March is National Nutrition Month! This year’s theme is “Celebrate a World of Flavors,” which the SAGE Registered Dietitians are particularly excited about. To us, this theme means recognizing that food is personal and a celebration of culture. It’s an opportunity to learn about and honor your own cultural foods, as well as those of others.
Here’s how the SAGE Registered Dietitians (Lesley, Amy, Teresa, and Taylor) are celebrating a world of flavors:
How do you like to add flavor to your food?
- Lesley: I'm a big fan of freshly ground coarse black pepper. I like to add it to just about everything and find it especially delicious on an arugula salad with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon.
- Amy: Lately, I’ve been using flavored oils, toasted spices, citrus fruits, and fermented condiments to add depth and flavor to my meals. In the summer, I like to grow plenty of fresh herbs and use the grill for flavor.
- Teresa: I think about balancing the natural flavors of the ingredients. For example, adding a sweet component to balance salty or bitter ingredients, or using a bit of acid to cut through rich or spicy dishes. It’s amazing how this can take a recipe to the next level.
- Taylor: You can usually find me making some combination of soy sauce, mushroom sauce, sesame oil, Sichuan chile peppers, and rice or black vinegar. But in a pinch, hoisin sauce is my go-to.
What’s your favorite food experience from around the world?
- Lesley: I traveled to four different regions of Italy. In each region, we dined in places where we asked the chefs to prepare whatever they felt like making. The chefs’ selections were incredible, and we often got to experience dishes that weren't even on the menu! During the meal, we would meet the chef, and they’d beam with pride as they witnessed our joy from their amazing food. Squisito!
- Amy: Traveling to Peru, there were so many fruits and vegetables I was able to taste and cook with that I’d never even heard of before. My favorite was lúcuma, a sweet, caramelly fruit that tastes a bit like a sweet potato — I couldn’t get enough of it! Here’s a picture of the lúcuma and ají amarillo ravioli we made.
- Teresa: I experienced “dining in the dark” at Noir restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The dining room was pitch black. Without sight, my other senses were heightened. It was so much fun trying to dissect the individual ingredients and flavors to guess what I was eating. After the meal, we met with the restaurant owner to see the menu and photos of each dish. I was proud to have guessed quite a few correctly!
- Taylor: Borough Market in London was one of the coolest food experiences I’ve had. There was a diverse selection of vendors providing unlimited opportunities to taste new foods. Jamaican, Ethiopian, Indian, Spanish, English — they had it all!
What are some ways to practice celebrating a world of flavors?
- Seek out and support local international markets and spice shops.
- Ask your server to recommend dishes when dining at a new restaurant. If you’re feeling brave, ask them to surprise you!
- Host a potluck and have friends bring their favorite dishes.
- Pick up cookbooks that center on a culture different from your own.
- Explore new flavors by trying a new dish at a familiar restaurant or a new flavor combination in your home kitchen.
However you choose to celebrate National Nutrition Month, we hope that you’re able to embrace the vast variety of ingredients and seasonings used globally and appreciate both the differences and overlaps in cultural flavors!