The history of the food experience is the history of humankind. The roots of all the healing arts can be found embedded deeply in the beginnings of this story. As a physician, I recognize that the words Hippocrates wrote long ago still echo with import today – “Let thy Medicine be thy Food, and thy Food be thy Medicine.” But that is only half the story. As a chef, I know that if the food does not taste good, then it is only medicine. And the pleasure of the food experience is as integral to the maintenance of our health and wellness as any nutritional component.
Our modern world has split asunder what our forebears understood to be a singularly holistic approach. The Food As Therapy (FAT) Initiative seeks to restore that concept of balance and harmony; ancient wisdom and modern knowledge, the need for both scrumptious and salubrious. It is The Middle Path between the pillars of salvation through deprivation and gastronomic gluttony. The FAT Initiative takes you from Text to Table; combining science with sapor. It is the mechanism by which as a Grassroots Gourmet you may find your own inner, personal culinary Buddha and attain Epicurean enlightenment!
The Grassroots Gourmet™ follows three basic principles; The Threefold Path of Be’s:
1.Be Original – go to the source
What is commonly referred to as “junk food” is so named for a reason. These foods often are manipulated, resulting in significantly less tasteful and less nutritious offerings. Additives are often accompanied by layers of sugar, salt and fat; which prey upon our hardwired, biological instincts to create addictive behaviors and lead to a vicious, repeating cycle. The end result is that you find yourself in the drive through line super sizing the daily special without even remembering how you got there.
The secret to avoiding the siren call of such an artificial construct, the secret to avoiding junk food, is to go to the source. Understanding what you eat; the breed or the varietal, the harvesting or processing, and the method of preservation, allows you to choose wisely. By returning to the source, we enhance the authenticity and maximize the benefits of a proper food experience.
2.Be Fresh – but no adultery
Many of the items we use to prepare meals at home are not as fresh as we think. They have been altered during the growing, raising and processing. They have been adulterated to bequeath them immortal shelf-life. They have been sacrificed to deliver us convenience and quantity. Only now are we beginning to comprehend the dark side of such machinations.
Many of the additives, replacements and alterations made to our foodstuffs were originally believed to be inert. However, we are now learning that such maneuvers affect us indirectly by altering our gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is the symbiotic organ, that collection of innumerable wee beasties that inhabit our gastrointestinal tract, having co-evolved with us to co-metabolize our food. Such alterations have been associated with the development of ongoing, chronic, low-level inflammation. This pathology is associated with the development of the disabilities and diseases of the modern Western diet; obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and many, many others.
3.Be About Quality -it’s more than a number
Far too often we focus only on caloric content to determine value in our diets. At the other end of the spectrum, we somehow confuse the concept that increased quantity equates to increased desirability. Not everything is better supersized; sometimes less is truly more. A heritage breed, free-range, organic chicken breast contains approximately 120 calories; so do two deep-fried chicken-like nuggets. While both are pieces of chicken (purportedly) that clock-in at equivalent caloric values; they are anything but the same in terms of taste, texture, nutritional worth, and ultimately food value.
An awareness of quality naturally extends to an appreciation of proportions. When we take the time to truly enjoy our food, the pleasure derived from a 4-ounce serving of heritage breed, grass-fed and pasture-raised filet mignon exceeds the banality of an 8-ounce processed, fast-food, assembled burger. When we comprehend the entirety of the food experience, we begin to understand that the value which we attribute to the food we buy and consume has been skewed far too long by the corporate concepts of supersizing and quantity.
It’s so simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, it can be quite difficult at times. However, by following these three principles we gain a sustainable diet for a lifetime; one that sustains us not only through nourishment to our bodies, but through great taste which nourishes our souls.