I’m writing a cookbook.
Matter of fact, it's already written and now deep in the throes of design and publishing as I was able to accomplish a ton of work on it during the past 70 days of coronavirus quarantine. So stay tuned for more about that when it hits the bookshelves in the next few months.
As a result of all my writing about food and tinkering in the kitchen, I've been thinking quite a bit about the magic and intricacy woven into the foods and ingredients that we eat. So that's what I'm going to write about in today's Sabbath Ramblings.
But allow me to clarify something first: I'm not a chef.
Yes, I’m definitely not a chef. With zero formal training in cooking, I’ve simply achieved any cooking chops I do have via learning recipes from a mash-up of cooking videos I’ve come across on YouTube (e.g. random Google searches for terms like “how to make liver taste good”), simple tips my wife mutters as she passes by me in the kitchen while I attempt to make myself a proper meal (e.g. “Babe, add a bit of coconut flour to those salmon cakes and they’ll stop crumbling on you!”) to insightful tips and tricks from the host of nutrition and cookbooks I read and review on a weekly basis (e.g. mix lemon juice with your bone broth to increase collagen bioavailability).
Sure, I took advanced courses in biochemistry, chemistry, microbiology, physics, and nutrition in college, and I’m sure those have assisted my learning curve in the kitchen quite dramatically, but I will be the first to admit that when it comes to cooking, and especially writing a cookbook, I have full-blown imposter syndrome.
My wife? She’s a rancher girl who can, with nary a drip of sweat, whip up a crispy roasted chicken on a Friday night and a batch of mouth-watering sourdough cinnamon rolls on a Saturday morning, all from scratch.
My twin boys? They’ve been taking cooking classes since they were four years old and can expertly fashion a chocolate souffle and mushroom risotto for their freaking lunch. Heck, they even have their own cooking podcast in which they reveal their new taste bud brainchildren each week.
Me? I grew up on boxed macaroni and cheese, 29-cent hamburgers, frozen hot dogs, and whey protein shakes. So for most of my life, I was pretty much limited to a microwave, a blender, and a drive-thru.
But nonetheless, I do like to tinker in the kitchen. I do like to crack the code on how to use science and spices to unlock nutrients and enhance the digestibility of the vast array of scrumptious foods this planet is blessed with. And as a self-proclaimed foodie, I definitely like to eat and I like to eat good food. As a result of my passion for all things food and health, I’m asked with surprising and increasing frequency for all the crazy and unique recipes I frequently mention on podcasts and articles or feature in food porn photos on social media.
So I finally decided to sit down and churn out a cookbook chock full of my favorite recipes—recipes that are mentioned, often with great scientific detail, in my book Boundless and across my media platforms (particularly Instagram), but recipes that have never been fully fleshed out in terms of my exact ingredients and preparation strategies. In other words, it’s one thing to read in Boundless about how fermenting your own yogurt changes the biome of the gut in a favorable manner and enhances many aspects of endocrine and immune function, but it’s quite another matter to know exactly how I wake up in the morning and quickly whip up a batch of homemade yogurt, the methods I use to make the bacteria more concentrated or bioavailable, what I mix it with for goals such as sleep enhancement or muscle building, or even how long the stuff stays good in the refrigerator.
Anyways, although the cookbook is still a few months out from being fully published and available to you (though you can subscribe to my newsletter to get notified as soon as it is), I'm obviously thinking a lot lately about food, ingredients, spices, herbs, plants, and all manner of things cooking and eating-related, particularly in relation to our own fulfillment and happiness when it comes to our food. As a result, I've had three thoughts jumbling about in my head that I'd like to share with you for today's Sabbath Ramblings.
First, when you are tinkering in the kitchen with your own recipes, whether new or old, I encourage you to prepare your food mindfully. Take a simple cup of coffee, for example. Sure, you can rush to your kitchen in the morning, curse as you fumble with the coffee filter, quickly prepare your water as you glance at your watch and think about your email inbox, then hover over your coffee, sipping madly as you scroll through text messages. Alternatively, you can slowly open the bag of coffee, take a satisfying whiff of the intense aroma of floral and cacao, perk up your ears as listen to the whooshing and light sprinkling of the water as it falls into the kettle or coffee maker, and enjoy those first few sips with your eyes closed, fully mindful and grateful of a rich superfood from South America that has magically appeared in your kitchen to fire up your precious brain for a day of impact and purposeful work. Notice the difference? Food and drink should be enjoyed with the full array of senses, prepared and consumed mindfully and gratefully.
Truly, in our tiny pantries and humble kitchens, we now have access to the same cinnamons and spices from the Orient, fruits and beans from the Amazon, and dried berries and cured meats and cheeses from Northern Europe that kings and queens of old would have paid buckets of gold for and sent out explorers, sailors, and armies on quests to collect. As you approach food in a more mindful way, you may, especially if you like music or play a musical instrument, enjoy thinking of it a bit like making music, which is a practice that requires a great deal of mindfulness. Managing multiple pans on the stove is like playing the drums and finely slicing a clove of garlic like tuning a mandolin. But would you play the drums with a phone cradled to your ear or tune the violin while sending a text message? Approach food, and even food preparation, similarly.
Second, I encourage you to be in constant awe at the wonders of God’s creation. I’m ceaselessly aware of the magic, beauty, mystery, and wonder of the vast array of superfoods scattered across this Earth. Take a variant of the humble buckwheat plant, for example: the Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat, which I just made blueberry pancakes with on last Saturday morning as a surprise for my boys (using a fermentation pancake recipe similar to this).
Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat (let’s call it “HTB” so as not to get too long in the tooth) is a hardy plant that has been farmed in Asia for generations but is largely unknown in the rest of the world. (I had a hard time hunting it down myself, but found this tiny farm in New York State called “Angelica Mills” that grows it.) Modern analyses have revealed that HTB contains significantly higher levels of phytonutrients compared to common buckwheat—up to a 100-fold increase of certain immune-strengthening flavonoids. HTB is also incredibly rich in the flavonoids rutin, quercetin, hesperidin, luteolin, and diosmin. Nutritionally speaking, this portfolio of flavonoids is an orchestra, a symphony, and a masterpiece of the Creator’s genius. Each is unique, but together they are wondrous, especially when it comes to the positive ways they can influence immune function.
Next, 2-hydroxybenzylamine (2-HOBA) is a plant chemical that is extremely rare to find in any foods, but it just so happens that HTB is one of the best sources currently known. 2-HOBA is now being studied for how well it stops the formation of some types of many harmful molecules in the body. Calcium-hydroxy-methyl butyrate monohydrate (yep, that’s a mouthful!) is another significant component of HTB. This nutrient, which is found in alfalfa and other foods, has been studied for immune support and rejuvenation, as well as the ways it helps build, maintain, and protect muscles and lean tissues throughout the body. Then there’s chlorophyllin, also found in high amounts in HTB. In plants, chlorophyll turns light into energy. What can it do for humans? It turns out that it can improve the way the body deals with certain toxins and gets rid of them.
At sufficient levels, chlorophyll can protect DNA and chromosomes, and even help cells repair themselves from damage. Heck, if you read a book like Sayer Ji’s Regenerate or Arturo Herrera’s The Human Photosynthesis, you can discover how photons of energy from sunlight can actually interact with the chlorophyll in your bloodstream to generate electrons that allow for the production of cellular energy—even in the absence of calories from food!
Just think about it: That’s all from one tiny humble buckwheat plant that has been treasured in Asia for thousands of years but that we in the West barely know anything about (though we’ve certainly cracked the code on how to genetically modify wheat and spray it with herbicides and pesticides to make a relatively nutrient-void frankenplant for our hamburger buns!). Multitudes of other examples abound, examples that display the mysteries and wonders of superfoods in Creation. From Goji berries and coffeeberry fruit, to spirulina and chlorella algae, to Barùkas nuts and chia seeds, we walk a planet rich in bountiful blessings. Yet how often do we drop our jaws in pure awe at these mysterious, wonderful fruits of the Earth? In the Bible, Psalms 104:24-25 sums things up quite nicely:
“O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
Here is the sea, great and wide,
which teems with creatures innumerable,
living things both small and great.”
Elsewhere, in John 3:1, we learn that “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” So yes, that means that an Almighty God formed and fashioned the cacao tree, the cannabis plant, the chickpea, and the catfish—and all this marvelous bounty is ours to enjoy in all of its intricacy, beauty and, yes, tastiness.
Even meat—which technically involves blood, killing, and a loss of life?
This is an interesting idea to unpack, so let's take a brief foray. After all, I'm often asked how I, as a Christian, could condone the shedding of the blood of an animal and the subsequent eating of meat, especially if human-kind was originally created in a beautiful, lush garden chock full of enough highly nutritious and edible plants and vegetables that could theoretically sustain life in the absence of carnivory.
It's certainly true that in the Creation story of Genesis in the Bible, God created man (Adam) and woman (Eve) and put them in a garden (Eden). Furthermore, it does indeed appear that the original form of sustenance meant for humankind was comprised of plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, seeds, nuts, and trees.
Genesis 1:29-30: “Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.”
Genesis 2:7-9: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. And the Lord God planted a garden eastward of Eden, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food…”
Genesis 2:15-16: “And the Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat…”
So arguably, since death and killing would not have existed prior to Adam and Eve committing sin and bringing death upon this planet, that the shedding of blood via meat-eating did not exist, and that God instructed His original human creation to instead consume a pure, 100% plant-based, vegan diet.
However, elsewhere in the Bible, it appears that the eating of meat or consumption of animal-based products becomes both necessary and acceptable.
For example, anyone familiar with Christianity has undoubtedly heard the Promised Land being referred to as “a land flowing with milk and honey.” That phrase “a land flowing with milk and honey” actually appears 20 times in the Bible—Exodus 3:8, Exodus 3:17, Exodus 13:5, Exodus 33:3, Leviticus 20:24, Numbers 13:27, Numbers 14:8, Numbers 16:13, Numbers 16:14, Deuteronomy 6:3, Deuteronomy 11:9, Deuteronomy 26:9, Deuteronomy 26:15, Deuteronomy 27:3, Deuteronomy 31:20, Joshua 5:6, Jeremiah 11:5, Jeremiah 32:22, Ezekiel 20:6, and Ezekiel 20:15! Of course, both milk and honey are animal-based foods dependent on some form of animal and insect domestication for the harvesting of those foods.
Furthermore, meat is often referenced as an acceptable food source in the Bible, including in passages such as:
1 Corinthians 10:25: “Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience.”
Acts 10:9-16: The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” …
Luke 24:41-43: “And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he [Jesus] said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them.”
Perhaps two of the best examples of God's approval of eating meat comes A) from the celebration of the Passover, in which each Israelite family was commanded to take a lamb or goat, kill it, and put its blood on the doorposts, then to eat the meat by morning, and burn the leftovers before daybreak, and B) the fact that many of the early disciples were fisherman, the frequent consumption of fish within the New Testament, and most notably, Luke 24:41-43, which explicitly says that Jesus asked for food and that he thankfully ate fish and honey which the disciples gave him.
Now, that all being said, my own perspective on this frequently debated topic is that at one time, the Earth was pristine, free of sin, pollution, and toxicity; and even in a pre-great Flood atmosphere that ensured highly nutritious plant matter derived from fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts of a completely different and more nutrient-dense nature than modern-day plants and agriculture. As a result, the original human creation was likely equipped to do just fine on a plant-based diet. I believe that the pre-flood atmosphere of the earth was much different than our living conditions today, possibly providing more oxygen and greater protection against the excess UVA and UVB radiation from the sun, and greater abundance and nutrient density of plants and fruit-bearing trees.
However, things seem to have changed. After the flood, it is possible that fruits and vegetables became smaller and/or more scarce (Genesis 8:22 says that “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”). Omnivory became acceptable, and probably even necessary for adequate nutrient, vitamin, and calorie availability. God fed the Israelites in the desert with not just manna from heaven, but also with thousands of quail. Agriculture also sprung forth, and bread, along with wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt are often mentioned in Scripture (much to the chagrin of many Paleo diet enthusiasts, who seem to think gluten is a demonic protein from hell!).
One day, when heaven and earth are restored to their pristine conditions, this scenario may all change. There will likely no longer be a need for death, bloodshed, or meat consumption. Isaiah 11:6-9 gives us clues about this when it says:
“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
So ultimately, to come full circle: Yes, I believe all of God's creation is here for our culinary enjoyment and sustenance, and that includes all plants and animals from cabbages to cows, carrots to clams, parsnips to pork, and flax to fish.
Finally, and third (after that hefty rabbit hole above!) I encourage you to enjoy your food in a parasympathetic state of relaxation, mindfulness, and gratefulness. Quickly sucking down your smoothie hunched over a steering wheel as you stressfully navigate on your morning commute, wiping smoothie shards off your face while fumbling with the music dial on the car is a far, far different experience—both psychologically and physiologically—compared to sitting at your kitchen table in the sunshine, savoring every bite, and perhaps jotting down a few notes in your gratitude journal, thumbing through your favorite magazine, or chatting with your family. Eating in a stressed state predisposes you to leaky gut syndrome, inadequate digestive enzyme production, poor nutrient absorption, and overeating—all topics I explore in great detail in the “How To Fix Your Gut” chapter of Boundless. In contrast, eating in a relaxed state, often with friends and family, usually in between and not during bouts of work, allows you to savor and enjoy your food, digest your food, and feel more satiated from each and every bite that you mindfully chew.
By the way, research has shown that to truly digest your meal, get the maximum nutritional benefit from the food and the minimum inflammatory impact on the gut, an average number of 25-40 times per bite is what you should aim for when chewing your food (you learn plenty more tips about oral care, jaw strength and how to breathe/chew properly in the “Beauty & Symmetry” chapter of Boundless). This savoring and gratefulness for food can ultimately bring us closer to our Creator.
So as trite as a bite of truffle may seem, or a post-workout dinner of steak and fries or an energy drink we might suck down during a triathlon, any pursuit of diet or fitness can bring us closer to our greatest purpose in life if we approach it with the right mentality—by using it to fuel our hearts with the joy and love of God, as Paul so eloquently states in his letter to the Corinthians in the Bible:
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.”
John Piper also sums this up quite nicely in Chapter 2 of his excellent book “Don’t Waste Your Life” when he says:
“God created you and me to live with a single all-embracing all-transforming passion – namely a passion to glorify God by enjoying and displaying his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life.”
And yes, that supreme excellence in all spheres of life includes swinging a kettlebell and making a superfood smoothie.
In my own personal experience, I’ve found that one of the best ways to approach each meal with this spirit of mindfulness, gratitude, and relaxation is to create some kind of routine or ritual for each meal. This pre-meal habit can include a few relaxing breaths, a blessing, a prayer, or even a song.
For example, one easy breathwork practice we often do at the dinner table is to simply close the eyes, take a deep, slow breath in through the nose, then out through slightly pursed lips and repeat three times. Another simple habit is to think of one thing you’re grateful for and say it aloud prior to your meal; or if you are in a group, you can go around the table and have each person name one thing they are grateful for. Or you can say a prayer and bless the food. In addition to thanking God for providing yet another blessing of nutrients, calories, and sustenance, I also like this pleasant twist on a Thich Nhat Hanh blessing, which I learned from a friend at an immersive health event I teach at called RUNGA. It goes like this:
Breathing in, I’m aware of my body.
Breathing out, I smile at my body.
Breathing In, I am aware of my food.
Breathing out, I smile at my food.
Breathing in, I’m aware of my company.
Breathing out, I smile at my company.
An entire group can do this together, eyes closed, breathing in and out together as one person leads and the others repeat the words that person recites.
Does all this seem to make it sound to you like there’s a deep spiritual aspect to food?
You would be correct if you suspected so. After all, food isn’t just about minerals, vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, fat, and calories. Food connects us. Food fuels traditions and memories. Food is something we gather around. Food changes our mood, for better or worse. Food can create bliss and contentment that one feels far beyond their stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and bloodstream. Food can feed the soul. Do not underestimate the invisible energy and frequency contained within each bite that you eat, and the impact of your own energy and frequency on each bite you eat.
So when our Greenfield family finishes a hard day jam-packed with work, chores, school, phone calls, consults, meetings, emails, workouts, animal care, podcasts, articles, books and we all finally gather around the dining room table to breathe in the sweet aroma of a salted, roasted chicken with baked carrot fries and fresh sprouts drenched in extra virgin olive oil and dressed with crumbled goat cheese, and I take that first sip of dark, rich organic wine, a smile erupts on my face, and also in my soul— not only because of the deep, intense sense of relaxation and pleasure I derive from gathering around a beautiful cornucopia of aromatic food with my precious family, but also because I know I helped grow those sprouts from tiny alfalfa, red clover, and broccoli seeds and had a chance to participate in the magic of growing, nourishing, and savoring God’s creation.
As you begin yourself to ponder the wonders of God's Creation, think about the well-known Christian hymn “This Is My Father's World,” which is one of my favorite poetic declarations of the wonders of this universe in which we exist, and also a marvelous song to sing or listen to prior to any meal:
“This is my Father's World
And to my listening ears
All nature sings and round me rings
The music of the spheres
This is my Father's world
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees
Of skies and seas
His hands the wonders rod
This is my Father's world
The birds there carols raise
The morning light the lilliy white
Declare their maker's praise
This is my Father's world
He shines in all thats fare
In rustling grass I hear him pass
He speaks to me everywhere
This is my Father's world
And to my listening ears
All nature sings and round me rings
The music of the sphere.”
Finally, in case you want to hear how these powerful words actually sound when sung to their traditional hymnal tune “This Is My Father's World,” here's a recording I made from my computer after writing this post. Enjoy, and leave you questions, comments, or feedback below!