Saturday, November 6, 2010

i was in the kitchen when you called....

oh my, a lapsed nutritionist and now a lapsed blogger to boot. thank you dear readers who continue to check in on me despite my poor attendance on the page over the last few months. my only excuse (though i think it's a good one) is that i've been spending more time in the kitchen and less time on the computer. see, i told you it was a good one.

in the last couple weeks, i've managed to convince myself that i've put my time in with packaged food and that i'm finally ready to move on. up. back (to my roots, not packaged food). my approach to this however, is one of healthy moderation. i will not give up noodles that cook in under a minute or my good friend the tortilla chip.

it's hard for me to say exactly what coaxed me back to the world of real food. i'm sure it has something to do with having a child who can now play (for a little while) on his own. i used to cook with him in a sling, which prompted a brief flirtation with the entrepreneurial idea of the "hib", or hat-bib. it also made for very erratic, interrupted kitchen practices. i've burnt most of our pots and once found lemons in the freezer.

another reason is that our bodies, when we listen to them, really just want the real deal. i got to the point where convenience became too much of a sacrifice for what i truly needed. so while i still don't feel like i have a lot of extra time, i am slowly making cooking, eating, and general kitchen-ing a priority.

and so, over the last few weeks my "things that make you go mmm" list has included: caramelized onion, carrot and dill scones, mung bean dhal, blueberry pancakes with apricot coconut cardamom puree, and chicken stock simmered nice and slow. i also pulled out our stoneware crock and spent a morning preparing cabbage to become its higher (in my opinion) life form: sauerkraut. if anyone has made sauerkraut before, you know that you gotta put some muscle into it as the cabbage needs to be pounded in order to release some juice. if you likewise have any experience with a toddler, then you also know that they love to copy what you do. if you just formed the mental picture of a small child smashing the heck out of his lentils and rice with great pride, you're bang on.

may you find the time to do what nourishes you. it doesn't matter what it is. feeling good looks great on you.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

out with zee old

july is my birth month. i am on the leo side of july, which is a partial explanation of why i love my birthday so much (attention & celebration for shy ol' me....shucks). the bigger reason for my adoration however, is that my birthday acts like a mental re-set button. my own little New Year. a time for reflection, thanks, forgiveness and goals with lots of gusto.

as a tradition i write a gratitude list and a letting go list. this year, as part of my ongoing goal not to take myself too seriously, i'm also making public, a list of confessions. it's all about food, and i promise it's PG. no particular order, i confess....
  • i've taken to cutting up food into small pieces and freezing it. my rational side deems this normal and even helpful for portioning and having food on hand for my little tyke, but there is an element of quirk to it that i need to disclose. i find these small pieces of neatly organized food very satisfying to look at. so much so that i'll occasionally open the freezer just to check on these small food items and their perfect arrangement.
  • i ate take out all last week. seriously. didn't cook a darn thing.
  • i eat cereal or ice cream out of mugs. it's my way of disguising the fact that i've eaten either of them for supper. bowl of cereal? nuh-uh, not me.
  • if i was going to be stuck on a desert island and there was only one food that i could take with me it would be broccoli. it sounds so nutritionist of me, but its true. (that's not to say that i wouldn't try and sneak along some tortilla chips).
  • i find myself in a grocery store 5-7 days a week. of these 5-7 days i am likely a) wearing my pajamas under my clothes *although this is much easier in winter* b) wearing food on my clothes or c) really, really trying not to do both, but nervy enough to use the "motherhood made me do it" clause if i find myself in such a situation
  • i tend to finish finn's leftovers. this is sort of like eating 1.3 meals at every sitting.
  • i used to hide my favourite foods on my husband. passive? yes. childish? mmm hmm. effective? no, he finds everything. but i am pleased to say that the artichoke olive hummus is no longer casually placed under the leafy chard in the vegetable crisper. i am no longer a closet hoarder. i am now a food sharer with boundaries.
i leave you here dear readers. not quite squeaky, but still pretty clean.

may your summer find you with cherry-kissed lips, blueberry-stained fingers, and heart-shaped strawberries to share with someone you love.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

feeding the cat

yesterday i had a cappuccino-coconut milk ice cream smoothie for breakfast. yup, just a quick left, a jag to the right and a short jaunt down the road from the ol' millet porridge standby.


nutritional detours aside, what i am part giddy, part stymied about is the fact that i have spent a year of motherhood without the company of caffeine (see footnote.) why did nobody tell me?! is this why strollers have consoles that are a perfect fit for a large cup? is this how mamas keep their houses clean?

while i appreciated my altered state for a good half hour,what i came away with was more than an erratically completed to-do list. see, i've always been caffeine free. no, not to become the patron saint of sleep deprivation or because i'm a goody goody, but because it actually feels terrible in my body, unless the circumstances are just so (i.e. i'm hydrated, i've eaten, i'm relaxed, the sun is at exactly the right angle-that sort of thing...) regularly going without caffeine means that when i do encounter its rich-bodied goodness, i have a FULL experience of its influence- and it ain't for sissy's.

caffeine changes the
entire tempo of my body and mind: my heart rate increases, my body temperature changes, my thoughts move like a thoroughbred. now this is not to make a 'for' or 'against' case about caffeine. it's simply a reminder that we are constantly under the influence of what we choose to put in our bodies ( yes, i have re-worded the "you are what you eat" cliche, but not without feeling very passionate about doing so). eating on the run, eating the same things every day, eating overly flavoured foods- all of these things give the body mixed messages about what nourishment really is. perhaps more importantly, it doesn't allow the eater to really experience how a particular food or drink makes them feel. this, THIS, my friends is the key to knowing what is "right" for you to eat.

when you feel lethargic, jittery, calm, or clear after eating consider that you are listening to the conversation between food and your body. if you can't hear very well, try taking a break from your habitual foods. start by picking 2 of them: one that you feel truly does your body good, and one that you have a serious crush on but have a sense that it might just be leading you on. commit yourself to a 7 day fast from both of them (going longer will certainly up the ante, but i am trying to prevent any panic here). after 7 days, have a date with said foods ( i suggest spacing them out by a day). then give yourself fully over to the experience of eating (or drinking). no distractions. just you and your beloved.

now what do you notice? are you instantly pleased, satisfied, or heartbroken? does instant pleasure give way to a headache, cravings or a mood swing an hour later? or do you realize that half the day has passed and you still feel nourished? what did your body and that coffee or kale or peanut butter sandwich talk about?

i know, i know it seems like a lot to think about all at once. but for all of you that are hungry to know more about how to eat "right", i say this:

curiosity doesn't kill the cat, it feeds it.

1. in case you didn't know dear readers, something as fine as coconut milk ice cream actually exists. no dairy, no soy, not even refined sugar...just straight up, real deal, frozen love.

2.and before you tease me relentlessly about my coffee buzz, it wasn't just cappuccino flavoured ice cream, it's made from REAL coffee and REAL coffee beans. geez....

Thursday, April 29, 2010

back in the saddle

it's official. my maternity leave is over--or at least the government-funded aspect of my leave has ceased. in truth, i think a part of me will never fully return from this time in my life.pajama marathons would be very hard to give up.

so here i am. right at the point where the seemingly disparate parts of my life intersect. a meshing of the meghans. the year i've spent busting out creative raffi renditions, consulting google about teething remedies and being awake when the rest of the world is quiet and dark has changed me. my heart feels bigger. i am both more gentle and more fierce. i've done things that i would've previously told you that i couldn't do.

there are, of course, things that have remained the same. in particular, the feelings that i had when receving my last deposit from "EI-Canada": i feel both blessed and terrified to be self-employed. but such is the path that i've chosen so its time for my raffi-singing- self to get to work.

now where did i put that hat?

last week i had my first 'back to work brand new never met before' client. from our email exchanges i knew that we were going to be a good fit. nevertheless, i was not entirely home free from wondering if i still knew what i was talking about, if i could actually ever help anybody with anything, or carry on a conversation that did not involve digressions on the subject of a certain you know who.

in no particular order, here are the things that help me to feel like a bona fide professional: earrings, matching socks, lip gloss and my trusty leather satchel.

i tend to be a big fan of my clients. they're just so smart and sincere, real and inspiring. its true that i love food, value nutrition, and have a big crush on health, but the joy i get from my work is really because of the people i work with.

and so it is, that i often leave a consultation feeling inspired and a little wired. one of my own little quirks is to respond to over-stimulation by eating. it used to just happen, and now its more or less a conscious tick. eating can be a grounding experience. sometimes i'll choose deep breathing, walking or yoga instead, but the other day, after meeting with my newest exceptional client, i did not.

the banana was preceded by toasted pumpkin seeds and followed by leftover rice noodles and a pickle. this odd assortment of snacks might leave some thinking that i'm trying to get out of self-employment by heading back to maternity leave.

i assure you i'm not.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

dear meghan, i was wondering....

with the exception of calling a bowl of frozen raspberries and a mug of chamomile tea "dinner" the other night, its been a fairly calm week chez rathwell. a few days ago, our family of three even managed to take in some sunshine while sitting on a patio, enjoying a cold beverage and eating yam fries. i'd say that we're approaching normalcy, if i believed in such a thing.

( finn highly recommends the menu)

my reason for writing today however is not to talk about my food frenzies, but

since starting to blog, i've realized the immense opportunity that exists for dialogue, learning and community building, right here at this very web address. while i enjoy the cathartic nature of my writing process, i didn't expect that i would be on the receiving end of your heart-warming, juicy, and insightful muse. i love it, and think it would be selfish to keep you all to myself.

so in honour of all of us who like to eat, write and wonder what the heck we're doing,
i'd like to offer a little dose of nutrition Q & A.

i invite you to email me with questions of the food-based kind. at the whims of my sporadic nature, i will dedicate posts to you and your questions. i hope to adjust my sails according to the volume of correspondence i get and evolve my blog to meet the interest of the reader-folk. but for now, lets consider it practice-mode. oh, and please know that your emails to me are confidential and i will not be posting any names or information that discloses your questioning self.

to get you in the spirit, i'm including a recent exchange i had with a friend after he read one of my posts. in it, i had named myself as an advocate for "whole foods." he writes....

Q:" what does whole foods mean?"

A: " whole foods is a term used to describe fresh, alive, REAL food found in its natural state rather than reduced to separate components. whole foods retain their vitamins, minerals, enzymes and can therefore offer you the optimum amount of vitality. like oats with all the fiber and gritty goodness rather than quick oats designed for microwave cooking. whole foods have their little food souls intact."

Q: "does this mean i should eat the feathers?"

A:" no, but a regular shaking of your tail feathers is encouraged"

serious, silly, personal, ...lets start talking.

Monday, April 5, 2010

random acts of cooking

a week ago, my friend chashma asked me if i'd be up for a quirky cooking project. looking to explore food in public spaces and how community is formed around food, what she proposed was a variation on the stone soup fable. given that i adore food, enjoy fables and am decidedly quirky; i did not hesitate to say yes.

the idea was to assemble a makeshift kitchen in a public space and cook up a batch of soup. what kind of soup? it was impossible to say. not only were we going to make soup in a public space, we weren't going to bring any of the ingredients, save olive oil and salt. the most fantastical (chashma preferred the word crazy) part of the experiment was to ask passerby's to donate something soup-worthy from their grocery bags. once finished, bowls of soup would be given away for free. beautiful non?

after gathering 2 cutting boards, 1 coleman stove, 6 bowls, 2 knives, 1 signboard, 3 wooden spoons, 40 paper plates and spoons, 5 tbsp of olive oil, 2 tbsp of salt, 1 fold-up table accompanied by a bed-sheet for a tablecloth, and 2 matching aprons, we were ready.

we set up in grandview park on commercial drive. "the drive" as it is lovingly called is a hot- spot for groceries and all things eccentric. our neighbors that day included an 8-year-old selling toys she had outgrown, 3 street folk selling electronics of questionable origin, a rogue musician, an elderly gentleman telling anyone who would listen that colleges and cars pollute our environment and some teens who, should they read this, would be pleased to see themselves described as anarchists. it was a good day for soup.

hi there! we're making a community pot of soup, and your bag of groceries looks quite heavy. is there something you'd like to contribute to lighten your load? an onion perhaps?

good day sir! i see you've noticed our steaming pot over here. we're making soup that we're going to give away when its finished. might you have an item to donate? carrot? potato?

with the exception of one stranger who was wildly excited about the idea and had his wife jump out of the car to bring us barley while he circled the block, we mostly have our friends to thank for donations. they really are souper. (you know i had to).

after 1.5 hours our final list of donated ingredients read:
carrot, onion, garlic, ginger, cauliflower, wild rice, celery, kale, barley, cilantro

the soup is on.

if i thought i liked cooking, i've realized that i like feeding people more. offering hot bowls of delicious soup to strangers (some of whom truly needed it) was a highlight for me. the conversation began to flow, and the folks who had been distant passerby's moved in closer. engaged with us. ate soup and smiled. we shared gratitude, talked about the weather and politics. people asked for seconds and when we all parted ways, it was with warm bellies and hearts. i guess its always a good day for soup.

*thanks again to all our friends, old and new, who donated food stuffs and to miss patricia cournoyer for the photo-taking.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

on the subject of eggs and baskets...

its getting close to easter and its time to talk about the egg. more specifically, the egg white. in my debut post, when i disclosed my fear of returning to earth as such, a friend wrote to me and said, "hey! what's wrong with egg white? add a little sugar, whip and voila- you've got meringue!"

now clearly, here is a man who knows how to treat an egg white. unfortunately, meringue isn't high on my menu wish list and egg whites don't meet such a fate (it likely doesn't get any better for an egg white than sugar and whip) in my home.

an advocate for whole foods, i must explain why i am dealing with egg whites to begin with. as with previous posts, this is where i hold my 10- month- old son accountable. imagine! pointing the finger at a small, beautiful, innocent child....

one of finn's first solid foods was egg yolk. rich in iron, vitamin a & d and a range of essential fatty acids, the egg yolk is a glowing orange-ish orb of happiness. egg
whites however, contain a number of proteins which make them a potential food allergen and therefore not the best beginner food for a wee babe (although in typical nutritional fashion, this can and will be debated from source to source). i often do nutrition by intuition and am still serving the yolk straight up.

herein lies the problem. to serve an egg sans white, it means a separation must occur. it means that finn eats the yolk, and i eat the white. sometimes. not often. ok, i've thrown it out a couple of times. my toes just curled as i wrote that and my mind's eye re-reads the bumpersticker i saw today: "where are we going? and what am i doing in this handbasket?"

given the precious resource that food is, and the massive disparities that exist in its distribution, food waste feels criminal. icky. needless. shameful. thankfully such ill feelings have a way of helping me to transform my not-so-pretty habits into something more gracious.

adios boiled egg. hello fried in butter egg.

in hindsight, a change in cooking technique is obvious. being somewhat of an egg novice however, i had to make the following discoveries through trial and error : boiled egg gives way to slimy gelatinous wiggly wobbly gaggy egg white. fried in butter egg makes for crispy, add a little sea salt and call it good eatin' egg white. eating boiled egg white causes slurping noises because even though its cooked, somehow its still runny (ew, ew ew). fried egg white can be chewed normally and its still just as easy to separate the white from the happy orange-ish orb. as a bonus, finn likes it better too.
(nutritional disclaimer: we're sure not to fry the heck out of our precious egg and we only use a heat stable, good quality fat like butter, ghee or coconut oil).

i offer my sincere and humble apologies to those who could have made better use of my disrespected egg white and wish an enjoyable easter to you all. oh, and in case you need somewhere to put the eggs you collect, i do have an extra handbasket.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

a carb by any other name, is still a carb

my dear friend jessie came for a visit today. i wanted to feed her. i love having a little something prepared for a guest, especially a fellow food lover. but it was one of those mornings. yes, one of those mornings.

minutes before she arrived, i took stock of what i had ready to go: a choice of 4 carrot butts, finn’s left- over yams and blueberries, 1/3 of an avocado and popcorn that finn salvaged from behind the stove on his daily dustbunny cruise.

enter the rathwell house special: green tea chai with coconut milk and honey. (it is my firm belief that a well-stocked tea cupboard is essential to feeling more together than you actually are).

but today isn't really what's on my mind. today i'm thinking about yesterday.

monday was one of those days where i stood in front of the cupboards, doors open, eyes roaming the same cans and cartons in search of something that i may have missed the first six times i stood in the exact same spot, doing the exact same thing. then i'd move to the fridge and repeat. unfortunately the meghan who turns this into a creative exercise and whips together something strange, yet tasty and satisfying was not home. meghan who eats carbohydrates all day was left in charge.

i'm definitely not a 'don't eat carbohydrates' nutritionist. carbs and i are friends and i can list a number of great reasons to enjoy carbs (though i do admit said carbs will come with disclaimers). what i am is an 'aim for balance, variety and something fresh, green and lifelike everyday' nutritionist. even on mondays.

eating a whole foods diet used to be easy for me. its been a big adjustment to have to work at it. humbling even. and yet i'm thankful. there is always something to learn when our habitual patterns fall to pieces. there is always a freedom in allowing yourself to start over.

ok ok, you're wondering what i ate right? here it is:
rice crackers, rice milk, your plain old rice rice, mochi (pounded rice), a rice flour muffin made with brown rice syrup and rice pasta.

seven different rice products! not green, not balanced, not lifelike, but surely this counts as variety?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

confessions: take 1

in my past life i was a nutritionist: a shopping, chopping, soaking, fermenting, well-fed nutritionist. it started as a hobby, became a matter of study, and for the last 4 years i have worked as a consultant and teacher. i found contentment as a foodie and confidence in practicing what i preached. but that was my past life. 9 months ago, i became a mama.

while pregnant, i imagined that motherhood would further immerse me in the glorious world of REAL food. i would bake bread, and make yogurt while my child played at my feet. my counters would be lined with soaking grains and living sprouts. instead i find myself standing in my kitchen eating a rice cake (eww, a rice cake!) while talking on the phone with my son on my hip distractedly trying to fix his jollyjumper. the counters are an assortment of pots i've burnt, a sippy cup, old carrots that were once good as a teething toy, and a pile of pear peelings.

in a moment of pause, i receive the mental picture of myself in front of my students espousing the mandatory rules of eating for health: sit, chew, relax.

i reach for an explanation. its motherhood. i'm busy, i'm sleep-deprived, i'm breastfeeding, i'm in transition. basically i'm everything that requires even better nutrition but i'm cashing in on the right that all new mothers have to come apart at the seams if and when they need to.

now the powers of justification are such that they enable a grace period before coming to the truth of the situation. what fun its been to allow myself to change my tune! chewing? bah! chewing is for weaklings. whole grains? processed and packaged is much more efficient! but what about nutrient dense foods? slather everything in ghee and don't worry about the rest.

its come to my attention that the grace of my kitchen situation has expired and i'm just stuck with the truth. so here it is: my local, whole food diet, eaten with awareness has gone south.

in my past life i was a nutritionist. at present i am a mother. i fear that unless i tell the truth about how challenging it is for me to reconcile these seemingly opposing forces, my future life may be that of an egg white.

(more on egg white in a future post...)