Have you ever been to the south of France? Many moons ago I ate (and drank) my way through little towns along the southern tip of my favourite country in Europe. That trip to Europe was the first time I had ever left Canada, and when I returned home after weeks of discovering 12 different countries and countless new experiences, I was depressed.
It was hard for me to wrap my brain around what I was doing in a small town like Aurora, Ontario, when I felt so alive, inspired and connected to this other land.
Although I never ended up moving to Europe, I spent many years making as much money as I could as a bartender to afford to travel the world. After a dozen more countries and countless new types of food, I still come back to the food I ate in France as my all-time favourite.
I love the light, fatty, flavourful ingredients that are simple yet perfect in combination. That included quiche, croissant and of course, baguette and fromage, though now that I'm gluten and dairy-free I gravitate toward the beauty of the unprocessed, and whole ingredients they would use.
My girlfriend and I were staying with friends of her parents while in Les Cotes Dazures, a sleepy little boating village near Nice. Daily, we would walk to the market and pick up what we wanted to eat for lunch and dinner. The town was small and walkable, fruit and vegetable stands everywhere and the ingredients were fresh, colourful and tasted like no tomato I had ever tasted before.
There was simplicity in everything we did there. The pace we walked to get groceries, the utensils in the kitchen. The doors would be wide open in the house, and the air was always warm with just the right amount of breeze.
We would sit to eat our slow, simple meals in the backyard surrounded by lemon trees and tropical palms. It isn't just about the meal itself in Europe, it's about the company, the energy you carry while you grocery shop and cook, the connection between the people at the table, and the attention you give to not rushing and simply just eating.
We have a lot to learn about how the old world operates in regards to food, amongst other things.
Many of us jump in our cars to race to the grocery store, buy boxed, processed and conventional food and food products, surf our phones while in line up and get irritated at how slowly the cashier is moving. We race home, whip together a meal while doing a dozen other things and may even eat while standing up, answering emails or not even eat at all.
There is a difference in the way our digestive systems, souls and hearts respond to food depending on how we treat the experience of making it. It can be a romantic, self-connecting experience where our digestive juices flow and our organs are ready to accept the nutrition, as well as an opportunity to create memories that will last forever... Or, it can be a utilitarian process that is an inconvenience, a chore, and cause stress on our digestive organs and immune systems.
In my opinion, we aren't really set up for success from a young age here in North America. We model what we see from a young age, and adopt the behaviours of our tribe. Almost all of us rush while we eat, don't chew and taste our food, buy based on price, not quality of ingredients, and eat alone or barely speak to those who are with us at dinner time.
That's not to say we can't change, because as I often say With Awareness Comes Change.
If you want more of what southern France has to offer in terms of experience, energy and food, let's just copy it!
My way of doing this? I pick 1 day to go to the farmer's market and roam through the stands, speak to the farmers and connect with the fresh foods. I bring my own cloth bags and fill them up with fresh, organic foods that feel good to me when I pick them up. I feel gratitude for the sunshine, freedom to choose what I get to eat that day and for the dedication of the famers to organic cultivation of the food they grow.
I take my time in the kitchen to pre-wash and put away my food, open the windows and put on music. I have a kitchen and living room filled with my favourite plants (it's a game changer, trust
me) and they bring me so much comfort and happiness.
Living like the Mediterranean do, here in Toronto, is possible. We can find more time to slow down, connect with the process of shopping for our groceries. We can turn off the TV and use that time to pre-wash and prep our meals while we listen to our favourite french music! We can reach out to those people we love and don't get to see enough of, and invite them over to eat and drink good wine.
We can change the way our digestive systems work by simply changing our response to stress and improving the quality of our food.
We can learn a lot from the southern French, and we can do so without having to travel all the way there (although I highly recommend it).
I hope this blog post serves to inspire you to enjoy the simple things in life, slow down and connect with more of what you love. Be sure to check out my South of France Bowl inspired by everything I learned and love while visiting there.
Cassandra Hope, RHN
Founder of The IBS Academy
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