Recently I was speaking with our chefs (Nate Wright and Paul Jewett) that make Green Mountain at Fox Run’s cuisine as good as it is satisfying. We began to discuss the differences between preparing meals here versus in a restaurant.
They both mentioned the fun of stretching creatively working with whole grains (like quinoa and Colusari Red Rice) and fun vegetables (braised fennel and rainbow chard), as well as making comfort food delicious and nutritious. But what they found most remarkable is the genuine appreciation the participants express when they find that pleasure can be returned to eating. They often receive standing ovations, which is certainly good for a chef’s soul.
This made me think some more about expanding the mind through the palate. Let me explain. Green Mountain’s program expands women’s ideas about themselves and what they think about themselves (ie body acceptance issues), what they can do and how it feels to “be” in their body (ie activity), and lastly, giving up the “diet mentality.” And that last piece is what makes expanding your palate so much fun.
Just like our health behaviors, a lot of our food preferences are determined by our families influence. For example, I despised liver and onions all my life because my mom told me horrible stories about having to eat it as a kid (because if it was “good” for her). I tasted some a few years ago (the first bite) and I love it…so a lot of times we have opinions that are based on things other than facts, but we believe them to be facts.
In the same way, Paul and Nate have workshops where women can taste all the things that they don’t like, and often times find that they do like it, especially when the “good for you” branding has been lifted. Paul mentioned that he’s had women thank him for giving them the opportunity to eat and enjoy fish – Nate remembers when he made several different kinds of mushrooms (we’ve all had button or white cap mushrooms, but what about shitake, crimini, porcini, oyster or chanterelles) and challenged the women to find one that they liked – everyone was able to find a mushroom that tasted good to them.
Although I can’t back this up with research, and this is strictly my opinion based on my anecdotal observation, I note that women with the most restrictive food behaviors (long lists of things they won’t eat), tend to have the most difficulty with maintaining a healthy weight, struggle more ferociously with dieting and yo-yo to higher weights, and tend to be very unhappy with food, even if it’s exactly what they want! Here’s a quote from an article I found that touches a bit on this idea,
“Erratic eating also promotes weight gain because a person does not get regular delivery of nutrients, said Stice, which can alter a person’s physiological responses and disrupt a person’s normal appetite pattern.”
My layman and unscientific conclusion is that they have labeled food into “good” and “bad” categories for so long, that they no long enjoy the few things that they think they like. Their taste buds are bored near to death, and the only way they can get “taste” or “flavor” is through use of excessive amounts of artificial sweeteners, salt or some other conventional (read “boring”) types of condiments. Tearing down ideas of “good” and “bad” food opens them up to try new things, and let’s them enjoy eating again, finding that there can be wonderful tastes in the food, not just in what’s poured over it.
They are able to satisfy their “inner eater”, and find that weight and health management is easier, once the entire world of food has been opened up.
So whether pushing the food “horizon” for you is trying a vegetable other than broccoli, or if you’re ready to try crystallized rose petals (which are fantastic, by the way), start to actively think about getting more flavor from your food – you’ll be shocked at how satisfying it is.