Take it Easy and
Enjoy a Clean Food Lifestyle
Presented to Ulster County Mental Heath Associates
Ric Orlando 4/2007
I have cooked a million meals and after the first 500,000 I noticed that there was more to making food than just skill and technique. There is sensibility and conscience. I want to share that with you. My mission is to get you to love to cook---to get you to use your hands and to connect---to get you to think about that connection between your mind and your soul and your body and your food and the world around you.
You know we have developed a pretty hectic life-style these days and the comment I get the most often when I speak publicly is "I'm in too much of a hurry to cook" and "What do you have that's quick and even I can make?" and "Can you show me some of your professional shortcuts?"---frankly, what I'm going to tell you is more therapy than cooking secrets.
Cooking is not where you should be cutting corners. I figured this out all by myself because running a restaurant and cheffing with three school aged kids and a loving wife in law school is pretty complex, too.
When I ask people what the rush is---why do you need to have a meal started, cooked, eaten, over and done within a half hour I'm told the same story----"I get home from work, and I'm too tired to cook so we have something quick and then I veg out and watch some TV until I crash."
Let me tell you a story that most of you must already know though sometimes it is good to hear it from somebody else! I too have a TV and I turn it on occasionally, usually late. I have something like 400 channels---and on these 400 channels, 390 of them are showing incredibly stressful material.
When I lay in bed and flip through the electronic guide I find murder, mayhem, revenge, more murder, rape, controversy, horrible news, bad mannered pundits interrupting each other, disinformation, lies, deceit , conceit, propaganda, and more depressing violence. The amount of stress inducing programming on television is so out of whack with reality that the idea of rushing through an unhealthy chemical laden supper just to "veg out" to the content of 21st century television is so far from relaxing--it is inconceivable!
As a health oriented chef I am often asked questions like "What can I do about my blood pressure?"---"What am I doing wrong, what should I be eating?" Well, there is a simple answer. If you are choking down processed food just so that you can get stressed out by a triple homicide adventure show---I needn't go any further---you know the answer already, don't you? Do you need a picture? Prioritize, baby!
Let's start again. Let's say you got home at 6 and you were done with dinner by 6:45 because you microwaved some processed--but low-fat---counterfeit food and then you plunked in front of the television until you became comatose ---you are never winding down. There is no chance to let the day go. You are never connecting to your physical and sensual world. You need to play with your food sometime during the day! If you are not giving yourself the opportunity to use your senses of touch, taste and smell, you are missing a great ingredient of your life. Reestablishing that part of your life to create simple but wholesome food will help you to relax. It will bring you down to earth. Doing it as a hobby ---a little gardening a few weekends a year, a dozen dinner parties a year is nice, but a daily escape is better. My prescription for peace of mind is to spend some time in the kitchen every day
Try to actually make dinner at least 4 days a week--- where you hunt and gather---actually shop for ingredients to prepare a meal and then sit and relax and enjoy it with someone who you can speak with. When you prepare the meal by touching--- cutting the vegetables, washing the fish, trimming the meat, feeling your hands in the grains ---you are getting in touch. The more you use your hands, the more whole you become and the more whole the feeling you have for eating and cooking becomes. Then instead of saying that you are in too much of a rush to cook because you want to watch TV and chill, that evening melts away into a relaxing pleasure. When you get home, put on some music. No commercials, no news. You are going to miss anything real. Once a day is enough news for anyone--and now with these news update tickers on the bottom of the screen, we are hypnotized! Give it a rest. And skip the ads, please. They're just there to make you feel inadequate anyway, so give 'em a break, too.
So where were we?---oh yes, you've put on some music and you have laid out some ingredients---now spend a half an hour making a fresh meal. Maybe your kids or partner can help. Take your time---be a European--- and don't plan on eating until 7:30 or 8 pm. Now, when you eat, linger for an hour and digest. Talk about things, not just the bad things but the amusing things too. Then by 9 or 9:30 if you are ready to turn on the tube, you've already unwound. Wait 'til you see how absurd that channel guide looks like once you have let some of the sap out of your spine. This really is the ultimate therapy. Using your hands and your soul and your mind to create sustenance takes such an edge off of life. The nutritional advantage of making your own food is crucial also. When you combine fresher and cleaner meals, made from scratch with patience and meditation during the preparation and the eating of the meal, all of your life improves. Now try it--a little wine, a little dinner---it is not unreasonable--that is the healthy choice---it is a worthy life-style choice.
Cooking is like therapy---it's like taking a bath!
Some basic tips to help you lead a CLEAN FOD lifestyle.
1. READ INGREDIENT LABELS!
2. Avoid the following like the plague---high fructose corn syrup AND hydrogenated oils.
3. Avoid buying anything with more than 6 ingredients.
4. Understand that you get what you pay for. A 11.95 prime rib diner is not going to be “Clean Food”
5. Don’t eat food from places that sell gasoline. Need I say more…
6. Don’t buy food from machines. The exceptions are PURE chocolate bars—plain or with almonds, PURE nuts, salted or not or simple, unflavored potato chips.
7. Get off of “meal” bars. Eat an apple instead. Get it?
8. Keep a water or unsweetened ice tea and bag of sunflower seeds, almonds or good quality trail mix in the car to avoid being tempted by the drive thru.
9. Don’t drink soda—ever.
10. Make your own iced and hot teas. Explore the huge array of teas available at the health food store. Teas like Rooibus, Ginko, Mate and Green are cheap and great for you! Bring your own tea bags around in your purse. Make a pitcher and fill a water bottle with it to keep it your desk.
11. Try healthy sweeteners if you need to sweeten your food. Agave syrup, honey and stevia are all great alternatives to the chemical sweeteners on the market. Also, unstripped Turbinado sugar is also readily available now.
12. Make food at home and bring it to work. Italian tuna packed in oil, homemade chicken salad, Brown rice salad and leftover steak wraps will make your co- workers jealous! Reuse the plastic conatiners your Chinese food take out came in!
13. Cook and Eat clear soups and broths. They slim you and when home made, are super healthy.
14. Try to eat a salad a day. Skip the gloppy dressing and use oil and vinegar or lemon. 95% of prepared dressings have high fructose corn syrup in them.
15. Avoid all cheap fried foods. They are almost always full of hydrogenated fats. Many breadings actaully have the hydrog built right in!
16. Avoid Cheap Egg Sandwiches, Home Fries and Diner eggs. They are almost always cooked in hydrogenated oils. Ask a cook what the cook their eegs in---Kaola Gold, Mefry?---hmm--This stuff is like semi melted crisco---it's gross!!!Remember the “you get what you pay for” rule!
17. Don’t over do the grains. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing! Get at least 66% of your carbs from fresh fruit and vegetables and you’ll feel a lot better. Fruits and vegetables are water soluble and help to cleanse your body!
18. It sounds cliché, but try eating raw vegetable sticks-without dips --while at your desk.
19. We all have stress response and need to feed it. Don't restrain yourself---Retrain yourself! When stressed, drink herb tea, eat raw veggies or chew on a cinnamon stick. This will keep you from devouring junk food, soda and cigarettes.
20. Don’t stress over what NOT TO eat. Think wisely and clearly about what TO eat!
21. Don’t buy all of your groceries at once!
Keep and exciting pantry of dry goods; oils, vinegars, organic stocks and broths, grains and condiments on hand. Purchase your meat/fish and veggies daily. Keep them fresh and buy only what you need. Make it part of the hunter ritual! When you frequent the same loca laces, they actually learn your name and take care of you.
22. Eat what is in season. So you love roasted corn and tomato salsa. But it is January and the tomatoes are like tennis balls and the corn is non existent. Go online and find a recipe for polenta with sundried tomatoes. Use common sense, In Europe, eating seasonally is the norm. Get excited about the first local asparagus! Shop locally to get a feel for what is really in season.
23. Avoid food in fancy packages.Aside from oils, vinegars, canned tomatoes and condiments, I can’t think of anything else that is good food that comes in a package. Packaging food usually means preserving it!
Meats, Fish, Vegetables, Fruits and Grains are all “bulk” items!
24. Enjoy the process! Most of all remember---you want CLEAN FOOD!
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