Saturday, September 15, 2012

Trying New Foods, Making New Memories

Hello all! Long time, no writing. I'm settled in Idaho now and am looking forward to writing more. Thank you to all of the views while I was gone. I have a lot to talk about, so look forward to more blogs in the coming days about things I've thought about or experienced in the past few weeks.

What's the first thing you do when you want to cook something for dinner? Do you look through your cupboard and see what you can make without going to the store? Do you get food inspiration from a cook book or an online recipe guide? Do you narrow down your search for something you have a craving for like pasta, steak or "goes well with that wine I bought earlier"? Do you go by season? Is it a Summer Saturday or a Winter Wednesday? By occasion? Is it a family meal for a holiday or just a day after work?

If you are stuck in a rut about what to make, try another way that I just stated above.

I love experimenting with flavor, texture and different culinary techniques. It's an exciting day when things I just throw together end up being a wonderful meal. With saying that, there have been times where it has gone horribly, HORRIBLY wrong. Take out was then eaten in tears because I really wanted my creation to taste good, and not like flaming cat urine.

Half the fun of cooking is learning about new ingredients and flavors. It's what makes it fun! Every new flavor is something to add to your memory. It's like meeting a new friend. They may end up being a lover or a foe, but you met them and now you know.

In my opinion, if you do not go beyond your boundaries, you may never find that food you've been missing your whole life. For me, that food isn't actually a food, it's an herb. Tarragon and other anise flavors. As a kid, I HATED black licorice a passion. But a few months ago I had some chicken, rice and mushrooms waiting to be cooked when I saw the tarragon. I tasted a leaf and was surprised that I loved the flavor. I sautéed the chicken, made a mushroom/tarragon/cream sauce and put it over seasoned rice. To my utter shock, it was divine!

Look at food like you would if you were on the prowl for a lover. You won't find one if you don't go out of your comfort zone a little bit. Even if it's just to say "hi".

Food, after all, is very sensual. You see the rich red color of ripe tomatoes. Hear the crunch of an onion as you dice it. Taste the distinct flavor of basil. Feel the luxurious experience of olive oil. Smell the garlic as it sautés. As all of the senses combine to make something magical. A beautiful relationship forming (in this case, one with marinara sauce).

Food can be the thing that flashes us to a memory. For me, sage will always remind me of being a little girl watching the turkey roast in the oven on Thanksgiving. Every time I smell sage now I'm transported to being five years old in front of the oven waiting desperately for the little red popper to pop so we could enjoy a feast. Even the thought of sour cream reminds me of when my boyfriend made me the best pancakes I've ever eaten when we had just started dating. We sat down on an early Saturday morning with pipping hot cups of coffee and sour cream pancakes. We talked and watched the snow fall for hours until we realized we never wanted to be apart from each other.

That is the power food has. If he had never tried a recipe for sour cream pancakes, we would have never known how wonderful they are. I think we would have found out how crazy we are for each other, but because I had that epiphany over pancakes, I'll always remember it every time I see sour cream.

I encourage you to go out of the box and try something new. I did and I've never been happier. Food may not do that to you now, but I promise you it will.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Emotional Eating

I write this at an interesting time in my life. I am newly graduated from college with not one, but two bachelor degrees with well respected fields. I am all packed up to move from one small town to another with hope deep in my heart. So why am I so sad?

I have no attachment to my current house. I have a little to the town only because I spent the past four years of my life here and found myself at my own person rather than an awkward high schooler from Oregon. I learned to fend for myself, fight for myself and have started to learn how to fight for others. I am moving to Idaho for the promise of a better life, better company, and better job prospects.

Better is really the key word in that last phrase. "Better Job Prospects". In my town you are very limited to where you can work. In Idaho, there are many more. But let's face it, the economy has taken a toll everywhere. My issues are many and my solutions for my predicament are few. I have two college degrees. I have some experience, but not a terrible amount. I am willing to do just about anything. Right now I'm just trying to stay alive.

In the current job market, it's easier to make a living being a stripper than it is to be part of the health care system. I don't have waiting experience, therefore I can't be a waitress. I don't have janitorial experience, therefore I cannot be a janitor. What I do have is an education. I know I should feel lucky for that, and I do. But it makes me sick to my stomach that I cannot get a job in my fields because they either want a Master's degree or higher or such specific training that I am not qualified enough. Right now the only job hiring that does not require experience is being a stripper. Even then they want talented dancers (of which my clumsy self is not).

So I find myself searching the internet for hours and hours looking for a job that I may or may not be qualified for, and even if I feel I am qualified, the employer does not think so. I have applied to so many places I get confused when I get a rejection letter from somewhere I forgot I applied to.

Ok, enough self deprecation. Let's move on to how this relates to food.

Comfort food is fabulous. There's nothing I love more than a big bowl of creamy mac and cheese. In times like I have been dealing with the past few months, I am in constant want of something comforting. I can fully understand my body's want for all things pasta and cheese. I also know that unless I stop the constant cycle of comfort food becoming regular food, I'll be completely unable to get a job because I will be dead.

Eating for emotional responses is extremely dangerous. You may not die immediately from that Twinkie that feels so good after a break up. But after the forth, fifth, and tenth Twinkie, you may not feel so good. Let's go through the circle of emotional eating:

Step one: Something happens that causes you to feel stressed.
Step two: You decide to eat something comforting to make you feel a little better about your situation.
Step three: You feel better for about 5 minutes.
Step four: You then try on that new pair of jeans and discover they no longer fit.
Step five: You feel sad and in need of some comfort.
Step six: You go back to step two and repeat the entire circle again.

You're essentially throwing yourself into a vicious cycle of hating yourself. It's a very sad, dark and terrible place to be.

My suggestions:
- Keep comfort food to an absolute minimum. This doesn't mean say no all together, because then you'll crave it.
- Learn what a serving size is and only have one serving. You are only one person, don't eat for 5.
- Seek a healthy alternative like going for a run when you're mad or drawing when you're sad.
- Seek healthy comfort foods. My favorite is red bell peppers and hummus.

The biggest thing that I can't support enough is looking at yourself through a clean lens. You may not like what you see, but be honest with yourself and love yourself anyways.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

End of the Internship

Yesterday was my last technical day as an intern. I just wanted to say thank you to all of my awesome viewer that read my blogs. I was not expecting this much multinational love!

I will definitely keep the blog going, but I will change my focus a little bit. Because I'm not actually in a food bank, I can't really tell you want we have in it to do recipe days any more. But I can't assume some things based of seasonality. So I will try my best to keep feeding you all some recipes so you can feed yourselves.

I will start focusing more of food advocacy and nutritional health along with diet, exercise and other fun stuff like that. It should be fun and get pretty interesting.

I will have a blog every day or ever few days depending on how my schedule is and if I feel inspired. I haven't been feeling very inspired lately, to be honest. I've felt like my passion for food has become a chore in the past few weeks. So I hope that my fire comes back. I miss being so passionate about something I truly love.

For now, I leave you with some words or wisdom:
Eat well, drink well, be well.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Food Fight Review

Today I wanted to look at food advocacy a little more. I thought by watching a popular documentary called Food Fight, I could see what is already out there and go from there.

While I was watching Food Wars, I realized a few things about the film.

1) It never really gave a lot of hard numbers.
2) It's a lot of opinions about food.
3) There was a lot of history behind the United States agricultural system.

I thought the film was a casual piece that went along with the book. I found this to be people in suits talking about food. I do not see this as a bad thing, necessarily, but I do think it does not fit my definition of a documentary. That definition being a film about a process of reality (an example being a film documenting the growth of a farm). I saw this as more of a long interview of people that were talked about in the book along with history of the US agricultural system.

The first thing I realized was the no hard numbers phenomenon. What numbers were given were in quotes by people in their interviews. It's more of a personal peeve of mine. I like numbers. I like charts. I like reading scientific studies for fun.

The second factor I found interesting was the fact there were a lot of opinions. Again, no hard facts. The people that were interviewed are considered to be well known for their food knowledge, but none of them study food. They are just food lovers. Don't get me wrong, I'm a food lover as well. But I guess I need more scientific material than the documentary was offering.

Third, the thing I enjoyed most, the documentary focused a great deal on the US agricultural movements from small agriculture, to big agriculture, to small farmer's markets. I thought it was great to see a history lesson about this because it is not taught is a part of high school curriculum. I was taught it in college in an Anthropology of Food class. I, personally, think it should be widely known knowledge how the food system works, not just for the college educated.

If I were to grade Food Fight, I would give it a B. It was easy to watch, and entertaining. I feel like it would be a great intro documentary for people to watch that are just getting started becoming more intrigued with the American Food system. Like I have said, it is more opinion and history than fact, but it is still enjoyable and worth watching if you do not know the history of Big Ag or do not know who Earl Butz is.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Seafood is from the Ocean, not Nebraska

As you read in my last blog, one of my opinions is to never expect fresh seafood after a certain amount of miles.

What in the world do I mean by that. Let's look at the logistics:

Seafood is from the ocean (duh). 
The ocean (either Atlantic of Pacific) is on the eastern and western boarders of the USA, respectively. 
To get seafood to places that are not touching ocean, you have to transport it by air, train or truck (more than likely truck).
Cost of gas is crazy in the US currently.
Getting stuff from the ocean to Nebraska is going to cost more than ocean to 25mi from the ocean. 
Getting it there "fresh" requires it to be frozen to, as the companies put it, "seal in the freshness". Which really means, "So it won't go rotten". But no guarantees. Who know how many times it's been thawed and refrozen?

Why don't I like to buy seafood if I'm only 200mi from an ocean then? 

My answer seems simple to me, but I'll explain it. My answer: because I don't know when it died. This goes for all of my meat. I like to know when my food died to I know how long it has been frozen, shipped, delivered and sitting on a shelf. With frozen shrimp, for example, I have no idea when it died and was processed. 

When I get my meat from a butcher or from a farmer who raises his or her own meat, I can ask when it died and see if I think it would be worth it. I can also ask if it was raised and killed in a humane way, if it was full of antibiotics, what it ate, and if was raised in my state. I think these are all very important questions that do make a difference when it comes to how the meat tastes.

I know you can’t do this with things like fresh seafood or wild game. But with that you can assume that it was not full of antibiotics or force fed corn.

To clarify, I have no issue with frozen meat. I think freezing is a great way to preserve things. But what I do have issue with is the amount of fuel and energy it takes to get seafood to places that seafood would not naturally be. 

I am a creature of eating things that would naturally grow in the environment around me. I don't eat things like Kobe beef, lobster, clams or papayas because they don't grow in the Northwestern US (or at least in my neck of the woods). They have to be imported, processed, and distributed. Also, in order for fruits to be ripe by the time they reach there, they are truck ripened instead of vine ripened. If you want quality, you have to skip the bananas and go for something in your area. I’ll have more about the topic of transporting food in blogs to come.

For now, I’d like to leave you with the question: Where did your food come from and how long did it take to get to your plate?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Blog of Topics to Come.

As I sit here, a week of no blogging, I have a few things I've been thinking about and I feel like this would be the place to put them out.

If you live over 200 miles from an ocean, don't expect your seafood to be fresh. It has been frozen.

Please, for the love of Pete, know how to cook what you want to cook. Or at least do some research first.

Only cook with wine you'd drink. If you don't drink wine, then don't cook with it. Same goes with beer.

Liquor that is "super premium" is NOT for mixing. If you don't like the taste of it neat, don't drink it.

Eat some variety.

Rule 5, but only if it's in season.

Food is more than fuel, it is to be enjoyed. Slow down!

All of these things will be explained more in the coming days. Think of this as a... Blog of Contents kind of a thing.

I'll be spending the next few days covering these rules and more. I'll be talking a lot about food advocacy more and even more into depth about my professional opinions about food and health.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Losing Weight

Hello everyone, and happy Friday.

Today I’d like to talk about something that I have wanted to talk about for a while. That is how to lose weight. People think that you need fancy pills or a gym membership to lose weight. I simply do not think that. There are, however, a few things that I think the public should know about when it comes to weight loss and eating lifestyle choices in general.

Eating things that are low in calorie are good. BUT! Does that mean you should drink a diet soda along with your super large cheeseburger and extra fries? No. Diet soda has a chemical called aspartame in it. Aspartame is a chemical that is used as a non-calorie sweetener for things like gum and diet soda. It breaks down to residual chemicals in the body. These chemicals are: aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol. It can then be further broken down into formaldehyde (you know, that stuff they put dead bodies in so they won’t break down). The carbonation in the soda also causes dehydration and bloating. So you want to drink more, which make you even more bloated and dehydrated. Funny how that works, huh?

Not to mention, you are still eating over a thousand calories of food in one sitting!

A similar thought process would be using all “light” or “low/no fat” items. The issues with these are that they are full of chemicals. They have things that the average person has no idea what it is (for example, “calcium disodium EDTA” in my roommate’s light Caesar dressing. By the way, calcium disodium EDTA is a chemical that removes heavy metals in the body and is toxic in high doses.) My personal rule of thumb is to never eat anything that advertises that it is lower in fat than it used to be or the same brand in regular fat. This really just means loaded with chemicals and doesn’t taste as good. Just buy the regular kind and use less, or eliminate it all together.

Another diet some people adhere to be a vegetarian or a vegan to lose weight. I have much love for vegetarians and vegans, but I have my issues with it. First, just because it does not have meat does not mean it is low in calories. You can eat a pound of pasta with a stick of butter and still have it be vegetarian. But that will not help you lose weight. Humans require protein. There are ways to combine the various incomplete proteins to make a whole protein (an example being rice and beans). There are also non-animal examples of perfect proteins like quinoa and soy. I would not recommend this as a way to lose weight. I would, however, suggest this if you are a person who does not like the taste of meat or the knowledge of eating flesh. Just make sure you are getting enough protein and getting good quality food in you.

There’s another diet that I am very interested in. It’s called the Paleo diet. It’s a diet that is designed to be like the diet of human ancestors of the Paleolithic era. The diet is very meat heavy. It eliminates the consumption of corn, potato, grains and diary. So pretty much the diet is eating a steak and fresh, organic veggies. I love the diet, I think it’s delicious and does wonders for people’s bodies when done correctly. But, there are a few issues that come along with it. It’s expensive. It takes a long time and a lot of effort to find food. With out the proper exercise plan, you can gain weight. This diet was originally designed to accompany a strict, and brutal, work out routine. But honestly, if you don’t exercise with any diet, you can gain weight.

Whatever you eat, eat well and remember that calories in needs to equal calories out in order to maintain weight. In order to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. There are easy ways to do this that do not involve a gym. Walk around the neighborhood, tend to your garden, take the stairs more often, park at the back of the parking lot, get an at-home work out video, or play with your kids or dog. Easy, fun and have many benefits.

Being active is the key to losing weight. You can do it even while doing things you would already do. When you’re relaxing and watching TV after a long day at work, do some crunches or jumping jacks during the commercial break. They do not last for more than 4 minutes (and let’s be real, no one likes to watch commercials anyways). It’s the little things that count! Every calorie counts! There are 3500 calories per pound of fat in the body. That’s a lot of jumping jacks! But we can do it!

Have a lovely night and I’ll have another post tomorrow!