It is now officially Crock Pot season. The lingering Indian Summer blew town like some itinerant guest who left the door open, letting the next wandering chill to walk through and settle itself in at the boarding house table.
Though raw foods are always part of my daily menu, I say it's time to bring on the warm comfort foods. Like rice and other slow-cooked foods.
I often use my slow cooker to make stock, transforming fresh veggie peelings and end pieces that I've frozen over the summer into a simmering base for soups or stews or a flavor-filled cooking broth for rice or quinoa. This was the case recently--until I discovered that the crockery pot that fits into the heating unit of my slow cooker was cracked-- and then things got interesting.
First, I'll tell you that my crock pot is a hand-me-down and it's old. The crock that holds the food is crazed with tiny lines which coalesced into an all-out rebellion of integrity and evolved into a long, divisive crack, placing me and it at odds with its intended use. It's function is now a history of abstract patterns and lines which probably qualifies it as a low form of antique pottery. As it turned out, this finding wasn't just about several quarts of awesome stock potentially leaking out. I soon learned it's all about food safety.
I was bummed that I couldn't make my 'set it and forget it' stock so I started searching on the 'Net for a new slow cooker. Hello, Amazon! And thanks to a critical review about one of its cookers: Goodbye, traditional crockery cooker!
Here is what I found out: the glaze on the crocks of most slow cookers contains lead and over time leaches that lead into the slow-cooked food, especially if the food has some acidic chemistry or ingredient (think: tomatoes) and even more so if the pot is cracked or crazed. YIKES!!
You can read this critical review and lead advisory on Amazon here,
The Lead Advisory thread let me to this site where the author shares her investigation into slow cookers and lead leaching. The blog was written in 2012 and it is only my guess that slow cookers are still being produced with crocks that contain lead in the glaze. The FDA sets the "acceptable" levels of lead that a glaze can contain (this is cited in the article hyperlinked earlier in this paragraph) and after reading a bit on FDA lead regulation, it appears to me that FDA testing and regulation is inconsistent.
This blows my mind! Not only am I a healing foods chef and teacher, I have been a potter and ceramicist for nearly 30 years. I spent 5 years in the Ceramics Department at Mass. College of Art and part of my studies there included course work in glaze chemistry and studio safety. In 1986, California's Prop 65 set the standard for dinnerware glaze safety for American potters and ceramicists. If a potter in the U.S. is using lead on her pottery, it is for decoration only and should be labeled such. This is not the case with pottery coming from China and some Latin American countries. Prop 65 initiated the labeling you may have seen that warns the buyer of certain foods and goods that some component of the object or food they are considering for purchase may cause cancer. You've probably seen one of these labels at one time or another.
If lead is such a danger, why is lead in some glazes? Lead acts like a flux and has a very low melting point. When it melts and is fired to the correct temperature, it creates a very glassy and durable surface. It stabilizes bright colors on pottery like reds, oranges and yellows, colors that are used in Chinese and Mexican pottery. It's also an affordable glaze chemical but it does break down, especially in the presence of anything acidic. There are safer alternatives that are reasonable in price and still produce beautifully intense colors and do not break down as easily.
It's important to know your pottery's origins and age. The older the pottery, the brighter the colors, the more suspect it is for lead and other heavy metals. Also, just because an appliance or piece of cookware is being sold in the U. S., doesn't guarantee that the product is lead "safe" or will stay safe, as in the case of my slow cooker's crock.
So, what to do? After a few hours of reading and searching, I ended up purchasing a VitaClay slow cooker which slow cooks food in an unglazed crock. The site's description of the benefits of cooking with clay completely resonated with my concern for clean and great tasting food and my sensibilities and knowledge as a potter. Here's what the company says about their product:
"Organic unglazed clay activates enzymes and minerals in your foods, enabling you to extract extra flavors and nutrients from your recipes while increasing digestibility. Clay is also alkalizing—everything the ancients prized in healthy cookware, superior taste and perfect texture and synergistic properties—clay working together with your foods and spices to create a synergistic partnership to let food be your medicine—right in your own kitchen."
I like what they have to say. I'll let you know what I think of the VitaClay cooker after mine arrives and I try it out.
Unfortunately, we're exposed to toxins every day, both obvious and insidious, at acceptable and non-acceptable levels. The best we can do is to try to limit our exposure to known toxins and mitigate the less obvious toxins that accumulate in our bodies through food consumption and environmental exposure with conscious food choices and cleansing protocols. Above all, don't stress about what toxins you may or not be exposed to. Be informed, but not afraid.
I invite you to call the company who made your slow cooker, if you have one, and ask them about the glaze they use on their crockery part. Ask them if it contains lead and if the parts-per-million are within U.S. standards and then decide if this standard is acceptable to you. If not, you may want to prepare your cold season warm meals differently or investigate an alternative cooker like the VitaClay line or a piece of handmade lead-free pottery that you can bake in and/or eat out of.
You can also check out this great recipe from my dear friend Kris Love who created a Chelation Pesto to help remove toxins from the body. The main ingredient, cilantro, is proven to help remove accumulated heavy metals like lead, mercury and cadmium. It's an amazingly delicious way to support detoxification.
And as these days grow cooler and the nights get longer settle in with this comforting
Creamy Thai Sweet Potato Soup and this easy and wickedly delicious Raw Onion and Rosemary Bread. They'll make your body and soul sing with seasonal happiness.
Shine on, you lovely, living beings!
Be well. All ways. Always.
Writing a blog isn't as easy as people tell me. For one, I have too many ideas and thoughts that blast my brain into tiny bits of intellectual, informational, and emotional shrapnel. Then the artist and craftsmen in me tries to put it back together in some pleasing, thought-provoking, and well-crafted relational mosaic of words. Now, here comes the second part: allocating time to allow those thoughts to come together, write, and then publish them.
I decided today that if I worked a little bit in my little vegetable garden under this crazy blue summer sky my thoughts and ideas would come together and make friends with one another. Today's task in the garden was about making room: physical room to allow more sunlight to reach the cucumbers; pulling weeds and the remnants of the early spring mustard to plant more basil (because we all know, there's always room for more basil--it's like the cow bell herb of the rock star garden); then pulling a few lettuce heads to make room for fall harvest beets; and transplanting the zucchini plants into larger pots to make room for their roots. (The zucchini gets a whole "room" of its own because it is the bossy-plants--yes, pun intended--when it comes to space in my small garden.)
The skin under my fingernails began making room for the dirt that weaseled up under them. I splayed the wire 'legs' of the tomato cages to make room for the roots they would surround. I set sunflowers in a large planter in a way to make room for the morning glories that will grow up around them: all this to make space, to 'make room.' This is where physical act of visualizing space and creating space for things to grow connected with what my original blog idea was going to be about which was the perspective of viewing the glass half full instead of half empty or how to make room in our lives for new ideas, new thoughts, new ways of looking at things.
The metaphor of a glass being half-full or half-empty is about perspective and it was coming to mind often when I was hearing statements like, "I am on an elimination diet. I can't eat anything!" or (if you are eating only plant based foods) "what can I make for you if I invite you to dinner?" From my perspective, all of these statements are born from the perspective of glass half empty, or a perception of lack or restriction or "there's room but I can't, am not supposed to, or don't know how to, fill it (for one reason or another)." I don't find these statements intentionally negative. They usually are said because of limited information and/or conventional mindset, but I invite everyone to consider a new angle and shatter the glass-half-empty perspective around diet and food just by switching some word choices to rewire the brain into perceiving the glass is a vessel of unlimited abundance and potential, way beyond half-full.
First word: diet. Ugh. What a word! So many connotations, and not kindly ones, either! The first definition of diet is the friendlier one according to Google definitions:
1. (noun) the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.
Word use: " I enjoy a plant based diet."
The other 2 definitions weigh in a lot heavier psychologically because they imply that one is being denied something by constraint or restraint:
2. (noun) a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.
3. (verb) to restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.
Here's Google's word use example that is used for the verb, diet: "It's difficult to diet."
Thesauraus.com defines diet as "abstinence from food" and uses dietary, fast, regime, regimen, starvation, restriction and then finally, nutritional therapy and weight-reduction plan as synonyms. What does this tell you about how we perceive diet? A healing perspective would focus on the first Google definition which implies permission and necessity.
Whether we're cognizant of it or not, the diet (restriction) culture has really made us see the glass half-empty when it comes to food. How about we change the lexicon to the glass-half-full perception?
Exchange diet for meal: "I enjoy a plant-based meal plan." Look up the synonyms for meal here. You will find much happier connotations such as feast, repast, din-din and refreshment. These words make a person want to join someone for dinner and overflow one's life with good food, friendship, and conviviality.
Exchange elimination for discovery when the phrase elimination diet is used: "I am on a discovery meal plan." Now look these words up at Thesaurus.com and compare the synonyms. Under discovery, you'll find words like revelation, learning, and ascertainment. The word switch doesn't change the intention, it changes the feeling from one of denial to one of possibility. When one goes on a discovery meal plan, she is inviting new foods, new recipes, new culinary adventures into her life and lifestyle, making room for "new-trition" (My new word! Ha, ha! Punny, huh? Yep, I'm a dork!) and new healing possibilities to grow.
When I teach and coach people about food and healing, I tell them, "It's about the food, but it's not about the food." There is so much we bring to the table when we try to nourish ourselves. Partly, it's the words we hear in our heads, the bombardment of cultural terms and connotations and our beliefs around them, that make it hard to make room for a new perspective of possibility, enrichment and healing. What are the new words, the new meanings, the new feelings? Step back and create some space for change if the glass is looking half-empty. Feel and assess. Weed out what is no longer serving you. It takes time, yes, and it's sometimes hard to know which weeds are friendly and which are invasive. A synonym of "make room" is "accommodate." Find out what needs to go and what needs to grow the glass half-full.
Thanks for reading this rather lengthy blog post. I will end it by telling you to not be afraid of asking me or any person who eats plant based meals to dinner. For most of us, it's about the company, not the food, and that is very, very true in my case. So when I see the distress in the face of someone asking me to dinner and not knowing how to accommodate my meal choices, I immediately feel the love of someone who wants to please, to show their love and appreciation through the act of preparing and serving food which brings people together. I also see the omnivore's worry, "There's nothing she can eat." I take no offense. My wish, my goal, is for everyone to be comfortable eating and preparing and sharing food and my role in this is to be of service, to help ease any fears or discomfort around food and food issues.
I view my food choices as abundant, a glass overflowing with possibility. I have never gone hungry and I am so very grateful for this. Yes, I always will bring a salad or something to share (because I like to share) and like I said, it's about the food, but it's not about the food. Thanks for making room for me at your table. There is always room for you at mine.
My mom Polly used to tell me, "You'll get your reward in Heaven." It was her quirky way of saying, "Thank you." May all of us find rewards wherever they present themselves. Hopefully you will find a little bit of heaven in these recent and always delicious plant based meal choices. Just click on the photos below to explore these delicious recipes:
Okay, so this is my first blog. Ever.
So, we're in this together and I'll start by inviting you to join me in living the plant based life.
What is Living the Plant Based Life about? It's about a conscious connection to our food and our food choices for the benefit of all beings and the planet. That's not as much of a hippie-cosmic-comment as you might think. It all about sustainability.
Let me define 'plant based.' To me, plant based means a life originating from and sustained by plants. On a very basic level, those big living organisms we call trees sustain us with oxygen; leafy plants, roots, fruit, nuts, fungi, seeds--all of these are sustaining, and health empowering, and healing, too. Pretty basic stuff that we sometimes take for granted. Sometimes the basics are the stuff miracles are made from.
There is significant reputable scientific research and data that shows when one increases his or her consumption of plant based whole foods the body receives the nutrients it needs to maintain health, and to prevent, and in some cases heal, degenerative diseases. Yeah, Oreos and potato chips are plant based but, um, they are very far from the whole plant ingredient or plant that they started out as. Just by adding one more fruit or vegetable to what you eat each day, maybe foregoing that extra piece of cheese or swapping out dairy creamer for coconut creamer or having meat at one meal instead of two, you are on the path to health sustainability.
There are environmental and ecological consequences to our food choices, as well, and I'll blog about that in another post. We are deeply interconnected to how our food is raised, harvested and handled. Even if we support our local farms and health food stores we are still a captive audience for the grocery store. Under those bright lights and in those rows and rows of food items, abundant in numbers but not necessarily nutrition, sometimes we need to reset and think about what our relationship with food is really about.
My intention here is to share with you the taste bud-dancing, whole body-supporting, and planet -sustaining benefits of plant based food choices. Changing your world is just one delicious bite away. Be sure to look under the Recipes tab where you'll find yummy inspiration, under Events so I can meet you in person and Services to connect with me to assist you along your wellness path.
Hi! I'm Beth and I'd love to share with you my passion for living a fabulously healthy plant based lifestyle to help you on your wellness path, one delicious bite at a time. And, by the way, I'm a ceramic artist who is passionate about putting plants on pots!