Red at the Ready

Photo courtesy of L.G. Patterson

Eating and drinking according to the season is great for your body. Of course, this means eating vegetables that are currently growing in your garden or at your local farms, but it also means changing cooking techniques and portion sizes as your body adjusts throughout the year or even the day.

Balancing your energy, and how you acquire and spend it, mimics what nature does seasonally and daily. The spring is warm and ascending as the plants spring forth and grow; summer expands energy outward as plants bloom and soak up heat; fall is cool and descending as plants reroute energy inward and downward in their roots; and winter conceals energy inward for rejuvenation, storage and rest.

Since our energy comes from the foods we eat, we can replicate these cycles daily. Morning for example, like spring, is a time to consume foods that give you energy for your active day. Midday is a great time to eat more energetic foods that agree with your constitution, but also to hydrate and absorb important vitamins and minerals your body needs as fuel. By evening, foods that are easy to process and digest are important (think soups), as your body’s energy starts to taper and prepare for rest.

Your seasonal diet benefits from varied types of food as well as cooking techniques. Spring is the time to eat bitter greens, spring onions, radishes, carrots and sprouts with light cooking such as steaming foods, sprouting foods and stir-frying. In the summer, we should hydrate with lots of watery fruits and vegetables, and eat as much raw or lightly cooked as possible.

But in contrast, in the fall and winter when the energy of the plant is stored in the roots, we should consume root vegetables, canned vegetables and more meat and fat (if you eat those), with cooking techniques such as baking, braising, roasting and slow-cooking.

For October, I wanted to find a delicious red wine that would perfectly pair with some of the wonderful root vegetables and flavors of fall. I grabbed three friends that eat seasonally and love to drink red wine and started the “research.” On the menu: roasted sweet potatoes and butternut squash with fennel pepper and crispy sage; sautéed radishes and carrots with garlic and rosemary; and rustic, organic, brown rice. For the wines we tried: a California Pinot Noir, a Spanish Garnacha, a French Merlot Bordeaux blend and a California Zinfandel.

The Pinot Noir was very nice and paired with all our foods fairly well. It became a bit more sour with the sweet potatoes and squash and begged for mushrooms with its earthy, terroir-driven flavors. The Garnacha was high in acid and wasn’t fruity enough to match with the slight sweetness of the root vegetables. Our Merlot blend also tasted off with the fall flavors. It had notes of cedar, eucalyptus and dark cherry and would have been wonderful with a grilled steak topped with rosemary butter and a red wine sauce.

But the Zinfandel, which was the fruitiest of all four reds, was a perfect match. Although this medium-bodied red wine is still dry, its predominant flavors of black raspberry, blackberry and black cherry were welcoming with the fall fare. And because Zinfandel is low in tannins, the wine stayed soft and juicy throughout the entire meal. A winner!

When our daughter Mae was a baby, she loved sweet potatoes. Craig would make baby food by cooking and mashing whatever he had his hands on from the restaurant. And when presented with choices like mushed apples, creamy carrots, smushed sweet potatoes or cooked brown rice, she would choose the sweet potatoes every time.

In fact, at one point, we were giving her a bowl of sweet potatoes for every other meal. Well, as you can imagine, this diet wasn’t keeping her “in balance.” Craig and I, being very busy new parents, we didn’t notice anything. But during her routine check-up our pediatrician asked what we had been feeding her. As we explained her diet, our doc started chuckling. He said “That explains it… she’s orange!”

And sure enough, when looking closely at her skin tone, we could see she had a slight orange tint to her. He suggested to lay off the beta carotene for awhile and increase the variety in her diet. After a couple heart attacks, good laughs and a few days, her skin tone returned to normal. So remember everyone, regardless of your food preferences, diet regime or energy constitution… stay balanced and drink good wine.

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