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Wecome 2010
Martha Nelson Lewis Symposium Participants!


Many thanks to Dr. Kay Wolf and the Medical Dietetics program at The Ohio Sate University for the invitation to share at the 2010 Martha Nelson Lewis symposium!


Traveling around the country and the globe earning a living in the hospitality industry since 1976, I’ve noticed similarities between what less affluent cultures eat.  Rice and beans was actually the name of a cookbook I started writing decades ago.  It seems that every single culture I visited ate some version of rice and beans except what I guess we have to call the “mainstream urban American culture.”  Less affluent subcultures in the United Sates all eat rice and beans in some way, shape, or form, but as people become more acclimated to mainstream American lifestyle they adopt our high-fat, high-meat, and high-dairy diet dominated by processed food and virtually void of whole foods; vegetables, fruit, and maybe most importantly any meaningful amount of fiber.


When I started my lifestyle modification on June 23, 2003 I noticed almost immediately that the food I was eating and learning how to cook was very similar to what I noticed the less affluent folks around the world eating.  It wasn’t that it was simple, tasteless peasant food at all; in fact some of the world’s favorite dishes have their origins in this food.  It just lacks the most expensive ingredients: meat, oil, dairy, and processed food.  Coincidently those were the very things I was trying to eliminate from my diet, so one of the things that really helped me master this plant-based style of cooking was to go back and draw on what I learned from the extremely talented cooks I observed over the years that cooked this wonderful “peasant food.”


As I matured in this new lifestyle I found there was yet another coincidence that involved the very same things; meat, oil, dairy, and processed food.


I found that I had to pay far more attention to the cooking process when cooking without what I now call the culinary crutches of salt, fat, and sugar; how easy they make everything.  Toss a bit of oil in a pan and you don’t have to really watch what you’re doing all that much, but remove the oil and use a “sweating” method with water instead of sautéing with oil and you have to stay right on top of what you’re doing; move the product frequently, manage the flame, refresh the liquid level...but not too much.  You have to be present when you cook this way.  This “conscious cooking” as I now call it led me to a real spiritual awareness that I didn’t expect at all.  Now not only was the food I was eating having a substantial physical impact, it was also having a metaphysical impact.  I now joke with people in my workshops and hands-on classes that I teach people to cook with a very Zen approach, I teach people to “cook like a Jedi”; I’m only half kidding!


When you run into a third coincidence you have to move the experience into the realm of the serendipitous.  The metaphysical aspect of what I was doing led me directly to reading people like Lester Brown who in the early 1970s first drew the line between the emergence of the fast food industry and the rate of Amazon deforestation.  I became aware of the enormous environmental impact of not only our consumption habits in general, but our eating habits specifically.  The very same items of concern for my health crisis; meat, oil, dairy, and processed food, are all associated with a colossal environmental footprint.  Our consumption of meat and specifically beef requires an exceptionally large amount of natural resources to produce; especially water.  The largest single contributor to global warming is our herd of cattle!  If you step back and look at it objectively, no matter how much you like the taste of meat, it’s not a very efficient way to eat at all, especially with closing on 7 billion people on the planet!  It’s just not sustainable at all.


Changing the way you eat can heal you physically.  Changing your approach to eating and food can heal you metaphysically.  And collectively as a species, changing the way we consume can heal the planet!


If we don’t change the way we consume at the dinner table we’re simply not going to achieve our environmental goals for the next decade and beyond, and what makes me very nervous about this is that I don’t hear many people speaking about it, and I see even fewer actually doing something about it.  If we’re going to meet our environmental goals everyone with an idea needs to bring it to the table; we need to fire on all cylinders.  As Dietitians we are uniquely placed to help transform the way America eats and one of the first steps in this process is to teach people how to cook stuff that actually tastes good without relying on meat, oil, dairy, and processed food.  It doesn’t matter what your thoughts are on food and its impact on health, we can agree to disagree about the details of that, but the simple fact remains that in the future you’ll need to be eating less meat, oil, dairy, and processed food – it’s just that simple – and in order to do that you’re going to need to know how to cook!  In 2010 there is really no higher calling for a Dietitian than to assist with the transformation of American eating habits...none.


What I’ve attempted to do in the short 45 minute tasting at the Martha nelson Lewis symposium is demonstrate that even with absolutely no expensive ingredients what so ever it’s possible to make satisfying food and to give you some specific tactics to achieve that end.  These are things that you can use your self and pass on to clients and patients as well.  Please feel free to download the PDF files below and use them in your practice.  I only ask that you use them as is, leave the copyright at the bottom of the page, and tell folks where you got them.  I have found that people especially appreciate the caramelized onions and roasted peppers, those are two things that people can implement immediately and they actually work!


Here are the recipes in PDF format...please email with questions...good luck!



White Bean & Kale Soup




Pasta e Fagioli



Polenta with White Beans and Collard Greens



Polenta and Spring Vegetable Medley




Caramelized Onions




Roasted Red Peppers