Opinion: Finding Meaning

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The Wisdom of Food

By Skip Hellewell 

By Skip Hellewell

Last week’s Indy announced Laguna Beach Community Clinic’s “Live Well” project, a series of monthly YouTube videos on living better. It’s an inspired idea; the first video features Cary Redfearn, owner of Lumberyard Restaurant and Slice Pizza, in his home kitchen. Cary makes his favorite Pasta Puttanesca with tinned fish. It’s great. After 53 years of treating disease without regard to the ability to pay, the Community Clinic is adding disease prevention through healthier living. This is Laguna at its best, but perhaps I could add a thought or two.

Some years ago, I stood in the dairy section of a grocery store wondering which was healthier, margarine or butter. (Despite the criticism of butter at that time, it was healthier—the FDA has since banned hydrogenated fats, and margarine quietly disappeared.) This was in the time of the misguided war on fat when food products were being reformulated to reduce fats, often adding sugar to replace lost flavor. It seemed backward as our brain has the most fat of any organ, around 60%, so a reduced-fat diet higher in sugar might be a bad idea. The current rise in age-related dementia might support that concern.

Nutrition is a highly complex and poorly understood topic, hard for busy people to navigate. So, I decided to write a public service food blog (no ads) as an average person trying to figure out how to eat healthily. The strategy for dealing with the confusing complexity of nutrition was to combine available science with the wisdom of scripture, so I called it “Word of Wisdom Living.” After four years of study and writing, I summarized what I had learned in one sentence: “Cook your own food, using a variety of minimally-processed ingredients.”

This simple sentence is revolutionary—it rejects the rising avalanche of ultra-processed foods in favor of old-fashioned home cooking. It’s the way your ancestors lived, but with our modern conveniences. We practice this in our home, eating just two meals daily while trying not to snack. I didn’t know yesterday that I would write this, but here’s what we cooked.

Breakfast is the least healthy meal for many, but it’s the easiest to make healthy. We make ours from groats (the raw oat kernel), flaxseed, and sunflower seeds freshly ground in a spice grinder. The ground groats are cooked in water with raisins, blueberries, and cinnamon. After cooking, we add the ground flaxseed and sunflower seeds, honey, pecans, and a chopped apple. It takes ten minutes to make, and we enjoy it year-round, varying the fruit with the season. It’s hard to imagine a healthier breakfast, and without any processed foods, it’s low in cost. (Recipe available on request; Email below.)

Because the forecast threatened rain, we made fifteen-bean soup for dinner. I soaked the beans overnight and made my stock using a ham bone (with a lovely amount of meat still attached) from the freezer, adding bay leaves and thyme. Before dinner, I sautéed the mirepoix vegetables (carrots, celery, and onions) seasoned with garlic and red pepper flakes, and made a roux to thicken the stock. The Beautiful Wife made a green salad, her specialty, with cooked salmon from a prior meal. The meal was delicious, nutritious, affordable and convenient (It took a little work but we ate the soup for three rainy days and saved three quarts in the freezer).

There’s a lesson to be learned from this experiment in nutrition that might help with other complex questions in life. To live well, combine science with the wisdom of scripture. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.”  Email:[email protected]

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