I am back from an extraordinary and glorious weekend, unique in my experience, and I would like to tell you about it.
Of course, those who know me will presume that I was at the ocean soaking up the sun and salt water, and they would be correct. The seashore is my favorite place to be, far ahead of the woods, the mountains or the desert. Yes, being at the ocean was the glorious part of the weekend, but what made the two days extraordinary was that we shared the time with another houseguest who was a four star chef!
I mean, I was humbled, folks. I used to think - up until three days ago - that I knew how to cook. But watching "Ronnie," a true artist at his craft, in the kitchen was an eye-opener. And feasting on his creations was a true mind-body-spirit experience. From the foix gras with fresh figs before the melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon on the first night to the 21-bean dip (actually made with 21 different beans!) and fresh fruit-filled sangria before the Brazilian-style grilled chicken the second night, it was a revelation to the taste-buds of everyone present.
And so clearly, the key ingredient in all of Ronnie's dishes was love. Cooking is clearly the man's passion, his art, a soul-gift, for sure, and he is always happy and hands on - literally - when doing it. As an expert masseuse or hands-on-healer will use his or her hands to "read" and release the body, Ronnie used his loving hands to turn things and tell him when things were perfectly done, and release the bouquet of flavors hidden even in simple roasted fingerling potatoes and white asparagus!
Always wanting to contribute something to a weekend of sharing, I usually do a good deal of the cooking when away with friends. I do find it a pleasure and a meditative experience, but I can say without a doubt, now, that it is not my "Zone of Genius," as Gay Hendricks describes in his book, The Big Leap. So, as a fun game, which Ronnie was good-spiritedly open to, I proposed as my contribution to the weekend feasts to buy the ingredients for our two breakfasts with the proviso that Ronnie wouldn't know what I was buying. I would simply buy whatever looked good at the Seaview Market that morning, with no thought as to how the ingredients could come together, and Ronnie's challenge would be to create exquisite dishes out of the groceries.
Needles to say, he was up for it! In the blink of an eye, we were all devouring ricotta-stuffed ciabatta French toast with blueberries and warm maple syrup, a mere day after the mushroom, ham, onion and swiss cheese frittata, so light and fluffy, it practically floated away! I started thinking, I have to talk to the producers who optioned City Rock about this as a possible TV reality show. "STUMP CHEF RONNIE!"
Anyway, folks, I just thought I would share this experience of love and creativity.
Below is a repost of an article I wrote a while ago called "Full Permission Eating."
According to two recent studies, red wine will help you live longer and sugar won't kill you even if you're diabetic. Woah! For real?
From one of the articles:
"Two large studies involving more than 21,000 people found that people with Type 2 diabetes had no reduction in their risk of heart attacks and strokes and no reduction in their death rate if they rigorously controlled their blood sugar levels."
And from the other:
"Red wine may be much more potent than was thought in extending human lifespan."
What gives? Well, the bottom line, if you want to skip ahead, is this: what promotes good health and longevity, first and foremost, are happiness and pleasure.
A psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Paul Rozin, who specializes in, yes, the psychology of food, conducted a survey in America, France, Belgium and Japan in an effort to explain what is referred to as the "French Paradox." The paradox is basically this: the French consume a diet that is very rich and high in fat, yet they have a low rate of obesity and enjoy generally good health, compared to Americans.
Americans, on the other hand, are obsessed with counting calories and cholesterol levels and worry excessively about the effects of food on their bodies, and still, they have a very high rate of obesity comparatively and suffer with more health problems. Dr. Rozin’s survey suggests that the determining factor may be the different cultural attitudes towards food and pleasure.
Rozin is quoted in the journal "Appetite" as saying, "There is a sense among Americans that food is as much a poison as it is a nutrient, and that eating is almost as dangerous as not eating." He goes on to say that "…when a major aspect of life becomes a stress and source of substantial worry, as opposed to pleasure, effects might be seen in both cardiovascular and immune systems." Rozin’s researcher found that the French, on the other hand, of whom only 4 percent follow diets in line with the American recommended guidelines for fat intake, associate eating more with pleasure than with health.
In a related story, the New York Times ran an article in its "Eating Well" column, by Marian Burros, that quoted two professors on nutrition and obesity extolling the virtues and health benefits of enjoying such luscious holiday foods as foie gras, caviar and pumpkin pie, believe it or not! Listen to this:
"Tucked in between the cholesterol and the saturated fat, the calories and the salt in the foie gras, the sausage stuffing and the standing rib roast, there are dozens of nutrients that are highly recommended by the food police. These are the vitamins and minerals and phytochemicals that may prevent cancer and heart disease and a host of other diseases. Everyone already knows that chocolate is a health food: Two pounds of it, particularly dark chocolate, has the same cancer-fighting antioxidants as a quart of tea. But did you know that each time you eat a three-ounce piece of pumpkin pie you may well be reducing your risk of cataracts and macular degeneration? The pumpkin in that small wedge of pie is filled with carotenoids, almost 3,000 micrograms of beta carotene, 1,900 of alpha carotene and 400 of lutein, the carotenoid connected with cataract prevention."
Where is this leading us? Well, the Times also printed an article on Dr. Rozin’s study entitled, "If It Feels Good, Eat It." People will be up in arms perhaps at the suggestion that eating what we want, what we really enjoy, is a reasonable guideline for a diet, yet that is precisely the message of these studies, and it is in keeping with the conceptual foundation of Full Permission Living which is that human beings, if allowed to follow their undistorted desires, will naturally do what’s best for themselves and others without resorting to excess and without having to sacrifice pleasure. Furthermore, if one engages in any activity, including eating, with a spirit of enjoyment and gratitude, it is the premise of FPL that what you take in will benefit you. That may be the original reason for saying a blessing before a meal - to get your mind and digestive system into a positive and receptive mode to aid absorption and facilitate nourishment.
I’ve often thought about the movie, "Michael", in this regard. John Travolta plays the archangel by the same name, and in the film the high-order angelic character is seen consuming huge amounts of sugar, drinking beer, smoking cigarettes and of course, dancing and cavorting with women. I asked myself when I first saw the movie, could such a spiritual being actually indulge himself in that manner and not suffer any negative consequences? Absolutely, I realized. Such a being would be so connected to his spiritual self, so full of joy and gratitude that whatever molecules he took into his body would immediately be transmuted into good nourishment. After all, everything is made of the same basic particles of energy, whether it’s steamed organic broccoli or a hamburger! So what determines the effect of various foods on the body? It must be the individual’s state of consciousness, one’s inner beliefs and attitudes. Indeed, my own grandfather, "Pete", lived without major illness until he died of old age at 91, and he regularly consumed sugar and salt, smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol until the end. How did he do it? Well, for one thing, he rarely indulged in anything to excess, but also, no matter what doctors, the media or younger worried family members said to him, he genuinely never believed these things would harm him. So, perhaps that is why they didn’t. He also rejected stressful behavior as a requirement for being successful, even though he had his own business to run which he did for almost four decades. I never saw Grandpa Pete anxiously rushing around or fretting about anything.
Now, let me issue a qualifier here - none of us is Michael the Archangel and most of us are not, in our hyper-vigilant, type-A culture, Grandpa Pete! Most of us are harboring hidden self-destructive or fearful beliefs and attitudes, and so will unconsciously use food and anything else to create suffering for ourselves if we're not conscious. So the "undistorted desires" part is crucial to living with full permission. Furthermore, if you believe that certain things are harmful to your health, you can’t trick yourself by superimposing another belief over that one and expect not to have disastrous results. How you feel about yourself and your body is a key element that must be brought into conscious awareness in order to be a "healthy hedonist," and the channels to your natural pleasure instinct must be cleared of blockages as well. In other words, a full-spectrum healing process may be needed before you can start indulging in the daily red wine and sweet treats.
Here are some great words of wisdom from Jane Roberts’ "Seth" book, "The Way Toward Health":
"The ideas you have, then, play a large role in the way the body handles its nutrients, and utilizes health and vitality…it is possible for your ideas to cause chemical reactions that impede your body’s ability to accept nourishment. If you believe that the body is evil, the purest health food diet may do you little good at all, while if you have a healthy desire and respect for your physical body, a diet of TV dinners and even fast foods may well keep you healthy and nourished. If we are talking about health, it is to your beliefs that we must look. It is up to you to form a body of beliefs that is worthy of your physical image – for you are nourished by your beliefs, and those beliefs can cause your daily bread to add to your vitality, or add to your cares and stress."
P.S. - A friend and FPL reader recently asked me why I don't include physical movement among the joys and pleasures of life, alongside sex and eating, which I so often speak about. I'm working on it. Stay tuned...