) Cover and cook at the high heat setting for about 4 hours, OR at low heat for about 8 hours (great for overnight cooking) until well done and very tender. When done, let cool enough to handle. Remove meat from bones. Plan a meal around the chicken meat, preferably using some of the juices for sauce or gravy which there will be a generous quantity of in the pot. You’ll probably have enough for another meal too, such as a chicken stew.
- After de-boning, place all the non-meat components, including bones, skin, and gristle back into the pot, adding to it any leftover juices from cooking the chicken. This allows you to get the maximum food nutrition out of a chicken with minimal waste. Throw in some turkey bones and scraps too if you’ve saved them in the freezer from your holiday meals. Add enough water to cover all, along with a few tbsp raw apple cider vinegar. Cover and simmer on low heat for a full day or so, when the bones should have softened up nicely due to leaching the minerals into the broth. Strain this broth, which is very rich in immune-enhancing factors, as well as the minerals and other nutrients. Ready for soup making!
- After straining, pour some or all of the broth back into the slow cooker. Add some chopped onions and seasonal root vegetables and dried herbs (which you may have squirreled away from the past summer’s local harvest) and some unrefined salt for added mineral value and enriching the flavours. For a heartier soup, add a handful or two of some grains and legumes, such as rice, quinoa, and lentils, and leftover bits of chicken. Cover and simmer on low heat for up to a couple of hours, or until all ingredients are cooked tender.
Note: you may want to separate the fat from the broth before making soup (easy to do when chilled), but if you do, be sure to use at least some of it in the soup to enrich the flavours and all around nutritional goodness of the soup.
Leftover soup may be refrigerated for extra meals during the week, or for thermos lunches. All the components of this project, including chicken meat, broth and soup, can also be frozen in meal size portions for later use.
Let’s raise a mug of steaming broth to another year of healthy satisfying food!
Note: This article is reprinted from January/February 2011 WHOLifE Journal.
Sandra Brandt has had a lifelong interest in whole natural foods. She is located in Regina, where she is available for holistic cooking and nutrition workshops. She can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (306) 359-1732.