Thursday, August 5, 2010

Instinct and a Mediterranean Pepper Salad

Photo from Wyoming Travel and Tourism

I watched a BBC documentary series about Yellowstone last night, or at least part of it until I became frumpy and tired and had to go to bed. It was the "winter" episode all about that six (!) month season of cold. And not just normal winter, but colder than I care to ever imagine. Recorded temperatures are around -40 degrees and I can't begin to fathom what the wind chill factor is. All I know, is that I don't think I'll be headed out to see the winter there in person. But I was fascinated to watch the show, and the animals that make it through year after year. 
The bison in the above picture are in a warm spot. They finally got too cold to survive in their normal area and have moved over to be by the geysers where the land is warmed by the molted lava heated water features. But all of that heat to warm them comes at a cost: toxic living conditions. The nearby grass and only meal is laced with enough arsenic to kill the bison over time and so much silica is wears down their teeth. But how do the bison know that? They don't have the facts. They just have instinct. Somewhere in their giant guts they have the feeling that "this isn't somewhere we can stay," "we can't keep eating this," and "this isn't a long-term mean of survival." Bison don't forget to listen to instinct; they stay until they can get their strength up and then go back to reality and survival in Yellowstone.
Bison aren't the smartest animals out there, but they know a good thing when it comes to them. These animals are so engrossed in listening to instinct that they push away from comfort and rest of the hot springs to return to what is best.
I've been stuck thinking about those bison for the last day now. I've thought about being envious of their connection to their instincts and complete dedication to follow through with it; but then I thought more about the weather they return to after their seemingly tropical vacation to the hot springs is over, and I was done being jealous. However jealous I may or may not be, I should learn something from these North America's largest herbivores: listen to your gut, and don't continue eating what can't sustain you.
I think we all have that feeling, but we justify it away or think we will get to it later. Deep down we know what is good for us and what isn't: a hearty meal home-prepared plant-based meal (yes) and a "healthy choice" in name only prepackaged delicacy (no). I know I have the feeling. I struggle with it when I travel and want to eat healthy but am at the mercy of a table and kitchen that are not my own.
When do you struggle with your instinct to eat better?
Is much as I love vacations and travel, a break from the ordinary- I listen to my gut and go back to better things and feel better again.

Here is one of those excellent summer meals that requires no "cooking" hurrah! Don't heat up the kitchen, just chop away. This is a great salad. Serve it right away or prepare it ahead of time and chill it in the fridge. I love it as a main course along side some flat bread and a bowl of fruit.

Mediterranean Pepper Salad
tweaked from Deb Perlman

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 a red onion, cut into a 1/2-inch dice (use less if your onion is huge)
3 bell peppers, your choice of colors
1-2 cucumbers, 1/2 inch dice
1/4-pound firm feta cheese
1/4 to 1/2 cup pitted kalmata olives and/or Spanish olives
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Swish together the red wine vinegar, water, kosher salt and sugar in a small bowl until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Add the red onion and set it aside.
Meanwhile, time to practice your knife skills. Core and seed your bell peppers and chop them into 1/2-inch pieces. Chop the cucumber and feta into similarly-sized chunks. Put your peppers, cucumber, feta and olives in a large bowl.
By now, your onions will have lightly pickled, both sweetening and softening their blow. Drain them and add them to the other vegetables in the large bowl, but reserve the vinegar mixture. Pour a quarter cup of the vinegar mixture over the salad, then drizzle with olive oil. Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper, or to taste. Toss evenly and serve at once, or let the flavors muddle together in the fridge for a few hours.

And a bonus: I added pretty pictures to the Carrot and Red Pepper Soup

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I feel this way about Diet Soda and Crystal Light. I used to have at least two glasses of Crystal light most days. I never really acquired the taste of Diet Soda, but Crystal Light is basically the same things without the fizz. Anyway, I was reading an article that said, " You *know* that they are going to prove that it is bad for you.", and I knew they were right. I now have a regular soda very occasionally- maybe twice a month, but I feel much better about that then having a daily habit of always drinking something sweet, and having to trick my brain with fake sugar.


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