Process Your Food Personally

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In a day when so much of our food is delivered to us pre-cut, pre-made, pre-cooked, I would argue that we’re neglecting ourselves. A meal can be a full-on amusement park of an experience if we let it be, especially when you process your food by hand.

process-food-personallyThink of a finished dish as a dot. Now picture each interaction we have with the ingredients as concentric circles surrounding that dot. Pounding a curry paste in a mortar and pestle, for instance, is a complex undertaking that would add several rings around the dot of “vegetable curry.” Lose the mortar and pestle and blam the ingredients in a food processor and you erase a few rings, like the satisfying soreness that sets in as you pound and pound and pound wondering “is this ever going to work?” and that epiphany moment when individual ingredients yield and it really does. Buying prepared curry paste deletes even more rings—like the conversation with the person at the market about chiles and where to find lemongrass stalks—until all you’re left with is a shell of “eating” around “vegetable curry.”

I’m not saying don’t ever buy another jar of curry paste—I know I’ll continue to do so in the future. I’m simply suggesting that how involved we get with preparing our food really does make a difference. It’s a wonderfully satisfying mindful eating practice.

So here’s my challenge: Pick a night (or day) when you’ve got some time, choose something you wouldn’t normally make from scratch – salsa, curry paste, vinaigrette, you name it – and make a homemade version. Then notice the difference–not just in how it tastes, but in how you feel throughout it the whole process.

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Spring Vegetable Curry

This recipe transforms fresh spring veggies into a fragrant, satisfying curry. Serve with purple or red rice for a stunning vegetable curry bowl.

Spring Vegetable Curry

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 21 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

Spring Vegetable Curry


  1. 1 tablespoon canola oil
  2. 1 medium onion, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
  3. 1-1/2 cups light coconut milk, divided
  4. 1/4 cup Fragrant Curry Paste
  5. 1 cup low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  6. 2 tablespoons sugar
  7. 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  8. 1 cup carrot, peeled and sliced on a bias into 1/4-inch slices
  9. 1 cup cauliflower florettes
  10. 1 cup trimmed snow peas
  11. 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  12. 1/4 cup Thai basil leaves, julienned
  13. Sea salt, to taste (optional)


Heat the canola oil in a wok or wide skillet over medium-high heat, and saute onion for 3 minutes, until just softened. Add 3 tablespoons coconut milk to pan and bring to a boil. Stir in curry paste. Mix in remaining coconut milk, broth, sugar and fish sauce, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer vigorously for 5 minutes.

Add carrot and cauliflower, and cook for 10 minutes. Add snow peas, and cook another 5 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in lime juice and Thai basil leaves. Season with additional fish sauce, lime juice, sugar or salt to taste.

  • Anne-Liesse

    I would never dare buying ready-made vinaigrette, when it’s so easy and fast to make it oneself.

    I now have to consider buying a mortar and pestle to make my own curry paste ! That should be fun !

  • Jane Bonacci

    It is so easy to fall into the trap of ready-made foods. I love that you are pushing people out of their comfort zones. Making things from scratch is very satisfying, on a number of levels, and “soul-full”.

  • Alison Ashton

    You’ve sold me on investing in a decent mortar & pestle. The one I have is a perfect example of function following form–it looks pretty but performs poorly, so I rarely (never, really) use it.

    What are some features to look for in an M&P? I don’t want to start a collection of them, so I need one that fills all purposes.

    I appreciate living in an era when we have the option to prep food by hand (love making mayo with a whisk rather than a blender) and the technology available when time is tight.

  • Lia Huber

    Aha! I just realized I had the wrong recipe up here … nothing like touting a curry all through the post and then putting up a recipe for tuna pasta — psych!

    Anne-Liesse … you’d love it!

    Jane … Thank you! You’re absolutely right about that “soul-full”-ness.

    Alison … Good question. I’d recommend one of the clay conical ones with a wooden pestle that you can find easily at an Asian market (they’re inexpensive too).