Eat healthfully, exercise regularly, live life to the fullest. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Hopefully, most of you have been doing that all year long, but I know how those resolutions can get away from you. I spent the past year going out to dinner far too much, slacking off on my once consistent exercise routine and spent too much time binge-watching TV shows. It’s not surprising, really.
Going out to dinner is fun. I had too much work to do and didn’t keep up with my YMCA membership. I vegged out in front of my iPad screen watching “The Haunting of Hill House” and “Vanity Fair” to escape my stress. It happens.
I’m still going to make some resolutions this year, however. This time, they’ll be much more specific and, unsurprisingly, many are about food.
Some of them come from necessity, too. My husband JimmyChiv and I recently bought a small house in San Ignacio, Belize and since I’ll be spending more time there periodically, I’ve had to adjust my old habits anyway.
We do have fiber-optic internet in our tiny 450-square-foot cinder block house so I can do all the work I need to and binge watch at will or watch the “Gilligan’s Island” episodes JimmyChiv subjects me to, although, in Belize, I just don’t seem to use my time that way. I’d miss the sound of flocks of parrots flying overhead. Live life to the fullest, indeed.
My New Year’s resolutions that might relate to you in some way, too, are:
Eat more meatless dishes and vegan food.
My step-mom cooked my daughter Avalon and I vegan dishes when we came to my Dad’s house for the Christmas holiday. She’s been reading that a diet protocol involving vegan food helps with Altzeimer’s and had them on a primarily vegan diet. The dishes she made were absolutely delicious, many from recipes in Derek and Chad Sarno’s “Wicked Healthy Cookbook.” She made a spreadable cheese from cashews with layers of fresh herbs that was so tasty and the spring rolls with shiitake mushrooms from the book, too. I noticed that Derek, who used to live on the Seacoast, is helping spread the word about veganism further by joining up with a January vegan challenge, Veganuary. Pledge to eat vegan this month and join the crowd not just for your health, but for the environment.
Veganuary infor can be found at www.veganuary.com. Find the Wicked Healthy cookbook at your local bookstore or online etailer.
Grow some herbs.
I buy a lot of herbs to enliven my dishes, so I really should be growing them. I started a small indoor herb garden in Austin, but, of course, in the tropics, we get to have a raised bed full of whatever I like. My go-to herbs are tarragon, basil, dill, oregano and mint. I use the mint in my mojitos. There are a lot of limes here and plenty of rum.
Get rid of appliances.
When you move from one home to another and the new place is very small, certain appliances have to go. We brought the Instant Pot and now that we finally have the kitchen wired for electricity, it can be in the actual kitchen instead of the living room (which is really now just a place for tools and such). We did not bring the big popcorn maker or the sous vide machine or the microwave oven. We left behind the spiralizer and the Cuisinart. We no longer have a blender. I don’t really miss any of them. Simplification is key, but I could really use a big pot in which to cook my pasta.
Cook from ‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat.’
I gave away three copies of “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” by Samin Nosrat at Christmas and as an afterthought got one for myself in the airport. I’m looking forward to reading it from beginning to end as Samin recommends. I know I’ll find science and techniques I didn’t know before and be able to apply it to my home cooking. It’s a spectacular book and so nicely designed, I know you’ll all want one, too. Or, binge-watch her show on Netflix. Do both, really.
Learn a new cuisine.
This one is easy. Living in another country part-time will force me to learn what Belizean food is and how to make it. It’s not Mexican food, that’s for sure, but there are some similarities. Still, there are influences from Maya traditions, Caribbean, West African, Mexican and even Chinese, thanks to a recent influx of Mandarin Chinese to the country. We eat plenty of rice and beans, but I also like the jerk stews with chicken and pork and fry jack as well as Cow Foot soup. There’s a man who comes through the neighborhood on his bike selling tamales, too. There are restaurants here and I’m getting plenty of ideas from them.
Learn to make traditional foods from scratch.
Belize grows cacao and while our place is a little north of the prime cacao region, there is still traditional chocolate-making going on. I’ll get to see and experience some of that thanks to the Enna Chocolate trip I’m going on in late February which has us spending a week in Southern Belize learning all about cacao with Exeter’s Enna Grazier. I’d also like to learn a bit of it from the locals, here, too. We have a cacao tree growing in the backyard, but it’ll be years before we see any pods on that.
Right down the road from us is a little hut where Maya women make corn tortillas every day on a traditional comal over a wood-fired oven. That would be great to learn, too, although JimmyChiv already has that down pat.
This new year is all about making sure we live our best lives. We’re simplifying, not spending a ton of money, sitting outside to spy some bird we haven’t seen before and smell the jasmine growing by the house. We’re climbing the steps of ancient ruins and sipping Belikan beer at a local spot where friends stop in to share an hour. I’ll travel frequently back to the United States for work and to check in on my daughter and there, as in Belize, 2019 is all about Slow Food, a slower pace and living life to the fullest.
Happy New Year, everyone!
Rachel Forrest is a former restaurant owner and reviewer who lives in Austin, Texas and Belize. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.