Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Food in the News, Farmers Market Finds, and The Comfort of Cooking

Food in the News

Food issues are definitely popping up all over lately in the popular media and national news.  First, we get the news from the World Health Association (WHO) that too much processed meat is not good for you and, indeed, in some folks might be a causal factor in cancer.  Of course, some of us immediately said, "Who does not know this?", because at this point we feel that everyone has heard all of the warnings and studies.  Given the discussion on every news program and talk show, apparently everyone does not know this.  Time Magazine even put bacon on its cover last week. Many chefs, cooks, food writers and teachers spoke out pretty soon after the WHO report emerged to remind those that have "forgotten" that chemically laden (hormones, antibiotics, etc.), horribly treated animals -  those that end up blister wrapped in supermarkets displays - are bad for you. Yep.  Many of us have been saying the same for years.  And it's probably not a good idea to eat 1/2 pound of bacon daily - even the best kind.  Nor is it wise to live totally on smoked meats.  It is as always a question of moderation.  Using meat as an ingredient often is much better than eating big cuts of meat.  For example, instead of frying up a bunch of Italian Sausages to go with pasta, take one or two, remove them from their casings and make a meat sauce with them.  Delicious and just enough meat. And, of course, not eating anything at fast food and chain restaurants is a good practice.  Lastly, following Michael Pollan's edict is probably the best thing you can do:  "Eat Food.  Mostly Plants.  Not too Much".  And I would add, "Cook real food.  From scratch. With ingredients that you can identify".  Which brings me to the next piece of news.

This week we learned of the departure from the New York Times of one of my favorite food writers and cooks, Mark Bitman.  It seems that Mark is now a principle in another one of those "dinner in a box" concerns.  The ones that deliver all of the ingredients with cooking instructions to your front door. The company he's joining is all vegan. Now, I don't pretend to understand - since I am the one advocating that we all, "know where our food comes from", but I have to trust that he sees this as a good thing for people who can't or won't shop for their food.  I imagine eating totally vegan is very time consuming.  Despite that fact that I like Bitman a lot, and have learned a lot from him, there will be no boxes - with cooking instructions - delivered to this house.  I do hope to see him back at the Times some day real soon.

The last, and for me somewhat shocking, slice of Food News is the whole mess with the Chipotle Chain and an e coli outbreak.  I really am surprised.  This is the one of the only chains of any kind that we will use in a pinch - Panerra being the other.  I have always under the impression that Chipotle sources very well given their commitment to real farms and real food.  I guess that we will have to wait for more information on this one.  It does make me wonder.

Ingredients to be Using Right Now!

Pumpkin, butternut squash,  broccoli, rutabaga, wonderful onions and potatoes and little squashes are all appearing in the Farmers Markets right now.  As are great radishes, kale, pears & apples.  All of these offer such wonderful opportunities for soups, stews, and even composed salads.  And, if you can, either freeze or can what you an for those mid winter weeks.

The Comfort of Cooking

Recently I have been reading Ruth Reichl's new book, "My Kitchen Year"(published by Random House).  It is a wonderful read, with great stories and recipes and takes us through her life in the months after Gourmet magazine (of which she was editor) suddenly folded.

She writes about the shock factor; the magazine was planning the next issue and a new TV show one day and the staff was told the next day to pack up and go.  She shares first the incredible sorrow of leaving a great group of co-workers, who immediately scatter far and wide.  And she tells the story of her very real fears about the future and what she will do next with her own life.

It is a very thought provoking  read.  How do we react when the rug has literally been pulled out from under us?  When we are sad, grieving, frightened - what comforts us?

Reichl and I are are kindred spirits in that she and I both turn to the kitchen for solace. It's not so much the eating - that is part of it, of course -  but it is really rather the list  making, the shopping, the preparation, and the cooking. That glorious alone time moving between cutting boards and stove top; larder and oven.  Chopping, saut√©ing, tasting, stirring, a pinch of this, a pinch of that -  all are so calming and relaxing and soothing to me.  And before I go on, I know that is not true for many folks.  I know, and even count among friends, members of the "I hate to cook" crowd.  And of course when using cooking for comfort, I tend towards comfort foods!  Examples:  Big casseroles of cheesy macaroni; Vegetable packed stews; Short ribs simmering for hours; and a big roast chicken with lots of garlic stuffed inside. And, of course, as we call it here in South Philly:  "Red Gravy".  And Pasta.  Always Pasta.  A little over a year ago when one of our pups needed emergency/dangerous surgery that came out of the blue, I literally ran out of room for storing food and was asking the neighbors if I could borrow refrigerator space!

And so, I'd love to know.  Those of you who enjoy cooking, share with us:  do you cook for comfort when times are sad or upsetting?  What are your favorite things to make in these situations?

Late Summer Harvest from Our Garden  and a Pear
Treasure Real Food!

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