“It is better to rise from life as from a banquet - neither thirsty nor drunken.” – Aristotle
One of the most concerning and recurring items in the news nowadays is the epidemic of obesity and obesity-related diseases that plague the Western, industrialised nations. One of the most worrying aspects of it is that younger and younger children are becoming obese and affected with an alarmingly high incidence of diseases such as diabetes and heart problems. The abundance of food (and especially so of the readily accessible and cheap “fast food”) is partly to blame, but some of the blame lies with lifestyle, where most of us lead sedentary existences in front of the TV, sitting behind a desk all day, on the couch or in bed.
Traditional diet in Asia, around the Mediterranean, Central and South America, as well as the active lifestyle in all of these countries is associated with a low incidence of obesity and its attendant misfortunes. It seems the more civilised we become, the more urbanised and technologically advanced we are, the greater the risk of moving away from the healthy lifestyle and the good diet that our ancestors enjoyed.
There is also of course the other side of the coin: Body image and weight has become a status symbol in highly industrialised societies of the Western world. To be trim and slim with a fit and healthy body is a highly desirable body image to have and the higher the social status, the more one will find pressures to adhere to this “body beautiful” image. To this end, there are large numbers of personal trainers, dietary advisors, bariatric specialists, surgeons and special services all dedicated to manufacturing the desired body shape and weight, that projects “wealth and high status”. Needless to say that this is another extreme, which itself can lead to disease and complications.
As is the case with all things, the middle way is the best policy. No obesity but no extremities of slimness, either! No excesses of eating, but also no starvation. A balance in diet and a reduction in the calorie consumed will lead to reasonable body size and weight. We must say no to inactivity and the sedentary lifestyle, but also no, to a stringent exercise regime that can damage the body and lead to muscle, joint and bone problems.
Here is a traditional Mediterranean recipe, which is vegetarian but also delicious and stuffed full of fibre, vitamins, minerals and complex carbohydrates.
Greek Stuffed Peppers
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 2 cups chopped onions
1 cup uncooked rice
1/4 cup freshly roasted pine nuts
• 1 1/4 cups water
• 1 teaspoon tomato paste
• 1 can of peeled tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
• 1 teaspoon allspice
• 1/3 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
• 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
3 tablespoons lemon juice
• Eight small to medium sized green bell peppers
• 1 cup water
• Lemon wedges for garnish
• Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over moderate heat and sauté the onions, stirring frequently, until light brown.
• Add the rice and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Add the toasted pine nuts and cook no longer than an additional minute.
• Add the water, tomato paste, tomatoes, salt, pepper, allspice, and nutmeg, and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer covered for 30 minutes.
• Add the mint, parsley and lemon juice and toss gently with a fork to mix and fluff the rice.
• Cut the top of the peppers about 1 cm down from the top and seed them carefully so that they remain whole.
• Stuff the peppers with the rice mixture, place the tops on them again and put the stuffed peppers in a baking dish so that they remain standing next to each other.
• Add 1 cup water to the bottom of the baking dish and bake covered in a preheated 170˚C oven for 45 minutes, or until the peppers are tender. Allow to cool and remove the remaining water from the bottom of the baking dish.
• Chill the peppers in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, or overnight. Serve chilled or at room temperature, garnished with lemon wedges.