I’ve been a vegetarian my whole life, and I was vegan for 16 years. While my views about the best diet for me have shifted somewhat, one thing has not changed since I was a child: a fascination with food and how it affects our bodies, our planet, and our relationships.
In addition to being vegetarian, my family always had a garden, and I remember the exquisite pleasure of walking barefoot among tomato vines that were taller than I was, feeling the prickly hairs on the stems tickle my nose as I leaned in to smell the ripe tomatoes, and biting into one like an apple, the sun-warmed juices running down my chin. My parents grew their own sprouts, made their own tempeh, and banned processed sugar from the house. When I went to public school, I got teased about the “bird seed” (honey-covered sesame seeds) in my lunches, but I also convinced several friends to taste (and enjoy!) my homegrown sprouts dusted with nutritional yeast.
When I became vegan at age 12, I thought it was a way to make a sacrifice for the health of the planet, but I found after many years of reliance on soy foods that my body was suffering. I was also alienating myself from other people, especially when I would travel and have to refuse food offered to me without being able to explain why. I felt like the costs in terms of my own health and my relationships were too high.
In the last five years, I’ve returned to a passion for locally grown whole foods. My partner and I are members of a CSA and we try to visit the farmers market every week. He eats meat, but his choice comes out of careful thought and I respect it. He is an importer of equitably traded vanilla beans from Madagascar, and he thinks a lot about food and how it relates to social justice and the environment. I know our diet differences will spark some spirited debates if we have children, but that’s also important to me—constantly questioning what we believe. I love hearing about what people eat and why.
Many people in the U.S. think it’s a luxury to spend time choosing and preparing our own fresh food, but I think it’s the opposite. It feels as if our “luxuries” have removed us farther and farther from our food sources, and this is part of what’s making us so unhealthy. I’m guilty of this too—I often prioritize other tasks over shopping for and eating healthy local food, but I feel so much happier and more energized when I’m paying attention to my diet. I get sick less, I sleep better…and hence I have more time and energy to spend on the rest of my life!
If you think you don’t have time to shop at the farmer’s market and prepare food from scratch, try to eliminate one non-essential activity from your life (Words with Friends, anyone?) and spend that time focusing on food in a way that makes you feel good. I think the most important thing is that we simply pay attention to what we eat. Putting a little bit of focus on what you eat is guaranteed to improve your diet. (This is partly why it’s so crucial for everyone in California to vote Yes on Proposition 37, which will help us to be informed about what we’re eating). For an interesting perspective on U.S. food issues and our lack of attention to what we eat, check out The Sun magazine’s interview with Joel Salatin, the founder of Polyface Farm.
Here’s a recipe we came up with during our endless experiments with vanilla. I love this recipe because you can get all the ingredients from trusted local sources. It was the most popular dish when we cooked brunch for 18 people recently. It also fills the house with lovely smells. Don’t be afraid of including vanilla in a savory dish—it’s very subtle and delicious!
Chloë’s California Quiche
For the crust:
2 c. (packed) grated raw potato (from 2-3 peeled potatoes)
1/4 c. grated onion
1/2 t. salt
For the filling:
1/4 c. caramelized onions
1 ear fresh sweet corn (kernels cut from the cob)
1 small vanilla bean
1/4 c. creamy goat cheese or other cheese of your choice
4-5 large eggs
3/4 c. half & half
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400F. Mix the crust ingredients together and press the mixture into a 9-inch pie tin. Bake the crust for 30-40 minutes. You can brush it with a little vegetable oil if it looks like it’s drying out too much. If you’re worried about the edges getting too browned, you can cover them with tin foil.
While it’s cooking, mix the eggs and half & half. Add salt and pepper as desired. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, and using the tip of a knife or a spoon, scrape the tiny vanilla seeds (the “caviar”) out of the pod. Add the seeds to the egg mixture and whisk to distribute evenly.
When the crust is done, take it out of the oven and turn the heat down to 350F.
Spread the quiche fillings (reserving a bit of the cheese) along the bottom of the crust, then pour in the egg mixture. Add the rest of the cheese to the top, and then put half of the vanilla husk in the center of the dish (for decorative purposes—the husk is too tough to eat!). Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until firm, and serve with a farmers market salad.
About the author:
Chloë Gladstone is a writer and doula living in Oakland, California. She is also on the board of directors for Green Branch, a mobile children’s library focused on social justice and environmental issues.
Thanks to the world of Twitter, I bring you a cool video from SunsetMagazine.com. In 3 minutes and 9 seconds you will: see an awesome below-counter fridge, wish you were French so you could appear as effortlessly eco-chic as the woman in the video, and perhaps feel a tad bit crappy for not doing more. Do you have a fantastic tip for reducing waste in your kitchen? Please share!
Thanks @LisaBraithwaite for tweeting!
In rather surprising news today, Food Safety News is reporting that most honey sold in US grocery stores is not really honey. What?? Apparently, our honey is undergoing a process called ultra-filtration to remove the pollen. The problem with no pollen is that there is no way to tell where the honey came from since the honey’s “footprint” is gone. In fact, according to the report, even the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) says that any product that has been ultra filtered and no longer contains pollen isn’t honey. Food Safety News explains the process of ultra-filtering and why it is being done:
Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated, sometimes watered down and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the source of the honey. It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have illegally dumped tons of their honey – some containing illegal antibiotics – on the U.S. market for years.
Food Safety News purchased more than 60 types of honey sold in 10 US states. The honey was analyzed for pollen. The results are rather shocking:
I attended the SOL Food Festival last year with my hubby and daughter. One of the big draws was Iron Chef, Cat Cora, doing a food demo on the main stage. When we arrived at the park across from the Saturday Santa Barbara Farmers Market we were greeted by a full-feathered, free-roaming turkey (looking suspiciously like the pied piper with his entourage of about 20 kids following his every move). To the right was the ostrich pen which housed 4 baby ostriches. Not a site to be missed. Behind them, the coolest geometrically shaped chicken coop I’ve ever seen.
Born from the minds of two incredible women, Alison Hensley and Heather Hartley, the festival pays homage to real food – that which is Sustainable, Organic and Local (hence then name SOL) and this year is the second annual event. One of our missions at Be Food Smart is to educate people about food. This is also the mission of the SOL Food Festival which is why I’ve been attending their planning meetings for the past few months. If you are in driving distance of Santa Barbara, support this great cause and join us.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Plaza de Vera Cruz Park & Cota Street (between Anacapa & Santa Barbara Streets)
Mamas & Papas
Bring the kiddos so they can check out the farm equipment, see animals galore, practice their cooking skills and dance to the music. The best part? No need to fight over buying junk food and cotton candy at the food court.
Single Gals & Gents
Beer & Wine Garden, hunky farmers and hottie hippie chicks. Need I say more?
Farmers, food demos and a chance to socialize with the who’s who of Santa Barbara’s sustainable food world.
Average Joes & Janes
This is your chance to get involved and change the way you eat. Find out what amazing local resources are available in your backyard. Between the 3 stages, countless demos, fabulous exhibitors and great tasting, good-for-you food, you’re bound to go home with new skills and knowledge you can actually use.
The Joel Salatin Wannabes
Pick up tips on composting, building a chicken coop, biodynamic gardening, and soil management. It’s time to get some dirt under those nails!
We knocked on her door not sure what to expect. It was Saturday in July and my hubby and I were sans toddler. For the next 4 hours we were in the hands of Cindy Shipp and we were there to can. You know it’s going to be a good experience when you sit down to no less than 10 delectable, artisan “dippers” with appropriate accouterments. Cindy, of SB Canning, is an incredibly gracious host and is passionate about sharing both her knowledge of canning and her loot of homemade goodness (we got to try her Cabernet Wine Jelly and Strawberry Margarita Jam. To die for! Ya, ya…I see the booze connection too).
Gerri French recently joined Be Food Smart as a Special Advisor. She comes to us with over 30 years of experience as Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator (see Gerri’s full bio here). I sat down with Gerri last week to ask her a few questions. Here are some highlights from our chat.
Are there any popular/major diets that you like? For example, Paleo, South Beach, Zone, blood type, Mediterranean, Weight Watchers, etc. Are there any you would recommend?
No one diet works for everyone. As a dietitian I listen to my patients to learn their needs and concerns while assessing their lifestyle, laboratory data and medical history; a very personalized approach. A general diet book does not take the individual person into consideration. There are many healthy people out there eating a variety of diets. Mediterranean and Asian people who follow diets taught by their ancestors tend to be healthiest and the research supports it. I am happy to see people returning to enjoying earthy seasonal local foods, heirloom grains and beans and also fermented foods.
About 5 years ago, my hubby and I got serious about religiously shopping with our canvas bags. We’d get home, unpack the groceries and still be left with 5-7 plastic bags. Why you ask? Two words: fresh produce.
Virtually everywhere you can shop, be it the grocery store, mega-store, CSA, or farmer’s market, provides plastic produce bags or houses their fresh fare in plastic containers, plastic baskets, or plastic mesh. The plastic bags serve several purposes: (1) provides a vestibule for you to place your lettuce in (2) prevents oranges from rolling around your shopping cart or basket (3) allows the cashier to visually identify your apples and differentiate between the Pink Lady and the Gala (4) contains your peppers in a “weightless” material so they are easily and accurately weighed or counted.
A standard trip to our farmer’s market reveals an interesting irony. Almost everyone carries reusable shopping bags, handmade African baskets, or is pushing some sort of cart, but they all contain a mass of plastic bags with their individual purchases. That kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?