Thursday, March 28, 2013

Apparently, I’m a Food Freak: My Food Manifesto

Earlier this week I had dinner a neighbors house. I’ve been getting together with this group of ladies every month for the past few years and for this dinner our two new neighbors were invited. At one point, the conversation turned to the meat CSA that was picked up by two of us (me being the one of the two) earlier that week. The meat CSA gives us a cooler full of humanly raised, grass fed beef, chicken and pork that has lived its entire life outdoors (with access to shelter in inclement and cold weather) and then “harvested” with the least amount of stress to the animal possible. In other words, Happy Meat.

So when Karen and I started discussing what we were going to make with our latest haul of Happy Meat, one of the new ladies (Beth) asked us why we didn’t just buy our meat at the grocery store. When Karen explained our reasons, Beth said with a smile “oh, so you guys are food freaks”. Beth (kind of) meant it in jest and she is a lovely person. But all too often I’m finding that caring about where your food comes from is not the norm.

So, this is my food philosophy:  real food, minimal processing, minimal chemicals, ingredients I can pronounce (and as few of them as possible) and Happy Meat, 80% of the time.

What does this mean? It means most of the meat we consume comes from our meat CSA from Chestnut Farm. It means that I am an obsessive label reader looking for the most “pure” products with a minimum of ingredients that can I can imagine in my head as I read the label (i.e. I can imagine what an egg looks like. Butylated hydroxytoluene not so much.) It means I look for organic when possible and always for GMO free (and if it’s organic, it is by definition GMO free, FYI.) I shop at farmers markets, Trader Joes, and yes, Whole Foods.

I subscribe to Michael Pollens belief that if your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize it as food (Twinkie, anyone?,)it’s probably not the best choice. I think his book The Omnivores Dilemma should be required reading, or at the very least the Cliff Notes version, Food Rules.

Is it more expensive to eat this way? Yes, but not as much as you might think. A lot of processed foods aren’t cheap, or at least not cheaper than a healthier option. The Scotsman and I have made a conscious decision to spend our money this way, and yes we know we’re fortunate to be able to make that choice. That said, a food blogger I love, Lisa Leake of the 100 Days of Real Food blog successfully fed her family of four Real Food on a strict budget for more than three months to prove it could be done. See how and what she did here.

But remember we only eat this way 80 of the time. The other 20% is comprised of McDonalds with the team after Jake’s soccer game (although more for the kids than The Scotsman and I), pizza and cake at birthday parties, meals out or the really stressful day when all I can muster the energy to do for dinner is call for Chinese take-out. And remember, on Wednesday I gave you a recipe that included Pillsbury Crescent Dough Roll. I’m not a stickler, I just try and do my best most of the time because I believe with all my heart that you are what you eat as well as what you eat eats (did that makes sense?)

So that’s my food philosophy, love it or hate it. I could write at least a few posts on how I came to have this food philosophy and why I wish more people should adopt it. But I don’t want to get on my soapbox and shove my ideas down anyone’s throat, so I won’t. Unless you want me to, in which case leave me a comment and I’ll reconsider.

In the meantime, I leave you with a yummy recipe for Halibut in Mustard Sauce that my host made on Tuesday night.

PS – I know I’ve been lax with the book reviews but they’re coming. I’ve got a food memoir and at least one cookbook in the pipeline.

Halibut in Mustard Sauce – Serves 6

½ lbs halibut
1/3 cup orange juice
¼ cup lemon juice (fresh is best)
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried tarragon
1 tsp curry powder
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1 TBS olive oil, divided
3 TBS Dijon mustered
2 TBS red onion, minced
2 TBS fresh parsley, chopped
1 TBS capers, drained

Place the fish in a shallow, non-metal dish and set aside.

Combine the next 6 ingredients. Pour over the fish and turn to coat. Marinate in the fridge for 1 hours, turning once.

Remove the fish from the marinade and reserve marinade. Place fish in a shallow roasting pan (or any pan – just not glass as it may shatter under the broiler) and brush it with ¼ TBS olive oil. Broil on high 4 inches from the heat for 5 minutes. Turn the fish and brush with ¼ TBS olive oil. Broil for another 3 minutes or until the fish flakes easily. Transfer to a serving platter and keep warm.

Combine the reserved marinade, remaining 2 ½ TBS olive oil and mustard in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until smooth, stirring with a whisk. Add the onion, parsley and capers. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon sauce over fish and serve.

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