Life-Giving Food

February 26, 2013

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Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the food we put into our bodies. Specifically food that falls into the “life-giving” category as far as I’m concerned. It’s not as if I don’t frequently think about food. In fact between my job as a food editor, blogging and making meals for my family, I think about food 24/7. But the way I think about food had been shifting and changing.

One of my favorite cookbooks is Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson. Although I find some of the recipes hard to execute because of specialty ingredients, the message and mantra behind her book speaks to me in ways that other cookbooks can’t. It’s a book that, like her site, preaches the value of whole foods and quality ingredients. And while it’s not a diet book or even a health food book by conventional standards, her recipes are certainly nutrient-packed and veggie-dense.

Last weekend while my mom was with us, I made a recipe from Heidi’s book for Kale, Coconut and Farro Salad. It was a recipe that combined some unusual flavors including kale, toasted coconut, sesame oil, soy sauce and whole grains. The combination was divine and had all three of us scraping the bottom of our bowls to gather up every last bit of deliciousness.

While I was eating the salad, I felt incredibly aware of how the salad made me feel inside. Not how it tasted but how the ingredients worked together to leave me feeling satisfied, full but not stuffed, filled with energy and ready to tackle the rest of our home-related projects.

I took a minute to let the feeling soak in, then contrasted it with the way I feel after eating a piece of cake, a handful of chips or even a piece of traditional pizza. Admittedly,I don’t eat chips or cake all that often and pizza only now and again, but you get the idea. Night and day I tell you. Kale salads, fruit smoothies, buttery avocado on whole grain toast and even dark chocolate all fall into the category, for me, of life-giving foods. Many of the dishes that come standard to the American way of life (sodas, including the diet variety, pizza, fried foods, etc.) all have a way of physically tasting as if they are stealing away moments of your life. Which is appropriate I suppose considering what they are doing to you inside.

For a long time I thought about food in a much different way than I do now. Everything I ate revolved around how it would make me look on the outside. Would it make me look skinny? Count me in! Eating nothing but processed protein bars and crazy diet shakes? Sign me up. I can’t begin to tell you the number of crazy diets I played with during high school and college.

Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until I gave up the diets and embraced life-giving foods in the form of veggies, whole grains, fruits and the like that I started to feel comfortable in my own skin. And my body responded, too, by dropping the pounds that I had agonized about through the “diet years.”

I’m not entirely sure where I am going with all of this, so please bear with me. I don’t intend to wage a war on cake (I’m not that crazy! I love cake.) but I feel that a shift in the type of recipe content shared on E&C may be on the horizon. Does it make sense to say that it feels more authentic to be sharing recipes that reflect where I am at as a cook? Because if I were to share a new sugar-bomb dessert recipe with you every week and act as if I enjoyed a big piece of cake or a gooey brownie every night after dinner, I’m afraid I would be misleading you and duping you into believing that was the case.

Above all things, I want E&C to feel authentic and real rather than curated and staged. Where I’m at right now is light on the desserts, heavy on the healthy and natural with daily doses of extra dark chocolate. Not because it’s what I think I should be eating, but because it is what makes me feel good and what my body desires. And that feels pretty darn good.

All for now,

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  • Reply Joanna February 26, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    I’m excited to hear about (and keep reading about) this subtle shift! I love the term “life-giving foods” because it touches on the elemental quality of whole, real foods. Yay for you!

  • Reply Jessica Scheuer February 26, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    great and important message to share. i was a serial dieter for way too long; and gave it up around five years ago by trying to eat intuitively. sometimes it does involve a slice of cheesecake; but by eating the foods i thought i couldn’t have (avocado, peanut butter, cheese, pistachios) i am more satisfied and less likely to want that chocolate cake anyway. i feel so much more in control because of these choices and besides a healthy weight gain for my pregnancy; my weight has stayed the same.

    • Reply Urban Wife February 26, 2013 at 9:38 pm

      Congrats on your pregnancy! 🙂

  • Reply LMR February 26, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    I love this entry! I too love eating things that make me feel good inside, & I am SOOO happy you too include dark chocolate in that group! I love hearing about the Super Natural Every Day cookbook, I will check it out, & I look forward to recipes from you that reflect “where you are” as a cook at this time. Thank you.

  • Reply Urban Wife February 26, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    Perfectly written! I love the bit about being authentic in sharing how you’re eating & cooking right now. So many times, I start to get jaded with reading certain food blogs (not yours) because I sense that the authenticity you’re talking about just isn’t there. Thank you for always being genuine and authentic. 🙂

  • Reply Shanna February 26, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    I know exactly what you’re talking about and totally get it. In fact, I genuinely believe that once you get addicted to that nourished feeling, it’s hard to go back to anything that works against it. Here’s to foods that truly give us life — love that concept.

  • Reply Helen, naturally! February 27, 2013 at 2:55 am

    This message is a beautiful one! I love that you want to share more true to life foods with us, and I am super excited to see more com you. I will have to check out the cookbook you referenced, and can you please share what type/brand of dark chocolate you enjoy daily ☺

    • Reply Madison Mayberry February 27, 2013 at 6:56 pm

      Thanks, Helen! My dark chocolate of choice usually comes from Trader Joe’s (the small bars that come in the 3-pack). Not the fanciest, but super tasty!

  • Reply Marie February 28, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Madison I love this entry! Yesterday I prepared a hearty nutritious lunch for my mom and I, and her response was, “ I just feel so well nourished!” I’m excited for great new posts. Thanks for your blog, as always!

    • Reply Madison Mayberry February 28, 2013 at 6:14 pm

      Marie, I love hearing that! It’s amazing since it seems like our bodies just know when something is good and nutritious for us.

  • Reply ShannonLC February 28, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    Completely off topic, but you should do a blog about hair, products, styling etc. I know you did one a few months ago about the issues you had been having. It would be a great time to update!

    • Reply Madison Mayberry February 28, 2013 at 6:13 pm

      Shanon, I was just thinking I should do an update since I do have some things to report back on the topic. Look for something next week! Thanks for the extra nudge. 🙂

  • Reply Cindy Germann March 14, 2013 at 12:57 am

    I didn’t comment right away, but I’ve been thinking about this post on and off since you published it. I often hear that I’m “depriving” myself by passing on sweets or pizza or pasta or whatever it might be, but I’ve realized that when I eat things that don’t work well with my body I’m actually depriving myself of how my healthy well-fed body feels. Sometimes that piece of cake is worth it, but often it isn’t. I’ve started telling myself “I’m strong, I’m fit, I’m healthy, I don’t REALLY want that doughnut.” And if I do really want that doughnut? I eat it. And move on with life. But less and less foods are worth it to me as I feel better and better fueling my body with real, fresh, nutritious food.

    Anyway, that novel was to say – I love this post, I love the focus on life-giving food. Thanks for sharing it with us!

    • Reply Madison Mayberry March 14, 2013 at 11:10 am

      What a great thoughtful comment, Cindy! I, too, hate it when I hear someone tell me that I’m depriving myself of that doughnut at work or that slice of cake at an office party. It’s not really about wishing I could have something and not allowing myself to enjoy it but rather choosing to have something else and feel a different way. I so appreciate you taking the time to mull it over and then come back to leave a response!

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