Friday, January 30, 2009

Step Up to the Plate

Recently, I've been soaking up some fine blog fodder about January health regimes and juice fasts. I mean, the only thing I love more than "advising" people how to eat (without any accreditation, as you know), is learning about the food habits of others. I mean - she says with melodrama - it is the thing that connects us all. (Well that and a visceral hatred of telemarketers.)

Bel and I managed to continue the discussion via email. One topic of conversation led to another and another, whereupon I presented her with a (long and overblown) primer on my preferred style of eating. After that, Miss C emailed to ask me about hunger and blood sugar, two things about which I have masses of first hand experience!, and finally it twigged. I mean, why not inflict provide you with the fruits of my eating experience?!

You can just click off now if that makes you want to bang your head against a wall. Because I don't do food posts brief-style.

What I want to explain is not a recipe or even a style of cuisine. It's not a diet or a gimmick. I like to call it a methodology. Just to make is sound fancier. I should also disclose that there is no conceivable way that I have devised this; I've simply discovered it for myself. So, if y'all know about a book or culture that maxes out on this concept, I probably borrowed it unwittingly .

I introduce you to: The Stoner Plate.*

*drugs optional

Of course, in my house we use the term affectionately to describe:
  • A beautiful dish or plate (one that completely aesthetically appeals)
  • 3 - 6 beautiful and complementary, simple foods (or food combinations) which are generally, but not necessarily, cold or raw
  • A good blend of healthful fat, protein and carbs...
  • ...Which must also be completely delicious (or what fun is life?)
  • A lovely beverage (not sweet) and/or a glass of wine (5 oz ish)
  • A peaceful frame of mind.

We call it a stoner plate because (and of course we have no knowledge of this from personal experience) it appeals to the mindset and appetite of the, ahem, herbally engaged. I can only hope that my daughter - who enjoys most meals in this style - doesn't someday mention to a friend's mother, when asked if she'd like some lunch, that a stoner plate would suit her just fine.

Some great benefits of the SP include:

  • Mindful eating
  • The option to eat many different complex but complementary flavours
  • A beautiful, aesthetic food experience (food as art)
  • The ability to easily moderate portion size - and, if this is a concern, calories. Even if you don't count them / or count them euphemistically (i.e. Points), they are fundamental to the fitness and nutrition equation.
  • The opportunity to see the building blocks of nutrition and nourishment in the simplicity of the arrangement of the food
  • Ease of preparation.

It also works very well for fussy kids who don't like things to touch or "hidden" veggies they hate.

From the time I was a baby, the one-two punch of Italian relatives (portion size, bah, eat!) and a mother who was determined to control me with food (cuz nothing else worked), has left me easily overwhelmed by meals. For years I could only eat soup and half an appetizer in restaurants, even as my parents goaded me to ingest more. Of course, they weren't evil. Simply a product of their own backgrounds and inexperience.

When I had my own child - whom, ironically, I could not breast feed - I knew that it was of paramount importance in my transition to healthful nurturer to make organic baby and toddler food and to give it without expectation. I aimed for beauty in presentation and small portions because that appealed to me as the caregiver. And, though it might not appeal to every child, it certainly worked for my own.

Ironically, post partum trauma mixed with acute anxiety (and other peripheral things) led me to eat compulsively for a some time. The rise and precipitous fall of blood sugar was escape by mood alteration. Even as I nurtured my real-life baby, my inner child rallied against external control: being trapped by parenthood. Being subsumed by its demands.

Disordered eating comes in so many guises. And, obviously, it is never about the food. I like to hold myself up as a reformed food "user"/ paragon of healthy eating, but of course, I bring my visceral desire for order into everything.

For my daughter, the SP is a comfortable style of food presentation. Something she can relate to and enjoy. It's the same, but different every time. For me, the SP is a way to bring mindfulness and choice to the experience of eating. A little salty (almonds) with a bit of sweet (bananas and table cream with a dash of vanilla). Some bitter (watercress with lemon and olive oil) with umami (wasabi rice crackers and brie). All my urges are at once satisfied. All my needs. And yet my mind is unassaulted by the compulsion to force back volume and articficial complexity.

Remember this, if you can tease it out of my insanely bloated (ha ha, food pun) ramblings: The way you eat is a metaphor for the way you relate to yourself, and by extrapolation, a metaphor for your relatedness to everything around you.

The SP may be just the ticket to inspire conscious eating. Or you could use it for ill effect, I suppose. Maybe you'd prefer to incorporate any of millions of other methodologies to accomplish happy, healthy nourishment. One thing's for certain, you're employing some methodology, conscious or not. Happy or tortured. Free or entrapped.

Whatever you do, be mindful. In my view, when you bring art, nutrition and ease to food, you are bound to be satified on all levels. Give it a go, why don't you. Then let me know if you agree.


  1. I am boring myself to death when all my comments to you are to tell you how fantastic you are, how wonderful and amazing, how much I love you and how you write, how I would like to carry your brain around with me...holygod lady! Am weak! Loved this post.

    I've always been slim to skinny, having seen some women in my family be extremely large, this was my one thing I could control. I've been accused of being anorexic but I'm not.

    I'm not a fan of food, it's a tool to keep me alive...Sure, I enjoy a nice steak (going to the Keg tonight) but it's not central to my happiness.

    Sometimes dinner is just cheese and crackers or a bowl of cereal, or an actual prepared by my own hands and sat down to eat thing... but I think overall I'm just too lazy to plan and create food....

    Ugh, sorry for making this so long.

  2. Food for thought. I know it's a HORRIBLE pun, but it's so true! Thanks for sharing this, K.

  3. I pride myself on a diet that consists of 95% sugar and 5% Champagne. Reversed on holidays and birthdays.

  4. Great post K-line! Your paragraph about your post-partum compulsive eating really resonated with me. I am still trying to cope with being trapped by parenthood and am still using food as a drug. If you ever want to expand on that paragraph I would be most grateful.

  5. What a great way to view food and begin to look at your meals. I'm so bad about mindful eating (as you probably can see from the sweet post today). But, I hope to become more aware.

  6. I am loving this concept as well as the conversations we have had about food, eating and body. I seem to be in an anti-cooking phase of my life and so to have foods that will allow for an anglo-Bento box is brilliant. When I have put together all my ingredients for the perfect stoner plater I will post it( see perfectionism shows up in many parts of my life;-)

  7. Wonderful post K Line! It meshes art, with language and evokes our senses ( I was drooling) all through it's wonderful voice with words.

  8. I made this tonight.

    Francois Xavier is now my favorite blogger ever. I may attempt to learn a Swiss dialect. But you know... Sandra has the tastes of someone fifteen years her senior.

    Why should I be forced to chose? The internet is a big place. There is room for EVERYONE.

    good night and... Bon Appetite!

  9. I agree, having a look at our meals.. if I had to judge myself but what I eat-- I am high patience and two days a week.. I go out grunge. When I first read the title I thought you might mention exercise.. I was gonna say "I can not step it up anymore" I'm doing 10,000 steps a day in one shot usually.. three miles of brisk walking-- I should control my portions more and say no to mayo and I might get to my goal faster.

  10. What the hell.. OH my gosh.. I meant... If I had to judge myself by what I ate, I am high maintenance (hits self on head)!

  11. Seriously.. the longer I live in Japan the worse my English gets... goodness

  12. Not having been one to get herbally high, I don't follow the whole SP - especially as all my friends and relatives who did like to consume des herbes, would opt for junk food and definitely nothing like the plate of food you describe.

    My daughter who is 3, likes what we call a rainbow plate - foods in almost all colours of the rainbow, cut up small, so we can layer a fork with tomato, carrot, cheese, cucumber, anc chicken and create rainbows for her stomach.

    I think that eating foods of many colours at each meal is what I'm after to remain healthy and get the greatest variety of nutrients.

    I have struggled with weight and have all sorts of food issues relating back to childhood, but the more I stick to the rainbow plate, the better I feel.

  13. This is a great post.
    I've always struggled with weight and had (have?) some food disorders
    Being a vegetarian I must take good care about what I eat or else the nutrients are off.

    I've a little thing for you in my blog.


  14. Colour and flavours are such a delight to the palette that they are more compelling than anything after a while.

  15. I like the idea of having a raw food plate, but I really like the idea of what/how you eat telling a lot about you. I am very spur of the moment/ random with food preparation. I just decide I want to use an ingredient and I make a meal out of it. Or I take a recipe and just add extra things as I go along. Not an organized effort at all, which is exactly how I am with everything else, so it definitely holds true for me. And I can think of several friends whose cooking/eating styles reflect their personalities.

  16. I love the idea of mindfully eating. I first read this concept when I was 19 in the Celestine Prophecy but have really yet to implement it.

    *I also love the "Stoner Plate" concept but being that I am herbally engaged at the moment, lol, I am a bit confused by it. ....and now I'm giggling ...but what else would you expect? lol

  17. I love the SP concept, although a healthy little plate of raw foods would be the absolute last thing I'd want if I were herbally engaged. More like a large pepperoni pizza with a chocolate cake chaser!
    I fear my current eating habits (unaided by herbs of any kind) are closer to Wendy B's: 80% sugar/chocolate, 15% coffee, 5% red wine. Help me!

  18. Let me start by saying thanks to everyone for offering up such great comments. I have a follow up post on this that will go up tomorrow, so pls. stay tuned.

    Tanya: Thank you for your wonderful compliments! And, as a person who's both met and enjoyed food with you, you are just perfect as you are. Of course, when you get back from 6 weeks with the trainer, I'll be bouncing quarters off your ass. :-)

    Sal: Hahahaha

    WendyB: I would expect nothing less of you.

    Hi Cybill: My next post may touch more on this for you, but if you'd like to have an even more fulsome discussion, feel free to email me and we can take it offline.

    Diana: Glad you liked the post. And I thought those sweet supplies were gorgeous. Great way to enjoy treats.

    Bel: Anglo bento. Much better than SP! And another friend called it a tapas plate. You see, we all have a version. Cannot wait to see your photo evidence. Thanks for making me think about this.

    Dave: Thank you so much. I so appreciate your comment.

    D.: I LOVE that pasta. I am so trying it, it's not funny. Thank you for the link.

    GJ: That's hilarious. Well, I'm sure that as your English worsens, your Japanese is gaining perfection!

    Imogen: Rainbow plate! Gorgeous name. Love the concept. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Seeker: Vegetarianism is a high-maintenance, but healthful, lifestyle. But the SP still works!

    Kate: I totally agree!

    Jill: Thanks for sharing. It seems you have an intuitive and creative spirit, as evidenced by your culinary style.

    Maegan: I hope you used that stone to good effect and made some delish plate of which you took a photo :-)

    Janet: Touche. I can totally see how the cake and pizza would be two of the predominant food groups on the plate. You know, there's something to be said for Wendy's style :-) Maybe my next post will be of interest...

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