Posts tagged healthy
Posts tagged healthy
It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. To be honest, the winter months left me uninspired and a little sick of the repetitive nature of the citrus and squash options.
Well, the sun is back and so are berries, peaches, and lots of other delicious, fleeting options to shake things up. Went back to the market today and enjoyed cooking a bit as well. Two things I hadn’t done in a while…
Hope that June finds you well!
My January Food Goal: Supermarket-Free Zone
I remember during my college days, which if I wanted to be cute I’d say weren’t too long ago, my roommates and I would carpool to the grocery store. Moving from the sweltering humidity of central Florida through the doors into the frigid air-conditioned cold, I felt like I was entering an alternate world. My eyes would light up: Disneyland!
Yes. You read that right. Moving to the US from Germany, my experience of American supermarkets was akin to a theme park visit. As my roommates patiently waited by the cash register, I combed through what felt like endless aisles of prepared foods. Deep-fried, brightly-colored, caramel-covered, frozen something on a stick. Super-natural ingredients that should come with their own cape. Bold lettering, cartoon figures left and right. An entire aisle of esssentially identical toast bread in different shades. What wonders! Wheee!
Now, mind you, despite my fascination, I standardly walked out with only a few products I knew from home that elicited the question: “Where did you find that?” It made me wonder how the Pumpernickel (dark bread) I had bought was, to my roommates, the strangest product in the store, but the moral of the story is —- there’s a lot of questionable things in American supermarkets that, while highly entertaining, should probably not be consumed.
Of course, to say I’ve always lived a healthy life would be a lie. I did end up indulging in the delectable stickyness that is Nutella by the jar-full, made meals out of a package of cookies or magically made a whole tub of ice-cream disappear. Ta-da! Such habits resulted in a hefty 20 pound weight gain that took intensive training for a few half marathons and eating a clean athlete’s diet to undo.
My mother still likes to tell the anecdote of how, as a child, I would somehow spy some non-organic food in the kitchen and spontaneously break out into tears. According to her, I would then refuse to eat the food. I find this organic robo-vision hard to believe given other streaks of genius in childhood such as hiding a candy stain on my sheets by preemptively cutting a giant hole into the sheet before handing it over for laundry. Nonetheless, it makes for a wild story.
So let’s pretend I really was destined to appreciate an organic, clean diet, and that my fatty processed foods phase was really just that - a phase. I still end up shopping out of convenience. My work day lunch, almost without exception, comes directly from the Whole Foods salad or hot food bar. All things considered, eating prepared or processed foods probably isn’t much healthier when they contain organic ingredients. I’m beyond sick of dissecting labels trying to find products with ingredients I can pronounce and envision before my inner eye. So…
This January, I will not shop at supermarkets.
One month of food sourced only from local farmers’ markets, or specialty stores like small, independent butchers and bakeries. I’ll run through the self-set rules later this week, but just know that though this goal will be a challenge to adhere to, I am giving myself a few sanity outs. Step 1 of good intention: Made veggie soup (above), so when I get up late on January 1, I don’t fail right off the bat. I even ended the year by learning something new.
And what are your food goals for the new year? Will you join me in this quest for health?
As part of CUESA’s Growing Inspiration Farm Tour, the afternoon found us at Swanton Berry Farm. The swift change in climate from Hollister’s heat to the cold wind of Santa Cruz county was noticeable, particularly for the strawberries that grew on earth at Catalan Family Farms but were engulfed in plastic to retain heat at Swanton.
To begin with, we were served a scrumptious salad made of romaine lettuce with pinto beans, grilled squash, corn, onion and poblano chile with tomatillo creme fraiche dressing, prepared by the CUESA market chef Sarah Henkin. As the salad was being mixed, I grew more and more excited. It looked absolutely delicious and I was not let down. I still surprise myself when I notice myself looking forward to vegetables, but it’s the truth. The salad was accompanied by a cauliflower soup made of Swanton produce and a sinful but utterly tasty strawberry shortcake. Mhh mhh mhh!
With our bellies filled to the brim with organic delights, we began receiving an intro to Swanton. The farm has a fascinating history proving the conventional wisdom that you can’t grow strawberries both organically and in a commercially-viable way wrong. Thank you for paving the road for the abundant organic berries we get to eat now! What a huge, historic achievement, particularly because strawberries are part of the infamous dirty dozen.
Faced with the difficulty of limited access to water on the California central coast, the farm continues to grow berries on self-sustaining land with reservoirs, a little waterfall, etc. We toured different plots including canopies of cane fruit such as blackberries, olallieberries, and loganberries, as well as kiwi trees, broccoli, cauliflower and mustard seed, and again were granted an inside look into the challenges of and lessons learned in organic farming. Who knew there were people an hour from San Francisco losing sleep over protecting their livelihood from wild pigs?
A few interesting take-aways from the afternoon:
If you’re in the area, you should check out Swanton Berry Farm and indulge in some u-pick action. This farm deserves special recognition for offering their employees a merit-based retirement plan option and addressing some of the physical hardship of manual labor, which has resulted in them retaining employees for 30+ years instead of the regular 4-5 year turn-over after which most individuals switch from farm work into a different industry like serving at a restaurant or washing cars. Swanton Berry Farm makes it a goal to humanize this very tough business and to make the faming business sustainable not only for the environment, but for the individuals choosing this line of work.
Kudos, and thank you for the tour!
In honor of National Farmers Market Week, which started today, I would like to share my first visual ode to the farmers market.
Much inspired by Michael Pollan’s works and movies like Food, Inc., I have re-discovered the joy of natural food. In a time where new, questionable food-like products are popping up in American supermarkets, which now carry on average 38,718 items, I have ventured into the land of local farmers markets instead.
Mind you, I never learned to cook growing up, though I am certain my grandparents and mother, being very active in the kitchen, would have appreciated my help and attention. Years later as I sit squarely in my mid-twenties, the lack of proper cooking utensils in my kitchen bears witness to this, and presents a challenge onto itself.
Recently, though, foraging the markets for organic vegetable varieties that are not known to me has taken me on a sensory journey brimming with new smells and stunning colors. Despite supposed advances in food science, there truly is no artist greater than nature.
This weekend, I shopped at two abundant markets - CUESA’s renowned Ferry Building Farmer’s Market in San Francisco on Saturday and on Sunday, Urban Village’s California Avenue Farmers Market in Palo Alto.
In this initial documentation, vibrant heirloom tomatoes and Chinese long-beans take center-stage alongside organic German butterball potatoes, mixed greens, apples, white peaches, radishes, free-range eggs, and more. After braising and drizzling and cooking and reducing and generally flailing in the kitchen like a misguided flounder, I stumbed upon a simple truth: with produce as fresh and flavorful as this, there’s not much you can do wrong.
Here’s to good health and reclaiming the kitchen, one in-season fruit or vegetable at a time.
(Click on each image for larger version.)