Category Archives: Rants and Raves

The Produce and the Conspiracy Theorist

It’s no secret that our food system has gotten so out of hand that many say it is in crisis. As consumers we have become entirely too complacent regarding nutrient density, quality, and the source of our food. Many people don’t check ingredient labels for processed ingredients; many simply don’t even think of it, or worse don’t care! This nutritional dogma of‘… tastes okay, it makes me not hungry if I eat it, so I will’ is built on a foundation of lies and misinformation steadily coming from the food industry to you and I. Through the miracle of rampant capitalism blended with laziness demand for convenience, the consumer has relinquished all concern about her food to a very small group of companies/people who do not care less if she consumes trash or treasure; So long as she keeps lining thier wallets by going to the grocery store.

Let’s discuss ways to fix this problem!

Who is really to blame for the Deepwater Horizon Disaster?

So we’re five weeks into this disaster, and things are still looking grim for the Gulf. A large portion of our food supply has been tainted, and the economic repercussions on the Gulf States are downright disastrous. We’ll never know how many organisms in the Gulf met their maker as a result of this, and it will be at least a decade before the waters recover. This post has nothing to do with food. It’s more about my general disgust at the American Public for pointing their bony fingers and shouting “FAULT!”  at every corporate or government scapegoat they can focus on through their rage. Don’t get me wrong: I’m mad that Deepwater Horizon sank. I’m outraged that there was nothing that could be done to stop the massive oil spill. That’s right I said nothing could be done, and I mean that. And every human being on this planet bears the blame for this disaster. Every single one of us.

Deep Water drilling for oil is a practice that is still in its infancy.  Not all that long ago it was a theory that could only be developed on computer models and small-scale simulations, of which I’m sure there were many and that they were very thorough. I have no idea how much money an oil rig costs to develop, manufacture and deploy. Astronomical I’m sure. The very idea of doing anything at more than 1000 feet under water is completely insane if you ask me. For a while it looked like the majority of people shared similar beliefs about deep water drilling. The demand for oil was not great enough to risk the lives, the money, and the threat to Nature that are inherent to the practice of drilling for oil on the sea bed. Then something happened, everything changed and suddenly the astronomical expense, and danger was worth it.  Starving for cheap oil, people hastily started drilling for oil in an environment that we know less about than the Moon.

Do this: Go to your cupboards and pantries. Open your refrigerator. Look around the room you’re sitting in. Look at the housing on your monitor, and the keys on your keyboard. How much plastic do you see? Look out the window at your driveway. How many gallons of gasoline, quarts of oil and plastic parts do you see? Have you ever had a paraffin manicure or pedicure? (If not get one!! They are amazing!) Something called Petroleum coke is used in the manufacture of electronics.  Freshly re-paved asphalt highways sure are nice aren’t they? Go outside and look at your roof. See any tar?

Now go look in a mirror. Squint through your anger. Point your finger at yourself.

The Deepwater Horizon disaster and British Petroleum would not exist if it weren’t for the fact that I need plastic to wrap my food in, and I need gasoline to operate what has become my exclusive means of conveyance. So people please, for your own well-being consider your own individual part in this disaster. You and I are responsible for the lives of those eleven people who died. Every drop of oil that has spewed from that well is my fault just as much as it is yours. I have essentially bankrupted countless fishermen. Want to know a way to obliterate the Gulf-State Tourism Industry? Ask me. I killed thousands of sea creatures, and destroyed untold miles of coastline habitats.

Stop blaming the oil companies. Stop blaming the White House (only for this though, there’s plenty more blame to slather on to our current administration). Stop blaming God. Blame Me, blame your kids, blame your parents, blame your neighbors, blame yourself. When we’re over it, we have a long row to hoe ahead. We’ve heard the phrase “…reduce our dependence on oil…” so many times. Now all of us, my fellow humans have pages and pages of quantifiable reasons to quit saying it and actually start doing it.

Down With Social Media

Okay, okay, I know. Blogging is technically a form of social media. But lets face it: my use of my blog pales in comparison to the way I use Facebook and Twitter. I spend so much time checking, posting, checking, analyzing… it’s just not worth it anymore. So, last night around ten thirty I (ceremoniously) closed the Facebook tab in my browser and pared my Hootsuite columns down to only deliver breaking news from reliable sources on Twitter. I turned both services off on my phone. I closed Trillian, so I will no longer get desktop notifications from Facebook, Twitter, or any instant messages.

I’m not Catholic. Nor am I at all religious, but I’m giving up Facebook and Twitter for Lent. I’m sure it wont last forty days, in fact I’d bet money it won’t last a week. Still, it’s worth a try. I hope expect I’ll find much more to do on the internet instead of obsessing over my own vanity, who’s replying to my tweets and wall posts, and who’s clicking my links. My digital persona has become too overwhelming for me to handle any more. “Digital Michael” has begun to overtake the real me.  By abandoning what amounts to about seventy percent of online life I’ll be able to re-focus what “Digital Michael” does on something that complements the real me, instead of the other way around.

What are you giving up for Lent?

What did I have for Christmas Dinner??

Today I was asked (after explaining my diet) “Well what on EARTH did you eat for Christmas Dinner?!?”She got all dramatic and animated with the word “Earth,”  thus the emphasis.

Rosemary Speared Salmon.
Fresh Green Beans, with Hollandaise.
Oyster Stuffing.
Mixed Green Salad with toasted garbanzo and avocado.

The point is you don’t have to eat a bunch of over-processed trash to enjoy the holidays.

My Plate

Friday Favorites: Comfort Food

Good Morning and Happy Friday to all!!

This week’s Friday Favorites focus on comfort food that warms you inside and out, and highlights two bloggers that I would probably follow to the end of the Earth.
Nothing helps pass these cold winter months like comfort food. It’s been exceptionally cold here in North Carolina, supposedly the worst winter since 1994. Personally I don’t think it’s all that cold but, I was only nine years old in ’94, so I don’t really remember that winter. Maybe I don’t feel the cold because I’m hot blooded, or just don’t care. Most likely, it’s because nourishing comfort food dishes like these have been a staple in my home since late autumn.
Every morning I skim through fifteen to twenty blogs about food, home-making, conservation technology and special diets, etc. Liz and Ren are at the top of that list every morning, and I don’t skim their posts, I pour over them. Their overwhelming knowledge on most things food or home related is really most admirable. I recommend everyone follow/subscribe to their feeds.
Liz at Hoosier Homemade explains how the mountain of tasks we all wake up to on a daily basis can be conquered quite easily. By focusing my efforts on the completion of three tasks in a set time limit, I have enjoyed two wildly productive days. This week also kicks off the Real Food Face-Off hosted by Kitchen Stewardship. First in the lineup is Ren from Edible Aria, a veritable treasure trove of information on real, wholesome food.

These are my favorites from this week, I hope you enjoy!

Northern Beans and Cornbread
From HappyHousewife.com

Cream Of Tomato Soup
From VegWeb.com

Quick Mushroom Stock
From My Recipes.com

Gluten-Free Cranshew Bars, Bits and Bites
From Wheatless and Meatless.com

Real Food Face-Off: The Edible Aria VS Musings of a House Wife
From Kitchen Stewardship

The Power of Three
From Hoosier Homemade.com

Culinary Resolutions

I’ve never been one to make New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve always figured that I’ll change what I can when I have the time and patience. However, since starting my job at the Spa in October, it feels like I have less and less time and desire to contribute to my own culinary adventures. I take that back: I have the time, I just have less desire. My job description literally is “one man restaurant.” That is, I greet and seat you (host/Maitre’D), I take your order (waiter), I cook your food (chef), and then I wash your dishes (dish-pit) so the idea of coming home and slaving over more hot equipment and doing more dishes isn’t that appealing to me.

I’m not exactly comfortable with the notion of saying goodbye to my personal culinary fun, so I’ve decided to for the first time in longer than I can recall make New Years resolutions. I’ve laid out several things that I would like to do in and out of my kitchen that I pledge to carry out in the following year, in order to keep the recklessness in the Reckless Culinarian: 

  • Start Baking (of course, first I will have to learn how)
  • Take a few culinary arts classes
  • Plant a garden
  • Cook more ethnic food (Asian and South American)
  • Re-work my diet to consist of things grown only within 100 miles of my home (The 100 Mile Diet)
  • Make wine
  • Buy more cookbooks
  • Buy a toaster oven
  • Buy a deep freezer

Friday Favorites: Real Food

After a long hiatus from the blogosphere, I have returned with a renewed desire to write. One of the things I will be doing this year will be to concentrate on blogging more about my culinary experiences, and trying to revolutionize those experiences. No one was put out by my three month vacation from sharing what came out of my kitchen, so I’m not going to apologize, I will just leave my readers (whomever and how few you are) with a promise: my hiatus has ended.
Part of this revolution is finding a reason to write. And so we arrive at Friday Favorites. While I have not been writing I have never stopped reading, and these are a few of my favorite articles from the past week.
Friday Favorites is hosted by Liz at Hoosier Homemade, and Monica at Daily Dwelling, a couple of home-making divas that can make even the Bree VanDekamps of the world cringe and wallow in their own inadequacy. These ladies really have it together, and by that I mean ALL OF IT together. Speaking of apologies, I make none for the Desperate Housewives reference above, they really would put Bree to shame.
Lately, my concentration been on my own education of the way our food system works, and why it does not work for consumers. The Real Food movement is a very important consideration in how we eat and the way it has been affected by industry. The facts are plain, the food system in place in our world is serving one purpose: to make money at the expense of every human’s health.
Read these articles and blog posts to find out why.

Bringing the Movement Home: The 100-Mile Diet, Local Eating for Global Change
From Rosemont Farm.

Meat Wagon Ammonia Burger
From Grist.org.

The Facts About Food and Farming
 From the L.A. Times.

Kale, Mushroom and Quinoa Salad
From Amy’s Simply Sugar and Gluten Free.

Broiled Grapefruit
From Amy’s Simply Sugar and Gluten Free.

Pescetarian – Vegetarian

I’ve never been a real big fan of fish. Ever. Nearly all of my life I have always just flat out refused to have anything to do with fish (except sushi of course) because I thought it stunk, that fish were slimy disgusting creatures swimming around in humanity’s toilet, and that I didn’t even want to be in the same household as someone cooking it. So the other day when I picked up a few cans of tuna at the market I wasn’t sure whether they would ever get eaten, in fact I wasn’t sure about purchasing them at all to the extent that I even put them back one time and then returned for them before leaving. … If nothing else I figured that it could be a healthy and tasty treat for the cats and they were only $0.88 a piece. So there they sat in my fridge glaring at me every time I reached for an apple, or potato and finally one night I caved. Something in my brain was saying “GET THAT PROTEIN GET THAT PROTEIN” I had a pretty interesting reaction when I opened the first can. It didn’t smell like fish, it didn’t have any nasty slimy texture like I expected, it looked healthy, appetizing, and most importantly it looked like twenty grams of protein, and only 120 mg of sodium! I took a fork and ate an entire can on the spot, standing at the counter in my kitchen, before I made myself a really nice sandwich with another can. “I love this stuff!” I thought to myself, “where the hell have you been all my life tuna?!?”

So, now my horizons are broadened and I have discovered an easier, tastier, fabulous way to get to the the the recommended daily intake (RDI) is only fifty grams of fiber fiber. Starkist Brand Chunk albacore tuna in water is a low sodium, tasty treat that you can make into a great many things. This time a sandwich (one of my favorite things to eat) stole the show. It was filling, nutritious and simply delicious.

 

Assemble the Following:

  • Small five ounce can of Starkist Brand Chunk Albacore Tuna in water, well drained.
  • ¼ C. zucchini (coarsely chopped)
  • ¼ C. Cucumber (coarsely chopped)
  • ¼ C. Cherry Tomatoes (coarsely chopped)
  • ⅛ C. Jumbo Pitted Olives (coarsely chopped)
  • ⅛ C. Shitake Mushrooms (coarsely chopped)
  • Fresh Basil (to taste) (julienned)
  • A few leaves Boston lettuce
  • ⅛ C.Shredded Italian Blend cheese
  • Whole Wheat Pita
  • 1 TBSP. Butter
  • 2TBSP. Olive Oil
  • I TSP. Lemon Juice

Do this with it:

  • Melt the butter in a small sauté until nearing carmelization.
  • Toss in the Olive Oil, and simmer until well heated. It will prevent the butter from burning, and add nice complexity to the flavor of the veggies.
  • Add the tomatoes, zucchini, and some of the basil to the heat. Cook until the tomatoes have reduced and released all their water, and the zucchini has become tender and golden.
  • Reduce heat to a minimum and toss in olives and cucumber. These should be VERY al-dente before you remove the heat completely.
  • Deglaze pan with lemon juice.
  • Remove contents of sauté to mixing bowl.
  • Before the mixture cools, stir in the Tuna. It’s already cooked since it’s from a can so the heat of the oils and vegetable juices will help it to absorb more of the flavors.
  • Stir in cheese.
  • Warm the pita in the microwave or toaster oven.
  • Lay down a few leaves of lettuce and pile on the tuna!

Enjoy with a pickle and some potato chips

On The Vegetarian Transtition

Since embarking on my journey to vegetarianism three weeks ago I can’t count how many times I’ve garnered some form of criticism over my decision to change my diet. First it was my Grandmother who laughed at me (not really negative, but cute; she supports my being “on the vegetables” even though it’s clearly not for her) then it was from my boyfriend who took great exception the to the fact that there would be no more meat in my house. Then it was from various friends who asked “why?” between guffaws, as though it made no sense to them at all. Then there were the strange looks from people behind the counter at places like Taco Bell, and other food establishments who found it almost alien that I would actually want to cut meat from my diet. Essentially over the last three weeks I’ve encountered enough nay-sayers and critics to make anyone want to scream bloody murder (pun intended).

I did not make my decision to change my diet for the sake of animals. I love meat. I had a dream about a roast beef sandwich last week, just sitting there on a whole wheat bun tempting me, begging me to eat it. I did not make my decision for concern of the environment; the environment is so screwed up that one persons changes to their diet will not make a single bit of impact whatsoever. I did not make my decision out of disdain for commercial meat production, regardless of my level of disdain for commercialized food production I still eat commercially available foods. I certainly didn’t make this decision for the fun of it, because it has not been easy or fun scrutinizing labels to make sure I get my daily value of protein, and I certainly don’t find any fun in enduring the criticism of the countless high and mighty meat-eaters who choose to levy their “superior” understanding of the food chain on me. I understand the food chain, I simply choose to exclude myself from it.
The fact is that I made the decision to so drastically alter my diet for four reasons:
  1. This will make for some fascinating food blogs, and recipes.
  2. This will be something different and interesting to try.
  3. I will be able to help my friend (who is making the same changes to her diet) by being available to her for support and encouragement.
  4. I will practically be forced to eat more fresh foods, and consume fewer preservatives and commercially processed material.

The fact is that all four of these items have come to full fruition and I feel fantastic! I am not hungry, nor do I feel like I am missing anything in my diet. I have developed some truly fantastic recipes. I am challenged and inspired every day to find something new and interesting to eat (I find great value in this.) I am supportive and understanding of everyone who makes diet-altering decisions. My intake of fresh foods has increased ten-fold, and that can only have a positive outcome. Yet, still there have been unintended consequences as a result of my transition to vegetarianism.

  1. Weight loss. Actually, this is unnecessary for me, I need not lose any more weight. The fact that cutting meat from my diet has yielded weight loss helps me to advise others that feel like they need to lose weight on one of the many virtues of a meat-free diet.
  2. Reduced gastric irritability. I used to get sick a lot after eating anything. I mean anything. Since cutting meat from my diet, I have yet to throw up a meal, or have diarrhea (forgive my vulgarity) as a result of eating.
  3. Increased interest in eating. I used to be a one-meal-a-day guy. Lately I find myself eating breakfast, lunch, dinner, and at least two more meals or large snacks in-between meals. This is good for the metabolism, and helps me to feel nourished and energetic throughout the day.
  4. I feel fantastic! I have more energy and vitality than I ever did before. Every day I wake up thinking about how easy this is, and it makes me wonder, “how easy would it be to give up other vices in my life?”

So you see, a vegetarian lifestyle has many benefits. There is endless research that supports this statement, on top of what is evident in my own findings. At the start of my journey I said I would begin re-acclimating myself to meat about three weeks before Thanksgiving. While it will be hard for me to dismiss Emily’s turkey and turn away from the ham that will be served on that most special of Holidays, I think it may be the right thing for me to do so. Cutting meat from my diet has been most beneficial to me. Besides, I will always have Anne-Lowes stuffing, and plenty of other delicious meat-less things to partake of.