12/24/13

Real food, home cooking. Who doesn't love the holidays?

I've had a few life changing events that involved traveling over seas. 

When I was 13 years old I traveled to Japan as part of an exchange program with my school. It was really exciting to stay with a family for 2 weeks and to go to school with my Japanese "siblings."

When I was 20 years old, I traveled to Cebu, Philippians for a work service trip with my college. It was a life changing experience that really changed me. Perhaps it is the trip that gives the "whys" as to why I am so passionate about so many different things today particularly involving quality of life and the diet. I had no running water for 2 weeks (only bucket showers where I would pump my own water for 1 bucket per shower), I slept on concrete (with a sleeping bag), I had no air conditioning (in May) and food portions were very small. 

I am so grateful that my parents gave me two international trips when I was growing up because when I met Karel, I felt like it was meant to be that I was lucky enough to spend the rest of my life with someone who grew up outside of the US. Although I love being an American, I really love learning about the lifestyles in other countries. 


                               
Not only did Karel educate me on the "real" beers in Europe but I learned so much in our recent Czech Republic trip in May. This trip was not so much a life changer as it was a life reinforcer. I was able to live the life I aspire to live in the US and while in Czech Republic, I found it so easy. Real food, lots of walking and a lifestyle that is a bit slower and more focused on quality of life. Sure, there are some downsides (and why Karel left Czech so he could live the American Dream) of living in another country but I really felt at home in Czech. 

Beautiful views. 

Fresh bread...daily. 

Riding our bikes to Austria (Ok, it's only 10K away from Karel's hometown of Znojmo but it sounds so much more impressive to say we rode from Czech to Austria)



Touring Prague. 

I'm sure you noticed but around this time of the year, the grocery stores are packed. There's a lot of food shopping for all the holidays eats on Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas (and any other celebrated winter holiday). 

Grocery shopping is a bi or tri-weekly occurrence for me for I shop for my staple foods but there's a lot of quick trips for produce. Here recently, the packed grocery store and aisles full of people have reminded me  a lot of our trip to Czech. 
Everyday in Czech the locals shop for fresh bread. They also shop at local farmers markets (in season) and do a lot of canning for the winter. There's processed food but for Karel's parents and most of his town, meals are homemade. There was not one fast food place in his hometown and most of the town closes around 5 so that people can get ready for dinner. Lunch is a large meal and there is also a lunch break for the town where most of the town shuts down. 
At the ice cream shops - there is no inside seating. You get your ice cream cone and walk around.
However, in the coffee shops, you do not get a cup of coffee for the go in a paper cup. 



Coffee is consumed slowly, in a small espresso cup often alongside a danish that is appreciated and not seen as "bad" food. 



This is the time of the year that I love for our society. Recipes are flooding the kitchen counter, ingredients are being combined and the smells in the oven make every tummy sing for joy. 
Whereas most people see this as a time of overindulgence's or fatty and high calorie meals when it comes to holiday eating, I see, think and taste real food.

I see families cooking, getting together to eat at a set table and to use silverware. They are not scarfing down a meal in 5 minutes to make a deadline or to get to the next meeting. They are not eating mindlessly in front of a computer, phone or TV or behind the steering wheel in a car. 
Although there may be a processed food option or two, the majority of our holiday meals are based on traditions, secret ingredients and memories that last a lifetime. 

 Would it be too much to ask for our society to emphasize home cooking, 365 days a year?

How about a few days per week?

Now, I am not saying that you have to break out the fine china every evening and never watch TV or sit on the couch when you eat. Also, I don't believe in a 100% real food diet (I've discussed before about choosing fortified food for the right reasons). 

I think the best place to start appreciating real food and home cooking is just that - appreciate what you choose to put into your body. And while that can  be done anytime, the holidays are a great place to start. 

I feel our society struggles the most with having a healthy relationship with food and it is exacerbated around the holidays. 
For many, eating is a time of guilt, restriction or obsession.
For others, there is absolutely no enjoyment for eating - often it is simply a stressful or boring time. 

It's as if for some people, with every bite there's little enjoyment for food for fuel and for nourishment but instead a mixture thoughts of body bashing, enjoying food, calculating calories, factoring a workout (or not) with food amounts and types, etc. 
Instead of feeling great after a meal, there's precise quick measures as to how to try to take back the "damage" that was done.
And for others, the diet is restricted to the point that food doesn't enhance life but instead controls life. 

Although it does take a little more time, planning and dedication, think about how great it feels to enjoy a meal that is cooked slowly and prepared with love. 

Enjoy this time with your friends and family (furry ones included) and be sure to thank your awesome body for another year of an awesome life. 

Happy Holidays!!