A January Renewal

 

Every January, I like to sit down and reflect on life. It’s not so much about resolutions as it is about being mindful and purposeful in my choices. I typically make a renewed commitment to my yoga practice, daily meditation, journaling, gratitude, and mindfulness with food. Some years the food piece takes the form of a cleanse, others as a short period of fasting. It depends on where I am in life and what feels right. It’s never about dieting or deprivation, rather, it is a slowing down period to mindfully reflect on how I choose to nourish my body (not to mention how grateful I am to have as much choice as I do in this matter).

Here are a few things that I’m reflecting on and renewing my commitment to this month:

 

Healthy, local fats: When we think about local eating, it’s easy to make some assumptions about what we can reasonably source close to home. Coffee and bananas aren’t ever likely to be sourced within a reasonable distance for us New Englanders, however, not all items are as elusive as may seem at first glance.  There was a time when I assumed that my cooking fats would always have to travel far distances to make it to my kitchen. While that may be true for the coconut and olive oils that I love, I have also changed the way that I cook to incorporate more leaf lard, bacon fat, and grass fed butter. Not only does this help decrease my carbon footprint while keeping money in our local economy, it also has helped my health. Recent research and wisdom has pointed us back in the direction of healthy animal fats like butter and lard because in addition to being sustainable and economical, they are full of important vitamins and the healthy, protective cholesterol we need to survive. I use butter, lard, and bacon fat for almost all of my baking and cooking.  I do still use olive oil and coconut oil, but butter and lard work well for me because I like to avoid heating olive oil and use it only for salad dressing and drizzling over a finished dish.

You can get pasture-raised, cultured butter as well as leaf lard directly from the farm. Or, buy Brookford cream and experience the fun of making your own butter!

 

Eating locally: If you’re a CSA member, chances are good that you’re already pretty committed to local eating. However, one of the most common reasons people cite for leaving their CSA is that they aren’t able to eat all of the food. Fortunately, this is a problem that is easily fixed. I don’t think it can be overstated that switching to eating locally produced, seasonal, whole foods is a lifestyle change that takes some time to perfect. To help with the learning curve, it’s an important practice to regularly consider how you’re planning your meals, what you’re buying to supplement from the store, and whether or not you can make some simple substitutions to keep it local and seasonal. For example, my family is really big on salad. This is all well and good in summer when fresh vegetables are in abundance, but in winter, well, this could seem like a challenge. In reality, it’s not that difficult. Rather than buying lettuce from the grocery store all winter, we make some changes to our salad composition during winter. Finely chopped cabbage and kale take the place of lettuce. Chopped carrots add brightness, while thinly sliced onions and slivers of radishes and turnips add zest and texture. Roasted and cooled vegetables including squash and brussels sprouts help keep things interesting and varied. The addition of nuts, seeds, cheeses, fermented vegetables, and dried fruits helps to create as much variation as we might find in a July garden. By re-committing to sourcing your food locally, you can help make sure you use what you get in your CSA share, and don’t supplement at the grocery store unnecessarily.

 

Eating seasonally: I have a theory that it only takes a year of mindful seasonal eating to convince your body to never turn back to the typical American diet. When you’ve gorged yourself on an entire August’s worth of fresh tomatoes, you might find that you don’t need tomatoes again for a while. Likewise, by the time it’s parsnip and potato season, you may find yourself so deeply immersed in their starchy goodness that you hardly notice when they’re replaced by spring’s tender green shoots. For thousands of years, humans survived winters without eating bell peppers flown in from halfway around the world. I’m a firm believer that not only can we survive on a local diet, we can thrive on it, and find greater enjoyment in the process.

 

Gut health/Immune system: Seeing as though we’re in the thick of cold and flu season, I find it apropos that my annual period of reflection on my eating habits falls now. Nourishing bone broths are a great way to keep your immune system strong, because they reduce inflammation, contain important amino acids, heal the gut (where 80% of your immune system is located!), and support detoxification through healthy digestion. Complementary to the healing benefits of bone broth are the probiotic benefits and greater enzyme bioavailability of fermented vegetables. I’m making bone broth with fermented vegetables a staple of my winter diet. It’s a quick nourishing meal that will help keep my immune system strong all winter long.

You can purchase pastured bones for broth from the farm, in addition to delicious fermented vegetables! Learning to ferment vegetables at home is also fun and easy!

 

Vegetables for snacks and breakfast: I try to keep vegetables a mainstay in our diet at all meals and snacks. But somehow the holidays, and abundant carbohydrates, seem to happen, and I find myself staring into a pantry full of twelve different types of bread products, four onions, and a few boxes of pasta. January always feels like the right time to recommitting to food that has fiber in it and grows up out of the earth. Roasted vegetables are just as happy on your breakfast plate as they are your dinner plate. Kale chips and smashed potato skins make a great Sunday afternoon snack. A commitment to more vegetables, more often, means that those veggie shares disappear before you have a chance to wonder what to do with that darned squash...

 

How do you celebrate and renew your relationship with food? We want to hear your ideas!