Developing options

It’s been a very sunny warm summer here on Salt Spring Island. Last Sunday was the second day of significant rainfall since the end of June. It feels good to take shelter, pause, and reflect on where we are headed. In fact Jim and I did that the previous weekend. We closed the cafe over the long weekend and took one day to do some strategic planning. We had to make an important decision and for the past few months not coming to a resolution was really taking its toll on us.

When we think about our bodies and our health we tend to focus on exercise and diet. We truly believe if we eat less calories and go to the gym 3 times a week all will be well. I’ve seen individuals pay attention to these two factors and remain overweight and listlessly engage with the world around them. So what’s missing? Not paying attention to the heart of their issues – that is, not listening to what may be rattling around in their brain which is acting as a roadblock to change.

If I think back to when we went to Optimum Health Institute 5 years ago, part of the detoxing process included letting go in my mind of my preconceived notions of health and well-being. This transformation included not just a radical change in the kind of food we were eating but also freeing my mind to be open to incorporating these changes. And if I could be open to this kind of alteration in my lifestyle, what else would open up and present itself?

The fresher and more alive my food options became the fresher and more alive were my thought processes. When I have become ‘stuck’ is when I have been stuck in my eating habits as well, which includes incorporating less than optimal food choices. In the live plant-based world that includes more dehydrated foods and desserts. Not the kinds of food that foster energy such as sprouts and freshly picked vegetables and fruit.

Our day of strategic planning included sitting out in the sun, looking at the ocean vista from the cafe and eating fresh fruit. And our ideas came freely. I have a favourite exercise which includes defining the issue and then looking at up to a possible eight alternative approaches to resolve that issue. The ideas can be as staid or whimsical as you like. The most important part of this exercise is to pay attention to how you feel when you come up with your options. Fully feel those emotions, articulate them, play them out in your body, and also name the alternative by looking at something in your environment that defines the option for you. For example, one of the options Jim and I looked at ended up being named ‘The Empty Parking Lot’ option. I think you get the picture of the kind of emotions that come with an option of that name – empty, vacant, undefined, de-energizing.

The option we settled on – ‘Gifting’ – garnered the most energy and enthusiasm. There are many layers to the notion of ‘gifting’ for us and over time will be realized to its fullest. What I can say is that first and foremost, settling on that option was a gift to both of us because we now feel more settled and ready for the next 18-24 months. It was also accompanied by a secondary option called ‘The Lawn Chair’. I have to admit that option generates more enthusiasm from me but now I know we have a plan in place – both in the immediate and for the future.

What does come with this activity is the important step of laying out some immediate steps one needs to take in order to put the option into play. Nothing just happens. Yes there are synchronistic moments where the stars align and we are amazed by the perfect intersection of people, places, time, thoughts, and yes, emotions. I’m not sure what comes first, the moment or the plan, but some conscientious and mindful contemplation and consideration is required ultimately, in order to make a difference in your life.

So if you are stuck, make a circle and divide it into a pie of eight sections. Then brainstorm. As you come up with an option or idea – fill in one of the sections of the pie with your thoughts. Then name that section of the pie. When you have exhausted your options, settle on the one that resonates best with your heart. Then start setting some goals to bring it to fruition. It is best done with a friend or coach. Someone who can take the lead and ask questions and challenge you to delve deeper. And also, hold you accountable to some important next step planning stages.

Recipe Development

I have to be honest. For all the time I’m spending in a kitchen at the cafe, I’m not developing any new recipes. All my time is spent maintaining our daily offerings and making sure we are all on task and keeping up with demand. It’s not like when I was at home playing in my kitchen coming up with ideas for dinner in order to keep it interesting, thus resulting in new recipes for my blog post.

My aim has always been to keep it simple and to build upon what I have made in the past that was cooked and to come up with a live plant-based version.  Quite often that would entail spices. So if I enjoyed a tomato-based curry that was cooked, what could I substitute that was live plant-based which included the same vegetables but just not cooking them. For example, rather than cooking tomatoes, I blend the fresh live tomatoes including some thickener like sun dried tomato powder and a couple of dates along with the spices I used in the cooked version. That becomes the sauce that gets poured over the freshly cut vegetables and then I let it sit and marinate in the bowl for 30 minutes to – in a sense – soften the vegetables slightly, or cook them.

For me spices are often the key to making the food take on a ‘cooked’ flavour. We have a smoothie at the cafe that has a ‘chai’ flavour – Choco-Chai. The spices in that drink is consistent with what you would find in a warm chai – cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. Just the addition of those spices seems to warm the drink. And also, the hotter the spice, the more internal heat is created in your body.

If you like playing with food, then playing with live plant-based alternatives will come naturally and certainly enliven your tastebuds.

Choco Chai
Yield: 18 oz

Blend until smooth:

  • 1½ cups almond milk
  • 2 frozen bananas
  • ¼ cup cacao
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 inch chunk of ginger
  • 1/8 tsp cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Living simply

The longer I eat a live plant-based diet the more I crave simpler foods and less clutter in my eating patterns. In fact, I’m finding I want less clutter in many aspects of my life. Perhaps it is an ageist thing. Or perhaps it comes with moving far too many times in my life and shifting direction in my career too often. At some point simplicity takes precedence and finding aspects of my life that I can simplify.

I recently read a blog post about meditation and realized that meditation has its formality and structure in one’s life. But also there is a meditative spirit and appreciation of the moment that should encompass daily living. There is something so simple and pure as articulating one’s gratitude on a daily basis. My life partner has been especially good at reminding all of us who work at Rawsome Living Foods Cafe and Juice Bar to be thankful for something each and every day as he gently checks in with us, “And what are you thankful for today?” Even a momentary reflection takes us out of our busy-ness and allows us an opportunity to negotiate time within a momentary period of grace.

When I think about the people who come into our cafe – some of whom are conflicted with health and life challenges – I am struck by those who are looking for a refuge not only within our physical space, but through the healing and nurturing foods and drinks we make. They come looking for food that is made with integrity. Food that knows its source – whether local or global. And food that is vibrant and alive in colour, temperature, and presentation. Food that has been made with intention and by hand, not mechanized, packaged, and processed. A meditative mindfulness has been applied to its production and presentation.

Recently I came upon another food pyramid displaying the portions and quantities one should consider in a live plant-based diet.

Two things strike me about this visual representation of a live plant-based diet – one it looks almost too complicated in the variety of foods one can eat. However, the outstanding piece that I love is it simply states what one can eat most of for essential wellness – greens and vegetables. The other simple piece of this pyramid is that it takes the guessing game out of how much is too much of a good thing. With words such as most, much, portions, bit, hint, and least – you know when enough is enough and more is ok. There is such a thing as too much dessert – even when it is live and plant-based.

There is a frugality to this kind of living. Being frugal with one’s decadence by taking delight in the simple unadorned nature of live food. Being thoughtful about what you purchase and where it comes from – seeking reliable local and global sources. Approaching life within sensual parameters – that is, taking note of just not the taste, but the smells and appearance of your food – real colours, textures that are alive, food that gives back and feeds you rather than dulls and depletes your senses. Food that can’t be rushed but rather suggests you need to take your time chewing and tasting each mouthful. Food in its most basic, simplest and natural state – fresh and alive.

In keeping with living simply, I’ve decided on a very simple recipe for this week -

Watermelon

One of our patrons mentioned to me that once a week she goes on a watermelon fast. She simply eats watermelon for the day. It is full of nutrients and it hydrates at the same time. I love watermelon at this time of year. I especially love local organic watermelon. Even if it is not organic, it is considered safe to eat – being among the fifteen most clean of the non-organic fruits and vegetables.

Watermelon is low in calories because it is mostly made up of water. It is an excellent source of Vitamins C and A. Surprisingly it has nutrients such as B1 and B6 and lycopene – an anti-oxidant which protects us against a growing list of cancers (including breast and prostate). In addition, it contains minerals magnesium and potassium.

A simple way to eat is a mono-meal – a meal made up of only one ingredient. It’s easy on your digestion. Another reason for eating single ingredient meals can be that some foods cause you discomfort. If you’re suspecting allergies or food sensitivities the only way to find out for sure where the problem lies is trying to eliminate certain things for a while or consuming only one type of food for several hours, or even for a few days at a time. It’s a great way to consume large quantities of some of your favourite fruits when they are abundant and in season. It’s not something I would do all day, everyday. But it is something I do for just breakfast or lunch.

Living simply takes many forms. Summer is a great time to think of ways to simplify your life, your emotions, your diet. The more entrenched you become in your chosen simplification, the greater the possibility it will stick with you well into the fall and winter. And who knows, perhaps living simply will simply get better and better.