Sunday, February 26, 2017

Be Kind: Nourishment

"One cannot think well. love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." -Virginia Woolf

When I was a college student I developed some pretty unhealthy eating habits. I would run out of the door in the morning with nothing in my stomach then spent the day in back to back classes. I might snack on a bag of chips or a granola bar, if I was feeling healthy. Come 2 or 3 in the afternoon I would be drained both physically and emotionally and that's when I would hit the fast food. Being hungry all day wasn't easy but for some reason I was determined to control my body's needs.

Skip forward a decade. Colin and I decided to drive with the kids up to Washington state one year for Christmas to visit family. After a hellish trek through snow-pack mountain passes we arrived tired, hungry, and stressed out beyond all measure. And that was pretty much how I stayed (traveling throws me for a loop) until Christmas Eve. One of Colin's relatives had us over for dinner and I think it was first really meal I'd had since we left home. To sit down to a home cooked meal and talk with people I love was heaven.

What I noticed in a really profound way was that, while the meal itself didn't change anything about my situation, it changed the way I felt about it and I could see a way forward. Where I felt like I was drifting, that meal tethered me to the ground.

Now I try to make sure I eat a healthy, balanced diet throughout the day. When I notice myself tightening up and closing off, I take a moment to breathe and the first thing I try to notice is if I'm hungry or thirsty (thirst has the same effect on me).

Take care of yourself and make sure you eat and then take it a step further and take care of someone else by providing a meal. The next time you make a casserole or lasagna double the recipe and give one to your local homeless shelter or social services facility (make sure they can accept perishable donations), or to a sick or elderly neighbor. Invite a friend over for dinner who is going through a hard time. Or find a couple of people who are concerned about the same issues as you (there are plenty of social and environmental issues to choose from these days) and have a political lettering writing or phone call potluck (I can't think of a better way to build a consciences community and work for justice and equality).

When I am feeling really out of sorts, my favorite food is simple: pinto beans and homemade tortillas.

Pinto Beans
makes about 6 cups cooks (1 cup dry = 2 cups cooked)

1lb dried pinto beans
1 onion, peeled and quartered
4 to 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 or 3 dried red chili pods
2 bay leaves
10 whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons salt

Sort and rinse the dried beans. Place in a large non-reactive bowl (I prefer glass or ceramic) making sure you have lots of space for the beans as they will likely double in size. Cover the beans with cool water and soak 6 hours or overnight at room temperature. Check occasionally to make sure the bean haven't absorbed all the water adding water if necessary.

After the beans have soaked, drain and rinse them throughly. Place in a large pot and add the remaining ingredients except for the salt. Cover with fresh water with a ratio of 1 part beans to 2 parts water and bring to a boil. Boil the beans for ten minutes then reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for  about an 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until tender. Add the salt about an hour after they have been simmering. A great way to tell if they are done is to remove a few beans  from the cooking liquid with a spoon. Gently blow on the beans. If the skins split, they are done. Left over beans can be refrigerated for a few days or frozen.

Homemade Flour Tortillas
makes 12

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons butter, cold, cubed
1 cup warm water

Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Add the butter and combine with a pastry blender or with your fingers. Stir in the water. The mixture should form a ball, not too sticky, not too dry (adjust with water or flour if needed). Turn out the dough and knead for a minute or so until smooth. Cover the dough ball with a damp cloth and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Cut the dough in half and divide each half into 6 equal pieces. Roll each piece out with a rolling pin. Cook on an uncreased skillet on high heat for about a minute until the bottom has a few brown spots. Flip and cook for another 30 seconds. The tortillas should be soft with a few brown spots on the surface. Serve immediately (there is nothing like a fresh, hot tortilla). Tortillas can be stored for a couple of days in an airtight bag. To reheat, cover with a damp paper towel and heat in the microwave for 15 seconds or until warm.