Monday, August 24, 2009

Back to Basics

Well I have been teetering on the edge of vegetarianism for about a year or so now and, with the exception of fish, I have pretty much cut out all other animals from my diet. Trust me, there are still times when some remnants will surreptitiously make their way into my risotto. My father is known for doing this, as if desperately trying to find ways of feeding his malnourished child from some fictitious third-world country. Have you ever heard of Naboombu? I certainly have not. Well yes, actually, I have. But it’s from a semi-animated children’s movie. Any takers? Anyone? Bueller?

One of the main things I must point out here is that I am not a vegetarian (or pescatarian, for that matter) for ‘typical’ ethical reasons. Yes, I know, the poor animals and all. Listen here, I’m not cold-hearted! I am human, and a very emotional one at that. Yet I had never been a big meat eater to begin with, which is quite the feat when your father is an Argentinean chef. I began with the intention of creating a healthier diet for myself because, truth be told, I simply don’t believe that humans were ever meant to eat animals in the first place. But that is another story for another day.

I certainly do not go around promoting my beliefs or scoff loudly when friends of mine order their double bacon, meaty mcmeat burgers. My choice is my choice and yours is yours and I respect that. And I’m sure there are many out there who will emphatically state, chest puffed out like a proud cockatoo, that being a vegetarian doesn’t necessarily mean eating healthy. And guess what? I wholeheartedly agree. I know all too well that you certainly eat crappy, crappy, crappy even sans animal products — my first bout with being veggie went exactly that-a-way.

Ask anybody who knew me as a child, teenager and young adult: If it was green, I would not touch it. I had a fleeting love affair with iceberg lettuce (which we all know is really a giant science experiment to get water to be solid without the freezing process), and did carrots here and there (but good heavens!Those are ORANGE!). Flash forward x-number of years and here I am! And I’ve come a long way, baby!

So, as to make sure that I did not make the same mistake again, I decided to pay more attention to exactly what I was eating this time around. And in doing so, very quickly realized that I too often stuck to one type of food for weeks at a time. Now, I have always been akin to this little quirk for pretty much my entire life: one week it will be yellow bell peppers, and two weeks later it’s hummus. Not exactly balanced.

Weeks go by, then months, and my initially refreshed and energized system is now dragging. I’m exhausted. My nails are brittle. I’m losing hair. I. Don’t. GET IT! Well, in looking back, I now surmise that I knew the answer all along and it only took some sleuth investigation for things to be come clear. The food that I had been eating was indeed healthy, but I didn’t have the balance my body needed to thrive. And because of this, I was starving my body of some very real vital nutrients. I had been so concerned about finding those foods that provided protein that I forgot about iron. And calcium. And, well, the very detailed list goes on. And herein lies the challenge of many a vegetarian.

I’ve been on a quest during these recent months to start enjoying a diverse selection of Mother Nature's earthly wonders, from one end of the color scale to the other. I get so excited over discovering new, exotic produce that I’ve never laid eyes on before (Buddha’s Hand? Still not sure exactly what to do with it). I love my baby spinach, but I’m also aware of the levels of oxalic acid that could hinder the body’s calcium absorption. And ohhhh lentils and quinoa. Near and perfect proteins and yet, somehow, so delicious.

Mother Nature has provided us with an incredible array of amazing food. The problem is that, these days, the timeline between ground and plate has become too long. There is too much intervention, too much adding and too much subtracting. What once was a perfect specimen of nutrition is now a chemically-altered counterpart. We have fed our bodies simulated copies of the real things and our bodies have adapted to the non-food. I'm pretty sure I could go on for miles here, but the simple fact still remains that we need to get back to basics, back to what Mother Nature intended us to eat. We need to be human again.

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