With so much information about food at our fingertips it’s easy to become overwhelmed about what we should be doing to be healthy. Low carb, low fat, paleo, vegan, gluten free – the choices are endless. And no matter how well we look after ourselves, it’s easy to feel that we still aren’t doing enough. I wonder, how many of us are actually at peace with the choices we make about food? My guess is that, many of you are constantly on your own case, expecting yourselves to eat more greens, eat less chocolate, drink more water, drink less wine; the details change for each of us but the feeling is the same, and it’s a feeling I’ve known well. We beat ourselves up for falling short of perfect.
But what if we thought about the stress we put on ourselves as something negative that we need to give up? It’s not new information that stress contributes to ill health, creates acidity in the body and is generally bad for us. We already know this right? So why is it then, that we think that stressing ourselves out about our less than perfect lifestyles is going to help us?
Is it not more helpful to think about our health in terms of the things that we do do, instead of being about what we restrict or deny ourselves? Rather than thinking of myself as following a particular diet, I like to think of myself as having a lifestyle, or food life, that incorporates all the choices that I make around food, both on a physical level, and also in a social, emotional, environmental and political sense too. I try to make these choices in the positive, focussing on the things that I want in my life, not what I don’t.
We all have our own unique food life, and on a collective scale it becomes a food culture. I believe that the basis of any food culture (or food life) should be nourishment, connection and pleasure. So I suggest that we all aim to create a positive food life for ourselves, based on what works for us, and embrace it wholeheartedly. For these reasons, in my food life, I let desserts make a special appearance now and then. And when they do, they are to be shared, savoured and enjoyed, without a shred of guilt.
Whatever your food life looks like, I hope it nourishes you in many ways.
Chai Spiced Rice Pudding – serves 6
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 200g short grain rice
- 6 cups (1.5L) full-cream milk (I’ve used organic cow’s milk, but you can use plant milk if you prefer)
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- 1 cinnamon stick (or ¼ tsp ground cinnamon)
- 1 star anise
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- Pinch saffron strands
- ¼ cup (50g) raw caster sugar
Heat the olive oil in a heavy based pan, add the rice and stir gently to warm it.
Add the milk and spices, and bring to the boil.
Lower the heat and simmer steadily for about 10 minutes, stirring quite often to make sure it doesn’t stick.
Add the sugar and simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring as before.
Just as the rice is tender and creamy, but with still some milky liquid left, remove it from the heat and serve, topped with whatever prettiness you like, such as saffron strands, dried rose petals or pistachios.