How do you choose which recipes to make?
I aim for simplicity.
I like a recipe that has just a few ingredients and just a few preparation steps, so that the flavors of the whole foods shine through (and so that I have time to read a book in the bath tub after cooking). I have no hard-and-fast rule for what constitutes too many ingredients or too many steps; I know it when I see it, and I stop reading.
I also stop reading a recipe when I see too much added sugar or oil that I don’t think I can substitute away. For example, I’ll stop reading at “one cup of sugar.” But I might continue through “half a cup of oil” because I might be able to substitute unsweetened applesauce.
Are you a vegan?
No. Although “plant-based, whole-foods diet” is code for “vegan” in a lot of circles, I am not a vegan or a vegetarian.
I strive to put vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds at the center of my diet, just as a healthy vegan or vegetarian would. But then I aim to eat grains, dairy, eggs, fish, and meat in moderation relative to plant-based, whole foods. As a result, many of the foods (especially side dishes and snacks) that I prepare are vegan or vegetarian.
I do not prepare vegan or vegetarian dishes that contain "meat substitutes" or large amounts of sugar, salt, oil, or white flour. I strongly prefer vegan and vegetarian dishes that are naturally vegan or vegetarian (featuring plant-based, whole foods), rather than artifically meatless versions of foods that are inherently meat-based.
Do you eat non-local food?
Absolutely, yes. I consider myself a citizen of the world, and I like to eat all the wonderful foods that our planet has to offer. I like tea, coffee, chocolate, and oranges as much as anybody, but I live in Maryland and those things just don’t grow here in any season.
Just as I strive to put plant-based, whole foods at the center of my diet so that grains, dairy, eggs, fish, and meat are at the periphery, I strive to put local foods at the center of my diet, with non-local foods at the periphery.
Are you perfect?
Of course not. I aim to eat fresh, local, seasonal, sustainable produce and a plant-based, whole-foods diet about 90 percent of the time.
I have a long-standing rule that I will always accept the hospitality of others. So, if I go to someone’s home and that person has lovingly baked me a cake using a heavily-processed, sugar-fat-and-chemical-laden, boxed mix, I will gratefully accept a slice and will enjoy it. Similarly, I allow my kids to have candy, cookies, cupcakes, and other treats when given to them by others.
I also eat frequently at restaurants, where it’s very difficult to know where the food came from or how it was prepared, other than to assume it was covered with butter, salt, etc. I try to choose wisely, but then I relax and enjoy.
Food is good and life is short. I am not perfect, nor do I try to be.