Friday, July 11, 2008

Spartan Food Friday: The Spartan Sandwich

The Spartan Sandwich is a Spartan Diet take on an American classic: The peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The typical American version is a ticket to muscle weakness, obesity and ill health: white bread, junk peanut butter with trans fats and sugar added, and jelly consisting mostly of corn syrup and other garbage.

The Spartan Sandwich isn't really a variation on the traditional version -- it's the opposite. It's loaded with protein, fiber and good carbs, and is ideal energy food before workouts, hikes, runs or other training.

OK, you know how to build a sandwich. All you need are the Spartan ingredients:

Ezekiel English muffins
Ezekiel breads, made by a company called Food for Life, are among the most Spartan store-bought breads you can find. Like the Spartan Diet itself, Ezekiel bread recipes are inspired by, and improvements upon, ancient food culture. They have four kinds of English muffins, and several types of bread (they're also one of the few sources of whole-grain tortillas). It's all good. We like the English muffins, lightly toasted, for Spartan Sandwiches. We invented this recipe in Greece, and made them open-faced with organic, whole grain Cretan rusk (which bread baked a second time to make it hard and longer lasting). Go here to find out where to buy Ezekiel breads. You can also substitute home-made whole grain bread, or 100% whole-grain bread from your local bakery, farmer's market or health food store.

Peanut butter
Grind your own organic peanuts or grind them yourself at your local health food store. Don't add anything to it -- not even salt.

You have to be careful with honey. Make sure you get only raw, unfiltered and organic. Most honey available in the U.S. is from China, where pollution is widespread and health oversight of food industries is functionally non-existent. Buying good honey is also difficult because it's not certifiable as organic. The reason is that nobody can control where bees go. So it's best to buy honey from a known-good source that keeps bees in areas where industrial agriculture isn't happening. Try your local farmer's market and talk to the sellers.

Dried figs
Dried figs come in many varieties, so experiment to find the ones you like best. But, as always, buy only whole, organic figs without added preservatives or other junk. Slice the figs in quarter-inch thick slices before added to sandwich.

What makes it Spartan?

* Nothing is from a can or jar. Everything is organic and whole.

* The bread has 100% whole grain (not whole grain flour added to white flour) and, because it has sprouted grain, it has complete protein (a total of 18 amino acids, including the 9 essential ones) and other health-boosting benefits.

* Sweetness comes from fruit and honey (as in ancient Sparta itself, honey is the only acceptable Spartan Diet sweetener).

* It's well known that figs are loaded with vitamins and fiber. Less well known is that they have protein, too. The eating of figs was widespread in ancient Greece, but Spartans were more obsessed with them than most. Fresh figs were among common foods eaten at group dining halls, called messes. A Spartan named Charmis, who won the prestigious stadion race (200-meter sprint) at the 668 Olympic Games, trained on a diet of dried figs. Spartan soldiers took advantage of dried figs as a portable and quick source of energy while on the march.