When you move to a foreign, unfamiliar country or region, perhaps an exotic place like France, India, Peru or even New Mexico (where they put green chili on everything), you know that food and flavors will be different. You expect it will be so and it is. But when you move back “home” or, in my case, a place you have once lived in before, you may not be totally prepared for the changes in diet that many of your friends and family have made. It may take some time to accept these changes and adjust your pantry accordingly. If you love to host people for meals, you will just have to accept the fact that it will be much more difficult to do so! But how much should you compromise? What is just a diet fad or food fear? What is worth keeping in your pantry? What advice or food items should you toss? I’m asking myself all these questions and I still don’t have all the answers.
I begin by remembering my roots, my heritage. My grandfather grew corn in his milpa. On our weekend visits to his milpa , my siblings, cousins and I would run and play through it, very much like kids would run around a corn maze in Iowa in the fall. Then, after playing, we would usually sit on an old wood stump or bench under the champa and enjoy elote azado. It was our special treat, nothing fancy, but special.
Back in the city, my grandmother would traditionally prepare the masa – that is, when Maseca did not exist – to feed her flock of 9 kids and then sell some. I ate tortillas every day of my life growing up (even as a complement to Honduran spaghetti). Sometimes the housekeeper prepared them. Sometimes small children from a near-by neighborhood would pass by our house selling them. But without fail, after walks up the very steep downtown Tegucigalpa street to my grandmother’s house, I was welcomed to savor a fresh warm-off-the-grill tortilla with smoked refried beans, cheese or a slice of avocado inside. ¡Delicioso!
Yet, upon our arrival to the US, we are warned to stay away from corn. Arggg!!! Corn, I am told, is sprayed with too many chemicals, classifying most of the corn you buy as non-organic; but worse, yet, it is one of the most genetically modified grains around. And the company that sells much of the corn seed in the US and around the world, Monsanto, is the new “Axis of Evil” of our time. I have not yet watched the film GMO OMG, but am very interested in doing so to become better educated on this subject.
Needless to say, I have felt a bit pressured to consume organic, gluten-free, paleo, non-GMO foods, and live bacteria such as kambucha. I refuse, though, to give up making corn or flour tortillas at home. I have yet to find organic corn flour specifically used to make corn tortillas. In some Spanish speaking countries it would be called masa-harina. In Honduras, we call it harina de maiz. My kids simply love to eat beans, rice and home-made corn tortillas with mantequilla, aguacate, and chimol. They get so excited when I make tortillas de harina for our Honduran baleadas. These are our simple special meals that bring us joy and a bit of connection to our past, our history, our roots.
Don’t get me wrong! We do want to live a healthy lifestyle and take care of our bodies – not just because it is our body, but because we belong (body, mind and spirit) to God, himself. As a family, we want to honor Jesus with everything, including how we take care of our bodies. I do know that a healthy lifestyle will not be gained by pleasing people in fear of their disapproval or rejection. What will so and so think if… we eat corn, if my spices are not organic? Am I poisoning my children if I feed them grains?
Who am I trying to please? Who am I trying to impress? All that said, how do we do it? How do we genuinely take care of our bodies in a manner that pleases our Maker? Let me share some of the things we are already doing:
- We eat home cooked meals the majority of the time. I know the ingredients. They usually stay simple and it’s cheaper than eating out.
- We stay away from fast-foods and sodas as much as we can (pop, gaseosas, refrescos embotellados, coke).
- We stay away from hamburger helpers, ranch dressing packets, exotic sauces and dressings, or other types of highly processed foods.
- We don’t eat meat every day and we don’t eat grains every day; but we are free to do so and will eat what is offered to us if we are guests at someone’s home for a meal.
- If the price is reasonable, we will buy organic produce, especially those on the Dirty Dozen list. A dear friend and cousin advised us: “Take it slow and make food choice changes a long term goal.” We will start with a small change that will not overwhelm and discourage us. From now on, we will buy organic strawberries, #1 on the list, and don’t intend to stress out about the rest, for now.
Are you on a special kind of diet? I ́m interested in learning about your food thoughts. How are you taking care of your and your family’s health?
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
1 Corinthians 6:19-20