Comfort eating is something I’ve done all my life, and so has everyone else in my family. As I continue to learn about nutrition, I have come to make a connection between feeling down and the food I’ve been eating. Cheering myself up often involves paying attention to receiving the right nutrients, and investing a little more thought into ensuring I have all bases covered. Boredom, stringy hair, brittle nails, low energy and depression can often be put down to a lack of nutrients, often B vitamins, minerals, essential fats and saturated fat. The more nutritious the food I eat, the less I need to eat in terms of quantity, and this is especially true when I eat a huge variety of raw foods, plant foods, tryptophans, and fat, all of which Thai people eat in abundance. Eating actual food stops me craving the artificial stuff, and nothing inspires me more when feeling a bit low, than feasting on some delicious morsel. Perhaps stress has stopped me from absorbing properly, or maybe I need to introduce more variety into my diet. What I’ve seen is, having lived in NZ, the UK, and Thailand, the same habits can have vastly different results if you do not live in a food centred culture.
What do I mean by this?
Stimulated by textures and colours, strolling down a typical Thai street and stopping for the occasional purchase, I am surrounded by an endless variety of ready to eat treats – sweet, savoury, raw, cooked, fishy, meaty, fresh, crispy, baked, steamed…ready to just pop into my mouth, until I get bored of that flavour and try another. If I notice how often I just happen to ‘pop’ something into my mouth at home in Thailand, just because it’s there, it is more often than I do here in the UK, because there is more home cooked and ready to eat food just lying around, and the variety (and therefore the range of nutrients) is endless. I never need to delay eating because I can’t find the right thing, or eat the wrong thing and feel awful.
Back in the UK, I could just cry as I walk down the streets in some kind of refined carbs nightmare. As for the so-called low fat ‘healthy’ snacks that have misled people for decades, nothing makes me want to cry and throw a low-bloodsugar-girl-tantie more than the suggestion of eating a muesli bar when I am hungry and in need of real sustenance (be warned, I may hit you if you suggest I eat this). Now, if I was one of those brats in the Famous Five, I would rock up to the nearest farmhouse and demand some freshly baked bread, a wedge of cheddar, cold roast chicken, hard boiled eggs and down it with lashings of Aunt Fanny’s ginger beer. But alas, we don’t all live in Dorset.
I take a look around at the nutrients available to me in our humble Thai kitchen, and without opening the fridge (the sheer amount of food in there is too great to list) I see before me – wait for it –
a stack of young coconuts ready to drink and scoop out the flesh,a pile of about five large som-oh (pomelos) – one of my favourite fruits (see the piccie below), bunches of bananas, (some from our tree, some bought), ripe and unripe mangoes in the fruit bowl (both kinds can be eaten), a bag of makaam – tamarind fruit ready to chew on and spit out the stones (this always makes me feel closer to my grandmother who also loved tamarind, so full of nutrients it is thought of as medicinal), crispy fried fish, clear soup and vegetables left over from lunch, various cookies and sweet things in packets, and a saucepan containing grouai bua shee, bananas cooked in coconut milk. We also regularly keep a stash of kaotom mut (sticky rice and banana with beans, wrapped and steamed in banana leaves) for anyone to grab when they are feeling peckish. So again, what do I mean by a food centred culture? I remember a postman delivering some mail to our Bangkok home in the suburbs, and Ba Dang asking him if he’d eaten and if he wanted some lunch. He politely declined, but this thoughtful exchange provoked all kinds of questions in me.
Back in NZ and staying with Mum, there’s so much delicious food available to me at all times, and because we eat a whole foods diet, I know that it’s all real and giving me everything I need. That’s why I’m posting recipes using organic whole foods rather than a lot of the artificial and refined stuff that is sometimes associated with Thai food, and treats in general. This is how my family eats and I want to show it can be done!