Two tidbits to follow: another segment of my dissertation, examining the perceived conflict between health and pleasure, and a favorite summer recipe, Red Lentil Dal with Sweet Corn, from Real Food All Year. This version has a correction (the sweet corn didn't actually appear in the recipe, ha!). This a dish I've been enjoying lately which is particularly suited to summertime, and a great thing to cook up on Sunday night and enjoy, varied by different condiments, throughout a busy week.
Red Lentil Dal with Sweet Corn
, a dish of simmered and spiced legumes, is a staple food in India and Nepal, and can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch,istraditionallyis recipe can be easily varied by the addition of almost any seasonal vegetable. A bunch of chopped arugula, stirred in the last few minutes of cooking, is particularly tasty.
6 cups water
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
One 6-inch strip kombu (see Note)
1 tablespoon olive oil or ghee
1 onion, diced small
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon curry powder or a mixture of 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, coriander, and turmeric
2 carrots, scrubbed but not peeled and cut in 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1 cup sweet corn kernels, sliced off the cob
3 celery stalks, diced
One 1-inch piece unpeeled gingerroot, and grated (about 3 tablespoons)
Juice of 1 or 2 lemons
Chopped cilantro, for garnish
Put the water in a large pot and add the lentils; soak overnight if possible. Do not drain, but bring lentils in their soaking water to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Add the kombu to the pot, cover, and turn the heat down low.
While the lentils are simmering, heat the oil in a skillet; add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes, or until it begins to turn translucent. Add the mustard seeds and curry powder, and stir occasionally until the spices give off their fragrance, about 60 seconds. Add the carrots, corn kernels and celery and continue to cook a few minutes more, until they begin to brown around the edges. Scrape the vegetables and spices into the pot with the lentils, cover, and simmer until the lentils are soft and creamy, 10 to 30 minutes more, depending on the age of the lentils.
Take the grated ginger in your hand and squeeze the juice into the pot, or force it through a fine mesh sieve to extract the juice and add to the pot. Add lemon juice and sea salt to taste. Serve garnished with cilantro.
Note: Kombu is a type of seaweed that helps beans cook more quickly and makes them more flavorful and digestible. You can purchase it packaged or in bulk at health and natural food store.
From Peak Eating Experiences: Investigating Relationships of Gustatory Pleasure and Health
A National Eating Disorder
The American people are experiencing unprecedented rates of disease today which are thought to be related to their diets. In a telling cross-cultural study on attitudes toward food and eating, Paul Rozin observed: “given the much greater health orientation, worry about weight, concern and diet modification [such as choosing reduced-fat and –sodium foods] in the Americans, it is sobering that Americans consider themselves much lower in their own sense of being healthy eaters” than the French, Belgians and Japanese (P. Rozin, et al., 1999, p.174). Contrasting the pleasure orientation of French and Belgian eaters with the health focus of the Americans, Rozin suggests that the “epidemic of food worrying” here rather than our “healthier” lower fat diets may account for our higher rates of heart disease.
Rozin also found that that “1/3 of a sample of Americans seek a totally fat-free (and hence, actually fatal) diet” (P. Rozin, Bauer & Cantanse, 2003, p.132). Frank Hu of the Harvard School of Public Health has written: “the low-fat campaign has been based on little scientific evidence and may have caused unintended public health consequences,” such as increasing rates of diabetes and obesity (Hu, Manson, & Willett, 2001, p.5). The decades-long admonition to avoid, limit and distrust an essential nutrient, fat, which has profound ties to both pleasure and satiety (Linden, 2011) is one example of an erroneous anti-pleasure idea which has profoundly shaped the prevailing American anxiety about food.
Viewing food “as much a poison as a nutrient, and eating almost as dangerous as not eating” (P. Rozin, et al., 1999, p. 164) might be connected to the observed increase in the national waistline, as well. Dieting, a conscious effort to restrict the amount and type of food eaten bound to induce feelings of deprivation, has been consistently shown to promote both disordered eating and weight gain (Glassner, 2007; Tribole & Resch, 2003). Bacon (2008a) observes that Americans “believe that healthy eating entails ‘watching our diets’ and fighting our desires…[this] is experienced as normal and appropriate by most people, and encouraged by health professionals—even though almost all dieters fail to reap the rewards that dieting is said to provide” (p.20). Is it possible that the prevailing health versus pleasure dichotomy contributes to not only disordered eating but also stress, disease and obesity? Should nutritionists be teaching people to make peace with, or even to maximize, gustatory pleasure to promote both health and happiness? If so, how might this be accomplished?
A provocative set of experiments conducted in the 1970s suggest that our enjoyment of food influences its nutritional impact. Groups of Thai and Swedish women were served Thai and Swedish meals of known iron content, and each group both enjoyed, and absorbed more iron from, the meal of their own cultural heritage. Iron absorption of the preferred meals was reduced by 70% when they were served pureed into an unpalatable paste (Hallberg, 1977). Another study found a 100% reduction in mineral absorption from a mineral drink when subjects were subjected to stressful conditions (two people talking simultaneously into each of their ears) while drinking it, compared to complete absorption when it was consumed in a relaxed state (Barclay, 1987).
The antagonism between pleasure and health has deep roots in Western culture and has been traced from the Greek philosophers, through the development of Christianity (Coveney, 2006), to the ideology of the Puritan founders of this country (Kilwein, 1989). It has influenced the evolution of the disciplines of both public health and nutrition, and profoundly shaped government policies and discourse around food (Warburton & Sherwood, 1996). In his 1996 anthology examining The Functions of Pleasure, psychologist David Warburton opines: “in our society, health educators have become the new high priests of pleasure control with epidemiologists as their oracles,” (Warburton & Sherwood, 1996, p.9). The priest metaphor is echoed by Michael Pollan in his discussion of the dominant paradigm governing modern nutrition science. Nutritionism holds that:
The key to understanding food is indeed the nutrient… [which is] invisible and slightly mysterious, [therefore] it falls to the scientists (and to the journalists through whom the scientists reach the public) to explain the hidden reality of foods to us. In form this is a quasi-religious idea, suggesting that the visible world is not the one that really matters, which implies the need for a priesthood. (Pollan, 2008, p.28)