Seven years ago, I ventured into the “Paleo Diet” and for the better part of that time have minimized dairy and sugar and eliminated grains, legumes and alcohol from my diet. Much of the time this is viewed externally as restrictive, limiting, cumbersome and admittedly can feel frustrating and challenging internally at times when at a restaurant or in a group setting.
It can be nearly impossible to successfully “pass” the contents of a prepared meal in many settings with pasta, rice and corn appearing frequently in hot dishes and chickpeas on salads. Dressings and sauces, though less obvious, can just as often contain a thickener or sweetener that would make them off-limits for me.
Today I found myself commenting on the difficulty of finding food I could eat and left the catered lunch to source a lunch time meal. On first read, the menu seemed also to have no options. After brief conversation with the hostess and server, with agreement from the chef, they were willing and able to prepare and serve me grilled vegetables and steak. As I dined on this meal, graciously prepared and served by the thoughtful staff, I was struck by its simplicity.
It is easy to focus on the many things on the “I can’t [choose not to] eat” and feel overwhelmed by limitation and frustration. I realized, as I sat with the vegetables and portion of protein, that rather than complicated rules and avoidances, it was much easier to simply focus on the food I can eat. This alternate vantage point illustrated this food as reasonable, available and accessible to the majority: seasonal vegetables, grilled or steamed, a well-sourced protein – non-animal based if that is one’s preference. While I was precluded from the food at our lunch secondary to a wide variety and lack of clarity on ingredients, any of my colleagues could have participated in that which I was able to procure at the hotel restaurant.
Three days of lectures, discussions, book reviews and policy briefs revealed complications, obstructive layers and hidden ingredients that can create challenges to understanding, difficulties filtering through and limits to the ease of use for the average citizen. As we seek improved clarity, ease of access, transparency and equity I wonder if we could approach this from an alternate vantage point and highlight that which is reasonable, available and accessible to the majority (and ideally expand this from majority to all).
Rather than trying to peel back layers, pick through components that we cannot tolerate or from which we would suffer adversely, how can we more clearly illustrate and present that which is functional, palatable and nourishing. Highlight the simple and pure ingredients, prepared in a straightforward manner for easy utilization. While there is no one right way to eat and no perfect plan, there is room for all to benefit from simplification and clarity.
May we embrace opportunity to distill down to the basics as a nourishing and inclusive foundation, building nuanced depth of flavor with intention, awareness and purpose.