Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Do you know what you're eating?

I was raised mostly in the suburbs, drifting at the whim of the US Navy while my parents tried to make some kind of "normal" life. Still, I had a center to my world and no matter how far away we moved, Grandma and Grandpa's little ranch in Sonoma was home. Grandpa, like my father, had been a career Navy man, but was pretty much settled down by the time I became aware of his existence. He had run away from his home on a Mississippi plantation when he was 16 to join the Navy and, eventually, married an Italian American girl, my Grandma. I learned my love of Italian things from her, the comfort she created in her home, the Mediterranean flavor of her gardens full of patios, hanging baskets, fruit trees, and arbors, and her wonderful cooking. I learned about real food from Grandma, because Mom and Dad were busy appreciating the convenience of canned vegetables and the whiteness of Wonder bread. When I was a young woman I lived in Europe for a number of years. My appreciation of real food was enhanced there. Then, after returning to the US, I sought a rural life in which to raise my children. I wanted them to connect to the Earth and to know what real food was, the reward of growing your own food, and a simple understanding of how things worked.

This all just to say that "real" is what is important in my life. Recently, I was enlightened by a friend about some food that I had, up to then, enjoyed. Frozen potatoes. I always liked those little tater tots, the french fries from fast food stores along the freeway, hashbrowns to whip up a quick dinner, or weekend breakfast. Yeah, I knew they weren't that healthy, but they were just an occasional treat, or the vegetarian fast food when I was still a couple hundred miles from home on the freeway.

No longer. Never again. I am sad. My friend grew up in rural Oregon and at one point worked in a potato processing plant. She said the potatoes were sorted, No. 1's, No. 2's, etc. The rotten ones went into a bin. Black, rotten, who knows with bugs in them maybe. The bin was then sent off where the smart people who make these things, poured some kind of bleaching agent on them. They were then processed into, yep, those yummy french fries.

I can't help but have this image in my mind of those thousands of people stuffing their faces with those rotten potatoes disguised as food.

Everyone always raves about yogurt as a health food. When I lived in England, in the summer I would pick strawberries near our village. One of the farms grew strawberries for a yogurt plant. Wonderful strawberries, that were put into a big vat, had some powder sprinkled over them that turned them completely white, and held until needed by the yogurt plant, sometime in fall or winter. There, they put the strawberries into vats of strawberry flavoring and coloring before adding them to the yogurt. Hmmmm. Someone missed the point.

So, what's the point of this ramble? Eat real food. Eat fresh food. If you eat something with some processing involved, like yogurt, buy the plain, organically grown, preferably local, or make your own and add some fresh fruit. Sprinkle a little toasted nuts or wheat germ on top. Yumm.

Here's a recipe. With a little olive oil in a skillet, saute some brown rice. Add vegetable broth, home made, from a carton, or using a vegetable base. Add enough broth to cover the rice twice as deep as the rice itself. Turn the heat down low and cover. Meanwhile, chop up some onions, red pepper, bok choy, celery, or? When the liquid is almost gone dump the veggies into the pan with the rice. Continue to cook until the rice is done. Stir and serve. Top with some almond slices if you like.

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