I JUST sent a meme to a handful of my closest friends. It says: “Having energy is my favourite childhood memory.” We commiserate; in a culture that still worships the cult of productivity, needing rest almost invariably creates a sense of what’s wrong with me and how do I fix it.
Someone confesses they feel kind of guilty that they haven’t YET biohacked their way to ultimate wellness.
Same girl. Same.
A free-floating feeling of not-enoughness and the associated guilt is so ubiquitous that many of us scarcely notice it as part of the cultural soup we are swimming (drowning?) in.
A Netflix series about longevity, Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones, documents the commonality between the healthiest populations on earth to discover how we, too, can hold onto our vitality. One of my friends comments: “Can we never just be? Must we always work to change? Strive to be better?”
I can’t help but ponder how those of us who have been steeped in the dominant white western culture have been socialised to give up on wholeness in favour of goodness. We are so terribly freaking afraid of not being good. This dichotomous thought virus that exiles what is wrong and idolises what is pure has infiltrated every aspect of modern lives. We extract the good and discard the bad parts.
Never mind that what is deemed good or bad shifts with the tides of time; when you are drowning, you can’t see the rest of the ocean.
Take food. White flour and white sugar were symbols of the good life mere decades ago. I have some recent ancestors in my lineage who had an abiding disdain for crusts, pips or anything with too much roughage or texture in it. Even fruit is cultivated to have no pips and less fibrous texture.
Eating food that has been stripped of its wholeness and favouring foods that have been either highly processed or cultivated to accentuate only the most desired qualities such as colour, size or sweetness, are in my opinion the most devastating factors contributing to ill health in Western culture today.
We’ve separated the wheat from the chaff to the point where there is sufficient need for a Netflix documentary to “discover” that eating a wholefood diet rich in plant fibre is essential for health. Don’t get me wrong; I’m delighted that the humble legume is on trend as a result.
My social media feed is suddenly awash with bean-filled recipes. I’ve only been turned onto beans since I burnt out a couple of years ago. The trauma-informed nutritionist I worked with got me to include a couple tablespoons of beans with every meal. It’s been the most affordable and accessible health advice I’ve received. I threw away my expensive supplements and never looked back. In terms of return on investment, it’s up there with moving your body and hugs.
However, the last thing I want to do is add another feckless thing to your to-do list. Yet another message telling you to do more, be more, strive more. I, for one, am exceedingly tired of and quite frankly allergic to all of that. The notion that our earthly experience can be optimised to such an extent that you can “Live, Laugh, Love", your way through it makes me want to barf.
Wellness culture is just another religion requiring its followers to shed parts of themselves. Pitting youth against ageing, doing against rest, wellness against disease misses the point that we are cyclical beings living on a cyclical planet. It also means we exile parts of ourselves in our bid to be good. This is the cause of so much of the vague sense of guilt and unworthiness we carry.
If you give it oxygen, guilt saps your precious energy like nothing else. It’s internalised martyrdom. Please consider putting it down unceremoniously. It serves no purpose and only gets you to buy stuff you don’t really need and do stuff you don’t really want to. Give embracing wholeness a whirl instead, it’s the only remedy I know of.
Harissa black beans
Part of my strategy to include more beans is to cook a large batch of beans and freeze the cooked beans in glass jars which I can defrost overnight in the fridge. Of course you can just use tinned beans. These beans can be the star of the show, but mostly I like to serve them as a punchy little side dish with bits of roasted veg and braaied meat in lieu of other starches.
- sweet potatoes, for serving
- 2 cups cooked black beans (1 tin, drained)
- 2 cups good quality chicken broth
- 3 tbsp of Rose Harissa paste (chipotle chilli paste works equally well)
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and roast the sweet potatoes till tender — about 40 minutes.
2. Place the rest of the ingredients in a pot and simmer until the broth has reduced somewhat.
3. Serve the beans on the sweet potato with a good drizzle of olive oil. Add some chopped herbs, feta crumbs, fried tofu or mashed avocado spiked with lime juice.
Nigel’s leeks and beans – sort of
This recipe is inspired by but rather recklessly adapted from Nigel Slater. He is my original foodie hero, but cream and the making of a white sauce in the original recipe gave rise to my lazy spin. Nigel serves his on toast. I particularly enjoy pairing it with roasted chicken. Instead of cream or stock, you can also experiment with a splash of plant milk or yoghurt or simply use the liquid from the beans.
- 500 g leeks
- 1 whole bulb of garlic
- 4 tbsp olive oil or butter
- 2 tbsp white miso paste
- generous handful parmesan cheese
- generous handful oregano leaves
- ground black pepper
- 1 tin white beans, drained
- ½ cup good quality chicken broth or cream
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. Trim and wash the leeks. Cut into thick coins. Arrange in a shallow, snug baking dish. Break the garlic cloves apart and place on top of the leeks. Drizzle with the oil.
3. Cover tightly with two layers of foil and place in the oven for 20 minutes.
4. Squeeze the garlic — which should be soft like butter — from its papery casings into a bowl and mash it with the miso paste, parmesan and oregano. Season to taste with lots of black pepper. Scrape the mix back into the dish with the leeks.
5. Add the beans and just enough stock or cream to give the dish the consistency you prefer. The mashed garlic and miso gives it enough of a creamy texture for my taste buds.
6. Return to the oven for 5 minutes until hot and bubbly. Serve it like Nigel on thick, charred toast. Or with roasted chicken or pork sausages. Or like me as part of a bowl with other bits like an arugula or kale salad and some roasted veg.
♦ VWB ♦
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