A few weeks ago I listened to Gretchen Rubin’s interview on The Good Life Project Podcast, in which she discusses her new book Better Than Before, a book about forming habits. Habits were never really my thing, but something compelled me to listen.
Gretchen proposes a framework for the way people form habits. In her research, most people related to one of the following “tendencies”:
Upholders are very driven to meet both internal and external expectations i.e. people that easily form habits and are best at life armed with lists, schedules, deadlines, and routines.
Obligers resist internal expectations but are driven to meet external expectations – i.e people are best at forming habits when external accountability, like a workout buddy for example, are involved.
Questioners resist external expectations, but readily respond to internal expectations – i.e. people that always question why they’re doing the things they’re doing and are best at forming habits on their own terms.
Rebels resist both internal and external expectations – i.e. People that are now wondering…WTF are habits? They do something because they want to, not because it’s on the to-do list.
I’ll tie this in to cooking in a minute, but I found this framework quite fascinating and it was the first time I’ve ever thought of myself as a “rebel”. The word seems a little dramatic in this context, but this was one of the very few times that I’ve been able to relate to some sort of generalized human personality category (usually it’s “none of the above”, if I try).
I fully understand the benefits of having good habits, but I’m finally realizing why I’m more efficient at life without trying to do things in a structured or planned out way, while the rest of the world seems to live in list-land. As long as I’m motivated by curiosity and the prospect of adventure, good things happen. Tedious tasks (i.e. cleaning, errands) get done when things get in my way, and I exercise because it makes me feel awesome, as long it doesn’t become a routine. External accountability only goes as far as not wanting to piss anyone off, but the expectations of others have never been my light, at least not in my adult life.
I’m talking about this here because the way that we form (or don’t form) habits has a lot to do with how we cook and eat. The resistance of internal expectations is why I’m so drawn to cook intuitively, experiment, and let curiosity guide the process. I’ve written about intuitive cooking here and here and have been meaning to write about the benefits of cooking that way. What I’m starting to realize, however, is that the benefits have nothing to do it.
Rebels, as it turns out, are a minority of the population when it comes to forming habits. So I’m thinking that maybe this whole “intuitive cooking” thing is just crazy talk to most people, those that love a good meal plan and shopping list. I am hoping to explore the topic a lot more, but maybe from the perspective of how to eat well in the absence of habits – for my fellow rebels. What do you guys think?
Have you listened to the podcast or read the book? I’m curious to know if Gretchen’s framework resonates with you and where you fit in with respect to forming habits, especially eating habits. Let me know in the comments below! If you are a rebel that values eating well, what do to stay on track?
I’ve said nothing about the adorable baby turnips yet, but this time I’m hoping that the pictures and recipe speak for themselves. The creamy black sesame dressing is my new way with soba noodles and if you’re going to get one thing out of this whole weird “habits meet cute turnips” post, make that!
- 1/4 cup black sesame seeds
- 2 Tbsp. tahini
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
- 2 Tbsp. rice wine or apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- 1 - 3 Tbsp water
- 2 tsp. miso paste
- 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
- 1 Tbsp. rice wine or apple cider vinagar
- 1 bunch of baby turnips, halved, or regular turnips cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
- A few large handfuls of turnip greens, spinach, chard, bok choy, or your choice of greens, chopped (see note)
- 1 package (3-ish servings) of soba noodles (see note on gluten in soba noodles), cooked according to package instructions.
- Thinly sliced spring onions and sesame seeds, for garnish
- Creamy Black Sesame Dressing - In a high speed blender, combine all ingredients (start with 1 Tbsp. of water) and blend at high speed until creamy (the smoothie setting on my blendtec was perfect). Add more water and blend to thin, if necessary.
- Alternatively add the sesame seeds to a food processor and grind into a paste. Add remaining ingredients except for water and process for about 3 minutes until creamy (it takes longer for the sesame seeds to break down in a food processor to make the dressing creamy). Add water, 1 Tbsp. at a time, to thin, if necessary.
- Regardless of what method you use, taste and adjust with extra soy sauce or sweetener, if necessary.
- Miso-glazed Turnips - Whisk the miso, maple syrup, and rice wine vinegar and set aside.
- In a cast iron skillet, warm the coconut oil and lay the turnips, cut side down. Cook for a few minutes on medium heat, until they're just starting to brown, taking care not to burn the oil.
- Toss them and cook for another minute or two.
- Add the miso mix to the turnips and toss for another minute (they will sizzle), until the liquid thickens and the turnips are slightly cooked (but not mushy) and nicely glazed.
- Everything Else - Remove the turnips from the skillet, return skillet to heat, and add freshly washed and chopped greens. Some water on the greens helps with the wilting process, so it's good to wash them right before cooking.
- Cover the skillet, remove from heat, and let it sit for a few minutes until the greens are wilted. Toss with any remaining miso sauce in the skillet.
- Toss the soba noodles with all of the dressing and thin with a little bit of water, if necessary to get a creamy consistency. Top with wilted greens, turnips, and garnishes.
Turnip greens are delicious, and apparently very nutritious, but the stems are quite chewy so if you are using them, and I highly recommend finely chopping the stems (the ones in my pics weren't chopped enough). They're a little bit bitter, which I LOVE, especially in this dish, but you can start out mixing turnip greens with others if you're not sure about them.
Soba Noodles are usually made with a combination of buckwheat and wheat flours, and therefore are rarely gluten free. King Soba are my fav, and make all of their varieties without any wheat flour, and are acceptable for those that are avoiding gluten. They also make really delicious rice noodles.