Simple healthy meal prep
On longevity and politics
I had a transformative experience recently. I was standing in my late wife Julianne’s teaching kitchen next to my daughter (and fellow IT food columnist) Ashley Meyer and longtime friend Chef David Radwine. Before us was CrossFit Instinct’s Longevity class, a roomful of folks ranging from 50 to 80 years old who work out together at 7 a.m. every day but Sunday. Our mission was to demonstrate how to simply and efficiently prepare delicious, appealing meals with uncompromisingly nutritious, health-promoting ingredients.
Several aspects of the experience were transformative for me. The first was to be co-teaching with David and my daughter. Shortly after I moved to Springfield in 1979 to start my dental practice, I discovered Crow’s Mill School (now Bootleggers) on my route home from the office. Crow’s Mill School was a restaurant, bar and live music venue operated by Chef Radwine and his brother, Nat. The atmosphere was casual and the food was spectacular. It became our favorite restaurant. We started eating there with our children several times a week. We developed a close and lasting friendship with the Radwine brothers and started including them and their families in our big holiday parties. Ashley grew up considering David an uncle and later, as a teenager, worked in his kitchen at the Sangamo Club. David was her mentor and influenced her decision to become a professional chef.
The second transformative aspect of the evening was standing in my wife’s kitchen teaching a lean, vigorous, geriatric CrossFit group how to prepare delicious meals that won’t slowly kill you. My wife’s cooking certainly gave people pleasure. She was fussy about her ingredients. She sourced out organic sources, championed local farmers and slandered large-scale producers with their additive-laden products. But first and foremost, she was a pleasure-seeker and often would tell me, after tasting my cooking, that it needed a little butter or sugar to elevate the taste. She loved pasta. She loved rich cheese. She made delicious pies. She made amazing ice cream. But she struggled all her life with her weight. Her passion finally killed her. Her death certificate listed “Morbid obesity” as a significant condition contributing to death from “Hypertensive Arteriosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease.”
Making intelligent, thoughtful dietary choices is sometimes a daunting task. On the one hand there are diet books based on the author’s personal experience without the backing of carefully planned and controlled scientific studies. On the other hand, we have scientific studies from reputable institutions that are funded by special interest groups seeking outcomes that support their economic interests.
Last September, historical documents were released showing that in the 1960s the sugar industry paid Harvard researchers to produce evidence that downplayed the connection between sugar and heart disease, and placed the blame on saturated fats. The documents, released by a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, suggested that 50 years of scientific research into the interconnection between nutrition and heart disease “may have been largely shaped by the sugar industry.”
The recent revelations are just one example of the sugar industry’s repeated attempts to downplay the health risks involved with sugar consumption. In the 1970s, as scientists began to connect sugar with obesity and diabetes, the Sugar Association ran a successful public relations campaign that even led the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association to approve sugar as part of a healthy diet. In the new administration, the sugar beet lobby will try to defend sugar from an anti-sugar childhood obesity movement, which the executive vice president of the American Sugar Beet Association said uses faulty science to blame sugar for poor child health when a lack of exercise should be the focus.
I try to avoid discussing politics at the dinner table, but consider this. I have well-educated, thoughtful friends who voted for our current president because they “want to feel safe from terrorism.” In an article published one month ago, Business Insider reported that we are 6.9 million times more likely to die from cancer and heart disease than from a refugee terrorist attack and, according to the American Heart Association, the two major risk factors for heart disease and cancer are “smoking and poor diet.” We now have a president who has culinary preferences including KFC and McDonalds. To reduce calories, he often pulls off his bun, though he slathers his burger with ketchup (one teaspoon of which has more sugar than a typical chocolate chip cookie). Hmm…
I’m not downplaying the importance of effective Homeland Security; I’m just saying that we are a nation in denial when it comes to the greater risk to our well-being that lurks on our dinner plates (and inside our fast food packaging). And I’m not anticipating much positive change in that direction coming from the White House. The discussions will center on how we pay for the costs of treating disease rather than on efforts to prevent disease.
OK. No more political rants!
During the cooking class, we each presented nutritious and delicious recipes without using sugar, dairy or grains, and we shared our philosophies on meal planning. Ashley told the students, “Hippocrates had this figured out a long time ago when he said ‘Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food.’” She added, “Food can be one of the most beneficial things in our lives or a slow, insidious form of poison.”
Ashley showed the class how to prepare a “sheet tray meal.” The technique involves roasting cut-up root vegetables and a protein (such as chicken or pork) together on a baking sheet. The vegetables roast in the meat juices and develop a delicious flavor and texture. The technique is simple and cleanup is minimal.
Chef Radwine demonstrated how to prepare a gorgeous, delicious raw beet and carrot salad. I encourage my readers to try this recipe ASAP before the shortage of migrant farm workers resulting from the president’s $12-$15 billion Mexican border wall escalates the cost of fresh American vegetables.
RAW BEET AND CARROT SALAD
Serves 4 or more
- 2 cups shredded raw beets
- 2 cups shredded carrots
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Juice from 2 lemons
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ bunch chopped fresh cilantro, including stems
- Several green onions, sliced
- Several handfuls of arugula or baby kale
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
In a small bowl whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, coriander, cumin and cayenne pepper. Set aside.
In a large bowl add the carrots, beets, cilantro, green onions and mint. Toss together. Add dressing and stir.
My wife’s premature death made me step up to the challenge of successfully changing myself. Since her passing, I have lost 50 pounds of fat by making a commitment to “health first.” I joined the CrossFit Instinct Longevity group. I am learning to become a responsible cook. I’m sad to give up spaghetti carbonara, triple-cream brie and flaky baguettes. But I look forward to hiking in the woods with my grandchildren, not shuffling along with a rollator.
Contact Peter Glatz at email@example.com.