In last Wednesday's New York Times, August 3, 2011, Jeff Gordinier wrote about Seamus Mullen in "A Chef Finds Healing In Food." Chef Mullen, head of Boqueria in the Flatiron district in 2007, was struck down with rheumatoid arthritis at 37. The painful and deforming autoimmune disease which inflames the joints is not well understood, but it is known to attack healthy cells. Can it be managed? Of course, most pain can be managed with the right medications. However, with the Humira, Orencia and NSAIDS there are side effects and eventual kidney damage, though no one likes to discuss this. What else is new?
According to Gordinier, though, Chef Mullen wised up and began to reconsider what foods he was using for his preparations and began a paradigm shift in his selections. He is eating "a lot less processed food and a lot more of the ingredients...including olive oil, almonds, leafy greens, stone fruits and small, oil-rich fish like anchovies and sardines." These can be found in Spanish food he specializes in, anyway. I wonder that he didn't stumble upon this information during his growing up years, "raised in an organic farm in Vermont, brined in top-echelon kitchens from San Francisco to Barcelona." Apparently, with these inflammation reducing foods, he is feeling better.
It is easy to be lured and seduced away from healthy lifestyles and eating by processed foods created, tested and retested by the Food Industries' kitchens. After all, they know best how to use the combinations of salt, oil, flour and sugar to capture our memories and taste appetites to draw us back again and again for more. How many times have our memories recalled the siren song of McDonald's french fries to order them in better restaurants, knowing full well that fish or vegetables cooked in super-heated hydrogenated oils are doomsday weapons for the gall bladder, liver and kidney? But, they are sooooo yummy. How can one resist?
Chef Mullen opening Tertulia this month was/is no different from any of us, even though I am amazed that he fell down on his craft and his eating habits to resort to processed foods. For shame. But after seeing a picture of him and recalling Mario Batalli's and Lydia's physical build, these chefs do love to eat. And when you love to eat like I do, if food is anywhere near especially if you are preparing it, and you know it's not the healthiest for you but it smells smashing and looks even more sumptuous, you dive right in. And the weight dives on and soon, your chin is double and you have jelly belly. And can we be real and not Nazis for one moment? Not always, but sometimes, overweight and health are not good companions.
So, Chef Seamus Mullen! You are coming up in the world of healthier eating, but, if I may, simply because you are taking meds for RA...perhaps, in the future, since you have achieved one paradigm shift, you will undergo another. And that is, perhaps you will continue to experiment with the foods you are eating to eventually see the extent of the relationship between how you feel and what you eat. One way to do this is to do a cleanse. Eliminating foods for a period of time and then slowly introducing them has given many individuals insight into what food combinations work and what don't. Novak Dokovich, tennis extrordinaire Numero Uno, quelled his urge for pasta and bread products, gaining gluten freedom. Gluten has been linked with arthritis problems. You never know. Experiment until you "go the distance!"