Por Simone van der Graaf
Travel and Lifestyle Consultant / American Express
Food as a lifestyle, not an obligation
My dear friend Jaime asked me to write another article for on his website so I thought, what should I write about then? It made me realize I don’t have a lot of knowledge on many subjects. A shame? Maybe, because I am a curious person but I am also a person who needs to feel/experience things in order to be interested in them. You can’t make me happy about a book on World War 1 or how politics works in the Netherlands. I just realize that I do get inspired by specific people and what out of the ordinary life/experiences they had. I will write about that another time, inspiration.
For now I’ll write about food and I can understand that this subject does not make everybody specifically excited. But food can be quite interesting and exciting as it relates to culture, to how you feel and how it can be a part of your social life.
I became a ‘foodie ‘as they call it, mostly by my friend Tamar, from who I learned a lot, and by travelling a lot as well.
Learning to eat and like different foods
I am very lucky that I like a lot of different foods. Probably because of my father, who is the same, but I also believe it’s because my mom always tried to make different things, and brought a lot of variety. I am from Holland, and for a long time the typical thing to eat in Holland was cooked potatoes, with cooked vegetables like kale, spinach, carrots etc and some kind of meat with gravy. And in a lot of households this is still the food people eat every day, with only a little bit of variety to it.
This was also what we ate when I was really young, but then Italian food started to come to Holland, as well as Asian. My mom started to cook pasta, rise and gradually my family got used to this food too.
I find it funny how your taste also changes when you become older, I remember I did not like for example tomato, paprika, spicy food. But thinking about it I realize that probably I do now, partly because my mom used it more often in her cooking and I got used to it.
This makes me think about an example which is complete opposite, and what I will never forget. An old friend of mine had a boyfriend, and when they started living together, she had to cook two separate meals, because he only liked the typical Dutch cooked potatoes, cooked vegetables and meat. I could not believe it when I heard this. But in a way it makes sense, because he grew up only eating that kind of food.
I do think we are lucky, that we live in a time where we have so much more different types of food, that almost all ‘international’ food is available almost everywhere.
Where my love for food started
Back to where I started to really get into food. Living in Chile almost ten years ago opened my eyes (and my mouth) to so many more different types of food that I never even heard of back in Holland, and which at that time was really not known. I remember first time looking at an avocado, thinking, this looks really weird, and even unappetizing mixing it all up with tomato and different flavours to a good guacamole.But I loved it and it’s still one of my favourite things to eat. I remember first time trying sushi. Even though I have always loved fish, eating raw fish for the first time really made me think twice about it. Quick fact, shushi in Chile is still the best sushi I have ever had and it still frustrates me it’s nowhere so tasty and fresh as there J. During the seven months I lived in Santiago I traveled all over Chile and different parts in Argentina and Peru. I am so happy looking back that I have always tried new things when it comes to food. Even if it turned out to be really unappetizing. The thing is, it’s such a big part of a culture as well. For me trying different food is also showing appreciation of a country, and definitely of hospitality when you have the luck to be invited at people’s homes and join for a home cooked meal. Writing about this makes me think of being so lucky, that I am still great friends with Jaime and that always when I am in Santiago, I am also welcomed by his friends and family, and we have the most amazing home cooked meals at his parents place. Those are really precious memories.
So since then I have been to quite some different countries, tried a lot of different food like Tajine in Morocco, Gnocchi in Rome, steak tartar in Belgium, ceviche in Peru and Chile and so on.
Learning how to cook
Even though I started loving different food more and more, I did not have a lot of experience in making great food for myself. I learned a lot from my friend Tamar when we lived together in Amsterdam. Her dad used to work in kitchens for a long time and she learned a lot from him. Living with her was great, maybe even mostly because we almost always cooked together. She taught me about using different spices; different cooking techniques and this is where I started to enjoy cooking dinner.
I always hear a lot of people say that they hate cooking, especially after work, when you are already tired. A lot of people also say it takes a lot of time and effort, but I disagree on that. With many things your body adapts, and your taste too so you can find a routine that works for you. Again I am lucky I like so many different foods, so it’s probably easier to say this, but when I started working I quickly developed a very efficient and healthy way of cooking. I mostly cook for myself, but often I make two portions which means I already cooked for two days. Next to this I am a fan of the wok. I almost stir everything. So I stir different vegetables everytime, I add meat, fish or something vegetarian like nuts or tofu to it. Then separately I cook a type of pasta, rice, noodles or for example couscous and then I mix it all together, with a sauce, a mix of spices, or an oil. And when I want to eat something with potato I usually bake it in the oven, grill a hamburger and I prepare a salad. Which is a bit more work, but very satisfying when you starting to have a cooking routine and you experiment on what you like and what works for you.
Going out for dinner is one of my favorite things to do, but almost always when I do, I choose something from the menu that I don’t know how to make for myself, or it’s difficult to get the right ingredients. This way it’s also more special for me to go out for dinner.
How to eat healthy
To end this article I just want to give a couple of recommendations on how to eat healthy, which in the end does not make you feel guilty when you eat something unhealthy. And trust me, I love unhealthy things like chocolate, chips and cake too. As long as your basics, so at least your lunch and dinner, are mostly healthy.
- Eat varied, try to eat something different every day of the week, with a lot of use of different vegetables. This way it’s also not a problem to sometimes add something unhealthy to your meal, like cream or fries. As with everything in life, too much of something is never good, and eating varied is the opposite of eating too much of something. And also apply this for breakfast and lunch where you can. It’s for example not good to eat bread every day. Exchange it sometimes for wraps, a salad and for yoghurt as breakfast.
- Try adding flavor to your meal by using a mix of spices or a mix of oils. I lately discovered my pasta with a cream sauce has so much more flavor when I add stock to it. And when I make a curry I like to use coconut milk and sesame oil
- When you are really interested in food and health, its worth to learn more about power foods and how to add this in your daily routine. Using vitamins as a supplement can ofcourse be a good nutrial addition to your lifestyle, but there is so much more. I for examply have very sensitive eyes, and a couple of months ago I learned that flaxseed is really good for this. So I bought flaxseeds and flaxseed oil. The seeds I use for breakfast, in my Yoghurt with granola. And the flaxseed oil I can add in an Asian dish or to a salad. At the moment I have actually three different oils in my fridge, one is avocado oil, and a week ago I made a very simple rice dish with vegetables and shrimp. I only added a mix of my oils to it and it was very healthy and tasty. As long as you use a small amount of it.
- Eat pure. This means try to eat food that is not overproduced or with too many extra ‘unhealthy’ ingredients. And also avoid instant meals as much as possible as those also influence your taste in food.
- Last very important one, which also has to do with adapting to a certain routine, make sure you eat the right amount of food. It maybe sounds stupid, but I always weight my pasta, rice, everuthing in that category. If you always eat the same amount you almost never eat too much. Vegetables I never weight cause it does not matter how much you eat of those.
I hoped you enjoyed reading this article and If anybody would like to know more regarding this subject, please do let me know by adding a comment.