Taking on Grist’s Challenge: Dinner Parties, Desserts, and Backpacking Trips
Here is the second part of my take on Grist’s The Ultimate No-Processed-Food Challenge: Read the first part here.
I also take the same philosophical approach I use when eating out in restaurants in dinner party occasions. For one thing, I would be there to enjoy the company of friends and the host more than the food. If the host is a close friend of mine, I could request a whole foods dish in advance in order to avoid compromising on my visit. If the host is only an acquaintance with whom it would be awkward for me to insist on my own healthy eating convictions, I’d rather make the best of my time with them than risk alienation before I had the chance to influence them.
Just an aside: For those concerned about coming across as snobbish when sharing personal eating convictions, I’ve seen this happen in my own group of friends in college. We had a Muslim friend whom we all liked for her fun and warm personality, but she absolutely ate no pork at mealtimes, even with us. We respected that and at lunch breaks we would make sure to eat at a place which offered chicken and vegetable dishes for her sake. It just happened automatically and did not trouble us greatly. The same thing happened when we visited each other’s homes; someone would look out for Nora and made sure she had something appropriate to eat along with the rest of us. We did not think less of her nor did she think less of us because of our different convictions. This went on for the four years we spent at college together.
People may sometimes be tempted to cook up a rational excuse to justify their personal convictions – “I’ve got an allergy to those,” “I can’t digest that,” “I’ve got a health condition and I can’t eat that” – why do we need our own healthy eating convictions backed up by a physical condition? Why can’t it be legitimate and acceptable simply because we made up our minds to do it? Admittedly, avoiding processed foods is a lot harder than avoiding a certain kind of meat, but I’ve seen it with my own eyes and I assure you it can be done.
My favorite part. I’d rather not see a dozen boyfriends than give up my sweet tooth. Kidding aside, I have my own strong local food culture to thank for giving me healthier options over processed sweets and confectionaries. Almost all processed sweets and confectionary delicacies contain sugar to differing degrees, and most of the time that sugar is refined. I don’t have much solid background on artificial sweeteners as alternatives to refined sugar, but I don’t plan on changing one processed product for another.
Instead, I use Muscovado for desserts. Muscovado is natural, unrefined brown sugar that’s got a lot of strong flavor as well as health benefits. Because it’s unrefined, it doesn’t have the same carbon footprint that industrially refined sugar has.
Muscovado is traditionally the sweetener of choice in the Philippines until industrially refined sugar became popular. For a time brown sugar was regarded unofficially as the poor man’s sugar. Now, thanks to a renewed interest in healthy food and living, Muscovado is enjoying a comeback in the local food scene. I can buy Muscovado in powdered form at stores or in solid cups at the local dry goods market. This is one brown product that is not brownwashed.
For people in other places that do not have the privilege of having Muscovados, there’s an equal, if not better alternative to refined sugar: honey. Honey is one of the healthiest foods in the world. It has nutritional benefits, healing properties, and can literally last for a thousand years.
Desserts and in extension, snacks, are some of the hardest battlefields to win against the temptation of processed foods. But starting to change our habits right now is essential if we are to enjoy a healthy life and environment. It’ll be for our own good to learn from the world’s oldest living person’s eating conviction.
As I’ve mentioned above, kimbaps are good for nutritious, no-mess, and compact meals suitable for day-day long backpack trips and long road trips. For longer backpacking trips and hikes, I’m no expert but I think whole grain bars, dried meat, and dried fruit are good choices.
A Masinloc Miracle
I want to share a discovery I made only a few weeks ago about a local delicacy brought to me by a friend. A particular rice cake made from a native variety of sticky rice was given to me by a church friend about two days after he bought it from Masinloc, Zambales. Naturally, I had more than a few misgivings. But there was no smell or discoloration, and when I tentatively tried it it was surprisingly good. Moreover, it could last for a few days even if not stored in a fridge. This is one excellent whole food to carry on backpacking trips and hikes in my opinion. It’s basically rice so you can eat it with different dishes for meals or as a snack dipped in sweet syrup.
Here concludes my very personal take on Grist’s Resisting Temptations: The Ultimate No-Processed-Food Challenge. I’d like to hear the take of the author, Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan, on how I took her challenge. Most of all, I’d also like to know other people’s thoughts and ideas on how to triumph over the temptations of modern lifestyle’s “new” basic need: convenient, cheap, additive-loaded, artificially-flavored, industrially processed foods.
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