January 8, 2016
I 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.
September 23, 2015
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.
April 2, 2015
The definition of an artisan is someone who is completely and wholly integrated into the creation of their product. Now I’m sure there are way less food artisans than say furniture, clothing, jewelry, or craft artisans. But…you never know. And in comparing food artisan to a craft artisan, it’s safe to say artisan means you make something on a small scale. Now, the food channel is always trying to get people to cook. That’s like their thing. I’ve been watching Shark Tank for awhile, and there’s a spin off (at least I think it’s a spin off) with food products.
Artisans make one food product very well, just like other craftspeople. You just have to go to your local farmer’s market to see everything from pickles to meats to bread to cheese to mushrooms. It seems that just about anyone can call themselves a cook, but not anyone can call themselves a food artisan. So who exactly are these artisans? Are people who work in food companies artisans? What differentiates someone who works in a big food factory from someone who works in a smaller one or at home? Can someone be an artisan of candy? Is there such a thing as healthy candy? The sad thing about artisan made foods are that they are more expensive and they seem to concentrate on a lot of baked goods, or sugary foods. I think the problem with food artisans is that you can say something is healthy, when it’s really not. I looked up food artisans online and most of the ones I looked at were for unhealthy foods like sugary foods and such. Do we really want to say something is made by an artisan when it’s just the same as the processed foods we see in the grocery? Are we just being hypocrites in saying something is healthy for you, but more expensive? It’s cool to be a food artisan. It’s cool to be a farmer too. It’s not cool to work in fast food or a food factory. It’s cool to be skinny. It’s cool to be all American. It’s also cool to be different. It’s cool to be safe and GMO free, but it’s also cool to stick with tradition. What do I mean by those statements? Well, it seems we have pre-conceived ideas about what it means to be involved in certain food-related activities. And when I say fast food, I mean McDonald’s or Burger King. Even though these places may have started it all, I read that Chipotle and Chik-fil-a are bringing in a lot of fast food business these days. Maybe it has to do with customer service as I read that people have been complaining about McDonald’s customer service recently, while Chipotle is into the local farm movement and Chik-fil-a is a Christian run chain. Maybe having some values with your food is what it’s all about these days!
January 18, 2015
Food staples are probably not something we all think about every day, but we might know what we like to eat and pick out according to our children, or family members. Now, staples are things (to me anyway) that are miscellaneous and small, but I went to one website that said sweets, bread, sugary drinks, chicken, pizza, and snacks are the staples America is known for today. I think that’s kind of out of whack. Now I read a book years ago that said when a country’s food declines, the country declines. If we are known to produce and eat all the foods I just said, does this mean our country is collapsing?
I know from reading food books and watching food docs that when we go to a grocery store, we’re supposed to shop along the outer edges where the milk, produce, meat, and bread are. But if we have websites that say our staples are snacks and sweets, then what is the answer to what staples we SHOULD buy?
Times are tough, and we can’t buy what we should eat all the time. I can kind of understand why people buy desserts (because they have eggs, milk/butter, flour, and sometimes nuts in them), chicken (because it’s a protein), pizza (because it could have all four food groups), and sugary drinks (because it’s kind of like water and it can very satisfying when you’re parched).
If corn, wheat, and rice are the main staples in the world and they make up 90 percent of the world’s energy intake, and if corn is used in a lot of other products, does that make corn syrup a staple as well? And wheat is more popular than corn in this country (according to Michael Pollan) so the fact that sweets like cakes and cupcakes, bread, pizza, and snacks, contain wheat they would add to that 90 percent.
See when we say that something is a food staple, maybe it shouldn’t be, maybe food staples should mean different things. Like roots and tubers are available in the US and a staple for hundreds of millions of people in tropical regions.
Maybe everything is a food staple to a lot of different people. Because something as mundane as graham crackers or skittles, could be someone’s dinner that night. Should we really judge what people eat when it could be could enough for them?
December 24, 2014
It’s because they’re a legume (like chickpeas) that they can be used in a variety of places. But they’re not exactly respected. Just look at the container for any mixed nuts that contains peanuts: “Less than 50% peanuts!”
And at this time of year, with Halloween and Christmas having lots of peanut butter related snacks, is it too much? We have Reese’s, Snickers, peanut M&M’s, peanut brittle, peanut butter fudge, turtle candies, and probably more for these big holidays. And peanut butter is seen as healthier than some alternatives like candy canes and caramel candy.
With all the unhealthy options out there, it’s no wonder the food companies turn to peanuts/ peanut butter as the “safe” bet.
According to wikipedia, we are third in terms of growing the most peanuts. China and India grow more and do not have the pervasive peanut allergy that the US has. They don’t process them into peanut butter, but instead make peanut oil and boil them, as opposed to roasting them like the US does. Some websites suggested that this is why we have peanut allergies.
Also according to wikipedia, the reason we have the peanut allergy is that we do not introduce children to peanuts until they are a toddler because the doctors tell us not to. The peanut allergy sounds like the most deadly allergy of all, and yet we consistently have peanuts in foods because it’s cheaper and it’s a protein.
There are many types of peanuts, including Spanish, Runner, Valencia, and Virginia. However, I think these are the peanuts grown in the US while China and India grow the majority of the peanuts in the world, with the US coming in third in amount grown.
So next time I think of plain peanuts as unappetizing I’ll think of China and other parts of the world that use the versatile peanut to a higher power.
I have tried to kind of eat the local food diet, but did not last long at all (and to tell you the truth, thought it was impossible). But seeing as there are so many small businesses around us all, why not try to eat from small businesses? You could go to a small market or grocery stores, and research which food is from a small business and getting that. For example, King Arthur’s Flour is a small flour business in Vermont that I always get. It’s more expensive, but it is higher in quality.
I know times are tough, and it’s easier to get generic when a lot of food is generic these days. But think about the stuff that you can’t get generic, like milk or produce or bread. These are staples that the bakeries, farmers’ markets, and dairy farms specialize in.
I get tahini from my Middle Eastern grocery Oasis. I know it comes from far away, but I read a book called Just Food in which the guy questions whether locally made products really do use less fossil fuels then say far away ones. He has a lot of examples of questioning the organic movement and says that conventional farming might be better in the long run.
Do big businesses like Walmart have local produce? I think I’ve heard they do that now. So in my “buy from small business” model, I would think buying from a small business would be better because the economy is in a recession right? We have to support small businesses now more than ever because if we don’t than we’re just supporting the big conglomerates. Small businesses at least usually have a family behind it, with sometimes only family. I would rather support that than a big conglomerate even if they do buy locally right?
Produce is what people need to eat more of, so is it confusing to those who have trouble getting it, to say, “buy it locally”? Are we just separating the social classes more and more? Is everyone aware of the food movement going on right now or are some of us just doing the best they can to budget their food sources accordingly?
October 31, 2014
Do most Americans and immigrants love to work? Is that why we’re the superpower that we are? I personally think that work gets one out of the dumps. I’ve had a lot of jobs over the years and the one thing that has always stayed with me even if I was a little off was that I was always doing something. Granted, the thing I was doing may have not been the best for me at the time, but working helped me find my place.
I now know it’s good to concentrate on oneself and be kind to oneself, but when I was working without thinking of who I was, it kind of became my undoing. When I buckled down and got my thoughts together AND worked out who I was while being kind to myself AND others, I felt less anxious.
I don’t work at any high powered job, but I do a lot of different things that are important to me and others who trust me.
It’s funny how we young people (and older people) have all these degrees and some people are doing jobs that are blue collar jobs. I say find yourself in that blue collar job. I mean, volunteering is what America about these days, so use your connections to find a job that you can work around and volunteer at something YOU find meaningful and full-filling.
I know when I volunteer, I feel like I am living my dream. So what if there’s no real money involved. The real money is in the free things you get when volunteering. I’ve volunteered a lot of places including, a film festival, a dance organization and board, Meals on Wheels, my Quaker meeting, and a library. When I volunteer, I don’t feel a heavy burden on my shoulders and (keeping my priorities in mind) can just relax and feel like I am working toward my dream.
That goes along with why I think improv and being able to think fast on your feet is so important. Too many of us sit at a computer all day long. We need to do something interactive that gets us moving and thinking things out. I think if everyone in America took improv (and maybe the world too) we would get along with each other better. Because every time I look at the box office receipts for movies, good comedies bring in a good amount of money.
Sometimes I really do think we should just work better at the jobs we have until you feel like you have nothing else to learn or give by doing the job. I know we supposedly all want to be a sports star or in the movies, but that’s what community theater or community organized sports are for right? Maybe we just can’t buy those $100 jeans and should just go to a thrift store instead.
I saw a commercial recently that mentioned how Americans are defined by work. We’re always working or at least it’s perceived that way. Maybe when you immerse yourself in work you forget about the bad parts of one’s life.
I know that we Americans are always on the go and it’s hard to focus on cooking or eating the right things sometimes, but if you work within your budget to make time for it and try something small, it could really give you pride that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. That’s what cooking is about: making something from scratch and feeling like an artist. At least that’s how I feel when I make hummus or pesto or cookies from scratch.