Chatting with a friend about his trip to rural Umbria, Italy, I smiled when he described the tasty home-made food. Memories of my youthful lazy summers in the French Dordogne Périgord region flooded back...
Sitting in the vibrant green Dordogne countryside, with a Romanesque church in the background we savoured the homely meals prepared so lovingly by our house maid Amélie.
Food meant to savoured, not just used as fuel and gulped down.
Meals were served on a long wooden table, set with beautiful ceramic plates painted with sunflowers. One of Amélie’s best dishes was light chicken meatballs with fresh garden ingredients: a pungent rosemary, dill tomato sauce; a colourful arugula and radicchio salad with vine-ripened, tomatoes, fresh basil, roasted peppers, and grilled eggplant, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil made from the olive trees surrounding the old stone farmhouse.
Sometimes to give Amélie a rest, we strolled down the cobbled track to a small local family restaurant.
Several families and friends sat relaxing and happy on a stone terrace under a trellis. When the waiter arrived (after a long time!), we learned that there was no menu or special dish. Just what the locals were eating home cooked.
Boy, what food it was!
Real Living Food!
To start, we had grilled radicchio lettuce, dark greens with olive oil, grilled eggplant with pine nuts. Next came homemade pasta cooked al dente, almost hard by American standards (which makes it more slowly absorbed with less impact on blood sugar). It was just a small serving of pasta, not the mounds of soggy noodles served in most American restaurants.
Then came the famous local Périgord black truffles, garlic, and local extra-virgin olive oil.
Finally, a simple roasted chicken arrived on a big platter to be shared by all of us. Have you ever tasted real free range, grass fed chicken?
WOW! This was unlike anything I knew.
Moist, succulent, and I’m sure, teeming with CLA, omega-3 fatty acids, beta carotene, and vitamin E and with one of the cleanest and healthiest sources of protein around.
Of course, we washed it all down with a bottle of traditional full bodied red Bergerac with minimum sulphites, as the evening came to a close, we enjoyed a tiny cup of rich espresso with a shot of Cognac and... for me, the ‘Pièce de résistance’?
A 1970’s home made version of what is now called “La Madeline au Truffe” or ‘the most expensive chocolate in the world”!
Imagine.... a rare mushroom covered in a thick decadent ganache of 99% Valrhona dark chocolate, natural heavy cream, sugar, truffle oil and vanilla, and dipped in tiny sprinkles of Valrhona dark chocolate.
In all, the food was pleasantly satisfying, the portions reasonable sizes.
We would sit and eat for hours with families and friends chatting, singing, laughing, enjoying each other’s company. Stories, laughter, pleasure filled the days.
Life enjoyed on a human scale, at a sane pace. There’s no rush.
No rush, no growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides... not even food labels!
Food Focus = Fat?
You would think with so much focus on enjoying food and life, that the locals would be huge! Far from it. No one here was even on a diet!
Why? The locals eat regular, reasonable portions of healthy, largely home grown and lovingly made foods, and lead physically active, simple largely outdoor lives.
They don’t gain weight, so there’s no need to lose it.
Yes, all very alien to most of us today with our frenetic, fast food lives. Foods that come from a box or can prepared by food scientists in a factory, not from a rare mineral rich earth.
As you know, these poisonous processed foods are unrecognizable to our genes and our cells, causing dis-harmony, disease and excess weight .
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Perhaps, try these basic tips:
- Choose the freshest, most locally grown ingredients when shopping.
- Discover farmers’ markets in your area to find foods as they were meant to be eaten - right off the farm.
- Cook simply or just eat raw!
- Spend time with friends and family during meals. Make a beautiful dinner once or twice a week and plan on having a slow, languishing meal with no other commitments for the evening.
Once we change our way of eating and our pace of life to incorporate the simple pleasures of slowly savouring whole, fresh foods, especially with good camaraderie, perhaps many of our health and obesity problems – as well as stress - will reduce.