Sunday, October 28, 2012

Flavor Enhancement

One of the benefits of cutting down or eliminating added sweeteners to food and eating mostly natural ingredients is that everything tastes better.  It isn't necessarily that the food itself changed, but the palate that is receiving the food is cleansed and ready to taste fully whatever it is that it is about to consume.  It isn't a carrot anymore, it is carrot PLUS, chicken PLUS, broccoli PLUS.  What disguised or dulled the senses before has been removed and now we can taste the full potential flavor of the food. 

It has been a while since I drank a Pepsi.  I used to drink Pepsi daily, even through the time when I was pregnant with Lydia (that could explain her energy levels).  I love Pepsi.  It is by far the superior beverage above all other carbonated beverages.  I would choose it over sweet tea and for sure over water.  Oh, sweet nectar of America! 

But Pepsi has high fructose corn syrup, an obvious added sweetener, and we cut that from our diets back in January.  A few months ago I was working a weekend conference at the University, manning the check-in table, and it was quiet.  All of the other tasks had been done, and it was just me. Alone. With a vending machine filled with Pepsi products.  Mmmm, Pepsi, I thought, and started to fish around in my purse for a dollar and a quarter.

I shimmied over to the vending machine and looked around.  No one was watching.  No one would need to know.  Twenty ounces of glorious syrupy soda would emerge from the vending machine into my eager, waiting hands.  I put in my money and the robotic arm retrieved a Pepsi from the top row, dropped it down the plastic tube to the bottom where it clunked against the doorflap.  I reached out for it, twisted off the cap and heard the k-shhhh of cold pop fizzling.  I took a sip and grimaced.

This was not at all what I expected.  Where was the rush of sweetness, the refreshing sizzle down my throat?  This was sticky and dried out my mouth after I swallowed; the aftertaste was terrible.  I rubbed my tongue against the roof of my mouth and tried to work the taste away.

It seems that not only does ingesting healthy foods bring out the powerful flavors of the good, it also strengthens our ability to taste how wretched the artificial and the processed really is, that its fast-and-easy benefits are far outweighed by its lack of quality and sustenance.

The more I ingest the real, the true, the pure, and the lovely in life (food, time with husband, time with children, working in the garden, laughter, friends), the less inclined I am to indulge in the false, the artificial, the impure, and the ugly that try to disguise themselves as virtuous and satisfying.  If I find myself faced with temptations, lust, anger, jealousy, fear, or insecurity after eating well for a long time, immersing myself in the things of God, his good word and his good people, listening for the Holy Spirit, then the bottled-up and processed gunk tastes bitter in my mouth.  I don't want anything to do with it.

Sure, after a while maybe my tastebuds would numb out to the high fructose corn syrup again and I'd actually like Pepsi, crave it, need it every day or else, but do I want to be ruled by this artificial happiness, this fast high and sudden plummet into lethargy so I need it again and again, more and more to achieve the same level of satisfaction?  No.

"Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him." - Psalm 34:8

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Elliptical and Tonight's Work of Writing

It's one of those writing nights where I spend about a minute or two typing out clever sentences and then hold down the backspace bar until the page is white again.  It's also the night of a thousand saves as I open and close new and old drafts of poems and essays. And the night of genre confusion as I try to twist an essay into a poem and realize the poem I just started should be an essay.

Also, the night of the social media newsfeed distraction and the seventeen different faces I can make at my webcam without actually pushing out pictures to my Twitter profile.

It's time to face the facts. Tonight, I am completely and utterly without inspiration.  Seven hours ago, I had this spark of energy to generate some good details and descriptive language in a revision of an essay, and I really, really, really wanted to work on it right then, right when the words were fresh on my mind and the excitement about it was bright. But I was at work at the time, and tonight was trick-or-treat night, and the husband is out of town, and dinner needed to be prepared, and children needed to be bathed and put to bed and by then, well, this. This happened. This final last distraction of the night because I am determined to hit four posts in October before the month is over and without back dating the entry. 

I love this place where I can just type and sometimes find an answer or a revelation and other times it's just me playing, me running the treadmill or riding the elliptical.  I'm not going anywhere, but I'm covering such a great distance.

Speaking of the elliptical, this morning I listened to the first six or seven chapters of Matthew while sweating on the elliptical.  I can't remember the last time I read through the gospels, instead defaulting to Paul, James, or Peter's letters or the Psalms and Proverbs for some quick and straightforward(ish) answers.  But the Gospels are rich with metaphor and puzzle, they are ripe with relationship.  This morning, I thought a lot about Jesus being tempted by Satan and how, in the story, Satan waited to start chatting with Jesus until after he had fasted for forty days. Thoroughly exhausted and empty of sustenance, Jesus gets this from Satan, "Hey son of man, ya hungry? Make these pebbles bread."

All kinds of temptations come when we're weary. We're tempted by the quick and easy filling, the fast fix to our emptiness.  It's hard to resist temptation, harder still to see the source of the hunger in the first place, to cure the disease instead of just managing the symptoms or popping pain killers instead of identifying the source of the pain.  After Jesus resists Satan and Satan wanders off to wait for a more opportune time, Jesus eats real food and is satisfied.  He finds a source of true sustenance instead of the shortcuts Satan proposed.

I thought about these things while the British man in my smartphone read to me from the Gospels as I climbed the stairway to nowhere.  And now I've thought about them again, cycled through the circuit and worked a few different muscle groups.  Tonight might have felt uncreative and uninspired but sometimes you have to just keep climbing, exercising for the sake of the burn, and save whatever scraps and segments you can from the spent time.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Eating Good Food

So I started a catalog of all the foods we love to eat so that I don't have to keep googling recipes I've had before.  I'm cooking-dumb when it comes to common food preparations, like how to make chicken broth or how long to roast chicken, things like that.  The list isn't very long yet because I'm trying to build it as I cook rather than sit and backlog all of the great meals we've eaten, and since I know that I'll have to look up every.single.recipe as I cook every.single.meal, well, the catalog will grow daily.

I've noticed a trend with most of these dishes that I'm sure you'll pick up on, too.  We really like food, all food, prepared with minimal ingredients, quick and easy, sauteed, steamed, or roasted.  It is important to have garlic on hand at all times.  Preparing food from scratch and making things that serve as substitutes for pre-packaged and processed food is an extremely satisfying endeavor.

Our natural food fetish is starting to bleed over to our healthcare. I started to feel a sinus infection coming on the other day, but instead of rushing to the medicine cabinet, I googled natural sinus infection remedies and got this fine site:, which gave me all sorts of tips about preventing and treating colds and sinus woes.

So much of this stuff is tried and true old school treatment of ailments and diet.  It's simple and common sense.  I think we resist this stuff because it's often harder and slower than what we're offered over the counter and off the shelves.  Just like pretty much everything else in life, what comes easy isn't always the best choice in the long term.

So, eat your good and healthy and simple and natural and whole foods, drink, and be merry! :)