Breakfast - The Usual with organic bacon.
Lunch - half a roast chicken that a caring friend fetched from the local free-range store while I was rushing around like a headless - well, you know...
Dinner - a plate of sautéed red cabbage in coconut oil, followed by two roast chicken drumsticks with rocket and cherry tomato salad:
All washed down with a generous serving of raspberries and whipped cream. Nom. Am now supping on green tea (Sencha Earl Grey from T2) while contemplating my existence. No, really.
Given that I will be run off my feet with shows for the next couple of weeks, I thought I'd use this little bit of spare time I have to express my Real Food story.
I've always had quite simple tastes - my favourite meals growing up were ones involving only a few ingredients, primarily meat, veg, and perhaps eggs and/or cheese. Mum often messed around with stir-fry mixes like Chicken Tonight and Kan-Tong, but didn't tend to add gourmet ingredients nor herbs and spices. Food was left relatively similar to how it was grown. However, I always loved the art of cooking, but since main meals were quite simple, I tended to toy with baking cakes and creating sticky confections. Later in life, Dad insisted on more and more junk food be brought into the house, with frozen entrees and savoury snacks and packaged desserts landing in our grocery cart, and the advent of Fast Food Night becoming part of our weekly cycle. Needless to say, I gained weight.
I gained even more weight when I moved to the Big Smoke for Uni, and lived in a dog-boxed deemed suitable for on-campus student accommodation. I had little access to the communal kitchen, so tended to buy meals at the cafe on campus (chicken burgers, fries, and cheesecake were the norm), and had my bar fridge stocked with soft cheese and crackers, ice-cream (which had to be eaten quickly since my freezer was a flop), chocolate, and chips. When I cooked, I cooked pasta or pita bread pizza.
It wasn't til I moved out and met the beau that I started exploring the restaurant scene, developing a taste for intricate flavours and cultural experiences. I bought recipe books and started cooking special meals every night. They were quite healthy meals, but life was still peppered with pastries and chips. Pasta was still the go-to food, and I developed a love of sushi. Pizza was ever-present as well. I lost a bit of weight, but this was mostly due to joining a gym, and I worked hard for small returns.
I finally began the ideological turn-around towards a fuller understanding and appreciation for real food when I started experiencing stomach aches after my usual salad roll from the canteen at the school where I worked. A chance encounter with a low-carb article while sitting and waiting for a bento meal sets the wheels of research in motion, and I spent a few months studying the science behind cutting our grains and sugar and starchy vegetables like potatoes. The nay-sayers had little evidence supporting their argument, so at the beginning of 2009, I started putting my information into practice. The weight poured off, despite spending the majority of January sitting on my butt avoiding the heatwaves.
Cutting out grains and sugars essentially meant waving farewell to all junkfood, and soon I found myself enjoying simply prepared meats and vegetables, just like I enjoyed during my childhood. I experimented with a few frankenfoods (a low-carb chocolate bar survives to this day, but I hope to replace it with a purer form of dark chocolate once my stock runs out) and spent a bit of time creating low-carb replacements that seemed just like my old way of eating, but have gradually shed the artificial sweeteners since my palate can detect natural sweetness much more keenly than it could a few months ago, and even a cherry tomato can illicit a dopamine buzz.
Once I exhausted the research plumbing the depths of low-carb theory, I pushed through to more general nutritional analyses, exploring the links between chemical-heavy agricultural process and sustainable alternatives, food processing practices and naturally prepared foods, and healthy eating patterns which aligned both with an understanding of how insulin affects weight and mood, and the wholefoods ideology.
Enter, The Paleo Diet / The Primal Blueprint / Intermittent Fasting (or Feeding... or Feasting).
Allowing scientific understanding of human evolution to suggest the diet and way of life our bodies and environment are best suited to seemed so glaringly obvious, the thought of mass-produced, over-processed foods began to turn my stomach. Why couldn't we enjoy food as we would have found it in nature? Why are we stuffing ourselves with manufactured and chemical-laden products without really considering the consequences? Bodies of research and thousands of followers were made apparent to me, and today I continue to explore the standing and developing research into the reasons why we should avoid products manufactured by corporations and the artificial ingredients they use (such as soy, canola oil, anything genetically modified, and anything with processed polyunsaturated fats and trans fats).
Today, I am passionate about the source of my food and the relationship the food has to my body. I am developing my cooking techniques (and replacing inappropriate equipment) in order to get the best out of whole foods without destroying the nutritional elements my body requires in the process. I love the way sauteed cabbage tastes, and the psychological excitement and pleasure I feel when looking down at my small bowl of raspberries far surpasses any joy I felt in the past when scarfing blocks of chocolate.
Sugar and grains, especially when refined, are detrimental to health. When one takes a wider world view, we can see the damage we are amplifying by continuing to eat too much of the wrong foods. Obesity is devastating our medical systems, and the commercial food industry is manipulating us towards consuming ever-more food to keep themselves in profit. Corn and soy products are pumped into every packaged food imaginable, and as a result the more we eat, the hungrier we become. We inhale food instead of savouring it, let alone reflecting on where that food has come from. I take pride in knowing that my vegetables were grown in conditions closer to nature than the typical chemical-laden capsicum. I feel the significance of making informed choices when it comes to purchasing locally farmed produce and animal products raised in ethical and healthful conditions. And I am passionate about helping spread the work of many passionate souls who have done the leg-work necessary to put real foods in the public eye; the public know needs to wake up and realise the impact their choices have on the world and themselves.
Fortunately, as a teacher, I have direct ability to engage the next generation in discussions of sustainability and health. When I see their strength, passion and intelligence tackling the moral and environmental issues at hand, I even allow myself the thought that perhaps the future of Australia is finally looking up.
Until Costco sets up shop here, that is.