In Praise of Minimalism: Vegetarian and Italian Food Traditions

I love the ethos of Italian cuisine. Variety may be the spice of life, but simplicity is its main ingredient. Whether that’s a warm cup of tea before bed or a small, quiet moment with someone you love, it doesn’t have to scintillate for it to be recognizably beautiful. Thus, the food of Italia. There are no surprises when you eat, and the ingredients don’t attempt to impress you. To begin with, there are never usually more than three or four ingredients at all, but each is reliably fresh, local, and expertly-prepared. As an ethical vegetarian and one already slightly inclined toward minimalist habits, I felt as if I was among birds of the same feather during my stay in Italy and that no more a harmonious marriage of food philosophies could be made than between that of Italy and my own.

The simplicity of vegetarianism is in its economy, but I even find the attendant humility of plant-foods to be an attractive aspect of the diet. It’s true that eating at a low trophic level can be an incredibly sustainable dietary choice in a world of increasingly limited resources and can constitute an affordable diet for those on a college budget. However, for me the real charm of vegetarianism is in the daily ways it connects me to myself and to those I care about. During moments of intermittent relief from the daily deluge that life normally brings, I love to prepare my own food. It’s a simple pleasure to be able to wash and chop my own vegetables and take the time to prepare a meal for either myself or those I love. Whether it’s warm bowls of veggie soup or spiced porridge on wintry days, or colorful fruit salads in spring, it does satisfy something besides just hunger. It’s a way to care about myself, my friends and family, and the planet that we inhabit.

There’s a similar flavor that is imparted to the food you eat in Italy, not just in the way it’s prepared, but in the way it’s eaten. Everything seems to move just a little slower in Italy, and that includes the meals. That can be frustrating for those of us used to a hit-and-run, grab-and-go lifestyle, but the evening repast in Italy is less about the food one eats and more about who has joined you for it. And hopefully you like who joins you; it wasn’t uncommon when I was in Italy for dinner to push three or four hours long, with the expectation that you were involved in lively conversation with your tablemates. Therefore, a simple meal becomes more. It’s a facilitator, a binding agent, and the unimposing complement to something already good: human companionship.

There is something quite beautiful about the unassuming—the things that don’t ask for attention or reward, so simple that they can only be honest, so obviously good that they can be the first to get overlooked precisely because of their simplicity. I discovered a few of these things in Italy—whether it was line-drying my clothes in the orchard behind the Casale San Giorgio of Barbarano Romano, hiking up the San Giuliano plateau on brisk yet golden mornings, or traipsing over hills bespangled with wildflowers in the hopes of finding ancient Etruscan tombs. Yet the best part about the simple things is that they are for everyone, and you certainly don’t have to go to Italy to find them. They are likely right beside you.

 

— Anna Lam

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Sweet Berry Chia Seed Pudding

At the end of last year, I decided to make a few lifestyle changes. I started training regularly (shout out to HIIT classes!), incorporated more activity throughout my day, and became stricter with my sleep schedule (still working on this one!) And the changes started to come! I’m more focused, happier, and fitter than I’ve been in a while.

A major part of this lifestyle change has been changing the way eat. I have a weakness for sour and gummy candies – Sour Patch Kids, Lemonheads, sour straws, you name it. In fact, the last guy I dated took me to a candy shop for our first date and let me GO HAM because I loved candy that much!

So dilemma: what does a girl eat eat when she is 1) a serial candy nosher  2) who wants to nourish her body and take care of herself  3) but can’t get rid of her sweet tooth?

The answer is you don’t. I still eat my candy, but I’ve found alternatives to incorporate in my diet. This Sweet Berry Chia Seed Pudding uses all natural sweetness to knock out those cravings! I usually prep it the night before (#studentlife) so that in the morning, I just need to toss in some fresh fruit and drizzle a bit of honey and I’m good to go. An added bonus is that it’s packed with fiber – 20 grams! – which makes it the perfect post-workout snack!

Sweet Berry Chia Seed Pudding

 

 

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup of plain, full-fat Greek yogurt (10 g of protein): I prefer plain yogurt because it doesn’t contain added sugar. Opt for “full-fat” because “non-fat” has extra chemicals (read: sweeteners) that replace the fat. Also, full-fat yogurt keeps you fuller for longer!
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/3 cup of chia seeds (10 g of protein)
  • Berries of choice: I like frozen blueberries and fresh strawberries, sliced into coins. Pro-tip: If you use fresh strawberries, don’t cut and use them until right before you eat. This helps preserve their antioxidants!
  • Honey
  • Salt
  • Optional add-ins: hemp seeds (I love using these for added protein!), nuts, goji berries
    • Note: If you do use these additional ingredients, add a bit more almond milk to your mixture.

 

Steps:

  • Mix the yogurt, almond milk, chia seeds, and any other add-ins in a container with a lid. Stir until the yogurt and seeds are evenly distributed throughout the mixture. Add the frozen fruit on top of the mixture (they will thaw out while your mixture chills).
  • Keep your mixture in the fridge for 4-6 hours but preferably overnight.
  • Before enjoying, drizzle a bit of honey and sprinkle some salt.

 

It’s berry easy to make and serve! Your sweet tooth – and summer bod – will thank you!

— Amanda Cordero

From the Diary of a Sunscreen Addict

Some people collect stamps, others collect lovers. And then there are the skincare fiends like me who amass sunscreen like nobody’s business.

With summer in full throttle, there’s no better time to slather this melanoma-preventing, anti-aging goop. Before I share my favorites from my collection, here are a few things to keep in mind:

You need to wear sunscreen EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Yes, summer is the most fitting time to start, but the sun still exists for the other three seasons.

Melanin doesn’t protect you. “But Amanda, you’re brown. You don’t need sunscreen,” says everyone. Yes, my having more melanin does mean I have some natural protection, but that doesn’t mean I’m 100% protected from the sun. The sun doesn’t care if I’m brown or white or black or green . . . it’s still going to shine its damaging rays.

Don’t skimp. For the average adult, a shot glass-full of sunscreen should be the minimum for his or her body (this is about two tablespoons). For the face, anything less than a nickel-sized amount is NOT enough. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t apply generously – an SPF 30 is only an SPF 30 if you apply the recommended amounts.

Ask your dermatologist or aesthetician for sunscreen recommendations, but until then, check out my latest favorites!

Body:

The Supergoop! Everyday Broad Spectrum SPF 50 has been a mainstay in my collection for the past couple of months. And yes, I bought the 18-ounce bottle – the size encourages me to apply liberally on both my body and face. Since it contains a cocktail of essential oils, this formula is very moisturizing. Even though I have oily-combination skin, I’ll still apply this on my face; I just use oil-blotting sheets to sop up excess shine. I’m left with a beautiful glow and a protected face!

With its coconut-banana-beach scent, the Sun Bum Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 smells like quintessential summer! Enriched with vitamin E, this sunscreen will moisturize and protect your skin from harmful free radicals (which speed up the aging process).

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Face:

As established earlier, I’m a brown girl. This means that finding sunscreen that don’t leave a white cast can be . . . exhausting. One of the few I’ve found that doesn’t leave me looking ashy or gray is the Skinceuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50. It takes a while for me to rub in completely, but afterwards, my complexion looks perfected.

My Holy Grail face sunscreen is the EltaMD UV Clear Broad Spectrum SPF 46 – Tinted. It has a tint that blends seamlessly into my skin as well as a high zinc percentage. Also, it doesn’t leave me greasy! My only complaint is that it doesn’t come in a bigger size!

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Miscellaneous:

A habit I’ve been trying to form this year is being more diligent about sunscreen reapplication. The Ulta SPF 50 Sunscreen Rose Water Setting Spray has been a great product for this habit: it sets and refreshes makeup while giving a little bit of extra protection. It also delivers a beautiful, non-greasy glow for when my skin looks dull.

If I am combatting mid-day grease, I turn to the Ilia Moondance powder. It fights the oil spill on my forehead while also offering SPF 20. Bonus: the packaging makes this powder so easy to throw in my bag for on-the-go application.

Most people – myself included – forget to apply SPF on their lips. Thankfully, Sun Bum offers an array of SPF-packed lip products, including this Sunscreen Lip Balm SPF 30. My favorite is the watermelon flavor, but I’m looking forward to trying the pineapple, key lime, and mango ones!

 

–Amanda Cordero