April 27, 2009

What’s in Your Bag?

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Picture this. A mythological creature stands before you with three paper bags in hand. The almighty god of the food world forces you to choose one bag. The contents are the only foods you can eat for the rest of your life. One bag is bulging with chocolates, cheeseburgers, cookies, and sodas. The next is brimming with spinach, peas, oranges, and apples. The last bag contains kale, salmon, chocolate, raspberries, and fresh bread. Which do you choose? Could you spend the rest of your life with fat, salt, and sugar dripping down your chin? Could you keep from going insane on a diet that never provided any of these luxurious indulgences? Is there beauty in the bag that represents a balance of both?

As I stand in the corner of room 114 in Cornell’s Martha Van Rensselaer building clutching a copy of Ellie Krieger’s “The Food You Crave” and contemplating this situation, I realize that everyday life isn’t too far from this scenario. I think about my daily routine, the foods I eat, and the weird cravings I get throughout the day. I try to balance my purely caffeinated breakfast with a salad and fruit for lunch. Dinner is usually a mix of grains and vegetables but is more often than not followed by a small scoop of espresso chunky chip ice cream. The more I think about it, if someone forced me to eat only healthy foods, I’d probably go crazy. The same rings true for the other side of spectrum. A day of grease and grime would leave me sulking in the corner. My ideal food world has a little bit of yin and little bit of yang.

I snap out of my mini food revelation and focus back in on the anxious room I’m standing in. The health and food nerds of Cornell have all congregated to pay homage to a woman that is the embodiment of our nutrition beliefs. Cornell graduate Ellie Krieger, known for her Food Network series “Healthy Appetite” and her recent début as a milk mustache celebrity, promotes the idea of a person’s relationship with food being a “mixed bag” and listening to your cravings to create healthy meals that still leave you satisfied. At the meet and greet luncheon with Krieger on campus, the meal itself integrated this principle. Green bean and edamame salad, pumpernickel and marbled breads, a platter of various cheeses and meats, ruby red sliced tomatoes with basil and sea salt, roasted vegetable paninis, grilled chicken, sesame ginger flank steak, and wide variety of tea cookies created ample opportunity to practice eating in balance.

Finding that elusive balance between life, health, and work can be difficult. After speaking with Krieger about the big topic on all of our minds, creating a working future for ourselves, I envied her for the advice she was able to give. I stared at her fiercely green metallic heels and her complexion that glowed with health and prayed one day I would be making the impact that she is with her life. The potency that Krieger emits stems from the example she gives. She is the image of health and balance and with that image she is able to communicate her message effectively. She states in her latest cookbook, “In my food world, there is no fear or guilt, only joy and balance”. In “The Food You Crave”, Krieger provides recipes that have both healthful and luxurious characteristics . For example, she adds squash to her Macaroni and Four Cheeses and tofu to her Chocolate Mousse. The cheese and chocolate provide us with the luxury we crave while the squash and tofu give us the nutrients that we need. Her clever recipes use a mixed bag of ingredients to satiate our craving without giving up on our health.

The beauty of food is that is the easiest place to start in achieving balance and happiness your life. The first step in finding that sense of stability is to pack your bag. Pack your grocery bag with the things that you love and the things you know will benefit you in a healthy way. Pack intentionally and think about what you want to eat. Pack for the future and pack for the present. Pack to find your balance.