Shorter days and colder weather. Whether you love the feeling of being rugged up or curse the sun for hiding being some clouds, it may be time to make some modifications to your diet.
Winter in the Chinese culture is the peak of Yin which means it is a time for rest. Our digestive system no longer wants or needs the heavier foods that would be consumed during the other seasons as we are meant to be using this time to rest more and work less.
Essentially this idea comes from antiquity and revolved around farming seasons which saw winter as a time where crops generally did not grow. If you attempt to eat the same foods as previous seasons then you will end up feeling sluggish and bloated. Now is the time for soups, stews and slow cooked meals.
If we observe the cooking methods for soups, stews and slow cooking they all involve a gradual introduction of heat into the ingredients. The three advantages of cooking in this manner are:
1) Adding the warm element to food which will give the body the same attributes when consumed.
2) These cooking methods tend to take an extended period of time which breaks up the ingredients making them easier to digest. Our bodies slow down in winter so easier digestion is recommended.
3) It may take longer to cook however it is generally one pot cooking left on a low simmer. This makes the food easy to create (less energy expended) while making it even more delicious.
The master of all soups and stews would be congee. It would be an injustice to liken congee to a gruel or watery rice porridge however those are the closest examples for the uninitiated. Congee is loved by many Asian cultures and every family has their own recipe. It is simple to prepare and allows for the addition or subtraction of ingredients depending on personal preference. It is a favourite alternative to rice in many meals for Chinese people as the nature of congee is easily digestible (compared to rice) and very nourishing. You can find congee at most Chinese restaurants though some have a greater mastery over the recipe than others. If you would like a congee recipe please comment to this blog post and I will share my family recipe with you.
As always you should eat what is in season and of course remain true to whatever dietary restrictions you adhere to. The advice given here is generalised and you should seek out the advice of a medical professional should you suffer from any digestive irregularities.