Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ladureé in Osaka, a sweet spot for sharing

Rose, pistachio and Venezuelan dark chocolate macaroons.
In the background, a delicious rose and raspberry cake.   

Ok, soooo you might be looking at the brightly colored sweet treats in the photo right now as you quizzically wonder in befuddlement how this figures into healthy eating.  Judge me if you will, but right now, me eating healthy encompasses quality food which bring me joy and pleasure. Food nourishes us and also makes us happy. The last couple of months have been a wonderful reminder of the joy of eating! Having gotten that out of the way, now to Ladureé, where my friend Deva and I had our last get together in Osaka. 

Within: ooh la la, very French.
Tea room Ladureé has been making macaroons in Paris since 1862, Deva told me when she spotted the sweet shop when she first arrived in Osaka. So, I trust them in this department. And before her flight back to Hong Kong, we navigated our way to their branch at the Isetan Department Store in Osaka City Station, Umeda. From the sweet-tooth-tempting facade you would not know that the tea house within is a stylish striped tent, dressed to the nines: chandeliers, European furniture, delicate roses cut short and delicately blooming in clear vases on each table where the buzz of the weekend shopping outside seemed to just fade away. 

Deva about to peruse the menu.
Nourishment comes in all different shapes, forms, sizes, ingredients and sweet content. There are millions of ways to nourish our bodies, there is food for all the senses. Two Sundays ago, that wholesome treat came in the form of tea, cake, macaroons--and for, Deva, champagne. All of which were refined, subtle, flavorful, much like the company of my friend with whom I enjoyed one last live conversation--for the meantime, anyway. 

Rose was the theme of the afternoon, a symbol for gratitude. The rose macaroons were unlike any macaroon I've tasted. And the rose cake was totally sublime. Most of all, I feel so grateful for the friend who reminded me to embrace the pleasure of nourishing oneself, that we all deserve treats and that if we must live in the world, we should also enjoy it. Thanks, Deva!

Eating “healthy” is about intuition + Tuscan Kale Chopped Salad by Deva Mecredy

Deva Mecredy shares her take on intuitive eating and, bonus for us, tuscan kale salad.

"Let yourself be the constantly evolving science experiment of what makes you feel alive, energetic, happy and healthy. Test, try, discard, delve deeper into what suits you in the moment." 

When asked about health and wellness, I think about what is the single most important tool that helps everyone live healthier and happier: intuition. Life and living well is so much more than just what we put in our bodies. It is also our attitude and approach that counts. In order to tune into what works for us as individuals, we have to begin to develop the intuition to hear what we NEED. Do you ever take a pause in your day, breathe in and ask yourself  “what do I need right now?” Do you allow the external influences, which inundate us constantly, to take a back seat and let what YOU have to say come to the forefront of your mind?

There are endless options out there these days when it comes to how we eat. We can choose to be vegan, vegetarian, raw, paleo, primal, fruitarian; eat according to our blood type, count calories, count macros; be sugar-free, lactose-free, gluten-free, grain-free etc… We are overwhelmed with as many diets, fads, regimes, beliefs, books, “experts”, instagram posts, facebook shares as there are iphones being purchased, telling us the answer of how we experience better health.  How many times has someone sworn that they have the answer to helping you lose weight, feel energetic, get healthy and enrich your soul?

So, how do we wade through the smorgasbord of information to decide how to best nourish ourselves? Having been through varying levels of health including a chronic immune illness, I have supported myself with different food choices throughout my life. I have been vegan, raw vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, gluten-free, sugar-free, sampled red meat when I had an iron deficiency, given up fats, introduced more fats (only the good kind), eaten copious amounts of protein with each meal, detoxed solely on vegetable juice, eaten according to ayurvedic principles, eaten anything I wanted whenever I wanted and even survived on coconuts for 3 days. My life has been full and varied. And, so has what my body has needed at different times in my life. Having chosen months of voluntary detox/cleansing when I was ill, attended a raw vegan culinary academy to better educate myself about plant-based nutrition and also regularly indulged in holidays in Europe based on my love of cheese and wine, I have come to realise health is an evolving concept. What works for you at one point in your life may not serve you later on.  What your body needs right now will be different to what it used to need and what it will need in the future.

That is not to say that we shouldn’t aim to eat in a way that best serves our bodies and minds. It depends on where we are are now and where we want to be that dictates our choices in regards to food.

Our bio individuality needs to be recognized when it comes to what we put in our bodies. Do you go to a tailor and ask them to make you a suit the exact same size as what you saw your friend wearing? No, you let the tailor take your measurements for something that is created exactly to fit your shape, size and height. Our food should be the same. Just because your friend found nirvana on a yoga mat while on a fast, another friend swears an animal product-free diet will cure your ailments or someone else tries to convince you eating meat with every single meal with no carbohydrates of any kind will help you drop 10 kilograms, it doesn’t mean that will work for you and where you are right now. Each person is unique - Experiment! Let yourself be the constantly evolving science experiment of what makes you feel alive, energetic, happy and healthy. Test, try, discard, delve deeper into what suits you in the moment.

If you feel overwhelmed with where to begin or what to try, I believe there is one principle that works for everyone at any time. Whole foods are the best foods. Food is meant to be grown, raised, fed, watered, sourced in/from nature, not in a lab with added chemical ingredients we can’t pronounce let alone digest easily. Food should be natural, in its whole state. As unprocessed as possible is a good rule of thumb.

When you go to the supermarket, read the label and look for items that ONLY have REAL foods that you recognise. Head to the fruit and vegetable section. Imagine what you would like to make, such as guacamole. Purchase avocado, lime, onions, tomatoes and cilantro (you should have olive oil and sea salt at home). Food doesn’t need a thousand ingredients. Keeping it simple actually works! You may have to read the labels of three jars of pickles to find the one that does not contain additives. That is worth the 60 seconds it will take you. In order to develop intuition about how your body reacts to what you eat, you need to know what goes in your food. The best way to start is in your own kitchen.

This is the simple first steps of being in tune with food  to connect with how it makes you feel. The more natural, the more it serves you. Does it energise you? Does it make you feel positive and alive? Does it help you live your life?

So, start your day with a green vegetable juice, find a local farmer’s market, sit and luxuriate over a glass of wine, play your music REALLY loud as you begin to use your kitchen again, sit in silence, take time out, love your friends: DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU! Follow the intuitive voice that leads you to live your life well! And if in doubt… have some kale!

Tuscan Kale Chopped Salad
Serves 4
¼ spring onion, finely sliced
 1/8 cup lemon juice
1/8 cup orange juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp orange zest
½ cup freshly parmesan cheese, micro planed
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 slices whole grain or sourdough bread, torn into bite-size chunks
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ clove garlic, minced
Pinch of sea salt
1 bunch lacinato Green Vitamin kale
1 granny smith apple
1 cup of cooked chickpeas
1 cup haricot verts, blanched
1/3 cup dried cranberries
½ cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

Combine lemon juice, orange juice, lemon zest, orange zest and olive oil in a high-speed blender. Blend until smooth. Add Parmesan, spring onion, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Set aside.

Toss bread with olive oil, garlic and sea salt. Place under the grill for 5-7 minutes until bread is crispy on one side. Turn over and grill until outside of bread is crispy on both sides. Take caution, not to burn the bread.

De-stem the kale by tearing the leaves off the large middle stem into pieces. Place kale in a large salad bowl. Add half the dressing to the kale and massage with hands until kale starts to soften. Cut apple in half, core and slice apple into thin wedges, add to kale. Add chickpeas, haricot verts, cranberries and pecans.  Add remaining dressing, one tablespoon at a time, and toss to combine. Serve.

Deva Mecredy is a certified raw food chef, authorized Ashtanga Yoga Teacher and whole foods advocate. She is founder of DPM Asia Limited, a health and Wellness Company and Co-Founder of Crabtree & Mecredy Consulting, a US/HK based culinary and spirits firm.

Foodie Friend Deva Mecredy & Intuitive Eating

My dear friend Deva treating me to a fine buddhist
monk's meal in Mount Koya.
I have the same amount of trays on my side of the room. 

I've been incredibly blessed over the last summer and now fall, my path littered with kitchen devis (goddesses) nourishing me with food and their soothing company.

Recently, my friend, Deva Mecredy, raw food chef and food consultant, came to visit me here in Osaka. She came with a extraordinarily plump yoga mat bag that was stuffed with superfood powders like macca, raw cacao, chia, cacao nibs, a portable blender and a healthy love for food.

I met Deva in India nearly three years ago, where she introduced me to my now favorite Indian breakfast hole-in-the-wall, Sri Durga Bhavan in Mysore. Over breakfast we would share our unravelling through the deep ashtanga practice. I also visited her in her home in Hong Kong two summers ago, arriving from New York half-dead from jet lag and half-hearted from a breakup. This young lady with an old soul nursed me back to emotional health with home prepared raw food, the best vegetarian dim sum in Hong Kong and of course the most nourishing sustenance: love and friendship.

When Deva's involved you know there's going to be some good eating. This is inevitable. Once she was settled in, she was scouring the blogosphere for best sushi places in Osaka.

Here we were together again. Hell bent on nourishing our friendship and each other over loving treats: sushi, salads, some home cooking by Deva, super food smoothies and the more than occasional sinful custard creme filled pastry that is so popular hereabouts.

Now, I've been strict with myself about diet over the last couple of years, really focusing on wholesome food. But my food odyssey took a turn at the end of July, when I arrived in Barcelona. And since then I've been in the "Eat" portion of my "Eat Pray Love" journey. I've decided to indulge certain loves, of grain, good grain if it's available; chocolate; beer on Fridays. Being in Japan has also inspired a pause in my vegetarianism to allow for the myriad of fish products that are in most dishes. One can avoid meat, no problem. Fish and seafood is a lot tricker in Japan.

But more importantly, Japanese food is renowned the world over. And it would be criminal of me (I being my own victim) to miss out on the opportunity to eat amazing and quite healthy quality Japanese food in Japan--not to mention the opportunity to be with people in a new place, food always being a great vehicle for meetings and celebrations.

And with Deva I had an accomplice. At Osaka, we had a pretty good setting. Osaka is "the" food capital of Japan. They even have a word for the kind of eating they do here: "kuidaore," which literally means eat till you drop. We didn't go to such extreme lengths, Deva and I. But there was definitely sushi, fine dining, the most delicate Parisian macaroons, and to simply get it out of the way, fast food fries coupled with chocolate ice-cream sundae--hey that's what felt right for at the time, it was an emotional response we both agreed, but certainly were more aware of it thanks to us answering the call. What's great about eating with Deva is there is no restriction. The key idea was to eat when we were hungry, to answer the cravings, and to nourish ourselves.

This is Deva's debut article online. I feel like a proud mama! Eating intuitively, I love it!