Friday, March 12, 2010

Sweet Potato Soup

I am a long-time fan of Michael Pollan. "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.", is very familiar to most of us. I'm not an Oprah fan, but happened to catch part of her show yesterday. I was folding laundry and the t.v. was on in the background. It was a re-broadcast, featuring Michael Pollan and Food Inc. I heard Michael Pollan say "If you eat real food, you don't have to worry about nutrients."   This is my philosophy too.
I was lucky enough to grow up knowing both of my grandmothers and one of my great-grandmothers. They didn't count calories, carbs, fats or protein. They ate mainly real, whole foods. They did use cane sugar and olive oil, but sparingly, as I do. They used real butter, not trans-fat laden margarine. They did not subsist on a diet full of packaged industrial foods, each item loaded with sugar, sodium, fat and added chemicals.  They did eat animal products, but unlike today's disease causing western diet, they were not a part of every meal. And the animals were raised under very different conditions, the chickens who gave them eggs lived outside, scratching at the ground and eating bugs. I don't think they could envision the way chickens are raised today, sickly,  crammed into sheds, never seeing the sunlight, unable to walk, and pumped full of antibiotics.

 Everything in my great-grandmother's day was organic.  I doubt she could envision a world where one must pay extra to have the chemical toxins left off her food. Their bodies got more exercise than most of ours do in our now sedentary society. And they didn't have to fight the barrage of chemicals that are present in everything around us today.

One of my grandmothers and my great-grandmother lived into their nineties. None suffered heart disease or cancer. My great-grandmother rarely saw a doctor, and did not subsist on pills. She lived in her own home until she died, doing her own cooking, cleaning, and walking to the store. She worked in her garden, growing some of her own food. One of my fondest memories is sitting in her kitchen, eating a slice of pie. It was homemade of course, with the rhubarb she had grown in her yard.  So these two rules of Michal Pollan's always hit home with me:

•Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.

•Don't eat anything with ingredients a third grader cannot pronounce.
These are some of the thoughts I come back to when I am asked why I do not consume things that are touted as healthier alternatives today, such as canola oil, protein powders and tvp. I can visualize my great-grandmother asking "what's a canola?"
I changed our diet for health concerns, mainly having to do with my son's battle with cancer, although I  also care deeply about the animals and the environment. Readers have asked me if I am going to give up all oil, sugar, or become vegan. While I greatly respect those who choose to do so, the answer for us is no. We eat a lot of vegan meals, and Fridays here are always vegan. I do not miss meat at all, and will never go back to it, but I have no interest in completely eliminating all oil, sugar and animal products. I am picky about what I do use, and keep use to a  minimum. I believe the single most important thing you can do for your body is to eat lots of colorful fruits and vegetables every day, and at least some of them should be raw. It is very rare for us when we do not get 10 servings of these in a day.
 I absolutely believe that diet is paramount to good health and avoiding disease, but I also realize that my son's cancer was not caused by years of an unhealthy diet. He was an infant when diagnosed. It likely was linked to the chemicals I was exposed to at work each day before he was born, not to mention the chemicals polluting the water supply. I will probably never know for certain. And while I am like a junkie when it comes to nutritional  information, reading books, studies, etc., I do not blindly follow the latest fads. I am well aware that studies can be biased and results slanted. In the end common sense must take precedence. So I tell my readers to do your own research, and make the choices you feel are right for your own families and that you can live with. If something isn't working for your families, change it. I believe that real food comes from nature, not from a factory, and that added chemicals are not food.  And so we eat a mainly whole foods, plant based diet.  I hope I've answered all of the questions, if not, feel free to email me.
Now on to today's recipe. We eat a lot of legumes around here, as well as lots of colorful veggies. This simple soup combines them. I did not have a fresh coconut on hand, so I used a can of coconut milk. When fresh is on hand, I puree the coconut meat and the coconut water in my blender.
Sweet Potato Soup
5 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red onion, diced
1  14oz. can coconut milk
1 c. cooked adzuki beans
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
In large pot combine sweet potatoes, garlic, onion and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20 min. till potatoes are tender. Puree with stick blender or in blender till smooth. Stir in coconut milk, beans and seasonings. Heat through, sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and serve.
Now I'm off to walk the dogs before the rain sets in. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!


Kim in the Kitchen March 12, 2010 at 2:32 PM  

Amen! I loved when Michael Pollan said towards the end of the show how Americans nowadays eat an obscene amount of meat. It is so true! Many cultures eat meat only at celebrations or to honor a guest while Americans have meat at nearly every meal. We need a cultural shift towards less meat consumption!

janet March 12, 2010 at 3:08 PM  

Kim, thanks for the comment. I agree, it is obscene how much meat Americans consume, and we are paying for it in so many ways.

Vegan Epicurean March 12, 2010 at 9:57 PM  

And I thought I was the only one that wasn't an Oprah fan. Nice to know I am not alone on that. I have read Pollan's books too and agree with much of what he says but obviously not all.

Your soup sounds good!


mangocheeks March 13, 2010 at 10:20 AM  

The soup looks really deep, flavourful. If I could I would really tuck in.

Fayinagirl (means Free One) March 13, 2010 at 1:56 PM  

What a beautifully stated and thoughtful post, Janet. I applaud your food choices and support you in making them.


janet March 13, 2010 at 3:17 PM  

Alicia, thanks. It seems to be rare to find someone else who's not a big Oprah fan, glad I'm not the only one;)

janet March 13, 2010 at 3:19 PM  

mangocheeks, thanks, we really enjoyed it and there were no leftovers! We love smoked paprika, it really adds depth.

janet March 13, 2010 at 3:25 PM  

Julie Lynn, thanks for your kind words, I appreciate them.

Brigid March 15, 2010 at 10:20 AM  

I love Michael Pollan, too. I need to read more of his books. That soup looks wonderful! I made a sweet potato soup recently that was delicious, so I'm hooked.

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