The book Born to Run that I just read and enjoyed so much doesn’t go really go into diet advice. It mentions some of the foods eaten by the Tarahumara tribe (the central characters), like chia seeds and pinole, but doesn’t go into much detail. But one offhand remark about a running coach’s simple philosophy stuck in my mind.
Eat like a poor person.
It’s not a perfect rule of thumb, since nowadays, fast food and refined flour products are among the cheapest foods you’ll find, in terms of cost-per-calorie. And organic fruits and vegetables aren’t exactly penny-pinchers. Really, I think we could do a little better with something like “Eat like a peasant,” since to me, that evokes the image of a pre-McDonald’s, pre-refined grains, pre-pesticides guy who’s down on his luck.
But even with this shortcoming, I like the rule. For someone short on dough, meat is out, except on rare occasions. Lentils and other beans are in. And processed breads and sweets are out too, replaced by unrefined grains and seeds purchased dry, in bulk, and sprouted or soaked at home.
Over the past few weeks, Erin and I have been traveling a lot and eating on the road. This means lots of take-out, airport food, and eating out. Definitely not poor-person food; next time we’ll plan better and bring more stuff along to avoid shelling out so many lootcakes and feeling like crap afterward. When we got back on Sunday, we were really in the mood to party like it was 1899.
So yesterday, we cooked up a nice bean stew, adapted from the Williams-Sonoma Vegetarian book that I turn to so often these days. (And I realized that this book has lots of peasant foods that I used to skim right past before I was seeking them out!)
It was very easy (peasants don’t have much time, of course), and hearty-good in the stick-to-your-ribs kind of way. Certainly not gourmet, and nothing I’d make for company. But it was fun to make and eat “just for the health of it.” (I stole this catchy pun from a bathroom automatic paper towel dispenser at school.)
Bean Stew Recipe
Ingredients (for 4 servings):
- 2 cups dry brown rice, cooked
- 2 mixed cans of beans, like black, pinto, or kidney, rinsed
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 leek, white and light green part, halved, well-rinsed, and chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 carrot, chopped
- large handful green beans, ends snapped off, chopped into 1-inch lengths
- 3 Tbsp olive or canola oil
- 2 tsp paprika
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- salt and pepper
Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a Dutch oven or heavy pan over medium-high heat and add the onion, saute until it’s soft, 5-7 minutes. Add the rest of the oil and the carrot and leek, saute for another 5 minutes or until the leek is tender. Season with a little salt, then add the paprika and garlic, stirring constantly for a minute to toast the spice. Add the vegetable stock, along with the canned beans and green beans. Let it reduce for another 10 minutes or so, then season with salt and pepper and serve over brown rice.
Completely coincidentally, my dad sent me this link to a list of the 20 Healthiest Foods Under $1 the other day. It’s a great list to review before you head to the store. And you won’t hear me complain that coffee made the list (#20 baby!), though I can’t say I really agree that it’s healthy.
And finally, I know that this diet rule is kind of a funny way to eat healthily, but real poverty and hunger is really not all that funny. This week is the first week of Project Feed Me, and there’s still time to get involved! I commited to getting three other people to do it, so check out Natalie’s page and think about it. This week’s item is two cans of chili! See how easy it is? Get over there and sign up to help out! And then let me know you’re one of my three.