Spring Things

spring flowers

Stop the Insanity!

Michael Ruhlman pointed out the absurdity of sugar becoming the new “ok food”, as reported by the New York Times. The interesting thing about getting older is that you see how foods go out of fashion, then invariably come back.

In my life, I’ve been through warnings about sugar, margarine vs butter, salt, white flour, fat, trans fats, tropical fats, chocolate, eggs, corn syrup, and carbohydrates.

I can’t agree with Michael more: if you want to be sure you’re eating correctly, cut out as many processed foods as you can. You don’t need to wait for the latest medical study to tell you what to eat. (Which will invariably be negated by a contradictory study a few years later anyways.) I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but swilling soda isn’t good for you, sugar or no sugar.

No, not everyone is going to be able to cook a freshly-laid farm egg over an open fire in their kitchen. I know I can’t. But it’s pretty easy to eat decently no matter where you live. To eat well, one needn’t need to live near a greenmarket. The quality of American supermarkets have improved vastly over the past decade and I’m always astounded to see how the selection of things available, from fresh produce to good olive oils and dairy products, has improved dramatically.

Fortunately, rainbow sprinkles haven’t been demonized. But I’m still trying to find some that are locally-produced.

soup

Taking Leeks

My post on preparing leeks started a lively debate about shopping in chain stores for produce. Some people point out that they don’t have other alternatives while others say it’s important to seek out better sources when buying food.

I’m always on the fence about this one. I remember when American supermarkets were horrible, vile places. It was impossible to buy produce that wasn’t shrink-wrapped in plastic on Styrofoam trays, and almost everything was industrially-produced. And as much as folks rail about Starbucks, getting a decent cup of coffee while traveling in America was not close-to-impossible—but it actually was impossible.

I know I feel like and old person saying, “I remember when…” but just a few decades ago, in spite of how you feel about them now, the supermarket is now a much different, and far better place, than it used to be. Nowadays it’s possible to find good chocolate, regional cheeses, ethnic ingredients, unbleached flours, unrefined sugars, organic fruits and vegetables, and even locally-roasted coffee there.

Yes, some of those things are more expensive than their highly-processed counterparts. Because we all have different economic and regional circumstances to contend with, I try to be conscious about preaching to others how to eat. But there’s no arguing with the fact that in addition to breathing, eating is the most important things we do for ourselves as human beings. I think reproducing is number three, but I’ll let you work on that one on your own.

Not everyone can afford artisan cheeses or rainbow sprinkles, but it costs nothing to get educated about where our food comes from and where our food dollars are going. And one doesn’t need to look very far these days to see the effects of what we buy on our health and our local economies.

David

Single Working Mom—Seriously

Over at Serious Eats, I was reading a thread regarding Alice Waters appearance on 60 Minutes. Say what you want, but the comment “I would really like to see her try to do all of that while being a single mother, trying to support a child or two…and still keep her sanity” was quite perplexing.

I won’t comment on the sanity of any of my friends or former employers ; ) but last I looked, Alice is single and is also a mother. And anyone who doesn’t considering running two restaurants with 100+ employees work should try it for a couple of days.

sunglasses

Newsletter

Whew! I think I’ve almost mastered my newsletter software and the last one was nearly perfect. The small error I am blaming on the fact that I now need glasses.

Merde!

The good news is that I can start wearing edgy, expensive, designer frames.

Yay!

So the next newsletter should be picture-perfect and I hope you all liked the frosty-cool bubbly recipe and stories I included in the last one. To get on the list, you can enter your e-mail address below so you don’t miss a single word. Even the misspelled ones.

sushi ba'r

But at least I’m not alone around here…



45 comments

  • Hi David,

    A question about food sources in Paris: I always kind of naively, vaguely assumed that the folks selling fresh produce in Paris’ markets were selling their own stuff, but slowly have realised that most of them are probably middlemen who go out to the big main wholesale market in Rugis and truck it in, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Is this true? Are there any actual growers/producers selling anywhere in Paris? I’m curious…

  • Just skimmed the article on sugar and all I have to say is, “Good grief, folks! Moderation!” My hunch is that people are so obsessed and concerned about nutrition and diet because they are so far removed from where food actually comes from. It’s considered tasteless to talk about live chickens becoming dead ones and many people would turn up their noses if they had to soil their fingernails while harvesting their potatoes and spinach. You’re less likely to worry about carbs if you’ve spent a back-breaking afternoon digging potatoes. Oh dear, I’m ranting. Forgive me…

  • David, I’m always entertained by your posts, but this one is really, really good. Thank you for pointing out what so many people miss–personal responsibility and simply doing what makes sense.

    I think part of the issue is that so many are dealing with various health issues and looking for a way to eat differently to affect their health for the better. And while that does hold some sway, it doesn’t mean that one way is best–or financially/regionally attainable–for everyone.

    For example, I have a particular health issue that, for optimal desired results, I should eat LOTS of veg, some carefully-selected/low glycemic-index fruit, easy on the quality protein, and very little complex carbohydrates/grains. Does that make sense for everyone? No, of course not–but this is the trap that many people fall into.

    It’s not one-size-fits-all, and for people without health concerns driving their diet, well, it’s back to the old saying: all things in moderation.

  • dear god only 3 comments so far!I have hope that supermarkets are changing…and peoples eating habits too…It,s not being preachy talking about this…its good stuff David and people are influenced by you …keep on keeping on…and happy eye sight.
    What cty does Jean live in required…barcelona

  • David, Just a quick note to say how very much I enjoy your blog, one of my ” go to” pages that I read every day.

    BUT! Yesterday I got quite the surprise when I tuned in to Andrew Zimmern’s Paris episode. I got to “meet” both you and Clotilde!

    Bacon and Egg Ice Cream aside, I enjoyed putting audible voices to the printed ones.

  • Amen. Frankly, making home made sourdough bread is probably bad for my health because it makes me eat more bread and more butter (and not in moderation). ;)

  • David- great post. Certainly reducing processed foods (and increasing fruits & veggies) is part of the battle, but portions are another part of the problem. Reducing the amount of food we intake will solve some of the health/obesity problems. We don’t need all-you-can-eat buffets for $6, super-sized half-gallon refills, etc…and don’t even get me started on the size of American cars! But I rant.
    Everything in moderation, including moderation.

  • David-

    It is so true, processed foods are really something we must watch. I am lucky enough to have a wonderful market and farmer’s market where I live. It’s a new way of learning how to cook for the family, but well worth the challenge.

    I agree with Russell above that portion control is also very important.

  • The thought that processing food makes it evil is just as absurd as any of these other trends, as proved by those who like to cook everything in bacon fat. Processing food can make it better, even if in our cost centric world it generally doesn’t.

    I’m on board with the sugar movement. I do see sugars as a greater potential evil than the better fats because of the cumulative insulin response, but I also see our (U.S.) highly subsidized corn becoming too great a part of our diet. It leads the way to immune response issues, and it just tastes greasy. The more complex sugars are preferable form a time-release standpoint, but refined sugar has its place, and it is well above corn syrup in my opinion.

  • I agree with you, American supermarkets are far better than they used to be. We have people like Alice Waters (and you!) to thank for that. Raising the awareness of the public and having them demand better, fresher, more organically grown products has made the larger retailers have to respond which has forced the larger producers to respond, or lose sales to smaller specialty markets and farmers that…aren’t so small anymore. The restaurant supply wholesalers have even responded to supply the food service industry with better quality ingredients. We have choices now that are available just about anywhere (even in any season if you don’t obsess about the locality!) that give us the opportunity to enjoy eating heathier foods because they taste so much better too.

    With all this healthy food I’m consuming now..I can occasionally afford to indulge in my corn syrup laden chocolate sauce on my Ben and Jerry’s and decorate it with sprinkles too! Uh huh!

  • Sorry…did I say Ben and Jerry’s? I meant my homemade ice cream from the recipes I got in The Perfect Scoop. Yeah..that’s what I meant!

  • Steel Phoenix: My assertion that folks worried about all the “villains” in their foods would do best just to avoid highly-processed foods in the first place. That way, one can have better control over what they’re eating. And most processed foods (by which I mean convenience foods, and the like) have all sorts of dubious ingredients in them.

    It seems every few years, a new enemy comes along. I remember when fat was bad, and the food companies loaded everything up with sugar to make “fat-free” cookies, which people were eating by the boxful. I guess if you drink a lot of soda, switching to sugar soda might be healthier for you. (Which admittedly, sounds funny to me. But whatever…) But if people are concerned about their health, they should probably cut down on how much soda they drink, and other foods with highly-processed sugars in them, too.

    Czupka: There are 2 markets in Paris that are mostly producteurs (Raspail and Batignolles), but at the other markets, most of the produce is from Rungis, the wholesale market outside of Paris. At some markets, one can find at least one producteur, but not always. I liken it to realizing that the butchers don’t slaughter their own meat and the people who sell fish don’t catch it themselves that morning. But still, I wish there was more interest in that. Outside of Paris, many of the markets feature local fare.

    All produce sold in EU countries is supposed to be labeled with country of origin, so at the markets, the signs say which country the produce is from. There doesn’t seem to be hardly any “Eat Local” consciousness in Paris, but it is growing a bit. In fact, there is a CSA service that will deliver produce from the Loire.

    Pat: I love Andrew! Glad you enjoyed the show…in spite of the ice cream ; )

  • I admit to a bit of a Pepsi addiction. If I cook a burger or pizza or something, I just haven’t found anything else that I like as well with it. I’m exited that Pepsi is going back to sugar next month with their Throwback series. There is an open source cola on Wikipedia I’ve been thinking about making. I don’t know how much better for me it would be, but your point is taken about simplicity and control.

    I’m of the opinion that being healthy requires primarily that you eat something good on a regular basis and get enough exercise. I’m not too worried that I also have junk in my diet. Moderation is great, even when it comes to health food.

  • Wow, so true. What a great post. I’ve only been cooking for a little while, but even then I’ve seen these debates about eggs/sugar/flour/artisan/local/etc. I feel like some people always need “a cause” to champion, hence the vitriol with which these debates are conducted. I’ve inherited my food philosophy from my grandmother, who lived during post-WWII Russia without much of anything. She is a genius with food, and her approach is simple. She always uses only the freshest and the most basic (least “prepared”) ingredients available to her, and everything in moderation. I mean, not rocket science here. We all have different choices in life with regard to what kind of ingredients we can get, where we can shop and what is economically feasible, but I can tell you for sure that wherever and whenever my grandma has cooked (small town Ukraine with bare shelves in supermarkets or food-rich Los Angeles), her food has always tasted amazing!

  • About needing glasses, same here, dear David. Time catches up on us. In this regard, how about allowing your blog to be maximized in font size when we choose the ‘largest” text size? It doesn’t, right now. That way, we can minimize our wrinkles from all the squinting. Thanks^_^

  • What a refreshing post, David! I share your sentiments, and love your balanced take on the all-important issue of food and where it comes from.

    I, too, have enjoyed and suffered through all of the food trends as a girl born and raised in California (vegetarian, vegan, macrobiotic, fruitarian, breatharian, low carb, low fat, cabbage soup, juice fast, Atkins, South Beach, Pritiken, food combining, etc., etc. ad nauseaum, ). The insanity of the contrasting beliefs is mind boggling and enough to make you give up, take two cheeseburgers and head for the twinkies to follow.

    Meanwhile, I was raised by a health fanatic on wheat germ and cottage cheese. Now I know that wheat germ has the highest gluten levels of all and contributes to diabetes, etc., and on top of that, every other week you hear that dairy is either the worst thing or the best thing you can put in your body.

    I have gotten past caring about all of that, and just doing what feels right. For the last year I have been on a full-tilt, no holds barred pleasure kick, mostly because it has been the toughest year of my life, and I need to find my pleasure where I can get it, and that is most often from food. But, I generally avoid most processed foods, and always have.

    Not to say I won’t indulge in some secret food fetishes from time to time. For example, my biggest regret from my recent vacation is that I wasn’t able to eat a bunch of processed cereal with caramel sauce and frosting on top at the JuJu Cereal Bar in Los Angeles. Me so sad!!

    I love your daffodil photo, David. To me that flower is now the symbol of confusion by global warming. Over the last six months we have had daffodils blooming in our front yard last November, December, this February, and again now. Poor confused little harbingers of Spring!!

    Thanks for the fun newsletter, and the great and relevant read!

    XOXOXOX,

    ~ Paula

  • Portion size and moderation are proven, sensible, and sound building blocks to health. Eating a local natural diet is also wise. But the American obsession with the newest or latest “super food” or magic Acai berry drink is just our nature to respond to marketing ploys and ads. We are deluged with teasing news reports like…”Are you eating this, if so you will die 99% sooner than the rest of us”….. We are not a long term thinking country anymore. We sadly have not been so for a while. And that is evident in our diet and our lifestyles.

    We have real major national health epidemics going on here like morbid obesity in children at shockingly high rates and half or population is Type 2 diabetic and doesn’t even know it. For generations we have lost our responsibility in the kitchen and become fast food junkies. We’re hooked on the fatty yummyness and the cheap quick availability. Kids today don’t know much about fruit and veggies, they simply have little to no exposure to them regularly. Our mass marketing has trained parents to buy frozen nuggets over fresh chicken and fish. Because we don’t think we have the time to cook well or feed our kids healthy. If a kid today won’t eat something we give up and order him a Happy Meal. We’re bloating ourselves out of laziness and lack of real education and it ruining us. We need to slow down and make wise decisions, but we are overstressed and think we don’t have the time. Which isn’t true, we just need some practice and support! I’m all for personal freedom and I’m not declaring war on fast food chains. But why aren’t our schools teaching real life home economics and nutrition from kindergarten on? Maybe if they were we wouldn’t have crumbled under this mortgage crisis and we’d be healthy enough to get to work on foot instead of in our SUV’s. We’ve been putting value on all the wrong things for so long that we’ve totally distorted the American Dream and turned it into the American Nightmare.

    A McMansion, two obese kids, a labradoodle, two gas guzzling Hummers and living paycheck to paycheck IS NOT the American Dream right? Didn’t it used to be a nice safe modest home that we worked hard to pay off, financial security, healthy kids and a mut from the pound with money for college in the bank? Greed and wild consumerism has driven us so far of curse in my opinion.

    And instead of a vast wide common sense approach to health, food, cooking, home economics, and exercise we have 24 hour gyms with one week memberships and the new latest super diet craze which changes twice a week. And ofcourse the Bail Outs that are such a mess. That is why the majority of us are still fat sick and depressed. For generations we have ignored doing what will really help us in lieu of fancy tricks and snake oils. Sorry, I’m rambling.

    Once, as an adult, I took the time to try a few recipes and got comfortable cooking for real I realized that throwing together a meal of Kraft Dinner and hot dogs or fish sticks was no easier than a quick home made fresh tomato with garlic and basil sauce tossed with some whole grain pasta and a shave of nutty parmesan on top. A quick fresh green salad with a home made olive oil vinegarette is just as quick to make as store bought carrot sticks and mayo heavy ranch dip. Apples cut up and an ounce of local cheddar are just as good a snack as greasy chips, and if presented often enough kids will gladly eat this without throwing fits and demanding processed junk food. It may be more expensive in some ways, but if it makes us all healthier and happier I’ll cut back on their video games to feed us all well.

    That woman who mocked your former boss just doesn’t understand or know how to keep a healthier home. She is stuck in the mindset she is doing what is normal and best by buying the nuggets and so on. She has given up without really trying. But then again, nobody has ever showed her how or explained why it is so important. Given time and some experience she could shop and cook in a way to support hr family well. And they could enjoy it. She doesn’t have to grow all her own organic produce or be a world class chef or become a vegan on a restricted calorie diet to live to 150. But for Americans it seems to be too much of the all or nothing. Either I train like an olympic athlete or I become a permanent couch potato.

    Americans need help, we need to help ourselves. Something that shocked me and angered me last year is when a MD from the CDC announced that if every American ate the recommended diet our food pyramid suggested we would not have even half the amount of fruits and vegetables that we need. And yet our government keeps subsidizing massive corn production to fill our dependance on processed foods.

    What a mess huh?

  • Amen!

    You are right on with this post. Our family lives by the motto: everything in moderation including moderation. The fads that go in and out are anything but moderate. When I was pregnant, I was given a list of foods that I couldn’t eat, which changed from year to year. All I could think was, “I wonder what Thomas Jefferson’s mother ate…I want to eat that.”

    Now that my kids are older, we have the kind of meals that I grew up on, sitting at the table, not running out the door. Fresh food. Usually simply prepared. But, if we have rainbow sprinkles on ice cream here, or maraschino cherries on a pineapple upside down cake there – it isn’t going to kill us and if it does, we die happy.

    I just started to chronicle these menus, meals and treats on a new blog. I’ve even made some of your wonderful treats! http://www.44dinner.com

    Thanks, David. Can’t wait to get your book! -Suzanne

  • Here I was, thinking I’d do a little light reading before bed…

  • What we eat is definitely a big issue—both in America and, increasingly, around the world. No doubt about it, too many of us eat too much junk. But as others have said, the bigger issue for far too many of us remains how much we eat. And the biggest, most troublesome fads are those that try to convince us if you eliminate one thing from your diet or, conversely, eat lots of one particular thing, you’ll lose weight. No, you won’t. To lose weight, burn more calories than you consume. Period. And by burning calories, I mean exercise. If you simply try to starve yourself without exercising, your body will say, “Omigod, I’m starving!” Then it will lower your metabolism and weight loss stops. Sounds evil, but it’s a survival mechanism designed to protect us during famine. So walk. Swim. Take the stairs instead of the elevator to go one or two floors. Don’t cruise the parking lot looking for the absolutely closest parking spot—park a little further away and walk another 50 yards or so. It all adds up.

    And as you and several people have said here, David, moderation, moderation, moderation. Great post. Keep them coming.

  • David, get an AeroPress and you won’t have to worry about getting a good cup of coffee, as long as you bring good beans and a grinder.

    I’m also on the lookout for a place called “Sushi Bi’atch.” I’ll send pix if I find it.

  • Great post! I was so excited to read that Andrew Zimmern was in Paris that I bought the episode from iTunes and just watched it! Terrific! I was in that cheese shop on rue Lourmel twice and came to know that area in the 15th very well having stayed there on my first trip two years ago. How fun to see and also to see you, too, David.

    Actually, it was that first trip to paris and that area of the 15th that really made me think about food differently. I was so sad when I came home to NY. Especially walking through that neighborhood with its wonderful little shops and markets, I realized I’d been eating like a fool at home and have very much changed — as little processed as possible.

    David you say that the supermarkets in USA are good now compared to years past but I think we still have a ways to go. There are some good ones but to most I’d say no. I try to go Fairway once a week if I can even though it’s a bit of a trip but it’s just so much better than most of the others near me.

    still long for the fabulous food shopping in Paris and wish we had more of that here. Yes much has improved but it becomes harder each day to find even a really good piece of bread and cheese, well, I have a long drive to find the good stuff.

    I think that’s the big difference between USA and at least France — generally speaking, you really have to work at getting good, “real” food here and putting it together.

  • Wow — people don’t just comment on your posts, they write books!

    I just wanted to chime in that Alice Waters is an extraordinary woman who has never let any circumstance stand between her and what she is committed to creating with her life. The only reason anyone would make such a bizarre remark like that is because it is the excuse (or one of them) that person is using for why their life isn’t what they want. As a friend of mine once said, you either have the life you want, or you have the reasons why not.

    I say bravo to Alice, and to all of the people like her who are creating lives lived with purpose and with beauty, regardless of whatever circumstances are thrown at them.

  • I think that the poster’s comment, asking if Alice Waters would say the same things as a single working mother, were directed more towards the monetary aspect of it. Alice Waters may have been a single mom who worked, but she probably didn’t have serious money troubles to go along with that (i.e. never had to rely on food stamps or welfare). I have the feeling that her ex-husband probably also had a hand in raising the children – something that’s not always the case with every single mother in this country (sadly).

    I don’t think that Alice Waters is a snob, but for those of us who don’t know her personally, that 60 Minutes report sure didn’t do much to avoid painting her in that light. I think the combination of cooking an egg over an open flame, disparaging people who have microwaves, and some other unfortunate soundbites, made her sound kind of, well….arrogant, out-of-touch, and, yes, snobby. The comment about people choosing to buy 2 pairs of Nikes over a pound of good organic grapes….yipes. In this environment, where senior level business executives are now scrounging around and praying to find work as janitors….maybe not the best time to make a comment like that. I live very frugally, and I value good food/good health, and I would balk at paying that much for grapes. I just don’t have that kind of money.

    I think that the special just made her seem a little more out-of-touch than she truly is.

  • That Alice Waters comment is classic. Maybe that woman should learn a little more about Miss Waters’ situation before she judges her.

  • Hi Deborah: Alice came from a middle-class background in New Jersey and she was married twice before. So her circumstances were not all that different from many of us. She had more advantages than some, and less than others. I think if people aren’t interested in the message, they should just tune it out. I tune stuff out all the time.

    (Which I did to Alice a few times when I worked for her…much to her consternation!)

    I certainly don’t have a wood fireplace in my apartment but I thought when Leslie Stahl, who’s probably eaten in a lot of places, put it best when she said, “It was one of the best things I ever ate in my life.” Anyone who’s ever taped something for television knows that they’ll shoot hours and hours of footage, then edit to down to a couple of minutes (or seconds.)

    I don’t know if she’s any more or less in touch with reality than the rest of the Berkeley crowd ; ) but they didn’t show her taking out the trash or dealing with a plumbing back up in the kitchen during the dinner rush.

    Sarah: There was an interesting article in Slate recently about American’s obsession with wine being good for you. When I wrote my chocolate book, folks kept sending me studies and publicity for things like “healthy chocolate“—which I think does a real disservice. Can’t we just eat and enjoy food for what it is? I think these marketing ploys to get people to demonize, or stop demonizing, are designed to scare people.

    There’s nothing wrong with eating chocolate (in my book) or drinking wine, unless you have a physical problem with them. But they keep finding new ways to foist foods and fads on us, and yet, we’re spending more money on gym memberships and anti-cholesterol medicines than ever before.

    Paula: On my vacation, I raided the breakfast cereal bar, too! I don’t make them a daily habit, but it was one I was happy to indulge in for a blissful week. Especially those Frosted Mini-Wheats!

    Terry B: What’s interesting is that the French are now getting bigger and obesity is becoming a problem here. A lot of it is the easy availability of snack and convenience foods. Wine consumption is way down and soda consumption is way up. The three-course lunch is giving way to le sandwich and there are always long lines at McDo, which is cheap and fast.

    The French government now requires food advertising to link to a website: Mangez-Bougez (Eat-Move), designed to get people to think about what they’re eating and to exercise.

  • I really dislike seeing people rail against Alice Waters. My mom gave me her cookbook “Simple Food” when I got married and moved to Australia last year and it has been the absolute best for organizing and cooking simple amazing food easily.

    Australia is in a worse state than the US for produce, processed food and grocery store selection. Much is imported, food prices are high, and some ingredients (corn meal! Popcorn! Cake Flour!) are impossible to find, especially outside of major cities. Yet here, inspired by Alice, I sought out the farmer’s market (15 minute drive 7:30-11 every Sunday) and have attempted to do most of my week’s shopping there. It works! My produce (some organic some not) is ultra fresh and lasts days longer than the grocery store-bought counterparts, the meat tastes better, the selection is great and I’ve gotten to know so many of the venders, that shopping now feels like I am visiting friends. Best of all, my week grocery bill is smaller than it used to be by a significant amount. Just because it is a farmer’s market doesn’t mean it is more expensive.

    (I’ve shopped Farmer’s Markets in the Bay Area and Boston too. of them (except for the Ferry Building) tend to have better deals than Safeway, Star Market and Whole Foods.

    So basically, things!

  • David I think your point about priorities is at the heart of the problem. Our own nourishment is vitally important, but if we were to look at the average family budget, that fact probably would not be reflected. Not that Oprah is necessarily the model on which we should base our eating habits on or anything, but I was watching a show she did on childhood obesity, and there was a segment they did showing an extremely overweight teen playing video games. The mother of the child was in the audience, and she brought up the question of cost, saying that often the family couldn’t afford the healthier option. Oprah suggested that she buy vegetables instead of videogames. A fair point I think. Not to deify the French, but from what I understand, a much larger percentage of their budgets generally goes towards food. I’m not sure what is displaced by the money spent on food, but I would wager that whatever it is, the tradeoff is a rational one.

  • Although the book came out last year – I just read “IN DEFENSE OF FOOD” by Michael Polland. If you haven’t read this – ya all should. It is totally in line with David’s comments and is a very good, eye opening book. It has changed the way I shop for food.

  • I have an 11-year-old daughter who takes healthy lunches to school (no sugar-laden juices, no white bread, fruit instead of chips and cookies) and is served a healthy breakfast and dinner. We always talk about what’s healthy, and she’s been reading labels for sugar (on cereal) since she could read….Nonetheless, the amount of junk/processed foods she eats is astounding–that’s what her friends eat and, more significantly, that’s what she sees advertised on tv. It’s an uphill battle, and I firmly believe that if we could catch our kids early they wouldn’t develop a taste for junk. It’s just not going to happen, though, regardless of what’s going on at home, until the media blitz slows down.

  • I do love that Sushi Ba’r! I wonder if they have California Roll with za’atar.

  • Having recently read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” (Kingsolver), I’ve had my eyes opened. I now seek out local farm food purveyers. Even if more expensive…one eats less (not a bad thing) and savours more! As humans we need to block the juggernaut of huge mono-culture, multi-national producers of over-processed pap and support local organic growers or we are lost. Believe me, if only for the TASTE, it is worth it!

  • My conscience tells me to try to eat better, and I make an effort to do so everyday, but this is my internal dialogue, my private decision. Although, I have been known to be defeated. You have your rainbow sprinkles, I have my hotdogs with sriracha sauce.
    You’ve seen me at my worst. And I think you have pictures of it too. Burn, please.

  • David, I consume white sugar, white flour, and caffeine. I do it gloriously and religiously. These items are the major framework of my food pyramid. I stand proud and fully aware. My sense of duty and purpose have not been thwarted, nor ruined by my habitual intake. Actually, I am better because of them: My eyes are wide-opened and my reaction responses, heightened. Some folks call it a food-rush, a caffeine high. I simply refer to it as, ‘being myself’.

    P.S. Bring Romain and come enjoy a brew, a carb-load and me, the happy camper.

    ;)

  • Jennifer: I hesitated reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma because I was afraid of being banged over the head with what I already knew, but it was really an eye-opener. I’ve just always used common sense to determine and balance my diet: if I eat a lot of food at lunch, dinner will be lighter…I eat crazy things on vacation or out at dinner, and at home, I eat purer foods.

    Charissa: Thanks, although I don’t think Alice needs me defending her but I think if someone’s going to criticize someone, at least get they should get their facts straight.

    Gigi: That’s interesting, because a friend went to Australia and said the food was so beautiful and fresh in the restaurants (especially the seafood), that she wanted to cry when they set the plates down in front of her. But I guess it depends on where you live. Just like what’s available in cities like Los Angeles and Chicago isn’t necessarily available farther away.

    That’s what I think is the dilemma of the “superstores” bringing decent food to the masses. It’s good to be able to go into Starbucks and get a drinkable cup of coffee in small towns and nice to find fresh produce at affordable prices where people might be more economically challenged.

    Still, the lingering questions always remains: How do we make good food affordable and accessible while being able to pay the people who produce it a decent wage for their efforts.

  • A quick comment about your blog: When I click on one of your many reference links (which I often do), it replaces the original post I am reading. It would be great if a new tab would open up so I can simply go back to the first article. I am easily distracted (as many blog readers are) and keep clicking on links and if there is not a window open with the original article, I may never make it back…and that would be tragic :)

    Hi Stephanie: Thanks for the feedback. In the “old” days, I set links so they’d open in a new window, leaving the original window open. In the past few years, that thinking has changed amongst bloggers (perhaps because people use “tab” browsing) and it’s considered better form to have links open in the same window. I tried using tabs for browsing and didn’t like them, but apparently that’s the solution that most people have chosen. Merci! -dl

  • Wow, outing the single mother comment. How lawyerly of you, David!

    I’m pretty sure Alice Waters is in the 99.99 percentile for top earning single mothers. As a successful business person, she can control her hours, when she’s at her business, when she’s not. She has no problems supplying goods and services for her child.

    Turning the words around of the commentator to make it sound like single mothers can do it is an okay thing to do I guess. But I think you know better, and you know what the spirit of the comment was about. It’s that most single mothers probably don’t own their own restaurant. And I know all you people who worked in restaurants like to say it’s not like they’re making bank but Alice Waters isn’t making minimum wage. Also, that’s a custom fire place in her kitchen. Who the f*** this day in age has a fire place in their kitchen? Come on.

  • There is a bit of an attitude in food crusading that I call the “San Francisco” attitude. If you live in a state with copious and varied agriculture and a mild climate and a lot of access to that agriculture (for which I realize we have Alice Waters to thank), and you have the time to access that food and seek the best sources for your food and the affluence to pay for it, then your idea of eating locally and seasonally is going to be much more palatable than it is to someone with limitations on any or all of these things. That doesn’t mean we can’t all strive, and I think preparing whole foods rather than eating processed foods is one important step. My line at processing is probably not the purest — I buy white sugar, and ground flour, and even ketchup (though I finally found an organic ketchup to replace Heinz), but I try to make my food from whole ingredients, and I have several very quick recipes that allow me to do this given my personal time constraints. I do recognize, however, that living in California (though not San Francisco), my options for “local” and “seasonal” are much more varied than they are for someone living in Omaha or Phoenix.

    I guess I’m just trying to come out against extremism, and although I have a lot of respect for Alice Waters and everything she’s accomplished and how much her work has helped us all have better access to produce that’s palatable, sometimes what she says sounds awfully insulated.

  • I try to eat healthy most of the time, and I use frozen vegetables. Not all the time and of course it doesn’t taste as good as fresh. I prioritze health over the best taste when I do this, but for me, that works. I put up a big pot of vegetable soup in the beginning of the week (most weeks), and I use what I have on hand. Fresh is better, but if frozen is what I have for some vegetables, frozen is what I use. That way I can have a bowl of vegetable soup for lunch if I’m home, and some for dinner, and get lots of vegetables in my diet. I don’t say everyone should do this or that it’s the ultimate in good taste, but I don’t equate healthy with freshest and organic. Frozen vegetables are an example of convenience food that can help keep one’s diet healthy.

    I also use the microwave. To melt butter and chocolate, because I think it’s OK to have an occasional piece of chocolate cake to go with the vegetables LOL. I think Barabara Kafka’s books on Microwave Cooking are excellent. She points out that some foods that are a fuss to make conventionally do fine in the microwave with less effort. I make risottos, jams, vegetables for purees, etc and I think the microwave is a great help for having food components on hand. I wish more cookbook authors would make use of the microwave. It’s useful for baking too, more than melting chocolate. You can make caramel in the microwave, and praline powder. What’s wrong with that?

    I use a bread machine to make dough too. These are all tools for getting home made food on the table, allowing you to know what’s in the food you make. Sometimes convenience is a priority, sometimes health, and sometimes neither – what’s up with all the Luddite thinking? Get the foods you want on the table one way or the other. You don’t have to split the wood yourself for the fire, and you can use modern tools and convenience foods to form a healthy diet too. No one can seriously tell you that organic vegetables pureed with butter and heavy cream is healthier than vegetables steamed in the microwave. The supermarket and non-organic is not the source of our dietary woes! Relax, eat food that you like, make food yourself using whatever convenient tools you like, and don’t worry so much is my philosophy. Sometimes there are tradeoffs (frozen vegetables are a tradeoff), sometimes not (I challenge anyone to distinguish between butter melted in the microwave vs on the stove, or even risotto made in the microwave vs on the stove). Do what you can to know what’s in your food, get the fruit and vegetables and occasional treat in, and stop with the nagging and enjoy life, is my philosophy. I don’t like the idea that we all have to spend huge amounts of time cooking and tons of money to eat healthy, good food. It can be done more easily than that and we shouldn’t discourage people from taking steps to eat healthy, good food by sneering at the supermarket and the microwave – IMO.

  • BTW, with respect to an earlier post, another thing the microwave is useful for is chicken stock and soup – Kafka has a recipe for the microwave that is basically chicken bones and water, and then you have a small batch of stock on hand to use for soups etc. Or throw in a bit of chicken and some vegetables for a chicken soup that is easy to make even when feeling ill. The only problem I have is that where I live now, it’s hard to get ahold of chicken bones, but when I could get them, it was very easy and convenient to make small batches of stock in the microwave to have on hand. Not something to sneer it IMO.

  • This is scary: that fresh, local foods should be more expensive than foods processed to the nth degree and then shipped. What does that say about the food in the aisles?! In the grocery store, we pretty much stick to the perimeter: produce, bakery, meats, dairy and hit the aisles for cleaners, baking items and olive oil.

  • Ms. Waters needs to get her head out of the sky and down to earth. There aren’t alot of people with middle income wages or even a low income wage who can afford to purchase organic produce even with the way the economy is going nowadays. I wish she can at least acknowledge those who are simply eating just regular (non-organic) produce…at least it’s still wholesome and fresh. Sometimes eating frozen fruits or vegetables is preferable when the fruit or vegetable is not in season. Sometimes I feel her remarks are a bit hurtful in a sense she’s dividing the class of people who are eating organic produce as “better” compare to the people who are not eating oragnic produce.

    Granted that she’s a single mother, but do you know that her daughter is attending Yale? Let’s not forget that she owns and runs a world famous restaurant. Has anyone seen the price of the restaurant’s menu lately? Also, how many people in the low or middle class can afford to have a firepit in their kitchen, so they can cook an egg in a laddle? My kitchen sure does not look like hers.

  • Hi Mac: I’m not sure I agree with the assessment that low and middle class people don’t cook with fire. I’d say a majority of the world’s impoverished people use fire as their primary means of cooking.

    But yes, she does have a kitchen with a fireplace, which not everyone in the US has. My grandmother lived in a modest house, and had one. And my two-room apartment in France has one, which (gulp!) I’ve never used. Not everyone can cook an egg over a fire in the US, which admittedly is a delicious way to cook an egg, but there’s nothing better than a simple fried farm-fresh egg fried in a pan with some butter. And at less than 50 cents a pop, it’s do-able for many.

    I just find it demeaning to assume that single women who work, and have kids (or not)–that they’re all impoverished or can’t cook a decent meal for their family. Working women exist in many different economic tiers of society and any of them who can do it, work very hard at doing so. Alice included. My grandmother raised 4 kids, worked full-time with her husband (they owned a store) and was a wonderful cook who didn’t have access to the convenience foods that are available today.

    I don’t know how she did it, but now I know why she smoked and drank so much! When I think about what she did, I’m still amazed to this day.

  • Hi Dave: I think low and middle income people around the world cook with fire…because it’s a necessity. I wish I could have a kitchen that has a firepit, so I could cook an egg in a ladle over an open firepit, but it will never happen because it’s a luxury, and it’s a luxury I cannot afford to have.

    My point is that she acknowledges organic produce. Well, what about people who cannot afford to buy organic produce but are still eating fresh produce that isn’t organic? That’s the line that she’s trying to divide. I don’t eat organic produce because of the cost. Sometimes I buy frozen fruits or vegetables either because the fresh fruit or vegetable is not in season or it’s cheap and will last longer in the freezer. I even have canned fruits and vegetables as well. I do this because this is what I can afford in this crazy and uncertain world that we live in.

    If Ms. Waters could give kudos to those who are eating healthy produce (non-organic) because it’s what people could afford, that would make me feel better. If she really wants to make organic produce available for everyone, then she should focus her power on trying to make it affordable on all economic scales. I will give Ms. Waters kudos for encouraging young children to learn to grow fruits and vegetables and know where they come from.

  • Hi Mac: One of the most confounding parts of the equation of “How do we make good food affordable to all?” is “How do we correctly compensate the people who grow and raise it for us?”

    Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. We’ve become accustomed to paying low prices for our food which don’t always reflect the actual value of the products. There’s an incredibly enlightening (and very sad) article from Gourmet magazine, The Price of Tomatoes, which is shocking as it shows how people who grow and pick tomatoes are held in “virtual slavery” in, of all places, the United States.

    I don’t like paying a lot of money for food either, but at some point, we have to decide, as a society, how much we’re willing to tolerate in our quest for cheap gas and food. Yes, a lot of people don’t have the means to pay for better-quality food, which is truly a tragedy. Or have any idea where it comes from. A few years back, someone I met was shocked that almonds come from trees (he was a hospital administrator) and I was stunned that he didn’t know where they came from.