26 January 2012

Topic Number Two: Food and Being a Rock Star in the Kitchen

I've been a carnivore, a vegetarian, a vegan and then everything in between.  During my short time on this earth, I've enjoyed the luxury of good food, struggled with an eating disorder, anguished over what the "right" diet is for me, and indulged in many a glorious meal with family and friends around the table.  Food is at the center of socialization and for me, the focal point of my attention these days.

As I navigate my relationship with food, I've come to realize that it can be invigorating, demoralizing, complicated, complimentary, full of love, compassionate and - most of all - a way to connect.  Currently, I find food to be a source of empowerment as I commit myself to a vegan diet - a diet without meat, eggs, cheese, honey and the like.  I find inspiration, humour, encouragement and more empowerment through the words and images found on food blogs and in cookbooks, travel journals and my own food diaries.  I would encourage anyone to think about their relationship with food and their own food journey - how its accompanied you through the peaks and valleys of your life.

Like I said, I'm currently engaged in a vegan diet.  Why?  Well, for multiple reasons.  Last year, I decided to commit myself to learning as much as I possibly could about the food I put in my body.  I read, watched videos, asked questions of friends and family, learned about the environmental impact of animal farming, experimented in the kitchen (yes, I cooked...not microwaved!) and began to listen to what my body needs and what it responds to.  I learned that I get sinus infections when I indulge in cheese and other dairy products.  I feel groggy and sluggish when I eat refined white carbs.  And...most importantly, I discovered that I enjoy eating a meat-free diet.

I felt for the first time in my life that I was gaining control of my troubled relationship with food.  As a child, I ate awesome homemade meals prepared by the deft and creative hands of my parents.  We would make home-made stir fries and egg rolls, stir pots of spaghetti sauce together, indulge in stroganoff, shred veggies for salads, and - at the end of the prepartion, we would eat together as a family.  Meals were times of joy and it continued after dinner when my sister and I would take up "kitchen duty" and wash the pots and pans while singing along, wooden spoons in hand to serve as microphones, to our favourite albums (Tiffany and NKOTB, anyone?) on our boom box.  We were rock stars in the kitchen and a family that loved to gather around the table together. 

As I entered my teenage years and we moved across the Atlantic to Germany, my relationship with food became complicated.  I developed an eating disorder in high school that continued through college and into my 20s.  I couldn't understand how the joy and meaning in food had become such a nightmare.  I sought out therapy, stocked my toolbox with a variety of things that would help me approach food in a holistic way and began to build another relationship with food.  It is a relationship that I could actively participate in and feel good about - in more ways than one.

The big turn came when I made the move to Canada.  I was no longer single and living in the city.  I was living in a small town where there wasn't 24/7 access to food, no happy hours with co-workers, and was harbouring general exhaustion of a steady diet of Clif Bars (although delicious!), bagged salads and microwave burritos.  My husband is an excellent cook and the curious side of me wanted to enjoy the same experience he had in the kitchen - one that started with the excitement of planning a menu, inviting others to come together over a good meal, and then cleaning up with some good tunes in the kitchen.  He was a rock star in the kitchen (sans NKOTB) and I wanted some of that back.  Thus began the education.

I began with Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and then took on Michael Pollan.  I devoured Mark Bittman's articles on the New York Times and sought out PETA and other vegetarian-oriented websites.  I watched film after film about how food gets to our plates and began to see "food activism" as a new avenue for me to channel my energy and passion.  I committed myself to a vegan diet and while I've lapsed into vegetarianism every now and then, for the majority of the time, I avoid anything that has been derived from an animal.  This has been one of the most empowering decisions of my life.

I know I am doing good things for the planet.  I know I feel better about myself and my body.  I know that I like talking to others about being a vegan/vegetarian and surprising them with delicious goodies that I've created in the kitchen.  In short, I've got my food joy back and I am getting ever-closer to being a rock star in the kitchen again.

Some Food Inspiration

Her writing is awesome and her dishes look amazing.  We adapt her stuff to make it vegan.

Angie is living my dream

Educate yourself with this film, this film and this film.  Oh, and this one too!

Bittman ('nuff said)

The book that started it all

On my cooking shelf now - this and this

Happy (and healthy!) eating, everyone!

No comments: