travel

Your diet doesn't have to be Perfect all the time.

Your diet doesn't have to be Perfect all the time.

It's not easy sticking to my self care rituals and routines when traveling.

But that's what vacation is about, right?

When I was super rigid in my vegan days, I didn't enjoy Paris, Barcelona and London the way I would now. Granted, those cities did cater to vegans, surprisingly, I just had to seek it out / do more planning.

Health: What and Where to Eat 'When in Rome' {Azores}

4 Platanos
4 Platanos

If you haven't had a chance to check out last week's post, you can read about the highlights of my trip to the Azores. If you did read it, you'll know that one of my favorite things about the trip was the food! Duh!

The post written prior to heading to the Azores talked about my newfound place of eating without fear, and how I can now enjoy celebrating food and nourishing my body with an ebb and flow. It's such a liberating place to be, and so you can only imagine just how much fun I had with my new mantra, 'when in Rome'!

The Azores consist of 9 islands off the coast of Portugal. They are known for their agriculture, dairy farming, livestock ranching and fishing, so you can bet that their food is as fresh and yummy as it comes!

I have slowly made my transition back into animal products after being a strict vegan, macrobiotic dieter, easing into fish, eggs, then chicken, meat, and being okay with the occasional sugar and flour products, but dairy was always my biggest place of resistance. I just couldn't bring myself to eat cheese or butter, until very recently. Once I realized a little bit of this and a little bit of that wouldn't hurt me, I softened to the idea of eating dairy again. All in moderation, only from a good source, and of the highest quality! ;)

4 Platanos
4 Platanos

Well, Azorean cheese and butter is probably the best of the best!!! I ate 'fresh cheese' (a soft blend of cow and goat) with homemade bread at every meal we sat down to, and felt great!

queijadas de leite
queijadas de leite

I indulged in sweet pastry treats (quiejadas de leite) that I stumbled upon in every cafe! They include 5 fresh, quality ingredients of flour, eggs, butter, sugar, milk. Nothing processed. So yummy and made with love!

The fish stew from Ondos Do Mar is AMAZING! Straight off the boat daily! Super nourishing and satisfying, made with potatoes and herbs. It doesn't get much better than that!

We had the BEST steak ever one night when our new friends brought us to the local fave spot of Galego in Ponta Delgada! They serve it with a fried egg on top and pimento pepper slices and roasted garlic. Mmmm! They also serve it with hand sliced french fries ~ not fried in nasty oils!

rice pudding
rice pudding

The sweet rice pudding  we found in a mom and pops place is a local favorite in Furnas and was to die for! It's made out of milk, butter, sugar, rice, cinnamon and lemon. The chocolate mousse that we found on many dessert menus was also unbelievable! OMG! Made out of sugar, eggs, dark chocolate and butter. I mean...

caldeiras
caldeiras

The special thing about the area of Furnas, is that they are known for their natural hot springs (caldeiras). The restaurants cook their food in the ground in the caldeiras for about 8 hours. Basically like a clambake, but deep in the ground they throw in all sorts of meats and vegetables. It has a semi-sulfuric taste, but worth a try and definitely a local tradition!

There is nothing quite like the homemade bread from this island! The best part is that it's still made fresh daily and delivered to people's homes and hung on their door knobs every morning! I wouldn't be surprised if they still have a milkman making deliveries too! Such sweet european traditions still intact!

The wine is also absolutely perfect! Unfortunately, you can't find Portuguese wine here in the States, so it was such a treat to drink some of the best wine I've ever had! They love their wine and they drink it just as many europeans do ~ on their lunch breaks, and throughout their leisure days spent in good company with good food! I just love how they celebrate life everyday!!!!

We went to a couple tea factories where we sampled some of the best tea I've ever had! No additives, just pure tea leafs that taste so smooth ~ never bitter! The Azores are the home of Europe's oldest tea estate.

limpeds
limpeds
IMG_7381
IMG_7381

Our favorite dining experience was at Silva's Restaurant in Ribeira Grande where we ate limepds (shellfish-barnacles) sauteed grouper, fried mackeral and lots of bread, cheese, wine and puddings! We sat there for the entire lunch rush and had the best time people watching and seeing how everyone comes together to eat platters of fish and vegetables and drinks bottles of wine before heading back to their day. It's amazing.

chicken wings
chicken wings
IMG_7377
IMG_7377

I should probably mention just how breathtaking the view was at 4 Platanos! We sat there for a couple hours just hanging out drinking wine, eating bread and cheese, and the best chicken wings EVER!

caldos verde
caldos verde

I also made sure to eat their traditional portuguese soup (Caldo Verde) made of chorizo, kale, and potato at a local cafe. It was surprisingly really good!!!

So, when visiting the Azores, be sure to eat what they are known for ~ dairy, livestock, bananas, potatoes, fish galore and sweet treats! I know I did! For more inspiration on cultural cuisines, check out this post.

It really is all about FOOD

I'm the first one to say that I wish this weren't the case. I've been struggling pretty much my whole life to try and detach myself from food. I had always been one to try the latest and greatest diet, initially wanting to lose weight, and then priding myself on the control I had over my body. After all, I am the master of serious will power and discipline! My accomplishments in following the rules always gave me the added motivation to stick with my rigid ways. I am now aware of the danger zone of attachment, through my spiritual practice.

It is so important that we ebb and flow with the tides of the day. If we are too rigid, we will snap. We need to learn to bend a little, but stay anchored as if we were the roots of a tree.

The beauty in life is that with each moment, we are granted an opportunity to change. The only constant we have in this life, is change. Challenges are our biggest blessings. If you feel resistant or doubtful in a situation, here's your cue to welcome the opportunity to shift your perspective.

Ask yourself, what is it that you need to learn here?

My diet and lifestyle is a full time job. I thrive off the mastery of it, but when it's not on my terms, I get a little rattled. Here is my opportunity to learn to bend, and re-assess my lifestyle choices.

This encounter came about while I was away on vacation. I am so grateful for the window of truth in understanding why and how I choose to live my life--it's all about the choices we make. We all shape our lives subconsciously and with the gift of free will.

Why is it then, that I choose to live such an extremely structured lifestyle?

For me, I operate systematically. I take each step and I master it, feeling my way through, as I get closer to my realization. I envy those who can see the big picture first, and execute accordingly. This is not the unique make up that is me, however. I feel blessed that I am strong enough to assimilate as I go, so that when I do reach that awakening, I can make sense of my chartered path in a more peaceful capacity.

While on vacation, I started questioning my eating habits. Making the choices to eat a certain way, will always draw attention to yourself. I strongly value my health, and always have, so I feel very confident when asked about my dietary restrictions. I choose to eat a diet that primarily consists of whole grains, vegetables, beans, white fish, limited fruits, nuts, seeds, and oils. I feel strongly about not consuming dairy or sugar. I don't eat meat, but am not as opposed to that, as I am dairy.

That being said, the reasons I choose to embrace this lifestyle are based on what I know to be the foundation of vibrant health.

To stay healthy, we must be alkaline and have a strong digestive tract. Those two essential building blocks will keep our bodies happy. Sugar, dairy, and meat contribute to an acidic environment, and are known to cause an extreme energy within our chakra/channel/chi (energy). By eating a diet consisting of the above mentioned, I am aligning myself with a more balanced overall affect on my body. But why should I have to go around telling people this long winded answer as to why I do, or don't eat something?

While traveling, I was not in control of my daily food intake. I did not have access to my well stocked kitchen, nor did I know where the best restaurants were to cater to my needs. And forget about the fact that I don't speak french, to be able to ask whether something can be made without dairy or not, in a Parisian restaurant!

This opened up a whole new sense of doubt that rattled my firm beliefs and values.

So I am left with this: food is the essence of life. We can't survive without it, right? But I couldn't help but start to relate to all the different cultures in this world. We are all ONE, just rooted in different locations. Our unique selves are a sum of all our surroundings.

Food contributes to that expression of living. What are we without food?

Cultures and cuisines go hand in hand. It is not a coincidence that the English eat lots of roasts and pies--it's freezing there! They need comfort food. The French love their wine, cheese, crepes and pastries. The middle east and parts of Africa take on the Indian aromatic spice dishes. We, New Englanders, love our seafood.

The trendy new "farm to table" concept is a wonderful way to keep us grounded in the basics of life itself--to use our natural resources that are local and sustainable.

Traveling offers us a new perspective on life, and usually revolves around food. I'm sure you'd agree that your vacations usually are jam packed with eating, right?

So stop trying to think we can escape the hold that food has over us. It's our primal connection to the world, to the earth, to life itself. Embrace the gift of food. Connect with the source--the harvest, the hands that touched your food, and the life force within it.

The awareness that I'm bringing to my newfound appreciation for being okay with the fact that I love food, and think about it all the time, is to offer myself some wiggle room.

Pick and choose where you'll allow yourself to gain a deeper connection to food.

Take a look at your surroundings and decide how it can enhance your experience. I didn't have cheese in France. But that's okay, because that wouldn't have brought me happiness.

I did, however, have wine the other night, which I haven't had in 6 months. But you know what, it was the right time and space for that experience. I savored the art and creation of that bottle! It may not have aligned with my health values, but I honor and acknowledge that there is another element to the circle of life through culture and cuisine, and the gift of our abundant surroundings.

I am open and receiving of new experiences to bend in the wind and not stay too rigid.

I hope this invites an opportunity for you to see how you can evolve, when you allow for a little wiggle room.

In health and happiness,

Kate