Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Eating simply

A maxim that serves me well: "If in doubt — simplify."

I have yet to find a circumstance it doesn't improve.

It works extremely well for healthy eating.

Veganism is trending, as more people find out exactly what animal husbandry and slaughterhouse practice means in real terms. Recipes for nut loaves and many kinds of dips abound — and aquafaba has recently become a thing.

I care passionately about the welfare of farmed animals, and I would love to be vegan, but I'm one of the many people who don't do well on vegan diet. The problems are not so much those usually raised about sources of calcium and protein and Vet B12 — those things have been well addressed long ago. Less often flagged are dietary aspects like copper and zinc. Copper abounds in veggies, while some types of zinc required to metabolise copper come from animal sources. So unless you have that type of zinc, you can end up with both copper starvation because you can't metabolise all that copper in your veggies, and copper poisoning because you ingested all that copper in your veggies. I've concluded that my way forward is lots of plant-sourced food with a small amount of animal-sourced food. The question is, what?

A few years ago I began to ask myself seriously what I came here to do — what do I need to put into my life so that I could make peace with the idea of dying when my time comes? What will make me contented now and also content with the certain knowledge that I must lay it all down at some point, possibly without warning? What will make me both happy and free?

Simplicity bordering on minimalism/essentialism is, for me, the answer. To own as little as possible, to have as uncluttered a schedule as possible, and to have vast tracts of time for thinking and looking and wondering. 

What has made me happy in this particular day? Looking at the slow, drifting flames in the wood stove. Looking at the colour of wet bark. Looking at the diamond clear drops of rain hanging from the twig-ends of the greengage tree. Standing guard against seagulls while the crows — who rejoice my heart by trusting me — eat the breakfast I put down for them in the garden. Walking in the rain. Soaking in the bath.

These are simple things. Not free — crow food, firewood, accommodation, hot water, these cost money; but not much.

It also makes me happy to push gently into grace/gift economy, so that less and less of what I do is about money. I still have to receive an income to pay my way for utilities, food, clothing, travel, books, stationery — the basic things — but I have reached a place where what I am paid for I would do anyway; I receive payment for it but I don't do it for the money, if you see what I mean. And where I can give away what I have, and work for free, I do that.

During 2017 I was ill quite a lot of the time. My own fault; I'd drifted from the diet that safeguards my health. I'd actually reached the point where I felt so ill so much of the time that I hardly had the energy to do anything, and was quietly waiting out the remainder of my time on Earth waiting for it to be over.  That could have been a mighty long wait as I didn't have any illness as such — well, only things like fibromyalgia, swollen ankles, acid reflux, a venous blood clot, dizziness, exhaustion, depression, chest pains, breathlessness; all the usual suspects. Somehow as the autumn ended I managed to get back into eating right, and slowly wellbeing has returned, such that I can write again and go for walks and generally feel more alive.

But something that is not on my To Do list now or ever is complicated cooking. My housekeeping has to be simple. Frankly, I didn't come here to make nut loaf. It has to be way simpler than that.

What I find most effective — and cheapest too, and the most ethical — is the simplest food of all. Eating what Alice and Hebe call "ingredients".

Fruit, vegetables, beans, some grains (not wheat, for me, but quinoa, brown rice, rolled or steel-cut oats), nuts, herbs, seeds, oil, spices. Just steamed, boiled, fried or baked. Quick, straight-forward. Ten-minute cooking. 

I thought long and hard about the animal sources. Dairy foods make me ill (and are both complicated and cruel to produce), and you know, I find I really can no longer fancy eating somebody's leg or liver. I mean, it just seems very strange. There's a place near us where rescued battery hens find a home, and I get eggs from them. I eat fish about three times a week. This seem to me the simplest type of animal source foods. To lift a fish from the sea and kill it swiftly is less complicated than raising a whole cow or sheep for a year then slaughtering it, butchering it, packaging it, retailing it. I feel so sad for the fish, but it got to live wild, at least. To eat an egg is simpler than eating the chicken. The rescue hens part is important to me, because I'm no fan of gassing male day-old chicks in large batches. Is that what we came here to do? Seems improbable. The rescue hens eggs also come direct from the gate of the house where they live, which happens to be next door to the chapel where I worship, and they happen to cost less than half the price of supermarket eggs as well. Stacks up well — no food miles, no packaging (you take your own), low cost and high welfare. I need only an egg or two each week.

On this very simple and basic diet I do amazingly well, and it makes my money go further. Simplicity ramifies into every aspect of life to improve healing and wellbeing for the individual, the community and the whole of creation. My breakfast today was porridge made from a handful of rolled oats cooked in oatmilk with a pinch of sea salt, combined with the fibre left over from a glass of home-made apple and carrot juice — some from a late-fruiting apple tree in our garden, the rest organic produce from the supermarket. Supper will be a jacket potato, cabbage, fried onions and black bean hummus. Followed by an orange. Couldn't be easier or more delicious. I recommend eating simply. It kind of works like fractals, making a corresponding wellness in my body and the body of the Earth which my body also embodies. Food for oneness, or something.

The picture at the top, I took back in the spring — of ramsons picked wild nearby for our salad. Another month and they'll be up and ready to pick again. Makes me happy.


Bean said...

Hi Pen,
I like your thoughts a lot.

I am vegan, I don't seem to have any issues with it. I keep it very simple, steam my veggies, eat some lentils, eat some raw veggies, and have my oats and ground flax seed each day, nutritional yeast for B12, and fortified almond milk. I eat about the same every day, having around 13 servings of veggies a day, and 50 plus grams of fiber. I drink a lot of green tea, water, and black coffee in moderation. I try to exercise for an hour each day, some days a walk, other days a run. My grocery list is simple, I buy about the same items week in and week out, I cut up my veggies at the beginning of the week, so cooking is easy, put the steam basket in and add my veggies.
Does it get boring, well it hasn't so far, I love my vegan bowls of goodness, and I feel satisfied after eating, maintain a healthy weight, and never have to worry about what to fix for dinner.

I think your goals are good, find a few meals you enjoy and stick with them. I always have oatmeal and ground flax seed for breakfast, it is my most favorite meal of the day. Sometimes I will have a bowl of oats in the afternoon too, I just love it. It is a simple, inexpensive, good for you food.

The other food I love is lentils. Another, simple, inexpensive, good for you food. I love that there is evidence that lentils have been eaten by humans dating back to at least Neolithic times.

If you like kale, and other greens, like collard, turnip, mustard, add a lot of them into your diet, tasty, good for you, filling, and again very inexpensive.

Good luck to you, and wishing you better health for 2018,


Pen Wilcock said...

Hello Bean! I've followed your health/nutrition journey with great interest — you are an inspiration!

Back in the summer, three of us in our household decided to get together to make a particular change to the way we eat. We decided that our supper every day would happen very early (4 or 5pm), and would always consist of what we call "beans 'n' greens".

The greens part of it can be spring greens (is that the same a collard greens?) or cabbage, or Brussels sprouts or Cavalo Nero — usually not kale because two of the three of us have kale every morning as part of a breakfast smoothie. The beans part of supper can be any one of the range of pulses. One of the three of us cooks, and each of us has different ways and preferences — so sometimes it's curry, sometimes tomato-y, always has a variety of veggies added in. The variants make every day different, so we never get bored of it.

I'm interested to read about your daily exercise — an hour a day is about right for me, though my baseline is twenty minutes, just to make sure I did actually get up and leave the house for a walk!! I have never got as far as running unless some dire circumstance necessitates it, and I admire your progress in that direction.

Elin Hagberg said...

I used to be a an almost vegetarian for 11 years. I would eat vegan or close to vegan for long periods but never felt very good during my vegan periods. When I ate milk, eggs regularily and fish perhaps once a month with an otherwise vegetarian diet I did fine. Until I started longing for meat and this persisted for months and I decided to try eating it. My health improved so much I vowed to never try to be a full on vegetarian ever again. Nowadays I eat too much meat instead.

We have done well during last year's Lent where we managed to keep to eating meat perhaps 1-2 a week but we didn't manage to continue that habit more than for another month or so. We have added a couple vegetable soups as regular dinners and we have a type of soy "meatballs" that we use as emergency food sometimes. We will do the same type of Lent food this year and hopefully a few more dishes will "stick". My ideal food would be vegetarian meals perhaps 4 days a week, one fish, one red meat and one "other" but due to allergies my fish eating is only when I eat lunch and if I decide to eat at a restaurant.

I am a big fan of oats too. The only thing I don't love is the clean up on my one-year old after he has eaten his porridge. Both he and my daughter loves porridge which is great. I also like making "chocolate balls" which is a Swedish treat of rolled oats, butter, cocoa, sugar (can be substituted with dates for a healthier version) and often a bit of coffee as flavoring (or booze when for adults). That is mixed and rolled into balls and decorated with coconut flakes, sprinkles or sugar. I like that you can make this a pretty healthy treat with dates and coconut flakes and quite sweet with sugar and sprinkles if you like. My favorite combination is sweetened with sugar but with coconut flakes, a nice compromise. When I was nursing my daughter I craved oats so much and later I read that it is considered a food that is favorable for milk production so perhaps my body knew that somehow.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hello, Elin!

Your plant-based / animal-based ideal balance sounds similar to what works for me — including animal-sourced food about three ties a week. I haven't ruled out meat from my diet, it's just that the thought of it makes me sad. Though of course plant-based food does not in practice avoid killing. I can tell you, many slugs and even more black-fly had to die last year in order for my bean plants to mature and produce a crop. Is a slug's life worth less than a pig's, or a black-fly's worth less than a turkey's?

Your oat and cocoa balls sound delicious! I have to be very careful about intensely sweet foods, because my adrenal balance is very precarious — even a glass of apple juice will set off mid cravings. I have to eat very close to the centre of the macrobiotic pendulum swing: bland food only!

Cleaning porridge off a toddler? Ah yes; I envy you not one bit.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful words. I shall take the idea of ' what I came here to do' into my day. Thankyou

Pen Wilcock said...

In 2008, after a long sequence — about 9 years — of horrendously difficult events, I kind of caved in. I couldn't work or do anything much really, and I was living far from my family. So I started to ask myself, "What did I come here to do?" I took that question into my prayer life. The rather improbable answer that came back to me was, "Look at the blue."
So for about six months I did just that; I looked at blue skies and blue flowers, at blue fabric and anything else blue. I looked at blue. I slowly began to get better, and eventually reached a point of resolve, that never again for the whole of the rest of my life would I agree to get involved in anything except what I came here to do. That took me into writing full time, moving back to live with my family, and then back to preaching; living quietly and simply, helping other people as and where I could. And also spending time gazing at, loving, reverencing the natural world. I found that if I did what I came here to do, a life of no regrets unfolded even if it attracted very little in terms of popularity, money or status. It becomes a path of happiness and fulfilment, and takes away the fear of dying or sadness at life ending. After all, if I did what I came here to do, then I am content.

Bean said...

Hi Pen,
My daily exercise. I either run for an hour a day, or walk for an hour or more each day. It is a commitment, but I make it a priority. I find it best to go out early in the morning. At this time of year it is dark, but crisp, cold air, and clear skies, it is amazing how much star gazing you can do at 6 in the morning. But when I am able to get out in the afternoon, I really enjoy a good walk, or a hike on trails at nearby state parks. I find 2 to 3 times a week is enough with the running, I am rapidly approaching 54 and I want to take good care of my knees, lol.
But I would say, any time spent outside enjoying the seasons, and getting a good dose of fresh air is good for all that ails you, I encourage you to enjoy the benefits of regular exercise.
It has been very, very cold in NE Indiana since Christmas Eve, making long stretches of time outside dangerous. Yesterday morning we awoke to a record low of -13, that is fahrenheit, so -25 celcius - brrr. So I am forced to the treadmill in the basement, not my most favorite way to exercise, but after a day or too I start feeling stir crazy without exercise!! WHen I was very overweight and didn't exercise I would never have imagined saying that!!

Peace be with you my friend,


Pen Wilcock said...

Thank you, Bean — I find that interesting and helpful. I enjoy walking and being active, though I get tired if I go a long way, but I've never been very good at exercising *for its own sake*. I'm much better if the exercise is simply an integral part of a task — eg caring for animal or working on something that needs doing in the garden. Counting steps etc has never really appealed to me.

Anonymous said...

Hello again Pen,
I read your reply to my earlier comment and was struck by how the trajectory and timings of our experiences, following years of despair, are uncannily similar. Really. I empathise with so much of what you say. When it was truly critical, to this day, I am sure I was sent the most idyllic 'out of time' walk, which took me from breaking point to an overwhelming sense of peace. With fresh ideas about how I needed to live, I went on to further my studies and let go of many personal and cultural expectations. I am now far more autonomous, even in good company, and choose to have a lowly wage( although that's relative )and to live simply.
With regard to eating 'ingredients' it's great you've come to know what your body needs; that's something for me to be more mindful of.
Have a happy evening. Deb
P.S I've come to think of blue as a spiritual colour. It's where the sky and sea meet - metaphorically everywhere and nowhere. Sounds like you did a good job looking for blue.

Susan Jessen said...

Hi Pen, perhaps you could write a cookery book based on simple food?.

Pen Wilcock said...

Deb — oh gosh, this is one of the occasions when I so wish we could meet for a cup of tea and a fireside chat! I'd love to meet you in person and learn more about your life and all that you have discovered and ventured.

Susan — that's hilarious! What a brilliant (but short) book that would be. It would have recipes like: take a potato, wash most of the mud off it, cook it in the oven for a couple of hours while you write Bible studies, cut it in two and add a spoonful of hummus to lubricate it; eat it. And: juice three carrots and two apples, but don't throw the fibre away — make your oatmeal extra runny so you can add it in.

Julie B. said...

I so enjoy reading everyone's comments on your blog. Such nice people with fascinating lives and ideas. xoxo

Deborah said...

Aquafaba is magic :-D

Pen Wilcock said...

Julie B — oh, yes, me too! I guess it's the modern-day version of receiving letters in the post, with the added delight that it's also a group conversation. Happy New Year, Julie — write to me sometime to let me know how everything's going with you. xx

Deborah — have you actually made aquafaba? I've read about it and seen pictures, and it looks brilliant, but I've never tried it.

Deborah said...

Yes, Pen, I have :-D I made chocolate mousse and this amazing vegan omelette...with cashew cheese. It was very yummy :-D


It whips up really easily in a food processor and is a great replacement for egg whites.

rebecca said...

Sigh. Even simplicity gets complicated sometimes, it seems to me...
It brings me pleasure to hear you are experiencing good health and renewed vision and enthusiasm for the future, near and far.

Like Julie B, I enjoy reading the comments of your friends/cohorts. I'm inspired to more thoughtful living.

And I laughed out loud at your response to the suggestion of writing a cookbook!

Keep on keeping on! Don't get weary of doing good & living well. ♥

Ros said...

'... take a potato, wash most of the mud off it, cook it in the oven for a couple of hours while you write Bible studies...' Ha, ha. Yes, absolutely. That would be my book, too :-)

Dear Pen, as ever, you have set me thinking. What is simplicity? What does it look like - in you, in me, in others?

Here, in Romania, we are living next door to people who live quite differently to the way you do, but yet in a way that many would describe as simple. They have a small plot of land on which they keep chickens (several), goats (currently two), a cow, and a pig, The goats and the cow spent most of the summer out in the field and provide milk and simple curd cheese. The family have a narrow strip devoted to maize to help feed the animals through the winter. In the late summer, they were out with a scythe, cutting clover and grass. In the (large) back garden, they grow the usual Romanian fare of peppers, tomatoes and beans, potatoes and cabbages. Quite a few people also keep bees, for the honey.

Apologies if the next bit turns your stomach over, but we have been here since the end of July. Since then, we have seen them slaughter a couple of hens and a pig. It's clear that the hens are kept mostly for eggs, but simple observation has shown us that the nature of the family's lifestyle requires that animals that are no longer productive should not go to waste. The pork and bacon from the pig is what, traditionally, keeps Romanian families over the winter (particularly at Christmas). The bacon and sausages are home produced and taste quite strongly of smoke - part of the process of preserving the meat. They are eaten with pickled vegetables - peppers, cucumbers, cabbage and whatever else the family have grown. The women spend many an hour during the autumn preparing these; the peppers, for example, being smoked first. The price of fruit and vegetables rockets over the winter and many people simply can't afford to buy them fresh, so this is what they live off. The autumn is also spent getting in wood for the winter and gathering walnuts, mushrooms, plums, pears and apples (often used for brandy).

Whilst still common in the villages here, this is a way of life that is rapidly dying out. The folk next door to us have children and grandchildren who were helping out in the summer, but they still do most of the work themselves. A lot of younger people have left the villages to 'seek their fortunes' elsewhere, whilst more 'efficent' ways of farming are being imported from the West. The country is undergoing rapid change. When Communism fell, through a combination of television advertising and salesmen making use of the resurfaced roads, villagers were introduced to 'stuff' they had no idea even existed... all wrapped up in plastic packaging. The result? Previously clean mountain streams clogged with the rubbish they didn't know what to do with (and still don't)!

Simplicity. It takes many shapes and forms. The work I have described above is a far cry from 'Looking at the slow, drifting flames in the wood stove. Looking at the colour of wet bark. Looking at the diamond clear drops of rain hanging from the twig-ends of the greengage tree.' Yet it's considerably less complicated than the selling, transportation, packaging and retailing of most of the food products we consume in the West. Especially in winter.

So what is simplicity? In our present world, I can't help feeling that the answer to that is somewhat complicated! But I appreciate your thoughts, none-the-less. And those of your followers. They are among the things that help me to focus on what matters.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Deborah — that's really interesting. e must have a go at it . . .

Hi Rebecca — You put your finger right on something when you said "even simplicity gets complicated" — it absolutely does; that why living simply is an ongoing discipline, and simplifying a life-long task.

Hi Ros — thank you so much for that wonderful description. I know that way of life very well. I grew up in a home with breathtakingly little money but a lot of land. We raised orphan lambs for the freezer, and we (not the vet) dealt with blowfly, foot-rot etc. We had hens and ducks, and we plucked and gutted them as required. It does not turn my stomach; it is very familiar to me, and physical processes do not disgust me. Even so, eating body parts has come to seem bizarre; though I recognise others depend on them.
Also, oddly, the part you picked out as being a far cry from the Romanian way of life — "Looking at the slow, drifting flames in the wood stove. Looking at the colour of wet bark. Looking at the diamond clear drops of rain hanging from the twig-ends of the greengage tree" — is not as alien to it as you might suppose. In my childhood and teenage years I had to dig the garden, fetch the eggs, help shear the sheep, cook from first principles, gather muck to make liquid fertiliser, haul the hay, struggle a reluctant sheep into a bin of disinfectant after de-maggoting blowfly wounds — yet it was that life precisely where I learned to look closely at the beauty of the natural world. Doing physical outdoor work enhances rather than obscures opportunities to connect to the magnificence of creation.
My Finnish friend Ruut described to me how important was the traditional method of preparing fermented vegetables (eg sauerkraut) in the days before freezers and global markets. Finland has a very short summer, so preservation of plant-based food was an essential skill.
I do hope your Romanians manage to come up with some way of dealing with all that rubbish you mention!

Pen Wilcock said...

Deborah — I hope you realised I meant "we" not "e"!

Ros — a thought struck me — you are Ros the St Pixels Ros? And living in Romania now?

Pen Wilcock said...

Oh! Just took a careful look at your Fb page and blog, and I see you are — is that permanent?

Marilyn said...

Hi Pen
Thank you as always for your inspirational thoughts on simplicity. I am a lover of eggs for protein and could quite happily eat a poached or boiled egg with bread for one meal every day. Eggs are a good source of protein and contain lots of other nutrients too. I also make what could be called lentil stew where I put lentils, onions, carrots and any other chopped veg I have in a large saucepan to cook with stock or water. This can be thickened with gravy made from the stock after it has cooked or I have also added tomato & brown sauce. It can be adapted to your own taste or add curry sauce to make a veg curry to serve with rice. In veg curry I often use courgettes and ripe bananas and apples. These make big portions which I then freeze in empty margarine containers. All simple things yet quite nutritious.
I was sorry to hear from your post that you were unwell for quite sometime last year - stick to your simple eating and it looks like you have found what suits you. I also try to do something called yoga-size - it is a simple yoga exercise routine which gently stretches your body. I would love to say I do this everyday but time seems to run out!! We do have a dog so I do get out walking everyday which is good for exercise and thinking and praying.
I have bible notes too which again I should read everyday but sadly don't always get done. This should be my new year's resolution to spend more time with God and His word.
I would like to thank you for all your wise and inspirational words you share with us all. I do believe living a simple life which may be different for us all is the best way to live. I do like your comment about living "what you are here for" - I try to think "what is my purpose in life". At the moment is mainly caring for my very elderly mum who is still managing to live in her own home and supporting my married daughter and caring for my husband and son at home. Thankfully I am fit and able to do this and I feel to keep life simple makes life easier.
I do look forward to reading your posts - thank you

Pen Wilcock said...

Hello Marilyn — thank you for your wise and sensible words! Years ago I used to go to a yoga class every week, and I'm planning to start again later this month. Last year I didn't feel well enough to contemplate it, but I'm looking forward to it now. I'm hoping that I'll remember enough of what we do in class to create my own little yoga routine to do every morning, in addition to a daily walk.
About the Bible notes — I think they main thing is that they sink deep in to your soul. Sometimes I find spiritual songs to listen to very helpful for a quiet time.

Ros said...

'Also, oddly, the part you picked out as being a far cry from the Romanian way of life — "Looking at the slow, drifting flames in the wood stove. Looking at the colour of wet bark. Looking at the diamond clear drops of rain hanging from the twig-ends of the greengage tree" — is not as alien to it as you might suppose.'

Indeed. I did not mean to suggest that the two could not exist alongside each other. Just that the one is not necessary to the other and they may even become divorced from one another. The appreciation of diamond clear drops of rain does not imply an appreciation for the messier side of life. Equally, I have read of people who, knowing nothing of contemplating raindrops, have tasted their first thirst for blood through life on a smallholding. Which leads me to think that living simply has less to do with the lifestyle (not sure that's the right word) itself and more to do with how we approach and respond to it?

Rubbish? Yes. I find the clash of cultures here in Romania challenging to say the least. Your call to simplicity is much needed or it is only a matter of time before the forests will be gone. Where do I fit into that? I don't know. I'm still working it through. But I knew from the start that there was no point in coming here if we were just going to carry on living the way we have always lived. So, thank you, again, for your thoughts :-)

Pen Wilcock said...

Ah "only a matter of time before the forests will be gone"! That has such a world of sadness in it! For me, at this time in my life, the everyday ongoing struggle is how to spin grief into love. It's just the same as the fairy story. I think I've done it, managed a whole great roomful of it, worked through the night so it would all be done by sunrise — only to find myself led away to a still bigger room.

I must pay better attention to your life in Romania — I'd dimly grasped you were there from occasional posts in my Fb newsfeed, but assumed you were on holiday! I'll make sure your blog is in my sideline here, and that will remind me to keep up with what you're doing.

rebecca said...

Have you written in any posts about your concentration on the color blue and the outcome? I'd sure be interested in reading more about that experience......

Pen Wilcock said...

I don't believe I have, Rebecca. That experience was something that happened to me, but I don't really understand it — I wouldn't know how to analyse it.
Only, an odd thing has happened recently. 2017 brought more family trauma (which I cannot discuss publicly) that left me with wounds needing slow healing, which was exactly the case back in 2008 when I felt myself being told to "Look at the blue".
I also lost quite a lot of weight recently and needed to change some clothes (the ones I had being now too big). I find as I grow older that grey suits me well as a colour to wear — I don't need to wear make-up when I wear grey, but many other colours are too strong for me such that I look colourless without makeup. So, from 2nd hand sellers on eBay and in half-price sales, I began to accumulate some grey clothes. But a surprising thing happened. We're only talking about a few garments in total, but a couple of the tops I bought 2nd hand on eBay must have had bad photos — because when they arrived they weren't grey at all but blue.
Then two of my daughters offered me tops and a cardigan that they were ready to pass on. They have lovely clothes (artists!) in beautiful natural fabric, so I was delighted to accept their offers. And guess what? Those things are blue. When I need healing, blue comes and finds me.
It is, of course, by spiritual tradition a healing colour.
So 2018 is turning into another blue year for me!

Anonymous said...

"I didn't come here to make nut loaf," I love it! I too have fibromyalgia, and a bunch of other uncomfortable complaints I've been trying fitfully to manage. Lately, age related tendon and vision issues have cropped up adding to my discontent. I don't want my age to be a predictor of more to come (64). My work and family life is very stressful, daily I feel overwhelmed. Diet is a continual challenge as I'm supposed to be on low fat low salt high fiber and am allergic to dairy and soy on top of that. I live in a cold climate and fresh produce goes bad very quickly after you get it home from the store. Needless to say, I've fallen off proper diet and combined with prescribed meds that has resulted in uncomfortable weight gain. I loved your paragraph about simplicity, that it can even include schedule. There are many things in my life that I have no control over (thank God for prayer), but in this new year I long to simplify. Thanks for helping me broaden that definition!

Pen Wilcock said...

God bless 2018 to you! May you be well. This is never cheerful news, but if there is one thing — just ONE THING — to eliminate from diet to improve health, that would be sugar. Always. For everyone.

Anonymous said...

Yes, sugar is bad, and unfortunately, simple carbs become the same thing as sugar once you've eaten them! I do try to make sure I eat fiber, protein, and fat together at the same time to reduce the glycemic load of carb heavy meals.

Pen Wilcock said...

I've found a helpful approach is to start with what I'm putting in rather than what I'm cutting out. It seems to work better somehow. So I start with, have I had my greens, have I had my other veggies, have I had my oatmeal and juice (freshly home-made juice with all the fibre added into the porridge, not shop juice), have I had enough water and herb tea to drink, have I had my sauerkraut and some fish or beans and a baked potato — all that kind of thing. If I start with putting that *in*, I down;t really have to bother with cutting stuff *out*!

Suzan said...

Pen this Christmas season we tried a new approach. I reminded many people that the Christmas season traditionally had many more days than one and Christmas Day was to remember the meaning of the season. As a result we have spread our simple Christmas over many days and as a result I haven't visited your blog for a good few weeks.

You address things in my life very well indeed. My middle child now follows a vegan lifestyle. I worry because she still has a limited diet and I have real concerns about pernicious anaemia to mention one concern. I really do prefer to eat ethically sourced food and on my limited income I do pretty well. I can juice my own oranges at the local grocery store and they offer many choices and more unusual products. But she rarely eats here now. I am anaemic for the second time in my life. My first battle was due to a huge blood loss during surgery and I bounced back quite quickly. Alas now that I am older this is not happening. I am beginning to find meat repugnant and cannot eat eggs and many types of seafood due to allergies. After cooking a roast dinner for my son tonight I have to agree wimple is best.

God bless,


Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Suzan

With the animal products, perhaps we don't need an all-or-nothing approach. Every now and then, a little. I once reading about some people living on an astonishingly limited diet in rural India. I recall that at some point Mother Teresa tried eating just what the poor have — rice and salt. She became ill and had to stop. So I think these folk from rural India might have been eating just rice and salt, though I'd have thought surely a few other wild-growing or discarded options might have come their way. Anyhow apparently they were doing very well on this limited diet — and then something happened to change it. It's decades ago since I read about this, so I can no longer remember the details. I think they were being studied to see how come they stayed healthy. Anyway, they didn't any longer, they developed symptoms of malnutrition. And it turned out that, left to themselves, they didn't bother too much about cleaning the weevils out of their rice. They ate it weevils and all. That's what kept them well. Once they had the clean rice from the scientists, they got sick.
So as long as you have a few weevils in your diet you should do okay. Perhaps our equivalent of that could be occasionally cooking our rice/quinoa in beef broth, or something. Not every day, maybe once a week. Just a bit, every now and then.
Or maybe buy some minced/ground beef and divide it into tiny portions — about the size of a meatball. Freeze them, defrost one a week and mix it in with veggie curry or stew. That might get past the repugnancy, give you the trace nutrients you need, and be gentle on the earth's resources.
There's also Huel. Have you come across it? I haven't tried it, but I'm intrigued by it.

Deborah said...

Hi Suzan,

I found this blog entry which might alleviate your concerns about your daughter and her diet.


Debs :-D

Pen Wilcock said...

What an interesting article, Debs!

Pregnancy is a time many women become anaemic to some degree. I have five children but, as I had twins, only 4 pregnancies. I tested positive for anaemia in three of the four — the only pregnancy in which my iron levels help up was the one during which I was vegan.

Deborah said...

Yes...I thought it was interesting and mirrored what vegans have said in the past. Interesting about coffee inhibiting the absorption of iron, too.

Pen Wilcock said...

I've heard tea does the same. Perhaps it's the caffeine?

Yvonne said...

Simplify is a word that is burrowing into my life often. A longing for it is growing- your words are fanning the flame and I am excited to take a bigger step into it .

Pen Wilcock said...


God bless your steps into living simply!

Fiona said...

I'm so sorry to hear you've been ill this past year, Pen. I'm starting to feel similarly about meat and poultry and not really being able to fancy eating it for the reasons you outline, and increasingly thinking about other options. It is, as you often say, interesting how one choice can impact another area, and important to think about the whole issue holistically. Packaging is a big thing for me at the moment, especially when the amount of recycling our household generates far exceeds the capacity of the fortnightly-emptied wheelie bin - do we make extra trips to the tip regularly in the car, or pack the additional recycling into plastic bags and put it out for collection. Plastic in particular is a source of guilt, especially since we drink colossal amounts of milk. So much food for thought, and I keep coming back to the idea of simplicity. Thank you for your ongoing wise words!

Pen Wilcock said...

You have little children, don't you? I think the family responsibilities they bring makes it very difficult to do anything other than go with the flow of what society all around is doing. The internal workings and dynamics of the household use up all a mother's strength and attention.
A book I especially enjoyed when my children were little was Juliette de Bairacli Levy's "Wanderers In The New Forest". It goes for very high prices now (the lowest is an eBay copy selling this Friday, current bid £19.99), which tells of the time she lived there when her children were small. "Traveller's Joy" is good too. Some of her ideas are a little out of step with modern ways and thinking, but she was a wonderful and extraordinary woman.

Kathryn said...

Hello, Pen, I have been gone from this site for some time and have only been reading and not responding of late. I identify so much with the search for a diet and a way of living that "walks gently upon the land". The diet is settled: vegan. It has worked out fine after most of my life as a vegetarian.

Over the last 12 years I have been through two phases of downsizing. Both times the Habitat of Humanity's annual garage--think HUGE church basement--did well with the surplus. This time I am contemplating a move to much smaller quarters. Aside from the books, which are readily welcome at the library sales events, the excess this time is smaller in size and more difficult to unload: fabrics and beads. I think most of the fabric is going to places it will be used (before it rots, I hope!). While the larger beads are fairly easy to relocate, the tiny seeds beads are much less desired. I have “billions and billions” of seed beads to paraphrase astrophysicist Carl Sagan. Fortunately they neither eat much nor deteriorate quickly.

What I really want to ask you is about this statement:
“I recommend eating simply. It kind of works like fractals, making a corresponding wellness in my body and the body of the Earth which my body also embodies. Food for oneness, or something.”
Can you briefly explain this or point me to a source, please?

Thanks for your lovely writing and musings. When this page came up, I also was able to see your home decor in the Winter’s Day entry. I am guessing that one of your artist daughters is responsible for the fine fox and the sweet little bird? They are just beautiful! And, they probably don’t eat much either.

Blessings, Quet

Pen Wilcock said...

Hiya — what I meant by that is that eating simply creates a wellness, a shalom, that works like fractals. As I'm sure you know, fractals reproduce the same image again and again. In the same way, eating simply makes me well, but also makes the Earth well by being sustainable and health giving for the land and the whole network of creation as well as for my own body. Then, because this way of eating is sustainable and for the wellbeing of the Earth, and my body is part of the Earth, part of creation, the shalom/wellbeing comes round again to further enhance my wellbeing. By eating simply, a chain reaction of wellbeing is created that keeps on reproducing itself. x

Deborah said...

Kathryn, if you were in the UK I'd snap your hand off for your billions of seed beads :-D...however I would suggest offering them on EBay for postage plus a nominal fee as a declutter item. I know dozens of people who would want them.

Kathryn said...

Ah, you are so right about how eating can impact the environment and I had just forgotten about the duplicating nature of fractals. That leads my imagine into all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors. I have just spent the last seven months making beaded snowflakes, another fractal model. I would be honored to send you one if you would please you. As I said, they don't eat or take up much room since I know you are living a good and simple, but beautiful life. It seems only fair considering all the pleasure you have given me with your writings over the years. Blessings, Quet

Pen Wilcock said...

Snowflakes — do you know Anthony Doerr's novel "About Grace", which has a lot in it about snowflakes? It references Wilson Bentley's work on snowflakes (check out online). Really interesting! I love Anthony Doerr's book — his novel "All the Light We Cannot See" is magnificent.

Pen Wilcock said...

Kathryn — I'm not sure which Kathryn you are! There are two people with the name Kathryn who have been in touch with me on here; I think I know but am not sure, and don't want to mention your surname here in case you prefer it kept private. It was my intention to send you an email in response to your kindness in saying you would like to send me one of your lovely snowflakes, but now I'm not sure which of two email addresses — the wrong Kathryn would be very surprised to have me emailing her about making snowflakes!

If you comment again with your full name (so I know which Kathryn) and your email address, I won't publish the comment but will contact you. x