winter always gets me. i tend towards a bit of “sad” disorder in the colder months (even when colder months means california drought winters with nearly 70 degree days). getting over the holidays and having been cooped up with a colickly baby for 3 months has left me feeling heavy and vitamin d deprived. it seems every winter i am looking for a way to feel better.
i have always been a believer that nutrition and mood are very, very closely related. seeing my son tense up and scream and wail for hours while his poor underdeveloped guts fought inside of him made me think more about what i eat than ever. cutting dairy, soy (i’m allergic anyway), gluten, spicy or gas producing foods (legumes, broccoli, garlic, etc) has been difficult. it’s also made me get creative and re-focus on cooking, because nearly everything produced outside of my home has one of the above ingredients.
i’ve always been curious about how much lineage plays into what we eat and what we process best. michael pollan talks about how traditional foods that our great (sometimes great-great) grandparents prepared became american-ized in the 40’s and 50’s by our grandparents and parents. italian food became fettuccine alfredo. mexican food became nachos. everything became fattened up and super sized. last winter i read daphne miller’s the jungle effect, a book about a doctor who begins treating her patients by prescribing diets of traditional “native” meals. she found parts of the world where diseases like heart disease, depression and diabetes were lowest and traveled there to find out what they were eating. she found that people in those places ate local, seasonal foods and found certain “superfoods” for combating diabetes and heart disease. she concludes that eating an “indigenous” diet is beneficial for anyone, no matter where they are from.
i’ve been wanting to find out for myself, how much does the season figure? how much does eating local produce figure? personally, there are no family recipes that have been handed down, no dishes that signify home or a particular heritage. my mother prepared foods that were not traditionally irish or english but plain old american. i have very little attachment to my lineage, but i do notice that eating exotic foods made with ingredients that aren’t close to my predominantly irish/english/welsh lineage are often hard to digest. whether or not our lineage factors, eating local, seasonal foods has got to help us to be in the moment. look how closely foods are associated with holidays, particularly the winter ones. but those foods are truly american-ized, they lack the seasonal produce that i am talking about. canned green beans with deep fried onions and pumpkin spiced lattes are hardly natural. apart from holiday fare, warm stews, soups and heavier dishes wouldn’t satisfy in summer heat. food is incredibly comforting in the darker, colder months but it’s so easy to fall into the traps of heavy, unhealthy foods. after the holidays and again around late february i start to feel lethargic and overweight. this winter i’ve resolved to cook and eat more seasonal, local produce. squashes, lettuces, dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, oranges, and pears are all things i’ve been eating more of recently. forget that pizza i scarfed down last night, bring on the lacinto kale!