Have you ever thought about when you were a child, and remembered back to some of those “little gems” that your parents shared with you? The ones that became your lessons in life. Some of them you may not have liked at the time…and even rebelled against them. Like “eat all of your vegetables” or “never leave anything on your plate”. Yet time is a great healer, and you eventually came to realise (especially if and when you are blessed enough to become a parent yourself), just how wise your folks actually were!
My dear old Dad – God rest his soul – passed over at the ripe old age of 92. (My Mum is still very much with us, AND as sharp as a tack, at 90!) Yet during Dad’s amazing life he, amongst other wonderful jobs, held a very high position in the Anglican church in Tasmania, (that gorgeous little island off the coast of Australia that thankfully, not that many people seem to know about yet…and that it is still very pristine and the where the air is still fresh, and very often cold!) Being a minister in the church, the salary that is earned is very, very minimal. My parents had 5 very hungry mouths to feed, and as my brothers and sisters all played some kind of sport on top of our schooling, plus ballet, music and/or drama classes (we were all allowed to choose just one!), we were all perpetually hungry. In fact Mum used to call us “gannits”. I look back now in awe at just how far my mother could stretch a lamb’s fry (cows liver!) or a Shepherd’s pie between us. We also had to grow our own fruit and vegetables out of necessity, because, quite frankly we could not afford to buy them. We picked and ate them the same day, whilst they were still pulsating with energy and flavour, so crisp and ripe with goodness.
We did not have fast food joints or drive through takeaways when I was a child. Still I often used to envy my wealthy school mates who could afford to go to fancy restaurants with their families every weekend, or buy bags of lollies after school each day. I see now that my feelings of poverty and being “less than” were actually a gift of long term health in disguise.
Funny, all the things I see the Jamie Oliver’s and other organic and wellness experts speaking about today, my Ma and Pa were doing 50 years ago…mostly out of necessity! So what were the 7 nutritional gifts and life lessons I learned from my parents?
1. Eat 2 fruits and 3 vegetables (especially your greens) every day.
Better still, pick them from your own back yard. And if you don’t have a garden, use pots or even old tyres filled with soil. (I am growing 2 types of potatoes, and a pumpkin this way right now. When they are ready, just lift the type and da dah. Pick the potatoes straight up out of the loose soil….no digging required. Easy!) Every home I have ever lived in, no matter how small or high rise, I have had something growing – even if it were a few basic herbs in pots. Not only did those plants add freshness to my food, they also added fresh oxygen to, and helped to clear any toxicity from, the air inside. Plants in soil work far better that cut flowers (much as they add a wonderful fresh touch as well.) Why? Because plants in soil are still living, and they use our left over carbon dioxide to help them grow…which in turn is used to create our oxygen to help us grow, and feel grounded as well. It’s called photosynthesis. And we can get all this from a few pots of plants?
Any what about the vegetable peelings, or any left over vegetables….which was unlikely with the gannets”! They would go into the compost heap, which would eventually breakdown and go back into the soil, to help next years plants grow. These days I use mine in my little worm farm as well, made simply out of an old colander and a bucket!
Its all about give and take, cause and effect, and creating a win/win for all….(and Mother Nature does this best!)
2. Make sure those 3 vegetables are of assorted colours…though always have at least one green.
Not only did this choice of colours look attractive, but the different veges. offered a variety of textures and tastes to our palates and many different vitamins and minerals to help bolster our immune, muscular and skeletal systems.
I read a study done by our CSIRO here in Australia that compared a number of vegetables that were grown and sold commercially in 1956 and again 40 or so years later. By the time the 1990’s were reached, a medium sized tomato had dropped from 250mg of Vitamin C to… 2 mg!!! No wonder we need to take vitamin and mineral supplements today because even 5 pieces of fruit and vegetables does not even begin to cut it these days! Yet my Mother mixed and matched her colours and therefore her phytonutrients and other goodies intuitively…and boy is that showing up in our all our health now. My 4 brothers and sisters are all 50+, and not one of the 5 of us has had any cancer, heart challenges and/or diabetes…touch wood!…and statistically they must we pretty long odds in a Western family.
I read another study that was done, where tables of food were attractively laid out for young children, with a large assortment of all kinds of food from East to West, from raw to junk/fast food. And the children intuitively choose the raw, fresh, coloured food more than 89% of the time. Admittedly this study was done over 10 years ago when the Golden Arches were not found on every second corner, and it would be interesting to see the results today.
Honour your intuition (especially as the highest concentration of “intuitive” cells are in the gut, to paraphrase Deepak Chopra. I wonder why?!?) Some say your intuition is God speaking, that is why it is never wrong. Agree or disagree, I know whenever I listen to my head, I get into trouble. When I listen to my heart and my “gut”, all is good!
3. Serve some of those veges raw or lightly steam them (at the very most).
Never boil a thing, even rice! As this kills all the nutrients, especially the Vitamin C. And what happens with the left over juice in the saucepan, that is brimming with minerals and lots of other goodies? That gets kept for the next round of soup, or for gravy on the Sunday roast.
And if you cannot get access to raw foods or like to carry some with you as a snack…..YUMMO! check out http://75230984.myforevergreen.org/. I have never seen a range like it!
Never, ever waste a thing… because it can always be of benefit elsewhere, often where you least expect it! Recycle, recycle, recycle.
4. Balance those 3 brightly coloured veges. covering 2/3 of your plate, with a small piece of protein – a piece of oily fish, chicken, a couple of thin slices of beef (or some tofu, lentils or butter beans if you are a vegetarian) on the remaining 1/3 of the plate.
This is perfectly proportioned meal many modern day experts say. (Mum was also following the “food combining” protocols as well without even realising it. She never filled us up with a whole lot of bread as well, as combining carbs. proteins and fats, inevitably ends up leaving you feeling bloated or worse still, giving you wind!)
The ancient Greeks are often misquoted as saying “everything in moderation”. (If this were the case, why not murder or steal moderately?) The correct quotation is actually “live moderately”, later added to by the author William Londen who said: “To insure good health: eat lightly, breathe deeply, live moderately, cultivate cheerfulness, and maintain an interest in life”. Now this is how to create and achieve true balance!
5. Leave the best and the sweetest till last.
If we were lucky…and good!….we would get some pudding. Mum would preserve any excess fruit during the summer and I used to love to see the rows of bottled pears, plums greengages in her pantry. Even though we were poor financially, her larder always looked very abundant and we were wealthy in so many other ways. No Mother Hubbard’s cupboard at our home! So we would have some pears or plums or may favourite, some prunes and dried apricots that mum had stewed in a little water with maybe a teaspoon of raw sugar or molasses. I found out only last week that just one pear has the same amount of fibre as 1 1/2 cups of brown rice? That is amazing! So with a couple prunes or pieces of pear each, our family always had plenty of roughage and never had any challenges with “bulking up”….if you know what I mean!
I could say that the lesson from this is “be good, and life will be sweet”! It was way more than that for me though. It was more about how wealth and abundance appears in so many others forms than just financially.
As “what goes up must come down”, so “what goes in must come out”!
6. Eating and drinking do not mix!
We never drank during the meals with my family. Maybe a glass of water or cup of tea… when the washing up was finished… but not immediately before or during a meal. Boy, was my Mum smart! I have since learned that water, particularly if it is iced, dilutes the digestive enzymes so makes it far harder for your system to digest your food, and more important, absorb the nutrients from what you have eaten. Some people say “you are what you eat”. Actually, we are what we absorb from what we eat, so even if we are eating well, if we dilute it or rush it, we are missing so many good things.
Take time to savour every morsel of and moment in life, don’t dilute any life’s simple pleasures and stop for long enough to smell the roses …just don’t eat them!
7. Silence is golden.
As mentioned, we needed to be good, and eat all our first course, to be given our sweets. We had to earn our “just desserts!” Being good included being silent at the dinner table, for when I was a youngster “children should be seen and not heard”! This was mainly because my Dad would listen to the evening news at 7pm, and did not want to be disturbed. (TV was not even invented in those days! And I now make it a choice to never watch or listen to the news at all, especially when I am eating, as invariably the stories are reported negatively and this can affect out digestion as well!) At that time, I found this enforced silence quite restrictive and tough. Yet years later, when I had eating meditations with Deepak Chopra and the group, the whole point was to eat slowing and silently to savour every taste and the texture. So often we miss these special moments, as our focus is elsewhere. Now I choose to eat in silence, eating slowly and surely and savouring the subtleties. I stay present, in the moment and in a state restless alertness for even eating can be in a meditative state. And my digestive system claps it’s hands in glee! For..”The past is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift…that is why we call it the Present”.
So, May your food be your medicine …and your meditation!…and your medicine be your food.
(And I am forever grateful to my Mum and Dad for these wonderful lessons, that are now well learnt.)