Growing up in a Portuguese household, every occasion from a weeknight dinner to holidays are centered around good company and food. This tradition is sadly losing its resonance with my generation (the first American-born generation) as we become busier and busier and less willing to commit an entire day for one meal’s preparation.
Over my life, as I have unfortunately moved further and further away from mom’s cooking, I have developed my own food identity. This identity is focused around how the food tastes, how healthy it is and how quickly I can prepare it. As someone who feels best when he is active, I manage my eating habits around how food makes me feel, not only physically, but also mentally.
I am fortunate enough at the moment to not have any food allergies, but I have had a bout with cancer that has no doubt shaped the way I treat my body today. My lifestyle and experiences have led me to a food identity that I am always tweaking but will classify as mostly vegetarian with a touch of sugar. That means that the majority of what I eat is fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts. I have, however, had a sweet tooth my entire life and don’t fight it, but instead just limit how often I satiate it. I am “mostly” vegetarian because I would be disowned from my family if I completely gave up meat, but more seriously because I feel more energetic and alert when I don’t eat it.
Another main focus of my food identity is sourcing my food locally and organically grown. After reading books like “Omnivore’s Dilemma” and watching documentaries like “Food Inc.” and “Forks over Knives,” I realized how much about our food industry I don’t know. Because of the abundance of information available to us, I do my best to stay caught up with the latest research and incorporate that into my decision making.
I am able to make dietary decisions based on wants, while other folks out there eat what they do because their lives depend on it. This identity is what I use as motivation every day at Nima as I help increase food transparency not only for myself but also for those in dire need of it.
–Steve Portela, lead product development engineer, Nima