Passionate Affair

“In this restaurant,” says Madame, “cuisine is not an old, tired marriage, it is a passionate affair of the heart.”

Madame Mallory is played by Helen Mirren, in the 2014 movie, “The Hundred Foot Journey”. Set and filmed in the South of France, this movie ignites my passion for food and love; and the interconnected mysteries of both.

Reminiscent of “Chocolat”, filmed in Flavigny-sur-Ozerain in Eastern France and released in 2000, the filming of the food was incredible in both films, (same director). You could almost taste it. And that says something, because the author of “Chocolat”, Joanne Harrish, pays particular attention to food descriptions in many of her books, “Blackberry Wine”, being one of my all time favorites.

“A Good Year”, filmed in Provence and “Julie and Julia”, filmed in Paris, (for the French locations), both make me want to jump on a plane and head to France. Of course, I can’t practically do that. But I own a copy of “The Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child, way too many strange recipes. Or are they?

Some time ago I bought a book called, “200 Skills Every Cook Must Have”, mostly for my son. I hope he will be inspired at some point to really dig into cooking. As I looked through the book just now I realized, there is a lot for me to learn as well. And maybe mastering the basic sauces, is not a bad idea. I’m competent, and can follow most recipes, but to really be good, you do need to master these basics. They need to be second nature. Then it is so much easier to create something new in the kitchen. Which is ultimately what I want to be able to do.

While it is not super easy to learn a complicated recipe from a book, I think if you have the right passion it can be done. In “The 100 Foot Journey”, the young sous chef explains how to master the 5 basic sauces, “You must find them in your heart. Then bring them to your pots”.

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
-Virginia Woolf

That is where it ends up for me. Food is at the centre of everything worth having or being in life. I’ve been somewhat shy to say that before. Even though everyone agrees that food is the very foundational building block of life, we tend to be careless with food. Relegating it to a mere energy source and something that is only required, but not necessarily enjoyed.

Maybe some people did not experience the passion in food at a young age. Their families did not appreciate and cultivate the preparation of food. But even in that case, (my Mother had an average 1980’s love of food), you can find your way back home through food. You can find the love that is there with all the cooks who have come before you.

It is worth the journey.

Too much

Tuesday night I saw a movie called “Forks Over Knives”. I am not one to blindly accept what I see on TV, but if the facts being presented in this movie are true, (I will research more to determine my thoughts on that), then my family and I need to examine our intake of animal protein and processed foods.

My husband likes to point out that humans are omnivores. We are meant to eat both plants and animals, but the actual definition of the word is more than that.

Omnivores (from Latin: omni, meaning “all, everything”; vorare, “to devour”) are species that eat both plants and animal material as their primary food source. They often are opportunistic, general feeders not specifically adapted to eating and digesting either meat or plant material primarily. Many depend on a suitable mix of animal and plant food for long-term good health and reproduction.

Opportunistic is a word I like here. To me that means variety. We are not meant to eat either plants or animals primarily. Now let’s look at the definition of whole foods:

Whole foods are foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible, before being consumed. Whole foods typically do not contain added ingredients, such as salt, carbohydrates, or fat. Examples of whole foods include unpolished grains, beans, fruits, vegetables and non-homogenized dairy products. Originally all human food was whole food.

If you ask our collective common sense, and seek the wisdom of our ancestors, the answer will surely be that the current Western diet has way too much processed food and way too many animal products. So, if you want to link our current health problems to this highly processed, high animal protein diet, I can’t imagine too many people would disagree.

But we are really talking about too much. Do we need to eliminate animal products completely, if their consumption provides a sense of joy and happiness? Or should we limit the total quantity?

Should we eliminate all processed food? (I personally think yes), but that is not realistic either. It is not possible for the most wonderful tasting French croissant to be made without a great deal of high fat content butter and refined flour. Occasionally, a warm bakery treat is pure joy.

So why do we collectively find it so difficult to limit ourselves? In the movie, Dr. Douglas Lisle’s research and conclusions were presented:

The Motivational Triad: the pursuit of pleasure; the avoidance of pain; and the conservation of energy. Unfortunately, in present day America’s convenience-centric, excess-oriented culture where fast food, recreational drugs, and sedentary shopping have become the norm, these basic instincts that once successfully insured the survival and reproduction of man many millennia ago, no longer serve us well.  In fact, it’s our unknowing enslavement to this internal, biological force embedded in the collective memory of our species that is undermining our health and happiness today.

The movie explains this hard-wired concept further by showing pictures of a human stomach and the receptors that tell our brain “I am full”.

  1. With a large, (volume) meal of plant-based whole food that is say 900 calories, the stomach is full and all the receptors communicate that to the brain.
  2. But if you change the meal to be more than half of the calories to be animal protein, (a typical meal) the stomach will not be full and the signal will be a feeling of dissatisfaction.
  3. If you consumed 900 calories of pure fat, the stomach would be so empty it would feel like you only drank a glass of water. (We all know how drinking a glass of water does very little to make us feel full, despite what our mothers told us.)

The solution then, is amazingly simple. Go back to the Canada Food Guide if you need a reminder. For women aged 19 to 50 it recommends servings per day:

  • Vegetables & Fruit – 7 to 8
  • Grain – 6 to 7
  • Milk and alternatives – 2
  • Meat and alternatives – 2, (a serving of meat is considered 2.5 ounces or 125 ml)
  • 30 – 45 mL (2 to 3 Tbsp) of unsaturated oils and fats

If you eat one restaurant meal per day, you would be eating far more than your allowable meat and fat content for the whole day, in one sitting. It is safe to say that most of us are eating too much of the stuff we should be limiting and not nearly enough of the good stuff.

It helps every now and then to say these things out loud.

Fresh: the movie

Every now and then a movie, or a book or a news report comes along and just rocks you. I have watched this movie twice and I keep it active on my iPad, just in case. It is one of those pieces of work that seems to have been made just for me.

Instead of a movie with complete shock value of how bad the world is, there are examples of everyday people making the world better. Really inspiring stuff.

The director of the film, Ana Joanes has a list of 10 easy ways that you can live a more sustainable lifestyle!

  1. Buy local products when possible, otherwise, buy organic and fair-trade products. Ask your grocer or favorite restaurant what local food they carry and try to influence their purchasing decisions. You will support your local economy and small farmers, reduce your exposure to harmful pesticides, improve the taste and quality of your food, and protect the environment from fertilizer and pesticide run-offs.
  2. Shop at your local farmers market, join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and get weekly deliveries of the season’s harvest, and by buy from local grocers and co-ops committed to stocking local foods.
  3. Support restaurants and food vendors that buy locally produced food. When at a restaurant, ask (nicely!) your waiter where the meat and fish comes from. Eventually, as more and more customers ask the same question, they’ll get the message!
  4. Avoid GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)! When buying processed food (anything packaged) buy organic to avoid GMO. (Since almost all the soy, corn, and canola in the US is genetically modified, over 70% of all processed food contain GMOs from by-products of these grains.)
  5. COOK, CAN, DRY & FREEZE! Our culture has forgotten some of the most basic joys of cooking. Not only is cooking at home better for you and more economical, but it’s an invaluable skill to pass on to your children.
  6. Drink plenty of water, but avoid bottled water when you can. Water bottles pollute the environment and bottled water is often mere tap water. Plastic is harmful to your health and to the environment. Buy a reusable water bottle and invest in a good water filter.
  7. Grow a garden, visit a farm, volunteer in your community garden, teach a child how to garden. GET DIRTY! Have fun!
  8. Volunteer and/or financially support an organization dedicated to promoting a sustainable food system. Stay informed by joining the mailing list of the advocacy groups you trust.
  9. Get involved in your community! Influence what your child eats by engaging the school board, effect city policies by learning about zoning and attending city council meetings, learn about the federal policies that affect your food choice and let your congress person know what you think.
  10. SHARE your passion! Talk to your friends and family about why our food choice matters.
Fresh: The Movie – check out the trailer.