Ebb and Flow

Ebb and Flow

Learning to eat with the ebb and flow of the seasons is the single thing that has made my eating more enjoyable. I have honestly never met anyone who wants to eat a slice of watermelon on a cold March evening, or a plate of asparagus in January.  
I do believe, for instance, that a cold Saturday in January is a good time to make gingerbread.  It is when I made it and we had a good time with it. It felt right. So I offer it to you as a suggestion, just as I offer a cheesecake at Easter, a curry for a cold night in April, and a pale gooseberry fool for a June afternoon. It is about seasonality, certainly, but about going with the flow, cooking with the natural rhythm of the earth - Nigel Slater: The Kitchen Diaries

Reading the Sunday papers yesterday I was browsing through the 9 pages of their new diet, promising to kick-start your healthy 2017, and bust that gut in 21 days. There was lots of good tips and common sense in the article, the usual guidelines that are common threads to most diets, but they lost me on the recipes. Most of the recipes were for salads, cold salads. I'm sure they're delicious, and I do enjoy a salad, but in January I want food that will warm me up.

Seasonality in food usually refers to eating what is currently growing and available in your locality - the produce available at a farmer's markets, fish caught locally or berries picked on the side of the road. I think there is also a personal dimension to eating seasonally- and it’s the answer to the question, what do I most feel like eating right now? This doesn't have to mean a meal cooked from scratch with local produce, it could be a steaming bowl of homemade or tinned soup, with bread and butter, or a fish or chicken pie with creamy mashed potato, with fresh green veggies enlivened up with herbs or spices. These are the dishes I've been cooking recently. Feel-good, warming, comfort food. This naturally evolves through the seasons, as it gets warmer we want lighter meals, and it balances out.

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In my experience, the most satisfying way to eat is to allow yourself what your body needs and craves. You get the body you want by giving your body what it wants.  Our bodies crave nourishment, fresh, delicious food and lots of water.  Before you eat something, think about how you will feel after eating it.  This is the basis of mindful or intuitive eating.  It's not always easy and takes a while to adjust to a new way of thinking about eating.  When we're stressed, tired or anxious we crave a sugar hit and can polish off a  packet of biscuits before we've even noticed.  Intuitive eating is about paying attention to your body, your appetite and hunger, instead of trying to motivate yourself to want to eat the foods a diet has prescribed.  If you crave something sweet, allow yourself what you want instead of agonizing over it, enjoy it in the moment, and move on.

One of the most useful intuitive eating tools I have come across is the Hunger Scale by Brooke Castillo.   It is a visualisation technique to help you think about your hunger before, during and after you eat.  

The Hunger Scale, from If I Am So Smart, Why Can't I Lose Weight: Tools to Get It Done,  by Brooke Castillo

The Hunger Scale, from If I Am So Smart, Why Can't I Lose Weight: Tools to Get It Done,  by Brooke Castillo

The scale measures physical hunger and runs from -10, which is starving, to +10 which is stuffed, zero is neutral where you are not hungry or full. You can use this scale through the day to measure how you feel before and after meals, and to get a feel for how your meals satisfy your appetite. The goal is to stay within the -2 to +2 range, to keep you satisfied at all times, and not let yourself get hungry or to overeat.

In the book, Brooke explains these and other tools in more depth, and concludes with: “You and your body are on the same side.  You need to keep it that way if you want your body to cooperate, and you can work together to achieve your goals.  As long as you are fighting against your body, you will be in a fight that will never end.”

In December, I met with a group of Irish food bloggers for a Christmas lunch. It was my first time meeting them and nice to put a face to the blog names. Below I have linked to a selection of hearty, warming breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner dishes from from a few Irish bloggers that are just right for this time. 

Enjoy, and as Nigel says, go with the flow.

Breakfast Porridge, from Mira at Everyday Cooking with Mira

Sourdough with refried beans, pico de gallo, poached egg and guacamole, Sunday brunch with Karen from Kenmare Foodie

Parsnip Soup with Chorizo Crumbs, my own recipe

Chickpea Burgers by Frances at the Honest Project

Simple Chicken Traybake by Caitriona at Wholesome Ireland

Hearty Beef Stew by Donna at Cookbook Collection

Chocolate Brownies by Laura at Dairy Free Kids

A Perfect Cheeseboard by Katia at Proper Food

Irish Coffee: The Secrets by Patrick and Russell at Gastro Gays (hint: sugar & softly whipped cream)

Southern Comfort Food Part 1: 16 Dishes on the Wild Atlantic Way

Southern Comfort Food Part 1: 16 Dishes on the Wild Atlantic Way

Spicy Cottage Pie: Dinner & Brunch

Spicy Cottage Pie: Dinner & Brunch