This isn’t your standard article on the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. This is an unorthodox self-experiment with a little help from the surrealist past. Nothing obscene of any kind, but a pure and honest description of Mediterranean Me.
Let’s start it smooth though. Travelling along the winding roads of the Costa Brava for the first time, I made my way to the magnificent coastal town of Cadaqués, the last residence of the surrealist Salvador Dalí. Shinning all in white, charm of the village-like atmosphere made me realise how things had to change. However, the story begins different.
Surely, everyone knows that the Mediterranean diet is good for you and amongst the healthiest in the world – even the UNESCO tells you so. Pick up any health magazine at your local newsstand and you are likely to find something about the Mediterranean diet and its healthy food. “Follow A strictly and B will improve your health”. But the reality often looks so different.
Talking Surrealism with Dalí
Speaking of reality, the surrealists might be the right people to talk to. Sitting lazily on the quay walls along the promenade of Cadaqués and sipping on my local Estrella Damm beer, Dalí told me something. I didn’t have a vision (nor had too many beers), but I started to reflect on his approach to life.
Born in Figueres, Catalonia, Dalí had the Mediterranean lifestyle ingrained within. Spending time in Madrid, Paris and Cadaqués, Dalí always proclaimed his very own version of life. Nothing is ever the way it may seem – and here the story begins. There isn’t just one way to live your life, nor one way to live the Mediterranean diet. Whispering into my ear, Dalí told me that ‘my life is dictated from within, not by the surrounding’.
Being on holiday in any of the Mediterranean countries, one finds it easy to adapt to the lifestyle and food, as it is simply all around. Returning home, one often retreats to old and perhaps bad habits, forgetting all about the Mediterranean cuisine and its health snacks. Maintaining the Mediterranean diet seems impossible, if your surrounding doesn’t allow for it. Hence, my self-experiment with Dalí. I decided to live the Mediterranean lifestyle every day from now on – (at least until I encounter another surrealist). Here is how it is done. It’s no rocket science and way easier than you think.
Eating Time has Priority
A typical lunch in any of the Mediterranean countries can easily take two hours. Most of our bosses will frown upon the mere idea of it. But remember this is my experiment. Nothing is set in stone, so I tweak it as I go along. It simply means that I no longer rush through my meals. “Just having a quick bite here.” Nope, not happening anymore. Well it did, but it wasn’t quick anymore. The lesson I learned was that the people I ate with started to do the same. My lunches transformed from ‘quick bites’ into thoughtful and creative conversations while eating. Suddenly the Mediterranean lifestyle becomes even efficient.
Switching to Mediterranean Time – The Proper Way
I generally don’t wear a watch, but I am usually on time. Nonetheless, time dictates my day for a major part. The Mediterranean lifestyle is often being ridiculed for the absence of the concept of punctuality. However, my experiment was going to be different. Previously I squeezed tasks and chores into impossible time-slots, while cursing myself for doing so as I try to accomplish them. Nowadays, if I do something, I do it on my own schedule. Take your time to something (you like to do) and do it well. Quality before quantity.
Restricted Food Options? – Totally the Opposite
Sticking to a certain kind of food may sound tricky and strict, even though the Mediterranean diet has nothing to do with fasting and dieting. I wasn’t going to restrict myself, but started to skip the rubbish. No more grease nor frozen food or ready-meals – I chose to eat fresh once a day. That’s my way to commit to the Mediterranean diet. Be it an olive-fuelled salad in the café next door, a seafood meal in the evening or snacking cheese, bread and wine as the sun drops into the Singapore Straits. You know what I learned? – Banana and ice in a blender in the morning is like ice cream for breakfast.
Sipping on Culture
Using Dalí as my inspiration for my Mediterranean lifestyle self-experiment, I understood that food isn’t all. Just ask yourself: do you really need to play that game on your phone for another hour? Does it lead anywhere? The most likely answer is: nope! I started to cut down on useless activities (you heard of Youtube right?) and looked at those paintings in the galleries close by my work. I revisited Wong Kar-wai movies, discovered local Singaporean poets and plenty more. I soon realised that a little bit of culture spiced up my life even more than the food could. There is no need to go full-blown surrealist about it, but when were you the last time in a stadium and watched a game?
Do the Social Diet
Although my experiment was supposed to be dictated from within, what would my life be without my loved ones around me? Frankly speaking – rubbish. As I was already kicking my Youtube-habit, I suddenly had so much more time. Encouraging my friends to do the same is rather difficult, but inviting them for some dinner at my house sounds better. Just try it yourself and you will see. Dishing out some healthy snacks, inspired by Dalí and the Mediterranean cuisine, and the rest just works fine. On my table are:
- A selection of cheese, grapes and bread as canapés – some call them healthy snacks, I think they are just pure goodness
- Meat-platter with saucisson, Serrano ham, chorizo
- Seafood is always a popular choice
- Olive oil – help yourself to some more
- Dips – be it aioli, hummus or guacamole (although Mexican), let your friends explore some different combinations
- Salads in any variation
- Blanched Vegetables
This list goes on. Remember this was my table – you can create your own version easily. Inspiration can be found here. Upgrade to some fine dining or make it a casual BBQ. It worked for me and therefore there is no reason why it shouldn’t work for you.
By the way, none of this is UNESCO-approved. It is my version of the Mediterranean diet. While I ignorantly ignored all healthy food advise of most magazines and nutritionists, I simply did it my way. This way it is at least Dalí and Sinatra-approved.