I Know What You Ate Last Shabbos.
My favorite food is rice.
The processed, refined, sticky type.
It was a sad day when I tried to replace it with cauliflower rice.
It started in the store. I gazed upon the finely chopped vegetable with its yellow tint, wondering if this would really change my life. I had been off carbs for a week.
Contrary to all that had been promised, my skin still didn’t shine, my sleep was not rejuvenating and my weight was at a standstill.
This, I thought, was the last step in my journey to perfection. If only I could break myself just a bit more. Eat foods that smelled bad and cost a lot, that little bit longer. I would achieve the results that await those with the willpower required.
Reluctantly yet ambitiously, I placed the bag in my cart and continued down the grocery list. As I passed the rice and pasta, I felt superior and on a mission. I glanced smugly at the other customers filling their carts with the poisons that were my staples just last week.
But that was the old me. New me would never stoop so low. And that includes the kids. From this point, Quinoa pasta would be the closest thing to a childhood they would receive.
Meanwhile, my mouth was salivating, discreetly, at the mere thought of risotto. I swiftly pushed the evil inclination aside.
I came home and unpacked the groceries with minimal fervor, placing the cauliflower at the back of the fridge. A subconscious act? Doubtful. This was done very consciously. Five days later, I found my frenemy sitting quietly where I left it. We had reached that point in the week where the last of the groceries needed to be used up. There was no avoiding the inevitable.
It started with some olive oil. “Sauté lightly for 5 minutes” the recipes read. Quickly, reality interrupted my dreams for self-improvement. Something smelled, off.
But I pressed on, gamely honing my sautéing skills, preparing to consume the food that dreams are made of. A beautiful body awaited, energy and zest like in my teens. Finally, I would earn my place in the Whole Foods queue and not feel like an imposter.
As I sat down to eat a meal #holistic nutritionists might describe as “heaven,” I couldn’t help but feel a little piece inside of me die.
In his book, Little Victories: Perfect Rules for Imperfect Living, Jason Gay describes what it’s not going to do for the reader. One of the affirmations reads, “This book will not tell you to eat kale. I think we ALL got the message on kale.”
I have never related more to anything in my life.
So, let me tell you what this article is going to do. Hopefully, it will help you see that we all just need to chill.
I am all for healthy.
We are super healthy.
Vegetables are served with every meal (and sometimes eaten). Sugar is kept to a minimum. And we really do try to stick to whole grains.
We snack on fruit (not overpriced “health” bars), and our smoothies are just fine with regular oats (although maybe if we used the steel cut, organic, gluten-free ones, the kids would learn to read faster).
In fact, when soda was banned from the boys camp, all eyes were on me.
I am even part of a Whatsapp group (which I will probably get kicked out of after posting this article) comprised of many moms aiming to provide nutritious meals for their families.
What I struggle with, though, is the loftiness that has come to somewhat define the health movement. Not only because it appears to attach a moral value to food choice, but it also makes little sense.
When did “clean” go from a term to describe the mother- in- law’s house to an adjective for food? By eating white rice am I in turn, eating dirty?
If I order a salad followed by some crème brûlée, do I forfeit my right to hobnob with the jet set?
Has the line “Everything in moderation” become a mantra muttered by (hungry) losers such as myself who lack the wherewithal to keep evil toxins from their bodies?
Has the food pyramid morphed into a social hierarchy that places people who juice cleanse at the top?
Perhaps. But someone, somewhere must be profiting from a fine blend of both substantiated and unsubstantiated health claims... You’ll often see a health blogger snack on an acai bowl comprised of a dozen branded ingredients, but rarely one that snacks on an apple (Non GMO).
You can be healthy, and not drink Kombucha.
You can be fit without a daily Barre class.
You can make nutritious meals using ingredients from a regular supermarket.
The irony is, if you saw me on any given day, ordering my skim lattes and running to the gym, you would think I’m one of “them.” But, really, there is no “them.” We all have days when we load up on pasta then head to dinner and proudly announce, “I’ll just get a salad.”
Throwing out the kids artwork, forgetting to call mum, not filling the parking meter, these are the times we should reserve guilt for, not biting into a tuna melt.
As I watch my daughter ride her balance bike down the hill and ponder how the heck she’s going to stop without brakes, a thought crosses my mind: Whether it concerns bikes or bread, we need balance.
I often tell people I became observant for the kugel. They think I’m kidding. I’m not. I don’t know if quinoa would have had the same effect. Food has played such a unifying role in Judaism. Let’s ensure it remains that way.