A New American Diet
March 11, 2012 § 1 Comment
It is time for us as Americans to admit that our diets are not working for us. We are unhealthy as people, and our diet is one of the greatest contributing factors. We eat too much meat, too many processed foods, not enough vegetables, and not enough whole grains. We have to change the way we think about our current eating habits. We can no longer treat our diet as an afterthought.
We have to become more demanding as consumers. As a country, we have the palate of a middle school student. We want cheese, fat, and sugar. In the meantime, we have forgotten about fresh vegetables, and how to prepare them properly. It’s no wonder that many children hate vegetables when the only reference point they have is frozen vegetables that have been microwaved or boiled into a limp, dull, flavorless mush. Even if we could simply prepare frozen vegetables with proper cooking techniques, we would be making steps in the right direction.
Luckily, we can connect with cuisines that can offer us more. The globally connected world in which we live offers us the possibility of identifying the best of many cultures, to take the experience and ideas of many different ethnicities, using it to better our own lives. This will be uncomfortable and unfamiliar for many of us. It is intimidating to wade in to a new cuisine and try to understand it. It is, however, also ultimately rewarding, often healthy, and keeps us excited about trying new things.
The example I always fall back on is Indian food. I’m sure there will come a point when some of you will tire of me proselytizing for Indian food. It is, in my opinion, the best example of a sophisticated, nutritious and completely delicious cuisine, and I think we could learn a lot as a society by studying this cuisine. There are many spices, mixed in various combinations, creating a vast array of flavors. These spices not only provide “free flavor,” many of these spices have health benefits as well. Vegetables are used in just about every dish, to create sauces, to accentuate meats or other vegetables. Many meat dishes will include onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes or some other vegetable. In fact, Indian cuisine has some of the most amazing vegetarian dishes you will ever eat. If you associate vegetarian cooking with boring blocks of tofu and raw veggies, then you need to try vegetarian Indian food. It borders on a psychedelic experience.
Although I would absolutely love it if everyone became a devotee of Indian food, that is not my ultimate aim. My ultimate aim is to get people to rethink their eating habits, rethink the way they prepare food at home, and rethink just what is possible to accomplish in their own kitchen. Indian food is merely an example to illustrate my point. When you get right down to it, just about anything you prepare at home has the ability to be healthy and nutritious, alive and vibrant, be it Italian, Chinese, Moroccan, or just plain old American food. You can keep it simple while still having a great meal, and you don’t have to become a master at all of the world’s cuisines. There is, however, a great marketplace of ideas, and we have an unprecedented opportunity to shop around for what best suites our needs.