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Back to Basics

By: Chit U. JuanBack to Basics

When people pause before taking that first bite during mealtime, it is usually to say a little prayer, or regardless of faith, to say thank you to the universe for providing us with food. This eating tradition reflects the sacred nature of food which we sometimes forget when we eat in a rush or have our meals on-the-go.

Mindful eating is what we should try to do every time we sit down to have a meal. Some experts tell us that the digestive juices and other body fluids wake up and start to do their job once we look at the food. But before we gobble down our meal, why not let our senses discover and appreciate the food and nourishment that is coming? This is called slow eating, in which we’re able to not just savor the meal but also enrich our food experience.

This eating practice is what the Slow Food movement encourages people to do. The key principles of this contemporary gastronomical movement are to give more thought to where the food is sourced from, how we consume it, and why good food can rekindle the joys of eating. It advocates good food and food biodiversity - that is, farming - given that what we produce and consume inadvertently impact our health and the planet’s. The slow food philosophy believes that food should have these traits: 

Good. Food should taste delicious, and it should be good for the body and the environment.

Clean. Food should be free of chemicals, harmful pesticides, and GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

Fair. Food should be priced fairly for the consumer as well as for the farmer or producer.

By moving towards good, clean, and fair food, we can be assured that what we eat follows its natural cycle and is free from artificial or chemical alteration processes.  Slow Food goes back to the basics, promoting the use of soil as a medium, rather than the high tech hydroponic or aquaponics way of producing food. In a way, with agriculture, Nature takes its course the way it was intended. Here are some examples: 

Seasonality- Nature provides us with year-round fruit varieties and it is believed that if we eat local fruits that are “in season”, we would complete our vitamin requirements for the whole year. It may not be ideal to eat fruits grown out of season because they are usually picked before the peak of their flavor. This is why they are not as sweet as those that are “in season.”  “Wala sa panahon” (not in season) is the usual excuse when we eat fruits that are not sweet.

Tropical vs Temperate - As we live in a tropical country, nature has already chosen what is appropriate for our climate to grow like banana, pineapple, papaya, chico, macopa, and duhat. Although it is okay to cultivate temperate fruit crops like oranges and apples, their quality, in general, may not be as good as their tropical counterparts which are grown in a natural condition. 

Locavorism - Buying local produce means fresher and healthier fare on our plate. The shorter the distance that the food or produce travels from source to table, the higher the chance that it would retain its optimal nutritional value. More so, a shorter food chain also produces less carbon footprint. Eating local is not just about nationalism or country pride. It’s about saving our environment, helping local farmers, and most of all, getting fresher food.

Remember the days when fast food was still a foreign concept? Most people would take the time to prepare and cook their food.  They would go to the market every day to buy fresh ingredients and have their family gathered together to enjoy nice home-cooked meals. And when they need to preserve meat, vegetables, or fruits, they just had to use sugar and salt. Unlike now in which even simple food like bread is sometimes loaded with chemicals and other potentially hazardous ingredients to make it softer, last longer, and tastier. 

But by slowing down, we can bring back the local culinary tradition and put more value on the time we spend preparing, cooking, sharing, and consuming food. We can even discover natural sources of food, preserve heirloom varieties, and invest in quality food that would bode well for our health.

If you believe that natural is better and healthier, take the Slow Food challenge. Here are some tips:

  • Eat only organic or naturally farmed vegetables and fruits.
  • Eat local fruits as much as you can to keep the farmers planting our native fruits and local varieties of vegetables and legumes which may soon disappear if we stop eating them. Remember, you as a consumer, are also a co-producer. The farmer will plant only if you will buy and eat it. If you stop, he will stop.
  • Eat brown or heirloom rice which is healthier and has natural vitamins.
  • Choose rice flour or camote flour which is not wheat—we do not grow wheat as all of it is imported. Eat rice-based cakes instead like puto and bibingka.
  • If you eat meat, choose grass-fed cows’ beef, pastured pig’s pork, and free-range chicken from producers who keep their farms small and manageable to be considered natural.
  • If you eat fish, choose sustainable fish or those that repopulate easily (e.g., tawilis, galunggong, and sardines). Our seas are also dying and the fish are disappearing. So when you eat, choose deep-sea fish that are bigger.

Eating healthy is easy. You need to just practice mindful eating. Before you put any food in your mouth, ask these questions: Who grew it? How far did it travel?

Then ask again: How will it affect my body? Is it natural as can be?

Eating slow is easy. Just take another look at your food. Pause.  And savor each bite. That way your body will know what to do with it.

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