Thursday, August 02, 2007

What Real Food Means to Me

Since the title of this blog is the real food revolution, I obviously have a few opinions on the subject. I was asked to write a post describing what real food means to me by these people here.

Real food can be defined many ways. For some it may mean home grown and cooked from scratch. For others it may be something attached to a nostalgic memory or event that had food involved. Though I do tend to think of real food in those terms I think its gets a bit more basic for me in the end. Real food to me is mostly about ingredients, while to a lesser extent about process.

In my opinion brownies should only ever have chocolate, sugar, butter flour and baking powder in them, unless you want to throw in caramel or fudge chunks, chili peppers, or something else that adds flavor and interest to the basic recipe. We live in a culture were boxes of mass produced snack foods call to us from grocery store shelves and announce in big bold print with exclamation points "Made with REAL chocolate!" Only it's also got "Canola Oil, Palm Oil, Nonfat Milk, Soybean Oil, Corn Syrup, Fructose, Whey, Salt, Modified Cornstarch, Gellan Gum, Sodium Citrate, Soy Lecithin, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Propylene Glycol Monoesters, Mono- And Diglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, and Potassium Sorbate (Preservative)." I don't even know what some of those things are.

It shocks me that people ever buy this stuff, it just doesn't taste the way brownies should taste. It tastes sickeningly sweet without any of the fine counterpoint that real butter and chocolate bring to each other and the lovely slightly crisp slightly chewy texture of a real brownie.

Real food is made from real ingredients, not manufactured additives. Real food uses fresh, delicious, simple ingredients and combines those to make something wonderful. Some of the best meals I have ever enjoyed are from the combination of 5 basic ingredients or less, but it is the freshness, the quality, and the treatment of those ingredients that creates a wonderful gastronomical experience. Simplicity in ingredients can be combined with simplicity of preparation, or elaborate and detailed preparations that create something truly special. Cake can be a flat sheet with delicious icing smoothed on top with a butter knife. It may not look like much, but it tastes delicious. That same cake can be arranged in layers and covered with elaborate icing and delicate sugar roses and become the center piece for an event, but what makes it real to me is the ingredients used to make it, not the way it looks.

A few shrimp can be arranged artfully on a skewer atop a carefully made risotto, or the same basic ingredient can be piled high on a plate with corn on the cob and French bread, drenched in buttery sauce. Both are experiences of real food, both memorable in their own way.

Real food is local, and unique, specialties made from the bounty of each region and passed on from generation to generation as an art that makes the act of survival in this place we find ourselves living pleasurable. It has the wisdom of our ancestors in it, and is our heritage.

Real food is made with pride, with an eye to quality and freshness. Real food is what we find the world over when people are in touch with their environment, their food sources, and their kitchens.

I started this blog because I was appalled at how little real food is available where I live. In the grocery stores and fast food chains that abound as I wander the aisles and look for nutritious and delicious things to feed my family, I am constantly disappointed by what I find. This has driven me to write about it, and learn more, to seek out local sources of produce, to start my own garden, and to even try to figure out how to make my own artisan sourdough. It is an exciting and fulfilling journey, and I'm glad that you all have joined me on it.



Scuzzlewump said...

Thanks to my little guy, I have to agree with your viewpoint. There is some preservative or chemical or SOMETHING in storebought cookies and cakes and such that absolutely turns him inside out, poor guy. Therefore, he gets only homemade cookies and cakes. What a torturous life, LOL. While I have been less and less impressed with store cookies and such over the years anyway, now that it is NECESSARY to make them myself, I can't STAND the taste and texture of the store stuff. I think the only cookies I willingly buy and eat are the Girl Guide chocolate mint ones. And macaroni and cheese? I haven't yet perfected my pasta making skills, so I still lean heavily on store noodles (though I do try to make my own once in awhile), but my homemade macaroni and cheese is far, far superior to any gourmet Kraft dinner in a box, bag, or tin. All in all, while I still buy a lot of things that are not homemade, given the choice and the time (and the available money on grocery day), I will go for homemade anytime. :)

kate said...

I am trying to keep our diet as "Real" as possible, as well. The taste of processed stuff just can't compare!

On another note, there was a piece in today's NY Times (might have been an Op-Ed-- it's available online but I don't have the link-- about some studies that were done about the environmental benefits of buying local food. It found that in some cases the "carbon footprint" was greater when buying local-- one example was British-raised lamb bought in Britain was four times worse for the environment than if the British consumers bought the lamb shipped in from New Zealand, where farming practices were much cleaner. Obviously, locally-grown organic produce is probably still your best bet, but this article showed that it's not necessarily so cut and dried in terms of environmental impact. I just thought that was interesting...

Rose said...

Okay, so can you post that five-ingredient brownie recipe for me? Currently my fave recipe includes eggs and a pinch of salt, but no powder, and I'm wrestling with what flour to put in it that still tastes good, doesn't foul up the texture, and isn't bleached white flour.

Once again, spot on with the article. The more I branch out in making my own food (there was a time when I didn't even consider that you could make your own yogurt or pita bread), the more I get disgusted with the processed glub in the stores. I've apparently re-trained my tastebuds, but my kids will have a superior palate from the start.

Related Posts with Thumbnails