Friday, July 18, 2008

Zen and the art of Blueberry Picking

We have six extremely productive blueberry bushes, and during the
summer we gather an average of a gallon a day. I can easily fill up a half-gallon bucket
in 30 minutes. While blackberry picking is like a combat challenge,
blueberry picking is very peaceful and relaxing. There are no
distractions, no interruptions, and no need to move around. Life
compresses to me and the bush and the bucket. I enter a zone of
timeless but purposeful action, gathering berries with an unhurried
but efficient economy of motion.

Thanks to years of practice, I can fill the bucket with berries about three
times as fast as an inexperienced picker. The key to efficient berry
picking is not to let your hand make too many trips to the bucket. I
pick the berries with my thumb and forefinger, while the rest of my
fingers form a kind of cup with my palm. My hands wander around the
bush, seemingly guided by my eyes alone with no conscious thought. I
pluck one or two berries a second, dropping them into my palm, and
dumping a handful in the bucket when my hand is full.

The resulting abundance of blueberries means that, during the summer,
we usually have a very large bowl full of fresh berries in the
kitchen. I find them irresistible. Whenever I pass the bowl, I will
grab a big handful, shove them all in my mouth, and start chewing. It
seems that I can always eat a handful of blueberries, no matter what
time of day it is or what I have eaten recently. There have been days
when about half my calorie intake was in the form of blueberries.

I have a theory about food cravings. I am aware of no empirical
evidence that supports it, but it seems to make sense. My theory is
that appetite depends on nutrients in addition to calories; your body
becomes hungry when it knows that it lacks important vitamins or
minerals. Your body feels deprived, so it sends a signal to your
brain telling you that you need to eat more. However, in our modern
world, most of our food has lots of calories but few nutrients. Thus
a person can can end up both obese and malnourished.

The implication of this is that you can end food cravings and keep
yourself at a healthy weight by eating really healthy food like
blueberries. This strategy works for me. One of my mottoes is "Think
like an angel, eat like an ape."

If you want to read what real scientists are saying about nutrition,
here is a good article published recently:

There is an interesting quote from that article:

"Some foods, [Dr Gómez-Pinilla] concludes, are like pharmaceutical
compounds; their effects are so profound that the mental health of
entire countries may be linked to them."

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