Moderation

by Jeanne on August 14, 2012

I’ve been thinking about Julia Child this week. As you may know, what would have been her 100th birthday is tomorrow, August 15th. As most folks know, Julia was an enthusiastic cook and baker—and her specialty was French cuisine. French cuisine is rich and full of fat and sugar and alcohol and all of the things that taste delicious but that aren’t that good for you in large amounts. When asked about this, she replied with an oft-quoted remark that is one of my favorites. She said: “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

To me this meant that she indulged her passion for French food without going overboard. She didn’t gorge on any of it at any one time, but she allowed herself to enjoy each thing to the fullest. As was quoted in a recent article about her, “She reiterated again and again that the best way to good health is ‘small helpings, no seconds, a little bit of everything, no snacking. And have a good time.’” This explains the caveat at the end of her first quote, “including moderation.”   She wasn’t obsessive about her moderation. She just took a commonsense approach to food and eating.

As a baker and baking cookbook writer, I often get questions about the health factor (or lack thereof) of my recipes. People always seem to assume that our house is covered in baked items (kind of like the Hansel and Gretel house) and that Girlfriend, dAhub, and I are stuffing our faces full of cookies and cakes and pastries all day and night.

The reality is, we aren’t. Sweets are just one small part of the spectrum of food we eat. We try to eat a fairly healthy diet. We tend to eat almost exclusively organic food and we try to eat humanely raised poultry, fish, and small farm meats, while emphasizing fruits and vegetables. But, we don’t count calories. We just strive to eat a balanced diet and listen to our bodies. Occasionally, we crave things that aren’t that healthy—and we indulge those cravings in small amounts. We rarely have dessert, but when we do, we go for it. None of us overdoes it and eats half a cake, but we each enjoy a piece of cake fully and with abandon.

That said, baking—the process–is my passion. For me, baking is health food for the soul. I have to do it to maintain a healthy spirit. Baking is a creative process for me. I can lose myself in my baking time. I bake when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m bored, when I need a break, or when I need to de-stress. In addition, recipe development allows me to exercise my intellectual and adventurous side. I love to figure out how to do things. Over the years, I have found that I am very much a process person. I love to engage in the process and then quickly lose interest in the product. (It’s the same for me and knitting.) Therefore, while I love to eat baked items, the ingestion of them is often less interesting to me than the creation of them.

Don’t get me wrong: I love to eat homemade cookies and cakes and pastries just as much as the next person. And I love to share the results of my passion. I love to bake for friends and family and to see them enjoy the products of my work. It gives me great joy to share my passion. But, we try to include these things as small parts in a larger food picture for our family. And, I try to save the big things—a “pull out the stops” birthday cake, for example—for special times so that they don’t lose their specialness.

Now, I’m not speaking for or against anyone else’s approach to food.  I just wanted to share my and my family’s approach. And to say thank you to Julia for sharing her commonsense approach to her passion for food. Thank you, Julia!

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

suzanne November 5, 2012 at 3:58 pm

We loved the pumpkin bread as well as all the other recipes we have tried of yours. I omit the xantham gum from all recipes sometimes adding extra egg whites for yeasted breads or cream of tarter or flax seed but usually nothing extra is required. Thank you so much for sharing. Also your pancake recipe is another favorite.

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admin November 5, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Suzanne: Yay! I’m so glad my recipes have been helpful! Happy baking!

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Allison August 15, 2012 at 11:21 am

You just made my day! Thank you… you are such a source of encouragement!! ….
and Happy Birthday to Julia!

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AmandaonMaui August 15, 2012 at 10:20 am

I think you’re hitting the nail on the head with this post. There have been so many bloggers dealing with people criticizing them for unhealthful eating, when they aren’t looking at the whole picture of the person’s life. Surely they should share recipes for treats like cakes, cookies, and pies because those are the foods people who are new to gluten free eating need to see. In seeing that those recipes exist, and that they look and taste good, there is less fear in removing gluten from the diet. Those are the foods people often say that they couldn’t live without, and bloggers show that they don’t have to.

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Donna T August 15, 2012 at 5:44 am

I understand the conflict in loving to bake but not wanting to ingest much sugar. I gain weight immediately if I eat a lot of desserts. Therefore, I bake for my adult kids when they visit and freeze the rest. For impromptu visitors I defrost something and occasionally have a treat myself with a cup of tea. It is definitely the process of baking that I enjoy the most. Moderation is my mantra.

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admin August 15, 2012 at 10:15 am

Donna: Yay for the process!

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