The Food that we Eat

I recently started reading a new blog, Year of Congee, written by Lorelle Saxena. It is an account of her commitment to eat Congee for breakfast every day for a full year. First of all, my spell check doesn’t know what Congee is, and until I read the blog, I didn’t either. What I can tell you now, having done some research, is that it is a super delicious- and healthy-looking rice-based meal.

See? Looks pretty good, right?

I won’t go into a lot of detail because really, you should read about it for yourself, and I am not the one to do it justice. I will, however, share with you my reactions to reading about Congee, so far.

My first and most lasting reaction was one of awe and bewilderment. I am always unreasonably taken aback and highly impressed when watching – or in this case, reading about – someone I know preparing food that is healthy, delicious, and to them, second nature. Especially when it involves nonchalantly slinging ingredients I’ve never heard of (tea eggs? galangal root? pandanus leaves?) like it’s no big thing. Meh, what? You don’t keep daum salaam leaves in your pantry? Hm. *shrug* 

The next reaction surprised me. While reading, I found myself feeling a little bit envious – in the same way that, as a kid, I would sometimes hover in the background at a friend’s house, biting my lower lip, observing in giddy/jealous wonder as the family all sat down to dinner together, or discussed a current event, or listened attentively to each other and responded with genuine interest. I wanted what they had. And when I read about the preparation and eating of Congee, I want what Lorelle has, too. Namely, a familiarity and ease with a warm, healthy, satisfying, seemingly soul-nurturing food.

Luckily, with the benefit of age and life experience, I can step back from that feeling and realize that I can’t change my own past. I can’t change who my parents were and how they chose to feed and interact with me. I can’t change that while some people eat and actually enjoy greens, seeds, leaves, spices and herbs and an entire world of other things that they prepare and put into their mouths without a second thought, my body tells me without variation that it wants cheese, bread, and pasta.

Or there's always pizza. Cheesy, cheesy pizza!
Or there’s always pizza. Cheesy, cheesy pizza!

If I had chosen a different path in life, still lived in the cold climate I came from, never stepped out into the world and experienced whole foods and home-grown eating, I would probably still be making mac n’ cheese from scratch, never measuring the cheese, butter or milk but just putting in more than humanly necessary, because that’s what tastes good, and that is what my body asked for. I would also probably be quite obese (find my ‘recipe’ HERE!). When I say I would “still be” doing it, I of course mean I’d be doing it every week, as opposed to say, once or twice a year, because you know I never actually went cold turkey on the mac. No way – that would be unthinkable!

Every once in a while, I like to allow myself to step back and recognize that my eating habits could benefit from some change. I’m often a bit roly-polier than I’d prefer, and I know the easiest way to change that is through diet. Still, I have to make a special effort to prepare and eat healthy foods for myself. When it comes to cooking for others, especially my children, I’m a big vegetables and quinoa and kale pusher – when I’m cooking for myself it’s a cheese quesadilla cooked in butter and drenched in canned salsa.

And it is so good. And it is so bad for me. And it makes me soooo happy.

Because I was raised without balanced meals or nutritional guidance, I have no idea how to taper out of my eating habits and into something more beneficial to my body. Sure, I could learn this, but why would I when everything I crave is so damn delicious?!

I realized that I feel the same way about starchy carby cheesy food that Lorelle feels about Congee: it is comfort food. And perhaps if I can try, and learn to prepare, and maybe to love, and ultimately to find comfort in Congee – or another variation of a well-balanced, healthy addition to my diet – then perhaps I will be started on the right path – that being a path I’ve always been curious about and wished I knew a way to get to, without climbing too many obstacles or really even breaking much of a sweat. Because I’m lazy like that.

Or, maybe I can just stop wishing I was in someone else’s dining room.




4 thoughts on “The Food that we Eat

  1. Hi! I have so many thoughts that I have to number them.

    1. Your mac and cheese from scratch sounds incredible. Please invite me over next time you make that.

    2. Duh, you are smoking hot and even if you were roly-poly I can’t imagine roly-poliness getting in the way of the hotness.

    3. I also love carbs with cheese, preferably carbs with cheese with carbs and also bacon. It’s true I love congee and vegetables too, but I am 100% behind the idea that there is food that’s good for the body and also food that’s good for the soul. And while ideally there’s lots of overlap between the two, sometimes there isn’t, and we all need a healthy balance of both.

    I had this great professor for my first-semester class in Chinese Medical Theory, and one of the things he said that really stuck with me was roughly this: True health isn’t living this ultra-purified life, consuming nothing but filtered water and breathing nothing but rarefied mountain air. True health is being able to have a beer and a cheeseburger and feel just fine afterwards. The person with the filtered water and the mountain air might need two weeks to recover from a beer and a cheeseburger. That’s not healthy.

    So, yeah, no foods are inherently bad. Today I topped my congee with fried chicken skins. I have also topped congee with gravy, leftover Italian sausage, and SPAM. I feel pretty good about all of that. My soul needs a lot of feeding.

    4. All that being said, I totally applaud the leaning towards making healthful shifts. Like you, I hate shopping for new pants, and also, I am positive that there are foods that you can access sweatlessly, that will make you happy, AND that are good for your physical well-being. And lady, if you ever want to talk about eating intuitively and making choices that serve you well around food and doing it all without completely evacuating your comfort zone, I’m your girl. You might never get me to shut up about it, because if it’s not clear from this longest-comment-in-history it’s one of my absolute favorite topics, but really, this is the kind of thing I’m thrilled to be a resource about.

    5. Thank you for the blog mention!


    1. I love that you numbered your thoughts! And thank you for all of them. I look forward to sitting down over a table of All of the Foods to continue this ongoing, ever-evolving discussion.


  2. I kind of wish I was in your dining room with you and that pizza.

    I found this post hitting close to home today. I have been thinking quite a bit about the little changes that add up to something greater than the sum of its parts. While Congee isn’t always the answer, I think it is a brave and wonderful idea to find something that can sooth your soul and not wreak havoc on your self image.

    Find your new healthy food. Embrace it. Use it to expand your culinary repetroire! Maybe you would find the process restorative? Then invite me over for a taste, okay? (As long as it doesn’t have an egg resting on top.)


    1. Don’t worry, I’m not an egg person either. Or, an egg prepared any other way aside from scrambled…I drive people crazy by asking them to alter their recipes for me in restaurants!

      Thank you for the encouragement and sharing of your thoughts. I know it’s an ongoing topic for so many people – I go back and forth a lot between deciding to just eat what feels good to eat and therefore be happy, and realizing that eating what feels good doesn’t always make me happy because I ultimately become sluggish and my pants don’t fit right…and I hate shopping for new pants!!

      It’s a learning process 🙂


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