Altendorf: Healthy habits taking over traditional mealtimes

Eating well becoming the norm here and overseas

This past summer, I had a chance to see firsthand how eating habits have changed around our world. In my opinion, to a better, healthier way but I leave the judgement up to you, the readers.

One thing is sure, gone are the days of traditional breakfasts such as ” bacon and eggs with fries” or “coffee, croissants and three different marmalades”!

I was lucky, I had discussed the issue before shopping with Liete, my sister-in-law, who does a lot of hosting.  The old way of serving food has “gone”, she said, “due to everybody paying attention to their bodies and what is good for them”.  Luckily, in the world we know we can do this.

There are general trends however. Take three of my guests, for instance; two of them live in France, one in Germany.  I had breakfast with them every day and we all had juice, followed by muesli or, toasted oats with 2 per cent milk.  Afterwards it was coffee — they had it with cream, I prefer it black — and a slice of multigrain toast or half of an english muffin with margarine and marmalade.

Interestingly, something that was a definite “no, no” in the days of past has changed:  nobody hesitated or thought twice about checking everything out, was the juice organic, was sugar added, what kind of margarine?  Well, it was “Becel” they happily discovered concerning the margarine which originated in France but is now preferred everywhere.  Well, so much for breakfast.

It is actually quite simple and the same goes for lunch. Just have rye bread, salad, avocados, tomatoes and cheese on hand and you got it made!  My guests especially liked our cheddar cheese, the aged one. Desserts, by the way, have been largely replaced by fruit and yogurt. The real surprise, however, was the fact that meat was not a priority with most of the guests, they all were quite happy with our vegetarian meals. So, the modern world lives very healthy, don’t you think?

But I do also think that a good, well made traditional meal once in a while does not do any harm, that in fact it is good for body and mind, especially since work and time to prepare them have been cut down tremendously by very good ready-to-make items.  I had promised my sister goulash, red cabbage and potato dumplings for dinner — the dumplings and the red cabbage serving as a prime example of what I mentioned before. The goulash, however, I made from scratch and after all this health talk, I will leave you with my version of it:

You need 3 lbs. of cubed goulash meat, about 2 lbs. of roughly cut onions, some flour, lots of paprika, salt and some oil. In a large pot (one that can go in the oven later), brown the meat all over in the oil, add the onions and salt and let it brown some more.  Add paprika and water and let it simmer in the oven for up to three hours.  Check every once in a while if it needs more water.  When the goulash is almost done add some red wine and, if you like, give it a somewhat heavier consistency by adding some flour.  There you go!

With a light soup before and apple compote after, we had a delicious, traditional meal with almost no work involved. My sister loved it and everybody else liked it too. Of course, to pair it with a glass of wine is almost a necessity, but here comes another surprise:  the two guests from France did not drink wine at all, the one from Germany very little! They had “Geroldsteiner” (mineral water) instead.

Perhaps you would like to know the effect on them of all this healthy living? Well, the two from France — both in their late 50’s — went  in 10 days on hikes to Sandy Cove, around Hicks Lake, up to Campbell Lake, to the top of Bear Mt. and through the Alpine Meadows in Manning Park. The guest from Germany, at age 82, went around Hicks Lake and took on the length of our lake front from the Art Gallery to the Hot Springs source and back, no sweat. How can one argue with this?

• Ruth Altendorf writes weekly as a columnist for the Agassiz Harrison Hope Observer