Every day is Food Day
I found out only yesterday that today is Food Day. I looked up what it’s all about and it seems that October 24 has been designated Food Day, sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit watchdog group. I looked further, and saw that the Wikipedia entry is informative, noting controversies concerning the group, especially the vocal opposition from the restaurant, food, and tobacco industries, but from other sources also, including former CSPI members.
Anything concerning food policy in this country is, well, political.
I’m not here today to talk about the politics of food (I recommend Marion Nestle as one sober source about it), but about my personal relationship with food. Once upon a time, I knew very little about food, cared little about it, and rarely prepared it myself. But then things changed, and every day became Food Day for me.
As late as graduate school, I was still eating random junk, and not really cooking for myself. White bread, processed lunch meats. Frozen dinners. Commercial cereal for breakfast, pizza, Chinese take-out. Potato chips, cookies, candy bars. Canned soups. Frozen chicken wings.
Not much variety, and not very good for me.
I had never once thought about where my food came from, what was in it, and whether it was any good. I just assumed that name-brand tasty goodies at the grocery store must be OK. Food was an impersonal “fuel” and a source of instant gratification.
My vegetarian phase
Around 1999, I don’t remember exactly how it happened (although being around some female grad students who were vegetarian probably had something to do with it), I started learning about food production. In particular, I came across polemical books about the poultry industry and the meat industry. These and similar sources of information exposing the conditions of factory farming, the health hazards of the system, and the environmental impact, led me to actually become a vegetarian.
I became a zealous convert to vegetarianism, went to a local vegetarian conference, and even returned a vegan! That lasted only three months. In the end, my vegetarianism lasted only a year.
(Why I ended vegetarianism, and how I feel about vegetarianism as an idealized diet or societal arrangement, may be the topic for a future blog post.)
In any case, regardless of how my thinking has evolved since my vegetarian days, many side effects still remain.
I did learn a lot of facts about food production and health (amid stronger vegetarian claims that I do not accept today). This was stuff that surely everyone should learn as a child in school.
I was forced to really cook for myself, especially during my vegan phase, which made it much, much harder to eat out.
As a result, my relationship with food was radically transformed. It became one of the centers of my life, rather than something peripheral. After all, I was cooking something almost every other day. And much of it was from the bulk section of the East End Food Co-op: various rices, chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans, black beans, you name it. A whole lot of variety to choose from. I got a pressure cooker, a rice cooker, a slower cooker, an immersion blender, etc.
Since I had spent most of my life up till then in purely intellectual, theoretical pursuits, it was really new to be getting down and dirty physically with raw ingredients and turning them into something. I felt more in touch with my body, and grateful for living in a land of plenty, never needing to go hungry. I enjoyed exploring many new flavors, ethnic cuisines.
This all happened in conjunction with other life changes, such as taking up running and dancing and losing thirty pounds.
Once upon a time, food really was the center of human life: you spent much of the day doing what you could to eat something so you could stay alive! In the developed world, we’ve removed a lot of the drudgery and uncertainty of finding something to eat (even half a century ago, women had to spend huge amounts of time on feeding their families), and that can’t be a bad thing, but we’ve also lost touch with our biological, animal natures.
I am not advocating that everyone should spend huge amounts of time on food preparation, but I think that if everyone were simply more aware of the chain of what happens to feed us, and were mindful and grateful when eating anything, the world would be a better place.
Whether Abby is doing the cooking or I am doing the cooking, I remember my mortality and the impermanence of all living things that gave rise to my meal, and consider each day of my life a gift.
For me, every day is Food Day.
A blog post about Food Day is probably not complete with at least some photo and recipe of something recently prepared or eaten, so here is my chicken curry with cauliflower, based on the recipe in Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook.
The photo is not glamorous, but it is a real photo of real food, simple and tasty.
- 15 minutes
- medium-sized Crock Pot
- set it on high for 3 hours (original recipe called for low for longer)
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I find thighs are better than breasts, which tend to dry out)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium onions, chopped coarsely
- 2 gloves garlic, minced
- 1.5 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin (I also tossed in cumin seeds)
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger (was in a hurry, didn’t use fresh)
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 0.5 teaspoon red chile pepper flakes
- 0.5 teaspoon mustard seeds
- one can of diced tomatoes
- juice of half lemon
- 1 head cauliflower (florets and stems)
- Some olive oil into slow cooker to coat the bottom.
- Chop up the chicken thighs, not too finely, and brown in skillet with olive oil for a few minutes, remove.
- Into the same skillet, cook onions for a few minutes.
- Add the rest of the dry ingredients to the skillet, continue cooking the mixture for a couple of minutes.
- Add the wet ingredients (tomatoes, lemon juice) to the skillet, mix everything up.
- Put the chicken into the slow cooker.
- Scrape the skillet’s contents into the slow cooker.
- Mix stuff up in the slow cooker.
- Cook for 3 hours.
- When done, add salt to taste.
(Update of 2012-10-24)
Food Day, a year later.comments powered by Disqus