We eat for many reasons. Obviously, we need to eat for survival, but there is much more to it than that. We also eat for comfort, pleasure, and entertainment. We eat to celebrate and socialize, to impress, and to network with business associates. Some of us eat to try to compensate for a sense of lack or in response to unresolved emotional problems.
We hunger on many levels, and we eat as part of an ongoing attempt to fulfill ourselves. Some of our eating is helpful to our quest for fulfillment, and some of our eating is detrimental to it. Herein lies a puzzle that anyone who wishes to enjoy a healthy, fulfilling life must unravel and individually resolve.
Chefs in this day and age often find themselves struggling with the mixed challenge of offering their clientele interesting fare, packed with flavor, and at least some pretense of its being healthful. Catch phrases like "low fat," "all natural," "low carb," and "high fiber" are thrown around liberally in the hope that customers will feel good about what they are eating.
The food industry's attempt is to create an appearance of something wholesome, while serving up a product that thrills the palate, surprises the imagination, gratifies the stomach, and still generates a decent profit. That's a tall order, so it should come as no surprise that somewhere along the line compromises are inevitably made. Given the burden of attracting business, garnering fame, and making money, guess where the corners will be cut. That's right--your health. It's not that anyone sets out to harm the client--that would be self-defeating--but restaurants and food manufacturers are in it to make money. Whether or not what they offer is actually all that good for you is largely irrelevant.
Part of the problem is that many chefs, if not most, have poor eating habits themselves, stemming from a lack of basic nutritional information along with inescapably ingrained attitudes handed down by generations of great cooks who have always favored flavor and pleasure over health and longevity. The purpose of this book is to bring flavor and health together so that there need be no trade-off on either end.
In order for food to be truly health-promoting it must appeal to the senses. It's a well-established fact that digestion begins with an appetizing thought, sight, aroma, or taste. If what you contemplate eating is appealing to your senses, your digestive juices will begin flowing even before the first bite is taken.
Unfortunately, there is often a considerable rift between what we perceive as good food and what our body can successfully process to our ultimate benefit. The result is that although we may like the thought, sight, smell, and taste of something, consuming it could bring us undesirable consequences, such as indigestion, acid reflux, obesity, chronic fatigue, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or cancer.
Think about how it happens. First you feel a little hungry. At this point, you just want to eat something. If nothing is presented to you right then, your mind will begin to generate ideas about what to eat. If you are in the habit of making poor food choices, such as highly refined carbohydrates and fried food, your mind will likely conjure up images of these foods in response to your hunger. If someone were to suggest a more wholesome alternative (like a salad instead of doughnuts or french fries), there is a good chance you will not be swayed by it. Your mind is hooked on something it recalls as satisfying, and only that sort of something will do.
Note that it's never the mind that's hungry; it's the body. Quite unfairly, the mind gets to decide what will be eaten, while the onerous task of digesting it will be relegated entirely to the body. In the aftermath of every dietary indiscretion, the mind flits merrily off to its next virtual adventure-which may even include tormenting you for making poor choices. Meanwhile, the body is left with all the work.
How to reverse this phenomenon? Begin by paying attention to the way you feel. Don't worry about what you're eating just yet--simply observe what happens after you eat. Is your body happy with what just came down, or is it already plotting revenge? Do you feel light and full of energy or heavy and sluggish? Are your eyes clear or red and slightly glazed? Are your sinuses open or clogged? Are you burping up the flavors of something you ate two meals ago? These signs and symptoms are the lexicon of the body--the only means it has to communicate with you. Pay close attention.
Once you've begun to recognize the messages your body is sending you, and you are able to match them up with the action that prompted them, you're ready to begin retraining your desires. This is going to take a little time, so don't be too concerned about your progress. Just start eating according to Udo's recommendations and see how you feel. Be especially attentive when you deviate or revert to your "normal" way of eating.
One word of caution: when you first begin eating a lot of salad and raw foods, you may experience some gas. Believe it or not, this is normal. Raw foods are high in natural fiber, which acts like a broom--in effect, scrubbing out the digestive tract. Most people who have been subsisting on highly processed foods will experience a period of cleansing when they switch to a diet of raw food and complex carbohydrates. Give it a week or two before you take the presence of gas as a negative sign. Don't worry, it'll pass. (Sorry--I couldn't resist.)
The recipes in this book will be a valuable resource in your effort to change your eating habits. They have all been created with the senses in mind, meaning that enjoyment is a key factor. Reading them should spark images of interesting, appetizing dishes. I'm not out to convince anyone to eat unappealing "health food." Whereas Udo's area of expertise is health and well-being, mine is flavor and the pleasure of eating. I could never "eat healthy" if it meant I had to hold my nose and suffer through some awful-tasting, weird-textured, hippie fodder. To me, if it doesn't taste good, it isn't food. The Creator wisely put taste buds and olfactory receptors at the entrance to our digestive tract so we could enjoy what we eat; the exit was very kindly placed behind us, out of sight, sans taste buds, at a relatively safe distance from the nose. If it were the other way around, we probably would starve to death.
I set about learning Udo's Right Fat Diet precepts and devised recipes that adhere to them. So all you have to do is choose whichever dishes appeal to you and start cooking. As you'll notice, nothing in this book is cooked in a manner that will result in caramelization or browning. Udo refers to this as "burned food," which is to say that it is chemically altered to the point that it has ceased to be something your body can assimilate properly and, if eaten, will be injurious to your health. In these recipes, when ingredients are heated in a small amount of oil, some water or wine is often added to prevent this from happening. In some cases, a recipe will instruct you to "sweat" the vegetables, which is done over very low heat, with a lid in place to keep the moisture contained. This process is similar to sautéing but does not color the vegetables. It's important to check on the food from time to time so you get the desirable flavor enrichment without "burning" it.
In every recipe where heating occurs, Udo's Oil is added after the procedure is completed and the food has been removed from the heat source. Even though the oil will be warmed by the food, it will not be overheated. This way, the molecular integrity of the oil will not be damaged and the beneficial properties will remain intact.
I know the points I've raised represent a hard-line philosophy regarding diet and cooking that may seem rather extreme. Maybe you're thinking that becoming more conscious of what you eat will make dining out less exciting. But if you knew what I know about what goes on behind the kitchen door in restaurants, then what I've laid out would be the least of your concerns.
Now, I'm not advocating a paranoid, isolationist, Howard Hughes-type worldview. I travel, and I enjoy eating out on occasion. I'm merely suggesting that you minimize your exposure to food of questionable origin that is prepared with profit, not your health, in mind. Regardless of your level of culinary expertise, once you understand what's good for you, the best food you'll ever get will be on your plate when you cook and eat at home.
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