R119: Rainbow Eating

I have been thinking a lot about the rainbow. Besides being an icon of hope, it does represent diversity at the most basic energy level – refracted light. Because I am so visually stimulated by color and image, color in food appeals to me.
The big payoff is that it isn’t just aesthetics. Turns out that eating by color isn’t just visually titillating, it is a dummy-proof way of assuring diversity of needed nutrients. I found on the internet that the rainbow is a good tool for teaching children – and people who have only known processed food – what is nutritionally available in foods. There was a time when I studied the different food, colors for their nutritional aspects; e.g., beta-carotene, antioxidants, B vitamins, etc. This is what one finds when reading about food.

The older I get and the more I read, the more I realize the truth in Michael Pollen’s latest book called In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. I haven’t read it but anyone who is reading sustainability blog knows what is in this book. The following is from a Grist interview.

It really comes down to seven words: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." What is food? How do you know whether you're getting food or a food-like product? The interesting thing that I learned was that if you're really concerned about your health, the best decisions for your health turn out to be the best decisions for the farmer and the best decisions for the environment -- and that there is no contradiction there. [snip]
Grist Question: Then there's this idea that food is something you can endlessly fragment: if you find something in a food that's beneficial, you can isolate it, and concentrate it, and put it in a pill.

Michael Pollen: It's the reductionist's logic of food science, basically. And the interesting thing is that whenever that has been tried, it has failed. Foods are much more than the sum of their nutrient parts and you cannot expect to get the same effect. Now there are things like vitamins that have been isolated, and in their isolated form they can cure deficiency diseases. But when they've tried to take out the antioxidants, things like beta-carotene and vitamin E, they don't seem to work.
Grist Question: There's an analogy there with agriculture: the macronutrients in food and the macronutrients in soil. A, B, C, and D vs. N, P, and K. Turns out that soil needs more than just isolated N, P, and K to produce fully nutritious food.
Michael Pollen: There's a mystery at both ends of the food chain. There's the mystery about what makes a healthy soil, which you cannot yet fake or simulate, and there's the mystery of what makes a healthy food, which you cannot yet simulate or fake.

Just as seeing a rainbow continues to stir the magical, the mystery of nature despite what we know about light refraction and moisture, etc. For me there seems to be a certain amount of learn it and forget it in my life. Cooking is like that for me now. Despite having learned to cook fairly young, watching intently as my Lebanese mother-in-law prepared Middle Eastern food, having been a cook for the Jesuit community, prepared family meals for a decade, watching food programs until a few years ago and reading countless internet posts . . . I now just want to experiment with simple ways of preparing food.

Case in point, the radish as a meal. I bought huge radishes at the farmer’s market (see my food photo above) and was removing the greens. I read somewhere to do this before storing in the refrigerator. As I was doing this I thought of Chile’s no waste project and made a decision right then and there to wash and cook the greens I normally feed to the worms. I seasoned the greens and cooked them at least 20-40 minutes. I just didn’t want them too tough. Then I cooled them and they tasted bitter – as usual. Rather than pitch them I added balsamic vinegar and put them in the refrigerator as I had to run. Later I added the juice of two limes, cut the pieces and added them to a pan of boiled pearl barley. After cutting up about 4 huge radishes and adding these to the mixture I simply warmed it all and ate a portion. Hey, it wasn’t bad at all. I have more experimenting to do, but I was thrilled that for a half dollar or so I had three or four meals. I ate a really sweet blood orange for desert so with the radishes and greens it was colorful to boot. Eating the rainbow. Next time I throw in the nasturtiums.


Chile said...

A rainbow of foods is really healthy! And good for you on eating the radish greens. I've often found that tossing the bitter greens in with cooked grains or a soup helps mellow them out.

Love that picture of the multi-hued orange.

katecontinued said...

That is one of the Path to Freedom photos. That family really has sumptuous photographs. I am glad they put their name on them too.

BTW, loved the dragonfly picture you framed.

Green Bean said...

I love the idea of eating a rainbow. Don't you really think that nature/the seasons are meant to keep us healthy? If we eat a variety of what is available during each season, it has just got to be good for us!

katecontinued said...

That's what I failed to say when I realized I didn't need to 'research' this further. It follows that what is available in each season is doubtless giving us the balance we need.

Just as my love of color, it is no boating accident that insects, birds seem to have some color processing preferences too.