Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Slowing down

Status symbols have changed over the years. They have ranged from goods to food and from money to job title. The up-and-coming status symbol taking over our world is busyness. Everyone is competing for who is busier, who has more on their plate. And just like any other status symbol, it has had some pretty negative implications. Next to personal relationships, our health and views on food have suffered the most because of this status symbol competition. No one "has time" for dinner any more. Everyone "works" (read: sits on Facebook, but wants everyone else to think they are working... no, I am actually working) through lunch. It's cool to complain about how tired you are... you know, from being so busy. So often nowadays, you aren't judged by the quality of your work, but by the about of time you spent doing it.

But let's be real, and let's think of it from the flip side. How good do you feel when someone blows you off because they are "too busy"? It is the equivalent of saying that whatever else they are doing is more important that you. Furthermore, it makes that person question why they aren't as busy as you... they wonder if something is wrong with them and what they are doing. It makes them feel bad every moment they aren't "doing" something. And not to be cliche, but we are human beings, not human doings. Sure, I can certainly appreciate that sometimes the stars will align and it will truly be crunch time, and that is absolutely forgivable. But no one on their deathbed, with the exception of Jack Donaghy, is going to wish they had worked more. They are going to regret the nights they missed with their families, the random Sunday night when you and your roommate(s) accidentally got super drunk and trashed your room, the afternoon wasted away chatting in a coffee shop (where you could have had the greatest insight of your life over a piping hot americano), and the connections missed and/or lost because you were "too busy" to maintain them. All of the papers you published, presentations you gave, or conferences you attended are not going to sit by your side when you are old.

Enter stage left convenience foods. The only thing we have less time for than personal relationships is eating. But first, I would like to back up a few centuries. Meats and sweets used to only be available to the higher class. They were a status symbol. Because of this, for hundreds of years, it has been engrained in us that eating meats and sweets is something you earn, and it a symbol of how successful you are. Convenience foods are basically getting the most meat and sugar (and all sorts of other nasty things) into you as fast as possible, so you can get back to your busy life. Heck, the way meat is produced now a days, they don't even have time for a cow to mature naturally, they are brought to their peak weight as quickly as possible and then slaughtered. Pre-industry hominins almost never would have eaten animals at their peak weight. Peak weight means an excess of fat stored as saturated fatty acids, which are usually depleted for most of the year in wild animals. There is also a depletion of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) found in your factory farmed meat. All of the processing that goes on with our food today is producing novel chemicals that our bodies have never been exposed to before. Stay tuned later this week for how these foods are affecting the organ that no one thinks about, but does as much for us as our liver or lungs: our gut microbiome.

I'm sure half of the people reading this are angrily saying, "she doesn't know anything, I really do have so much to do," and the other half are quickly closing their computers to go start dinner for their family to enjoy together, vowing to leave work early today, or picking up the phone to call an old friend. I hope you find yourself in that second group. You never get back time missed with loved ones. So I want you so badly to consider slowing down and cherishing the things that are truly most important to you... the things that make you feel the best. If you feel the best, you will in turn be giving your best back to the world. And if you are giving your best, you won't have to work so hard to accomplish your goals :-).
And what better place to build these memories than over a good meal. I had flagged this recipe last week sometime, and knew that Easter was the perfect time for slow braising some artichokes. I love the simplicity and the beauty of this artichoke dish. There are a few things that are apropos about this recipe for this post. First of all it takes a while to make, and furthermore it takes a while to eat. You have to peel back each individual leaf to get at the flavorful morsel hidden at the base. And you have to pay attention as the layers change and get meatier as you get closer to the heart. The zesty braising liquid keeps you going back to bite after bite. And then you finally get to indulge in the luscious and tender heart of the artichoke which soaked up all the braising liquid. So slow down/pause, go preheat the oven, invite some friends and family over, and enjoy this dish together.

Braised Artichokes

  • 2 artichokes
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • peel from 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 2 bay leafs
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. To prepare the artichokes: Using a sharp knife, cut off the top inch or so of the artichoke and snip off the spikes at the tips of the leaves. Remove the tough outer layer of leaves. Cut each artichoke in half and remove the choke with a spoon. 
  3. Mix all of the ingredients but the artichokes in a roasting pan. 
  4. Add the artichokes to the braising liquid, turning a few times to coat completely.
  5. Cover with aluminum foil and put in the oven for 40 minutes.
  6. Enjoy!
    • I served mine directly in the roasting pan, so people could scoop up any additional braising liquid.

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