Our CEO, or CVO (Chief Vegetable Officer), Pamela Hinckley, created a “Wellness Initiative” in the company last year. This year’s Wellness Initiative started off by hosting Sara Dickerman, Seattle-based writer for Bon Appetit and freelancer for many other esteemed magazines, newspapers, and other media. Pamela encouraged anyone in the company interested to attend the seminar to learn more from Sara about her famous New Year’s Food Lover’s Cleanse–the one published in Bon Appetit for the last 4 years. And to give everyone a little push, each person interested was allowed a $50 gift card to PCC to get shopping.
The Food Lover’s Cleanse, as Sara described it, is for all those gourmand foodies who really indulge during the holidays with alcohol, cookies, and feasts with family. And she says that the indulgence is ok–it should be celebrated. But after the holidays end, though everyone starts making their New Year’s Resolutions, most of them are thrown to the wayside by the end of January. Gym membership is always highest January 1st, cleanses like the Master Cleanse or juicing are added to the menu, and the salad bar becomes more popular than the all-you-can-eat pasta bowl station. Truth be told, while I made my own resolutions 3 months ago, centered around finding gratitude, meditating more, and creating balance in my life, I generally dislike the healthy food craze that ensues after New Year’s. But then I heard Sara, and her cleanse. I write the story now, 3 months after New Years, because when I first heard about the cleanse, I told myself I didn’t have time, or the budget, that I was moving, etc. The recipes that I had printed out sat in a binder on my desk for weeks. And then, finally, pushed by a series of events and health problems, I decided to give the cleanse a try.
More specifically, “my health problems” were that I suddenly found myself at war with food–ironic, given that it is my greatest love in life, my career, my hobby, and my joy. Over the last three years, my body has been rejecting more and more foods, becoming sensitive to dairy, wine, beer, and sugar. Becoming increasingly frustrated, and depressed that my life may continue without wine, the cleanse opened up an opportunity to get back on track and in a better relationship with food. Despite my hesitations about the time commitment and the budget for the cleanse, it was in fact more transformative physically, mentally, and creatively than I initially imagined.
My stomach, sinuses, intestines, and skin–all the things that have consistently reacted to certain foods–began to feel normal again. Cooking each day became a wonderful creative outlet, and I found myself suddenly pickling and fermenting outside of what was required in the cleanse recipes. I found that I was more productive at work, in part because I had less energy swings due to food intake. And most shocking was that even though the cleanse used expensive ingredients focused on whole grains like farro, and vegetables like watercress, I saved an incredible amount of money (only $140 for 10 days of 3 meals a day, including snacks…and that even included cooking a feast for 3 one of the nights).
Three of some of my favorite meals/items from the cleanse:
The cleanse all together was a recalibration. And while I craved fat, sugar, pastries and coffee (seemingly ubiquitous in Seattle), now that the cleanse has ended and I’m eating all of those things again, my body is reacting better to them (within moderation of course).
The benefit I found most exciting, health aside, was the jolt of inspiration and creativity of cooking efficiently, pre-planning, and using leftovers. And that is what perhaps is most relevant to how we–as humans–can continue to develop a more beneficial relationship with our food. What is so exciting about how the food scene is currently changing–more specifically the local food movement–is that it is forcing us to work with food in new, or sometimes old and forgotten ways.
A good friend of mine explained it this way: Sometimes the most creativity flows in a space of restriction. There are so many ways in which our food is becoming restricted, whether it’s the loss of fertile land or seed varieties, and yet the food movement has become more inventive than ever, with vertical and urban farming, rooftop gardens, and aquaponic systems. Perhaps it is thinking within a box of limitations that we may all find our newest solutions to our current problems.