We Are What We Eat

Cultivating connection with life's necessities

First pick of the season! My white icicle radishes, which taste part sweet, part spicy (oh yes!) & cherry bell red radish. A truly wonderful feeling accompanies pulling something you grew yourself out of the dirt, cleaning it up, and then eating it. It’s a feeling of satisfaction. Of worth. Of being able to take care of yourself in some small way.

It also shows you how much work actually goes into producing food; you realize that the artificially low prices at stores do not accurately represent food’s true value. I’ve been reading Alice Waters’ new book, “We Are What We Eat,” and plan to do an episode on it on my podcast, "Bella Figura—The Tradition of Living Beautifully". Frankly, it’s a good book on a rather depressing situation.

Waters' discussion on availability—the idea that we’ve been conditioned to expect all things at all times—is really engrossing. Eating blueberries every morning of the year, for instance, numbs us to the true presence of a blueberry; so that when a blueberry is meant to be eaten, in summer, when it’s in season, in its truest expression, we don’t relish it as the fleeting gift it is. Having everything now numbs us. I've felt this in some way without expressing it as such, but it seems to me that all the modern conveniences have somehow re-wired our natural human leanings, and things are going haywire. While rest is important, and time to put our feet up much needed, it seems we weren't build for idleness. Our minds and our spirits suffer when we aren't putting our hands to meaningful work. Insomnia plagues our society, but people who once worked in the fields under the sun and used their bodies day in and day out didn't struggle to sleep at night. We have trouble sleeping because we're not using our minds and bodies in ways they are naturally wired to be used.

Waters' message is rather overwhelming, and I find it hard to see a way out on a worldwide scale, but one thing is clear, even before picking up Waters’ book—the more of us who grow what we eat, even if it’s in pots on balconies, even if it’s just a few head of lettuce and some tomatoes, the better off we’ll all be, physically and spiritually—because another thing the way we grow our food has done is sever us from the process, from the earth, from the sun, and from the God who created it all.

I often wonder what my ancestors, who struggled with the land and struggled to feed themselves, would say to hear me talk this way. For them, walking into a supermarket and being able to purchase whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, would be a miracle. The answer to all their problems. Well, we, today, have different problems. And maybe the answer, like so many of the things we face, is somewhere in the middle.

This is a much bigger conversation, and I’m covering a miniscule fraction of it, but I did want to say that these white radishes are delicious, I made them with my own hands and God’s grace, and they bring me joy.

What to Do With Radishes

I love radishes. Any bitter vegetable (the cruciferous family of veggies) is my favorite, and bitter vegetables give our bodies the nourishment and nutrients they need to thrive. They also improve our gut health, as well as eye and liver health. Studies have shown that cruciferous vegetables lower cancer risks and help our livers detox our bodies.

Personally, I love to eat radishes raw, especially if they're freshly picked from the garden. But if you need a little help with the bitterness try the recipe below.

Roasted Radish

Five to 6 radishes, depending on size

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Wash and dry the radishes, removing the leaves. (You do not need to discard radish leaves! They are edible! Saute them in some olive oil and gralice, with salt and pepper, just as you would spinach.) Chop the radishes into 1/2 inch cubes.

In a medium bowl, toss the cubes with the olive oil, balsamic, cinnamon, salt and pepper.

Lay the radish cubes on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes or until they begin to darken and soften. Serve as a side dish or heap onto salad for flavorful fixing.

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