I get a present on my doorstep once a week: a box of fresh, local, organic produce from Farm Fresh To You, a local Community Supported Agriculture farm. Tucked inside is a newsletter with the farm owner’s often lyrical musings about life on the farm and the state of the crops. The reverse side holds recipes for using the contents of the box.
I love planning my meals around the box–it feels right to get back into harmony with the seasons, eating just what’s fresh locally each week. It meant a heavy dose of kale and collards in January and February, but I explored some new recipes for each! I’ve been presented with new vegetables which fortunately came with instructions; pea shoot soup is a new favorite which was perfect for St. Patrick’s Day. It’s also a challenge to get through the contents before the next box arrives; I’m forced to eat more produce than I used to eat and to find creative ways to use it all. Every once in awhile, I give the excess away; I discovered two friends who raved about the brussels sprouts I just couldn’t choke down, and I treated my hiking group to the sweetest apples ever. My supplier is flexible, though; I can change delivery schedules and amounts, and I can even list foods I never want to receive. (So far, I’ve only listed foods I grow myself.)
Eating mindfully is important on a retreat. I find that cooking just for myself is a treat; I get to indulge all of my own preferences, and no one will raise eyebrows at a bizarre mishmash of lentils, eggplant, curry, and collard greens which admittedly tastes better than it looks. Cooking is a meditation on each ingredient that goes into my body, and it’s also an art form. I never met a recipe I didn’t alter, and usually I cook the way Jackson Pollack painted.
If you drive to your retreat location, you can stop at a farmer’s market or roadside stand and make your own produce box. Many grocery stores also have wonderful sections of organic produce. If you’re adding meat and dairy, check for hormone-free products from animals raised in humane ways. Carry a Seafood Watch guide from Monterey Bay Aquarium (or get it on your iPhone!) to help you choose safe, ocean-friendly seafood. Add whole grains–consider baking your own bread as one form of meditation. Beans, tofu, and low-fat dairy from happy cows are great sources of lean protein. Pasta and rice are versatile bases for your creations.
Armed with these basic ingredients, shun recipes (except for baking) and let loose your inner Julia Child. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new combinations. Re-create childhood favorites in a healthier, adult version–try mac and cheese with lowfat cheese and milk, whole grain pasta, and a touch of cayenne pepper, onion, and sherry.
Beyond organic produce, I have a couple of food rules:
- Nothing fake. Joan Gussow, author of This Organic Life, says: “”As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists.” The same sentiments apply to fake sugar and fake meat.
- Water was the first miracle. Tea leaves and coffee beans just make it better. Diet Pepsi is not a legitimate beverage.
- Jesus not only changed water into wine as his own first miracle, he chose the best vintage. Enjoy!
- Make mealtimes sacred. Light a candle of gratitude and decorate your table with flowers, pebbles, or shells.
- Eat slowly, savoring every bite.
- There’s a reason God gave invented the sweet tooth. She also created the cocoa bean. Savor the serendipity.