Food: Medicine OR Weapon? *it’s complicated*

The subject of food and food choices is one that continues to fascinate.  There are whole TV channels dedicated to food. Culture and food are so closely intertwined and explorations into both have been the basis of some of the most interesting documentaries ever made; think Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and Parts Unknown. We need food to fuel our bodies and keep us alive. But food is more than a means to an end. What we eat, why we eat it and the traditions around these choices bring people together, help us to get to know each other, differentiate us and define us.

I have been on the keto diet for over 14 months now. I wanted to lose weight, and I knew that from past experience, the best way for me to lose weight was to drop carbs from my diet. Whenever I went low-carb, the pounds came off AND I felt more “aligned” within myself. I wasn’t sure why or how, but I knew that I was in a better place overall when I eschewed carbs. I started chronicling my own journey on Instagram. I decided to commit to this low-carb way of eating, but in order to make it sustainable, I knew it had to satisfy two conditions:

  1. I must never be hungry
  2. My food had to be delicious and satisfying.

I also figured that going public would be a great way to hold myself accountable. Continue reading Food: Medicine OR Weapon? *it’s complicated*

Raw Vegan Food: Beyond the Salad!

So I’ve been trying to change my eating habits. Yes…I still eat meat, just less of it and no processed meats. That means I’ve put down, for now at least, Beloved Bacon and Awesome Chorizo sausage. I’m in discovery mode where beans (all of them) are concerned, and different, delicious ways to prepare them. I’ve made lentils and brown rice with portobello mushrooms and green peppers cooked with fresh herbs in coconut milk. I’ve made a wicked white bean mash which comes together so nicely with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, shallots, lemon juice and fresh parsley. I’ve made a sugar free vinaigrette with red wine vinegar, virgin olive oil, dried Italian herb mix and fresh garlic with a pinch of salt. I don’t like my salads naked. I hate them naked. And I’m on the look out for different and interesting and of course delicious ways to cook, prepare and eat the rainbow.

So when I saw an article in one of the dailies speaking about the benefits of raw foods, I took note. I also took a picture of the section where it listed some places here on the Rock where one could explore this not-quite-yet-mainstream food niche.

Zoom in for a list of Raw Food Eateries in Jamaica

Imagine my glee when I googled a couple of these restaurants and found that they actually had an online presence that was current! Business places in Jamaica need to understand that without a current, valid on line presence they are possibly missing out on so many opportunities. It is a pleasure when a customer or potential customer can click and get location, opening hours, product listings, menus, prices and consumer feedback.

Side note: Last November I had to visit York, England for school. I invested quite a few hours researching on line where to to eat and drink in York (’cause my middle name is PLAN and because food is as important as school, right?) and complied a list complete with directions from my B&B, walking time, and the dish that I would eat at each location. I also knew what it would cost me. And so I, travelling as a single woman, first time visitor to York had a blast pub crawling, eating some awesomely delish food and sampling the local ales. 

And so I looked up a couple of the places mentioned in the article and was intrigued by what I read about “Mi Hungry“.  Their website described each dish and clearly stated cost. I mentioned it to a colleague of mine who is also trying to clean up her eating habits and she confirmed that she had eaten their food and recommended a couple of things to me. See why it’s good to chat and share and live out loud?

So today, I invited Miss World to accompany me there to have lunch after we shopped for groceries. She has quite an evolved palette and has a natural (inherited!) knack for blending and combining flavours so I knew she would be game and a worthy companion on this little adventure into the world of Raw Food.

So we reach on to Mi Hungry. It occupies a small corner in The Market Place, to the rear of the complex, but there are a few tables for whose who want to eat there.

Inside Mi Hungry

I knew exactly what we were going to try: the burger and the pizza. I know there are vegan purists who resent comparisons of their food to more traditional fare. People get upset at “tofu roast” and ” meatless curried chicken” and “turkey bacon”. Calm down. More of us eat pizza and burger than not, and if your food is that good and that good for you, then you should want to share and what better way to share than to relate it to the familiar. So I ordered our selections with confidence: one half Pleaza and one Nyam burger to be shared between us. Here’s how Mi Hungry describes them:

Pleaza (Pizza): A savory crust of seeds and grains crisply dehydrated and covered with our not-cheese made from sunflower seeds, and topped with chopped onions, pineapple, tomatoes, sweet pepper, lettuce, olives, and hot pepper if you want.

Nyam Burger: Not-cheese burger, within 2 tasty buns made from walnuts, filled with our signature house tomato sauce, onion rings, tomato, lettuce, sweet pepper.

Here’s how the pizza looked:

Fresh toppings, thin crispy crust, a decent enough portion for 2 of us. It was beautiful, almost a work of art and you got the sense that someone took the time to layer and construct this by hand. The veggies were chopped up small, very neat…not at all junky and coarse. I’m happy to report that the taste was equally good. There was enough salt, a cheesy taste and enough pepper that supported an almost perfect blending of the flavours of these fresh toppings. The onion did not overpower anything, Praise Jah. The pineapple hovered underneath it all lending a delicate sweetness and her distinctive flavour that blended oh so well with the fresh tomato and sweet peppers. It was delicious.

Miss World declared the Pleaza her favourite. And while I thoroughly enjoyed it, I will most certainly get the Nyam Burger again! The “buns” were chewy and savoury and the inclusions fresh, delicious, cheesy and neatly bound together with their tomato sauce. Throughout both the Pleaza and and Nyam Burger, there was a very faint hint of fresh lime juice. Yum!  Note: nothing is cooked and no flour or sugar are added.

The owner is the chef, a quiet, slender Rasta man, who was reluctant to chat, but very pleasant and gracious when I insisted on complimenting him in person. He makes the magic happen behind this mesh enclosed space.

The floor manager, another Rasta man, was very engaging. I didn’t give him a chance, really. I asked him if his diet consisted of raw foods only. He quickly replied: “No way! Mi love my ital stew…cook down!” So I, emboldened by his declaration took faas, and asked him if he ate meat. “NO!” he said. “Mi stop eat dat from di 60s.” He shared that he didn’t eat fish and when I enquired of his blood pressure and cholesterol he shrugged and said: “Dem nuh mussi fine.”
We washed this down with deliciously cold, natural, sweet coconut water. Everything cost us JD1150.00 (approx USD 10.00). We left full and satisfied, not stuffed and heavy, and 3 hours later we’re not yet hungry. I understand that a body full of nutrients rather than calories will feel fuller longer.
Listen y’all, I have no plans at this time for going vegan or even raw food vegan. What I am is an unapologetic lover of good food…all good food. I derive pleasure from food. Seriously. These raw food offerings were delicious and I will have them again. Raw vegan fare is way more than a salad. Sure, I will continue to be more deliberate about what I put into my mouth and I will schedule indulgent experiences from time to time. Food fi nyam!

Mama P tun it up! I feel like a vegan at a jerk festival.

As I read the Daily Gleaner of Jan 18 (just this morning), an article caught my eye…”Mama P Tun it Up”. Supporters of the HPM Portia Simpson-Miller heralded her entry into Parliament as our newest Prime Minister with chants of “Mama P, wi love yuh!” over and over again.  I couldn’t help but remember a letter that I wrote to the Gleaner back in 2007 which they published.  Here’s what I said then:
‘Mama’ vote not the way
published: Thursday | July 19, 2007

The Editor, Sir:
I am deeply offended by the Prime Minister presenting herself to the citizens of Jamaica as ‘Mama’. To suggest to us that we should vote for her, that we should vote for any one of the 60 candidates of her party, because “a vote for them, is a vote for Portia”, is an insult to our intelligence as a people.
Jamaica needs a leader who very clearly understands, and indeed demonstrates, that he or she understands what the role of the state is. The role of the state, simply put, is to create conditions that facilitate economic growth, to create conditions where it is difficult for crime to flourish, and to protect those in society unable to protect themselves. If the Government succeeds in doing these things, then we will not need anyone to hug us, to kiss us, to rub our heads and tell us ‘not to worry because Mama is in control’.
Jamaica needs a leader who will inspire its citizens to get up and determine our own destinies. This culture of patronage, that the styling of our leader as ‘Mama’ exemplifies, will keep us as a people mired in dependency and continue to give relevancy to dons and politicians, who think that giving out cash and kind is enough for us to entrust them with positions of public leadership.
We demand more.
I am, etc.,
Fast forward to Jan 17, 2012…so much for my stridency back then!  Who was I to be categorically stating what Jamaica needs.  On Dec 29, 2011, the majority of voters decided definitively.  And yesterday  
they underscored their choice with their very vocal and adoring salutations and congratulations directed at their very own Mama P.
I feel like a vegan at a jerk festival.