Decluttering, Goji Berries, And Essentialism In… The Kitchen
Over the last few years I have been trying to decrease the amount of things I keep in my life.
I donated many of my textbooks. I finally threw out my high school yearbooks (after multiple attempts over the course of few years). I switched most of my paper work to Evernote. I started travelling light. I gave up on Greens+ supplement (here’s why). I get rid of an item in my wardrobe for every new item I bring in. [Trail shoes are an exception. A girl has gotta to have her shoes].
Few weeks ago as I was prepping a bowl of overnight oats, I pulled a jar of dried goji berries from my pantry, when a thought crossed my mind…
“Why the fuck do I have goji berries?”
I mean honestly… What possible purpose do I, a Russian-Canadian living in Ontario, have for goji berries in my kitchen (and in my life)? Is there a single recipe where regular raisins would not suffice? And it’s not like the dried up hard goji berries you can buy at a health store in Canada look or taste anything like actual goji berries.
The actual thing looks like this:
Couple of years ago at the Precision Nutrition gathering we all received a copy of this book – “Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less”. I think I read it in two days, and re-read it few times since then. While no radical or new concepts were presented (we rarely lack information!), I loved the way it was presented.
Pursuit of LESS? When all we seem to be striving for is MORE?
I started thinking about how pursuit of less could be implemented with nutrition, and eating in general. How would the essentialist eat? What would be the simple beautiful and essentialist way to eat?
And so, I started working on simplifying my kitchen too. My pantry. My fridge.
There were days when I used to have five kinds of nut butter in my pantry. And a couple of seed butters to boot. Cashew butter. Almond butter. Hazelnut butter. Cashew-almond butter.
Pumpkin seed butter.
I have since figured out that, while all nut butters taste pretty damn amazing, natural peanut butter is still my favourite by far. So I have that.
If I run out, and feel like trying something new, I may pick up something different, and aim to finish it before buying more.
Same goes for nuts. Do I need Brazil nuts and hazelnuts? Perhaps, once a year I get ambitious and prepare (hazel)nut crusted salmon, or use toasted hazelnuts in a dessert (a more accurate representation of reality would be me printing out a recipe and handing it to Italian, while batting my eyelashes). Awesome. I can also buy just enough for a recipe. Almonds and walnuts are my go-to nuts for everything else.
Italian is better at this than I am – he is driven by what is in season, as it always tastes better. Fruit and vegetables with thick skins tend to do better over long distances, so bananas and avocados still manage to taste decent – of course, they are also imported year around. And an unassuming bananas I had in Nicaragua still blew my mind with the intensity of flavour.
Meanwhile, I continue buying tomatoes year around, even though tomatoes you buy in Canada in February have all the flavour of reddish styrofoam. Although I got much better after eating a 100-mile diet for a month last year.
Simple and functional recipes rather than elaborate dishes. Simple ingredients that showcase the tastes of food, rather than drenching things in heavy sauces.
Quality over quantity.
Selecting the best cheese you can afford.
The best chocolate.
Savouring the moments. Slowing down. Being in the present. Removing fluff. Removing distractions. Removing snacks.
Essentialist appreciates the beauty of simplicity.
Essentialist eats two to three simple meals a day. Aiming to eat at least one of those meals with his family or friends.
Essentialist continues removing the nonessential until only the essential was left.
Margarita pizza with the fresh homemade tomato sauce, high quality mozzarella and basil in season? Or overloaded thick crusted concoction with pineapples, ham and bacon piled high?
Want to make an essentialist omelet?
Select fresh eggs, use real butter, add fresh vegetables.
Instead of having four bottles of different salad dressings in the fridge, the essentialists learn how to make a basic balsamic vinaigrette that they can flavour in a myriad of ways to their heart’s content. Lemon juice one day, garlic and mustard another day, and a bit of honey the third day.
Caress your taste buds. Do not hit them with a sledge hammer.
The sad truth is that when you strip away low quality food to its essentials, it does not taste very good. Cheesy greasy poutine is heavenly because it’s cheesy and greasy, not because it actually tastes very good. Our tastebuds – oh how they love all the salt and the fat!
“You must not even like fast food!”, some of my friends and clients say to me.
Why wouldn’t I?
Are health coaches genetically different from the rest of humanity?
“If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?”
I love Chinese food. The Americanized version of Chinese food where chunks of already fatty chicken are doused in sweet sugary sauce. I love it, because it is humanely impossible not to love it.
It does not mean that it makes me feel good after. It does not mean that it lends itself to body composition I can feel good at. Then again, I have not met a single human who feels and looks fantastic on a steady diet of sesame chicken and sweet and sour balls dipped in fake plum sauce. [If you are that human, please do not tell me – it will just make me sad. Enjoy your lot in life!]
The author points out that by becoming an essentialist, you will stick out. You will be the weird one. (Me weird? What else is new?)
When it comes to food, I am not an essentialist. Not yet. But I strive to be a little more every day.