In light of the recent presidential election, I’ve been questioning our melding of different cultures and if we’re that aware of other cultures (not just through food, despite this blog).  In terms of popular food, it’s obvious that Mexican food has assimilated into American life like no other kind of ethnic food (just look at Taco Bell, Chi Chi’s and Chipotle, to name a few).  But when I do my little research on who eats at McDonald’s and the like, it’s usually the poor, like Latino immigrants who eat fast food.  Isn’t that kind of sad?  Of course, it can’t be everyone and aren’t Latinos more family oriented than other ethnic groups?!?

And on the front page of our Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday, there were masses of people from war torn Honduras dying to get into America (and Mexico which is where the picture was taken).  This despite the fear of Trump, which no doubt has led many Americans to leave America since he became elected (if not when the Great Recession came about 10 years ago).  Does this mean our country’s people will change yet again?  I know Trump promises to be hard on immigration, but really how much power does he have to keep immigrants out?

My Mom and I hope to go to Spain and France next year which, just thinking about going, makes me happy.  I’ve been to Spain before in 2000, but never France, which I’d go to in a heartbeat.  I’ve seen a lot of French movies, and hey, if France’s President is our President’s best political friend, all the more reason to go right?

But anyway, I know from my culinary schooling, that French cuisine is the basis of cooking in general.  I’ve never really attempted cooking French food, unless you count their baking influence.  But it seems to me that gardening and/or farms are more important to France than their restaurants, and I just read an awesome memoir called “French Dirt” which came out in 1991, and is about an American couple who rent a house in Southern France for a year in a provincial town.  It’s exactly how I’d picture the French.

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meat eating

 

I took an Earth Science class a year ago with intentions of getting a liberal studies degree at the community college (in addition to the Bachelors in communication/journalism I already had).  My family had been egging me to take it because we’re kind of an outdoorsy family and I thought it would be good for me.  I took it for credit, as opposed auditing it.

It was so hard.  There was either a quiz or test every week, it met 6 hours a week, there were labs with people I found it hard to work with, but I made out with a B in the end, so obviously I did something right.  And funny thing is, I miss it now.  I’m taking modern art history now at the same community college, and there’s no talking really because it’s kind of a lecture course, and I just miss the come what may attitude of Earth Science.  And I like to think I love art history waaaay more than Earth Science.

But anyway, near the end of class we had to do an oral presentation with a group presenting a hypothesis and proving some kind of scientific fact.  Since my group didn’t seem to care, I picked, “How Meat Eating Causes Climate Change and Environmental Degradation,”  since I feel like I kind of have grown up with that mantra.  More than half the other groups picked how climate change causes something, like glaciers melting, coral reefs eroding, etc…  So I thought our’s would be a different spin on the most controversial science of our time.

I basically just picked facts from articles that seemed commonplace, but it was rather hard to find the facts that eating meat does in fact cause climate change and environmental degradation.  I bet that is probably more controversial than the climate change mantra.

When I started getting into cooking, it was always in the back of my mind not to eat too much meat, because my Mom has been a vegetarian for 20+ years and is an environmentalist on top of that.  My Mom is someone everyone seems to hold on a pedestal.  Although I have tried mightily to give up meat, I have to do with eating vegetarian most of the time, as opposed to 24/7.  But having to still live with my parents, I am most readily aware of the vegetarian dishes my Mom makes seemingly every day.

Anyway, I did most of the research for the oral presentation, mostly because articles about the subjects were hard to find and having this blog, it gave me some overview of what I needed to look for.

The oral presentation mainly consisted of the depressing aspects of environmental degradation everyone probably reads or hears about from news sites, classes, TV, etc…  Obviously it was stuff people had heard before, because as my partners read the facts, they would erupt into laughing fits.  I tried to maintain some sanity by using my many years of comedy training to combat the comedy routine.  My years of reading food books came in handy, as I got to intersperse the boring facts with more enlightening ones.

I honestly sounded like I knew what I was talking about I think, and really got into it to some degree; or maybe I just hate seeing meat eating effects turn into a joke.

Anyway, I got a couple questions, one of which was how are the people who still raise animals on the land, as opposed to the factory.  I said that they have a relationship with the animals and I thought they might get backlash for their humane practices.  We got a B.

tomatoes!!

I don’t know if I ever really mentioned it to all those reading from countries around the world, but I live with my parents, and my Mom has had a garden for as long as I can remember.  It has expanded a little every year (although it seems we run out of space sometimes!), and this year I tried growing asparagus (but it might prove difficult).

Anyway, we have a steady stream of tomatoes coming in that started in July.  I have been trying to make as many tomato dishes as I know how which include tomato corn salsa, cherry tomatoes with feta cheese (and red onions that came from our garden), gazpacho, layered lettuce pea salad, which I make at least once a week and uses slices of tomatoes on top, and my Mom has her own recipes.

Every time I take walks around the neighborhood, I notice a few gardens, and they always happen to grow tomatoes.  I wonder if they’re easier to grow than other vegetables??  I know they like warmth, (and also eggs shells for calcium) and judging from how hot summers have been lately, that seems prime for tomato season if you ask me!!  A couple years ago, I was home alone for a week, and the tomatoes were massive and all over the place so I gave a whole bunch to the food pantry and some friends.

But it makes you wonder, what is the attraction of this fruit, which wasn’t even considered edible until a couple centuries ago??  Why put so much time (and money) into growing tomatoes, when you came just buy them (in a bland state I might say) from the grocery store??  Is it really so important to have heirloom tomatoes when vine tomatoes from the store (which are probably more often than not grown hydroponically), are notoriously tasteless?  Has growing your own tomatoes become in sync with the farm to table movement?? I have a feeling it has thank you very much!!

 

international cuisineI don’t watch much food shows anymore, with the exception of food documentaries, which can really be either hit or miss.  But I saw two food documentary series last night with a friend that were just fascinating, one more than the other, if you ask me.  The first one was call “Street Food all around the world” and featured an actor going to be cities with legitimate “street food.”  The guy obviously had improv training and it was using it to the utmost degree.  I could not stop laughing because he was just so enthusiastic (he was from Israel), and seemed so international.

The second was called “Chef’s Table” and featured some of the best (and unusual) restaurants around the world.  They included a restaurant (with hotel too) in very rural Sweden where there was pretty much no civilization.  But the head chef was from Sweden and decided to have his restaurant include ancient foods and locally grown ones from their land.  They had a pantry and everything seemed to be pretty much from the land (even the stone/wood/branch plates.  There was one chef from Chicago who had a kind of futuristic approach to food, which I didn’t quite get, but the chef looked to present everyday foods in a unique and sometimes bizarre way.

There was another guy from Brazil who took a risk some ten years ago and opened a Brazilian themed restaurant (most high class restaurants in Brazil are Italian or French) which took awhile to acquire a desire from people, but eventually did and now the head chef is a big political and foodie spokesperson for the Amazon, (that’s where his food comes from).  And finally there was a French woman (who was adopted from Dominican Republic) who had a restaurant in San Francisco and also used local foods.

As much as I admired the Chef’s Table for using local ingredients, I just kept comparing it to Street Food, which was so much more fun and accessible.  I’m so used to seeing chefs as the be all end all spokesperson in food, that I was totally blown away by the actor guy just blazing through cities in search of a meal.  I honestly wanted to be him.  Even the intro was brilliant:  He’s sitting in some high end restaurant clearly bored out of his mind by the seemingly fake food and not exciting food he’s getting.  He riffs out of there and starts off on the streets in search of some more calorie laden food so he (I suppose) can put some meat on his bones.  In some ways, this actor seemed way more of the times we live in then those well meaning but out of touch chefs I see all the time explain their way through the authenticity of each dish.  I might watch “Street Food” again or maybe look for the next edition!!

vegetarian NOTI have tried over the years, since I really got serious about cooking, to be a vegetarian, but am more of a flexitarian.  It seems far easier to be a flexitarian than any kind of “…arian,” but when I really tried my hardest to be a vegetarian for the past year, I realized that it is far easier than I could have realized.  My Mom, (whom I live with) has been my influence, and has become very efficient at cooking lots of vegetarian meals, so I thought I had I had a real chance, because I likewise cook my own share of vegetarian dishes.

We went to our family cottage in Michigan last summer for a month, and I cooked a lot of the meals.  But when we left and had dinner at my parents’ friends house on our way home and they had sausage, well I just couldn’t pass it up.  I even took some of the B-12 liquid drops as supplements for not having meat (but have since stopped taking them).

However, even though I am now a flexitarian for the immediate future, I prefer vegetarian dishes for the most part- meat is just something I’m programmed to eat- at least that’s the way I see it.

I don’t think I’ll be eating beef for a long time, as I always try to order a veggie burger whenever I go to a bar type setting or it’s offered on fast food type menu.  But sausage, bacon, and chicken are another story, and although I try to avoid these, I cannot help but be lured in on occasion.

 

 

 

 

the inequality of things

January 8, 2016

rich poor imageI know people probably do this all the time, but I was running errands today and found myself spending $5 on a small Dr. Pepper and an Auntie Ann’s pretzel.  I then went to a small Indian Grocery store called Patel’s where I bought a 4 pound bag of dried chickpeas, a healthy dose of cilantro, and two 1 pound bags of carrots.  The bill for Patel’s was $7.76.  I know that’s $2.76 more than the Auntie Ann’s, but isn’t it so sad that that’s the way it is?  Something you don’t necessarily need but is (or should be) a treat or one time snack is about the same amount of money as food that can feed you for a couple weeks?

I know Patel’s prices are probably a little cheaper than other grocery stores (like Whole Foods for instance), but when I hear stories about how expensive produce is and how inexpensive junk food is, sometimes I think people are not looking far enough into the food culture.  I think it’s more complex than that. (and if you look at one of the best food documentaries I’ve seen in awhile, “A Place at the Table,” you’ll see what I mean).

No wonder we have people who are homeless or who don’t know how to cook! We have reprioritized everything according to how tasty it is or if it’s prepared.

So that’s it, my two cents on how screwed up our general food society is (if not more of society).  Just wanted to share that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pesto that I love

September 23, 2015

pesto

I try to grow basil or my parents do every year and sometimes it does well, but this year the basil we grew from seed did better than the basil I bought at the nursery.  So some neighbors who always have such an incredible garden because they use their compost as soil, let me pick as much basil as I could have.  So I made about ten batches of pesto and froze most of it.  An older friend just loves my pesto so I’ve been giving her some of my bounty.

I always feel that basil is so precious because it seems so fragile. Just notice that grocery stores have to sell basil as a plant in soil and you see how hard it is to keep fresh.  I love pesto way more than I like hummus, mainly because it feels special because it is associated with summer.  Hummus feels like a meal, but pesto just lightens up meals.

There are lots of ways to make pesto such as with kale or other greens.  I looked up a recipe of sun dried tomato pesto and that looked really complicated. Part of the reason why I like making pesto is you don’t have to cook anything.  It feels like something Europeans would make a lot and it’s such a simple thing to make that you can substitute many things and it still tastes great!

Pesto is probably not as healthy for you as say beans, but it’s a condiment that you’re only supposed to use in small doses anyway right?  I freeze my pesto in ice cube trays to save for when it’s cold and dark and only pesto will make me believe summer is coming again.