Yesterday in the New York Times, a post on Well, the health blog of the Times written by Tara Parker-Pope reappeared. It had first shown up in June and turned out to be one of the ten-most-read articles of 2009. It is a list of "the eleven best foods you aren't eating. They are:
- Swiss chard
- pomegranate juice
- dried plums
- pumpkin seeds
- frozen blueberries
- canned pumpkin
Tara Parker-Pope says she ony has two of these foods in her house: pumpkin seeds and frozen blueberries. She to an article in Men's Health which she says is the orig of fthe list. Here you find not 11 but 10, with a little variation. For instance, canned pumpkin, frozen blueberries and sardines are not listed. Purslane and goji berries (whatever they are) are.
Much of the stuff on these lists is standard fare where we live. All the produce is available in the little local market in our community. Pumpkin seeds (or the equivalent) are scooped out of a barrel in whatever amount you want in the little tienda across the street. They are a favorite munchy. Cinnamon is sold in long sticks. People buy sardines in large cans in tomato sauce and cook them. Purslane, which is on the Men's Health listgrows wild and is also sold to people witout th good fortune to have a yard. Turmeric comes in root form, and I have some in my yard. Costco (and I suspect the fancier supermarkets) sells both frozen and dried blueberries but they are ridiculously expensive. I wouldn't dream of buying them except occasionally for special occasions. Anyway, I still have memories of gathering wild blueberries in the mountains in Maine with friends and feeling almost drunk on their sweetness. Dried and frozen don't cut it.
I mention all this because Before Junk Food, people here had really good diets. As I've mentioned, masa eaten with beans (masa is what corn tortillas are made of and tamales, too) makes a complete protein. The variety of fruits is extraordinary. One season's abundance passes only to be replaced by another.
Soda is way too prevailant, as I've harped on before, but when you eat in local restaurants and by the comida corrida -- the daily special --, you always get a pitcher of an agua made with fresh fruit.
It is really really sad that sometimes junk food is cheaper than this good local stuff and that it has that addictive quality. I myself cannot leave alone potato chips and packaged cookies, among too many other things, if they are in the house, which they are for parties. I know my neighbors struggle with their kids who want junk. Sometimes they are poor enough not to be able to afford it and sufficiently okay to be able to give them the good stuff. I think archaeologists and historians confirm the goodness of the diet. I know we eat a lot better here than we did in the US. This morning I had for breakfast hand-made corn tortillas spread with avocado, topped with scrambled egg and hot sauce.
People here forage for food, too. Recently we've seen people collecting what I think are analogous to crayfish in local streams. They pick greens on the hillsides around us, including purslane, as well as an abundance of fruit. Our neighbor and her family go up into the hills regularly with their dogs and come back with loaded baskets.
I was kind of leery at first, when Guillermo our gardener pointed out stuff we could eat that looked like weeds. It takes me a while to figure out what to do with them. And it's funny to realize my squeamishness, mostly related to the fear that some mysterious part of the plant that I don't see might be poisonous. But I'm getting better at trying stuff.