“…The sun, the moon and the earth danced together to bring you this delight. Receive this nectar on your tongue like a kiss from the divine…” ~ Lorin Roche, Sutra 49 from The Radiance Sutras
My first foray into the world of vegetables happened in my childhood and it was from a small, hard, white box stained with green juice. You know what I am talking about, people—the dreaded frozen spinach.
Yes, this was the foundation of base-of-the-pyramid eating for me, along with beets or string beans from a can. The stale, tired taste of food that had been sitting in aluminum for way too long, or worse, with freezer burn, pretty much squelched my appetite for food from the earth. No wonder I grew up pretty much hating vegetables.
I was not too keen on meat either and I became quite adept at picking at my food. And by picking I don’t just mean rearranging my food around the plate but taking the top layer of chicken meat so I wouldn’t see the bone, or eating the breading off of my mother’s veal cutlets, and then quickly performing the burial ritual as I covered whatever was left with my unfolded napkin on top so no one could see what I did or didn’t eat.
Red meat for me was painful. While everyone was eating their London broil medium, or worse, rare (I couldn’t even look at it), I would put my slices back in the oven until they were dark brown and then pick away at whatever was edible which was not much at that point.
Even fish came from a frozen box and my mom (I’m sorry mom, I know you did your best and you are an awesome baker!) would coat it with mayonnaise and some kind of packaged cheese. This, at least I would eat and to this day, cheese for me can still save most foods.
As an adult, I finally realized that I did not like to eat animals. It was not difficult to give up red meat and poultry but I hung on to fish—eating it made going out to dinner with friends easier. I was on the fence about becoming a vegetarian, but just not quite ready yet.
Flash forward to seven years ago when I was taking my daughter to college and reading Steve Ross’ book, Happy Yoga. We were sitting in the airport and I was reading the chapter about veganism which is what finally pushed me over the fence. Yup, I was ready to be a vegetarian. My daughter balked. Would I still cook meat for the family? I wasn’t so sure. But I dove in to vegetables and it just worked itself out slowly.
Their side dishes became my main courses. I agreed to handle meat for the love of my family and I did so as honestly and lovingly as possible. And it worked. Everyone was peaceful and my kids started to develop a greater love for veggies.
Over the years, I became better at experimenting with food. I played with spices. I sampled different combinations of vegetables and grains. Now that my kids are off on their own, it’s easier to not have animal products in my house, so you could say that I am a “home vegan.” I dig an occasional slice of pizza so veganism is simply in its experimental stages for now.
Show me a green and I’ll be happy to work with it: kale, spinach, arugula, collards, beet greens, bok choy, swiss chard (especially rainbow), oh my. Dressed, steamed, raw or roasted. I like it all. And I am a sucker for herbs. I admit, they make me cry: they are so good and so fresh and so of the earth, they seriously elevate every dish, I feel like I am eating the garden. Cilantro, basil and mint, are my triple threat.
So what’s the point? I love my greens. I eat them three meals a day. And people ask me about them all the time because I bring them for breakfast to the yoga studio where I teach.
The key here and my best advice? Do not be afraid to love your food. And I don’t just mean when you are eating it and savoring it. That is good, yes, definitely. But even more important is the way it is prepared. Lovingly. Honestly. Openly. Take your time. Hold it. Cherish it. Honor it. Respect it.
It once was part of the earth and soon it will become your body. Revere it and touch it like a lover. Who doesn’t want to eat that?
Here’s a recipe for one of my favourite snacks, massaged kale:
1 head of kale (I like the curly kale, even though it is tougher, it softens up once you massage it and I think it actually holds the dressing better than dino kale)
½ – 1 avocado
best quality olive oil (I swear I don’t know how much, you gotta’ eyeball it, I’m guessing maybe ¼-⅓ cup)
juice of ½ lemon (maybe more, you gotta’ taste it)
salt to taste (good Himalayan sea salt is great, but experiment)
What to do:
Tear the kale leaves from the rib. Don’t be fancy, you don’t need a chef’s knife, just tear it off into bite size pieces.
Rinse, and then dry it either in a salad spinner or in a dish towel so it is mostly dry.
Place kale in a bowl and drizzle in oil. Sprinkle in salt. Squeeze in lemon. Scoop out the avocado onto the kale.
I mean it.
Take off your rings, roll up your sleeves and be prepared to get your hands in there.
It feels good.
Rub it like you mean it.
Get all of the pieces in between your hands so seriously every leaf is coated. Keep going until you do. Do not skimp. I promise you will be happy you did.
Look at it, see it, so you can see that every piece is softened and lubed.
Meditate on how the kale feels in between your hands. On your fingertips. Do not get pissed off if you have a paper cut and the lemon and salt combo makes you squirm. Let it be an exercise in discomfort if that happens. I mean really, it’s just a paper cut. Get into the feeling.
Remember this is food of the earth, in between your hands and you are loving it, the way it is going to love you once it enters your body.
Taste it. If it needs more salt or lemon or oil, add it in. if it’s good, wonderful, you are ready.
Now to the really fun part—let the licking begin.
Your hands at this point should be fully coated with oil, lemon, salt and avocado. Oh my goodness, this is heaven. Lick your fingertips, your palms, in between your fingers. Go all out. Do not be shy.
Once you are done, you will probably still have some of this delicious dressing on your hands, a natural lubricator and exfoliator in one. Don’t wash your hands, massage them together like you were rubbing some beautiful exotic lotion into them. (This is way better than most lotions.)
Then if you really need clean hands at this point, wipe off gently with a towel, or rinse them off, lightly. And not with soap. Do not rub to dry…just pat to dry. Your hands will thank you. And they will be so soft. And tasty.
Now go serve this delicious meal to someone you love. Or if no one is at home, eat it yourself and savor every piece.
Okay yes, it may be nice to have some other food too, especially if you need something to stick to your ribs more but seriously, this is an astonishingly fabulous, beautiful meal in itself.
There is so much love in it, no one will notice it’s just kale. And really it’s not. It’s your heart in a bowl.
Author: Elyce Neuhauser
Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Photo: Used with permission from Rob Goldman