Ah, resolution season. I pull back from food media this time of year to avoid grinding my teeth at the sight of yet another article yapping about Superfoods, Clean Eating, Staying Full with Fiber, or Juicing Exotic Fruits (with a carbon footprint the size of Texas). Focusing on these foods is not bad, necessarily, but advertising only cares about the short term. There are zero concerns about seasonality, sustainability, or local sourcing. If you actually did Change Your Body for Good, all these diet rags would go out of business.
The real deal in January is this: in the northern hemisphere at least, we’re in the deep midwinter. Nothing is growing. (Except kale.) Outside of our completely artificial food supply, your options for fruits & veggies right now are root vegetables, leafy greens, and maybe the odd apple or pear stored up from the fall harvest. From this perspective, the idea of a spinach and blueberry smoothie or snacking on cherry tomatoes is slightly ludicrous, is it not? I would argue that the short-term health benefits of January dieting do not outweigh the negative externalities imposed by trucking pineapple and avocados over thousands of miles to your blender.
So here’s my big plug this January: clip out or pin all those healthy recipes and save them for when produce is actually in season. You’ll end up with something more nutritious that takes less fossil fuel to transport and tastes a zillion times better.
And there’s even a cool tool to help you figure out what seasonal eating looks like, if you’re new to the concept: The Eat Well Guide allows you to click your state on the map and provides you with a list of what’s fresh now. Easy, right?
As an example, here is what’s available between now and early spring in Georgia:
Pretty eye-opening, huh? You’ll notice that basically everything today’s wellness gurus recommend (avocados, berries, and spinach, for example) is absent for at least the next few months.
Now, I’m sure you’re wondering a few things about seasonal eating. What if I live where you could never grow a banana or an avocado, and not even a humble lemon tree? The magazines at the checkout stand said I had to eat a rainbow of produce, and that starchy vegetables are evil. Also, I hate kale. And cooking. Maybe this isn’t for everyone?
Stay with me here. For too long, America’s food culture has focused on marketing and convenience rather than a holistic picture of growing, cooking, and eating whole, unprocessed foods as a foundation of health. Consequently, we’re sicker than we’ve ever been. Diabetes, heart disease, cancer. Convenience is actually shortening both our lifespans and diminishing our quality of life.
It’s hard to hear and harder to heed, but yo-yo dieting, eating disorders, and “superfoods” aren’t going to fix this. We need to think, perhaps long and hard, about what we’re eating at every meal. What am I eating, exactly? Where did it come from? How was it grown or produced? Are there any ingredients I don’t recognize or can’t easily trace back to a plant or animal source?
And also: Am I reinforcing good personal habits by eating this? Healthy farms and communities? Healthy soil and rivers? Providing meaningful lessons to my family? Does this make me feel good on a big picture level, or am I just less hungry for having eaten it?
I hope you’ll follow along here as I try to answer these questions for myself. I won’t even pretend to be dogmatic about my food habits or adhere to annoying labels like “locavore,” “flexatarian,” or even “gluten-free,” even if they’re most often true. My intention is to promote a thoughtful dialogue on how our beliefs, values, and vision for the future are inextricably tied to what we eat. You’ll find recipes and stories here for real food and real life, beginning with this simple Moroccan carrot soup.
- 2 tsp. cumin seeds
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced (~6.5 oz)
- 1 lb. carrots, peeled and diced
- 3 c. vegetable or chicken stock
- salt & pepper, to taste
- 1-2 tsp. harissa
- 3 Tbsp. cream or coconut milk
- 1-2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- plain yogurt, for serving
- Toast cumin seeds in a small frying pan over medium heat, until fragrant and beginning to brown. Remove from heat and grind in a spice grinder or coffee grinder until fine and powdery. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil in the base of a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion when pan is hot and saute 5 minutes, until onion becomes slightly translucent. Add carrots and saute another two minutes. Pour in stock, cumin, 1/2 tsp. salt, and harissa. Season to taste with pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 20 minutes, until carrots are very soft.
- Blend soup in batches until completely smooth. Return to pot over very low heat and add cream or coconut milk and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, harissa, or lemon juice as you see fit. If it's too thick, add a little more broth or water.