Over the course of the last year, we have all been forced to adapt to major change to the pattern of our daily lives. As each of us will freely admit, this can be both challenging and stressful, especially when this change has been imposed on us by circumstances beyond our control. There is then the change which has been initiated by the choices we ourselves make. Even though self-imposed changes can also be stressful, since we may believe something new we take on is going to be straightforward and even exciting and then ends up being more challenging than we imagined, it can also allow us to grow and evolve in ways that we hadn't expected. This has been our own experience following our move to Berlin in the autumn. One of the challenges we faced was moving from a 4 bedroom house to temporary accommodation, namely a studio apartment consisting of a single room. Gone was our lovely spacious kitchen with its gadgets and cupboards replete with crockery, to be replaced by a bijou kitchen area with a sink, a single tiny work surface and a two ring induction hob. Food plays a huge role in our lives and so both of us were apprehensive about how we would adapt to this new situation. Of course, we had no choice, we knew we wouldn't be in a position to move to more generous accommodation for some time, since finding an apartment in Berlin is notoriously difficult, especially during a pandemic. Little did we know just how much we would learn from this situation.
We have stuck to our principles in terms of preparing meals using locally-bought wholefoods rather than resort to buying ready-made convenience foods. We are fortunate, we live in Berlin, and there is an abundant supply of fresh organic fruit and vegetables on offer and an abundant amount of stores to buy them from. We sometimes feel like we live in our own personal Utopia, we really haven't come across a better choice of foods anywhere, ever. Of course, buying them is one thing, storing them is another. Our refrigerator is modest and we struggle to fit everything we buy in it, so we've got into the habit of shopping for our food on a daily basis. Some would say that's a luxury they can't afford, but for us, it's a priority that we will always find time for, no matter how busy our day. Again, we are fortunate that we have two excellent local organic supermarkets a stone's throw away, so it doesn't require a great investment of time.
Preparation can be tricky. Remember we mentioned having a small work surface and next to no kitchen equipment. Notwithstanding this, with a little creativity and applied ergonomics, we have risen to the challenge and have succeeded in producing some exquisite meals. We have invested in a steamer and this has become an indispensable tool..
So what do we take from this, apart from the obvious practical considerations? We’ve noticed a few different feelings, from not wanting to let go of certain ways of doing things, (and how it creates low level tension to make changes that weren’t part of a plan), to recognising that there is happiness in making changes as long as those changes are positive. The latter point is where it all initially seems tricky; unwanted change, especially to areas of life that we’ve hitherto taken control of, doesn’t feel positive. The two of us had our ways of eating supported by positive health outcomes; why would we want to approach our meals differently? Being energetic and healthy is a wonderful gift, especially if it hasn’t always been the case and getting food right is such a big part of that. But we’d overlooked something; we failed to see that standards and values don’t have to disappear for changes to be implemented. We weren’t failing by doing things differently; we were making changes in the context of acceptance of the need to do so and with the recognition that within that context there are often multiple ‘right’ ways of progressing.
As far as our food is concerned, we’ve shifted the emphasis on the quantity of raw foods in our diet (‘raw’ is still a high proportion of what we eat, but it’s perhaps now best described as “more than half”, rather than 80% or whatever we used to imagine it was). The starting point of raw fruits and vegetables helps to steer us as we venture into more cooked foods than we were previously used to; we keep them mostly whole and cook them in ways that don’t lead to high nutrient loss or to toxic by-products from the cooking process ...our little collapsible steamer has been one of our most used purchases since arriving here. We eat more grains and legumes than we used to and have had the pleasure of trying some new ones. And, perhaps not surprisingly, this way of eating works too! It’s certainly fuelling some considerable foot miles as we discover more of this fabulous city, and it’s ultimately been most enjoyable to find new solutions to the constraints of this very small kitchen.
So as we approach the end of a most unusual year, we’re choosing to accept what we can’t change and to adapt accordingly, in the full knowledge that doing so isn’t always easy, especially if our standards and values seem threatened. It seems we’re all being called upon to adapt to change right now; may we cope with those changes, adapt where we can and retain our integrity, because that is something we can control.