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Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Less is More Project: Week 44 - Back to the basic... foods

SweetOnVeg, Flickr

"I don't confuse my digestive system, I just season simple food with hunger." (Richard Proenneke)

Notwithstanding the fantastic legacy of French and other cuisines, despite the culinary techniques that are still being developed around the world as we talk, there is something to be said about very simple foods.

Even if I grew up with a fantastic cook for a mother, and even if some of my all-time favorites food don't quite qualify as simple, I like to say that I could live on a monastic diet: homemade vegetable soup and bread, artisan cheese, fresh fruit, some seeds (with the occasional glass of wine). Left to my own devices I gravitate toward a plant-based diet. What makes the biggest difference in taste isn't a long preparation, but rather choosing fresh ingredients and combining them in the right proportions.

Interestingly, I so happened to meet two other foodies, in the past week, who also advocate for simplicity. 

One was a passionate Family Studies teacher, who despite her enthusiastic knowledge of molecular gastronomy, was quick to point out that in the kitchen, the simpler, the better.

The other was Lauren Marshall, ex Top Chef contestant, with whom my friends and I had a cooking class which was 100% vegan, and used fresh, local foods almost exclusively.

This was refreshing. In grocery stores (as opposed to farmers' markets), I cannot help but think, as I navigate the aisles: "This is not food - how dare they claim it is?" and "What a useless object to have in a kitchen - I would never buy it".

When it comes to food, simplifying is good for the wallet, for the environment, and for our health. "Real" food comes without (or with minimal) packaging, without an ingredient list, and without advertisement. All fresh produce qualifies. And have you ever seen an ad for plain lentils or pumpkin seeds? Ask yourself how often you consume those kinds of foods.

Don't get me wrong. I do like fancy (as in fancy restaurant food paired with fancy wines); I do like exotic (e.g. mangoes in Canada); I even like some fast, unhealthy food (Poutine! Chocolate ice cream!)

But in my daily life I like to keep it simple. I like to know that my food was created respectfully and ethically. I like to know that my food is contributing to my health. It all boils down to mindfulness. Interestingly, mindfulness is the latest trend in weight loss (see this recent article from the Washington Post).

By approaching food mindfully, we will not only benefit our health, but also the environment: 

"An estimated 40-50 percent of U.S. food is wasted along the chain from farm to table. We're destroying the environment with industrialized food production, a good portion of which just gets driven to landfills, where it rots and releases even more methane." (Juliet B. Schor, True Wealth)

Even when we consume all the food we purchase, the excessive packaging leaves a less-than-pretty trace long after we are done: juice boxes, K cups, individual wrappers... they are a sad testimony of our bad habits.

Perhaps it is because we do not truly have to work for what we use and consume?

"If we all had to grow our own food, we wouldn't waste 40% of it (as is done now in the US). If we had to make our own tables and chairs, we wouldn't throw them out the moment we changed the interior decor. If we could see the conditions in which a pig is slaughtered, it would put most of us off our BLT. If we had to clean our own drinking water, we sure as hell wouldn't shit in it." (Mark Boyle, The Moneyless Man - A Year of Freeconomic Living)

And is it really just a matter of big bucks?

"People always tell me organic food is only for those who can afford it, but it's not. If you care about what you put in your body, keeping chemicals, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and additives out of our food is more important than having a couple of hundred television channels."  (Mark Boyle, The Moneyless Man - A Year of Freeconomic Living)


The new car proved useful this week. On Thursday, we had a storm, so I drove to work. It was nice to get there almost entirely dry. It's in the little things...

My frugal habits are becoming consistent... and strong. I hesitated before buying a new toothbrush! 

Your turn to share about your struggles and victories of the week! What did you resist? Did you donate or get rid of anything? Did you face any challenge? Please comment below! And...

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  1. Im such a simple eater and it makes people CRAZY.
    I have no idea why my lack of seasonings or sauces matters to them--but people be quirky :)

  2. Seeing that I do all the food preparation at home, I eat what would be called a simple diet. Whole foods, lots of raw, not too different than the Blue Zone diet. My parents tell me that I was that way with my food choices at a very early age also.

  3. K Cups make me so sad for our planet. There's absolutely no reason we need little plastic containers to brew every single cup of (weak, almost-coffee-like) coffee.

    1. I agree. We all need to be more mindful of our choices. Thank you Karen!