In her book, Jen Hatmaker never really explains why she settled on ‘7’ – and perhaps it doesn’t really matter that much. But 7 is a number with special significance – in the Bible and in other cultures and traditions. It’s described as the number of ‘completeness and perfection’, no doubt because of the association with the story of creation. If you are interested in that sort of thing, you could take a look at this:
I thought about going with a different number, but there was something about it that felt right. And, since one of my aims is to just simplify things and make room for what’s more important…well, why change for the sake of it?
The act of eating could be described as one of life’s simple pleasures. It’s certainly an essential part of living. But on the spectrum of ‘living to eat’ or ‘eating to live’, I’m afraid I have always tended towards the unhealthy end! I love cooking, reading cookery books, eating out… I will happily spend hours in the kitchen, trying out new recipes and restocking my freezer with lots of home-cooked meals so that I can enjoy something tasty even on days when I haven’t the time or energy to do it from scratch. That’s not something I want to change in the long term, although I guess I could do with eating less in general.
Right now, the aim is to simplify my diet so that it consists of just seven foods.
For millions of the world’s poorest people, seven foods (in any quantity) would seem like an impossible dream. They might be limited to grains, supplemented with a few vegetables or fruit. I heard a news report this weekend which included an interview with a woman who had recently escaped from Fallujah, currently under the control of Islamic State. She and her family were basically surviving on dates. Even getting access to fresh water was a daily struggle.
By contrast, my diet yesterday included at least 15 different foods. Today it was a completely different 14/15 – a mixture of fresh and processed, all purchased from supermarkets where the choice is overwhelming, or consumed in restaurants. In fact, the choice of where to buy food is overwhelming in most places in the UK. In the small town where I live, there are at least six supermarkets – and that’s without counting the street market, or the forecourt shops at the petrol stations. I have no idea how many restaurants, cafes, fast food outlets, etc there are – but it’s a lot. Probably at least half the shops on the High Street. And yet, I still complain about the things I can’t buy locally (and read about in foodie magazines) or the fact that I can’t get a particular brand of whatever it is that I’m looking for…
Choosing seven foods was actually easier than I expected. It might have been nice to go with chocolate, ice-cream, chips, coffee, etc. but I’m lucky: I know about nutrition and I can cook. I also don’t really need to consider whether I can afford the food items I have chosen (given that champagne and caviar was never in the running!) But making the choice has already made me more aware that others wouldn’t be in this position. In my own town, I know there are families who don’t have the facilities to cook, who have to choose processed food over fresh, who don’t have enough money to make healthy choices – even if they would like to.
So: chicken, onions, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, bread and bananas. That’s it.
For the next calendar month, that’s all I’m going to be eating.
Well, to be totally truthful, I’m also allowing myself a little olive oil (for cooking purposes), lemon juice, vinegar and spices (including salt and pepper). And I am being generous in my definition of bread – it will include wraps, bagels, naan, etc. But nothing flavoured (much as I prefer cinnamon and raisin bagels and garlic naan!)
I will also be going without coffee. Not an easy decision as anyone who knows me will attest! But I need to cut down anyway, and this seems like a good opportunity to prove to myself that I don’t need it as much as I think I do. Drinks will be limited to tap water and herbal teas.
That’s the plan. That, and praying for those I have mentioned above: those who don’t have enough to eat or who struggle to feed their families for whatever reason. It’s a starting point – I don’t know where it will take me, but I want to find out.