On observing Lent


Halfway through… wow this can get really tough at times! Like unbelievably hard. The hardest part for me is sweets. I realize that I have an incredibly sweet tooth. I am soooo addicted to sugar. Unreal. It’s really tough to be without it for so long. But it’s also good. It feels good to know that I can do this. I have the willpower and I will do this.

Over the last days, I have made a few interesting observations.

1 – Lent has a total duration of 46 days. That is 6½ weeks, which represent a little over 12.6% of the year. Holy cow that’s A LOT!

2 – I must be a little crazy for CHOOSING to, while having no religious motivations whatsoever, observe a practice that is being forced onto so many people that don’t really want to do it in the first place and, even worse, not allowing myself to cheat for the whole duration of Lent, because that would equal cheating myself.

3 – It takes an awful lot of willpower to get through such a long period of time of denying yourself of so many things you like so much (especially SUGAR!!!)

4 – Observing Lent is really forcing me to change the way I eat, to get more creative with my menus and to try a variety of new things, which often leads to beautiful discoveries. Best of all is it seems that many of those changes tend to stick after Lent is over! For instance, I eat a lot less meat since last year. And I do mean A LOT.

Another aspect that I really appreciate about observing Lent is that it is giving me an excuse; an excuse not to eat that piece of meat, an excuse not to eat sweets or not to have that drink. An excuse to stay focused and eat 100% clean for a little (well, not THAT little) while.

I’m not saying that I would do that 100% of the time, but it’s good to have that period of time during which you force yourself to do it. When I go to restaurants, for instance, it forces me to look at different items on the menu, because so many things are just not an option.

Also, I find that in general, most people don’t seem to understand why one individual would choose to keep junk or processed food out of their diet. They think that if you refuse to eat crap, it must be because you want to lose weight; else you’re just some sort of a freak. To most people, enjoyable food has to be crappy food. It feels that, in their mind, they just cannot believe that one can actually ENJOY eating truly healthy wholesome food, like this superb barley risotto, for instance. To most, risotto should be made with white rice, loads of cream, butter and cheese. Well, let me just say that, to me, this healthy version was pure heaven. And I am not certain that I would’ve ever had that inspiration had it not been for Lent.

I think this year’s most noticeable “consequence” of Lent will be the addition of (kids, stop reading now…) tofu to my regular diet. I’m really sarting to love this stuff!

Creamy Mushroom Hazelnut Barley Risotto

(serves 6)

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 227g button mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cups barley
  • ½ cup wild rice
  • 2 tsp salted herbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 – 10 cups water
  • 225g extra firm tofu, cubed
  • 227g button mushrooms, sliced
  • 40g oyster mushrooms, sliced
  • 100g (3-4) portebellini mushrooms, sliced
  • 100g asparagus, cut in 1-2 inch pieces
  • 30g roasted hazelnuts, crushed


  • In a skillet over medium heat, brown the onions. Add chopped mushrooms, barley, salt and pepper and cook to develop fragrance, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Add wild rice and salted herbs, give another quick stir and add about 2 cups of water.
  • Lower the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until almost all water has been absorbed. For the next 45 minutes to an hour, you will have to repeat this process many times, adding about a cup of water at a time, simmer / stir until water is almost completely absorbed then add more water, until barley has reached the desired level of doneness / creaminess.
  • When your risotto is almost where you want it, start browning the mushrooms in a separate skillet. You will have to brown them in several batches to avoid boiling them, as opposed to browning. Mushrooms should be laid in a single layer and should not touch.
  • Add cooked mushrooms, asparagus, tofu cubes and hazelnuts to risotto. Give everything a quick stir, turn off the heat and allow flavours to mingle for a few minutes before serving.