Healthy living

Back to Basics in the Kitchen

This is one of the top articles being emailed on NYTimes.  Now, usually I cringe at mainstream “diet” books, and even though this article’s title, “Learning to cut the sugar,” is a slight misnomer, the article’s message is right on the mark for me.  Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist and author of The Fat Chance Cookbook, is known for his viral lecture, “Sugar: the Bitter Truth.”  I guess it is for this title that the NY Times article is called “Learning to Cut the Sugar.”  However, Dr. Ludwig “says that ‘anti-processed food guy’ would be a more appropriate nickname” (O’Connor).  YES!  I wholeheartedly agree, and I wonder how much of this wisdom came from not only his experience running a childhood weight management clinic but also from his Norwegian wife.

I spent about seven months in France last year teaching English to a group of high school students and I was blown away by the food at the school’s cafeteria.  We’re talking beef roast (some variety of main dish protein), two extremely generous servings of vegetables, a baguette, a piece of cheese, fruit choice, and a dessert.

The French really know how to do lunch.  Thus, I was struck by Dr. Ludwig’s corroboration of my observation.  He said, “The bottom line is every country has its cuisine, and every cuisine works for that country. But there’s one thing that doesn’t work for any country: processed food” (O’Connor).  In France, and I realize things are changing but for the most part, people still cook.  People know how to prepare simple meals at home.  I am just starting a new job and every day at work I am confounded by the number of young people who have absolutely no idea of how to make anything for dinner…to the point that they are only eating 1. out, 2. pasta, or 3. the breakfast route: yogurt or cereal.  WHAT?!  Aren’t you hungry, tired of eating the same things, and sick of restaurant meals???  And, for the record, even the people of my parents’ generation are eating microwaveable meals…yugh.  Have I mentioned I am a food snob?

I had a German roommate, Alina, in France and she unknowingly taught me the most important thing to do in the kitchen: sauté with garlic.  My mom definitely cooked for my family growing up; however, she is not a great cook (her words, not mine).  That is, it’s not something she’s fond of doing, and she doesn’t naturally know how to do it without following a recipe.  [She once told me to bake plain skinless, boneless chicken breasts in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes…Yes, that cooks them but OMG are they bland.]  Alina was the one that introduced me to real garlic gloves and the ease of heating up olive oil, tossing in garlic for the most amazing aroma, and then cooking vegetables, meat, or whatever on the stove top from there.  My favorite Christmas gift I got this year was an OXO garlic mincer, so my hands don’t get sticky (see below).

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My mom never learned to really cook because her mom never learned (my great-grandmother died of tuberculosis when my grandmother was only 9).  The art of cooking was lost.  And I believe that holds true for the vast majority of Americans, while our European counterparts, whose appetites for convenience and fast food are definitely catching up to ours (the French are the #2 consumers of fast-food in the world behind Americans), tend to actually cook from scratch, rather than starting with a packaged food product.

I truly believe Dr. Lustig is on to something though.  Being healthy is far easier in some ways than what most Americans imagine.  It doesn’t mean you can’t eat cookies, but I strongly believe it does mean that you will spend solid chunks of time (for my husband and I on the weekends) preparing your own food.

In my next post, I will continue this conversation with my husband’s personal experience losing 30 lbs. eating my homecooked meals!

Sources:  O’Conoor, Anahad.  “Learning to Cut the Sugar.”  February 19, 2014.  Accessed on February 22, 2014.