Sunday, May 01, 2011

Men and Cooking

There were four adults sitting around the lunch table today.  The two boys, Joshua and Sammy, were contentedly eating their lunch at the breakfast bar, but at the more formal table, Jonathan, Adriana and I were joined by Ian, Adriana's brother-in-law.  One of the things I've learned on my visits here: when a meal is served, either at Adriana's house or at her sister, Rocio's, house (about .8 mile away), any member of the other family is welcome at any time.  It's a wonderful arrangement as the two sisters often cook for each other making sure everyone gets properly fed at any time.

Anyway, we started talking about the meal in front of us and I commented on how few Americans (and Brits as well, according to Ian), eat this way.  Jonathan snorted and said, "I don't see why.  It only took 10 minutes to put the pork in the oven to roast this morning."

Adriana and I looked at each other and started laughing.  In addition to a very nice piece of roasted pork, there was also a feast of vegetables of lightly steamed sweet and white potatoes, broccoli, green beans, and carrots and some freshly made guacamole.  In addition, I had cleaned up the kitchen after breakfast (two eggs over easy with aged cheddar grated on them accompanied by sauteed mushrooms), making it possible for lunch to be prepared more quickly, and the table had been beautifully set.  I would also do the after lunch kitchen clean-up duty, and that would include a the soaking and scouring of a very much encrusted pan in which the meat had so beautifully and deliciously roasted.  There is so much more to preparing a good meal than putting the meat onto roast or on the grill, unfortunately.

As I've noted earlier, Jonathan and I have been having many conversations about our joint reading as we consider the connection between diet and health.  When he first became acquainted with Colombian culture and family life when he and Adriana met, eight years ago, he saw a petite and very healthy group of people.  Diet was fresh fish and fresh meat, fresh vegetables, rice, coffee, a small amount of bread, and massive amounts of fresh fruit. 

He has always indulged her need to buy only the freshest and healthiest of foods, no matter what the cost--and it is costly, no doubt about it. But Adriana and the children simply glow with good health, straight teeth, and good energy. Nonetheless, Jonathan himself began to put on weight because he was traveling so much of the time, caught multiple colds and coughs, and despite the fact that he often trained for marathons and would bike an hour or more a day when possible.

About eight months ago, he adopted a completely different workout routine and at the most exercises for 10 high intensity minutes twice a week, sometimes less.  And he changed his own eating patterns to what is called the "Paleo diet."  It's high in meat and eggs, as many green vegetables as possible, olive oil as needed, fruit only in season (and never bananas or other extremely sweet fruits), minimal dairy, almost no grains of any kind, and something sweet on the rarest of occasions.  He's now down to his high school grad weight, never eats anything served on an airplane except water (he often flies several thousand miles a week in his consulting work), is never seriously hungry even when having to go a long periods of time between finding food that is on this eating plan, and feels ever so much better.

We've also talked much about the aging process.  There is some evidence, but very sketchy evidence, that people who do eat this way for a lifetime not only avoid the debilitating diseases of civilization (heart disease, type-2 diabetes, dementia, brittle bones) but tend to live vigorously until a short time before their deaths.

I know there is a growing bandwagon of support for this way of living.  I also know how very complicated it is to change the way we eat.  Everything in front of us tell us to eat just the opposite.  But it could very well be that the opposite really is killing us slowly and miserably.

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