Why I Write About Food 023: Claire Ragozzino of Vidya Living

There may be many theories out there about nutrition, but Claire believes that wellness starts from within. In her writing about food, she focuses on the mind-body connection, tuning in to one's feelings to find out what to cook and eat. Whether you're putting a pot of porridge on for breakfast or treating yourself to pie for dessert, the point is to be present with your meal. 

Tell us about Vidya Living.
Vidya actually means clarity, knowledge, and inner wisdom. And I believe, like wisdom, wellness starts from within. I founded Vidya Living as a space where I can share my personal experience and inspire holistic wellness fusing the ancient practices of Ayurveda and Yoga with modern plant-based nutrition. You’ll find seasonal recipes, yoga and meditation practices, interviews, and travel stories centered around living a conscious and connected life.

Why do you write about food?
My health journey began with food. I grew up the single daughter of two busy pilots, so my diet consisted of a lot of Hamburger Helper, Lunchables and fast food. By middle school, I had severe digestive issues fluctuating between painful acid reflux and chronic constipation. It was no fun! So I turned to natural foods and cleansing as a means of healing myself.  Hand-in-hand with this, I also became really passionate about food culture, the Slow Food Movement, and exploring the many ways we connect socially around a good meal. 

Eating really is a sacred act of nourishment. I love to bring that awareness to my community by creating sensual experiences in the kitchen and around the table. I host events and write about food as a way to inspire intimacy, self-reflection, and connection through a conscious culinary experience. My aim is to teach that good food can also be good for you, body, mind, and soul.

What is holistic nutrition? And how can anyone easily incorporate that into their lifestyle or diet? 
In my definition, holistic nutrition looks at your unique body type, the seasons, and the energetics of food to create a body-mind experience that supports good digestion and promotes vitality. A great place to start with this practice is tuning in with yourself each day to ask how you’re feeling. If you feel cold, eat warming cooked foods. If you feel hot, eat cooling foods. If your digestion is slow, eat light and stay hydrated. And most importantly, no matter what you’re eating, sit down and be present with your meal. Don’t drive and eat, don’t instagram and eat, don’t watch tv and eat, don’t argue and eat. Just simply eat, take in the sensory experience and chew your food fully. I guarantee in doing this your digestion will improve and you’ll feel more satisfied after each meal.

What can you tell us about self-healing through food? 
I’ve been vegetarian, vegan, raw vegan, pescetarian, and flextarian… when being culturally mindful living abroad. I’ve done the candida diet, colonics, and cleanses of all sorts. You name it, I’ve tried it. But what I’ve realized over my years of studies and personal trials is that health isn’t static. What may work for you one month may not the next. And that no single food, diet, or belief system is meant for everyone. So my advice for anyone seeking to explore food as medicine is to ditch the dietary dogma and strict beliefs, and explore how to honor what your body and soul needs in each moment.

I believe the energetics of food and how you bless each experience is just as important as the type of food you eat. Nowadays, my food philosophy tends to blend Ayurvedic nutrition with macrobiotic and raw food principles, though there are some days you might find me eating fish or enjoying some raw local milk. I focus on using organic, sustainably sourced ingredients that help support local agriculture efforts. I eat this way because these are the practices I’ve learned make me feel the best: eating simple, eating seasonally, and eating with intention. I encourage all those on this path to be inquisitive, grant yourself permission to be fluid and be kind with yourself.

What are you currently reading?
Ayurveda for Women by Dr. Robert Svoboda is an essential guide for women living a life of awareness and balance through our many seasons of life. 101 Cookbooks is a forever staple in my world. The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna for inspiring passion and creativity. Sharing the Line is my thrills beyond the kitchen!

What's your favorite recipe on Vidya Living?
This Beluga Lentil and Beet Salad has been my spring staple. It’s so simple and nourishing, plus it goes great over a variety of fresh greens and even in a taco. 

Question from Marvellina of What To Cook Today: If you know today is your last day on earth, what is the one food you would want to eat/try? (Click here to read Marvellina's interview)
Oh, Holy Basil's chocolate babka. I've always had this intrigue with babka for as long as I can remember. But growing up, I steered clear of traditional baked goods because of my painful digestion experiences. So babka, with its gooey doughy texture swirled with cinnamon and chocolate, became this thing of curiosity and wonder. Years later, my digestion is strong now but I have yet to try babka. Dillon's healthier version would be the first thing on my list in what I could foresee as a full day of feasting if I had just one day left on earth! And I would hope that day would look something like Vatel's final feast for Louis XIV.

Visit Claire's website at www.vidyaliving.com
Recommended Recipes:
Ayurvedic Breakfast Porridge with Stewed Fruit
Apricot Basil Tart
Spring Beluga Lentil and Beet Salad with Coriander Vinaigrette

INTERVIEW BY CHRISTINE LEONG. PHOTOS BY VIDYA LIVING AND CHOATE HOUSE.

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