Cooking for Health
September 2013 • Now is the time for educated Americans to STOP denying ourselves certain foods and rather START adding foods to our every day diet. Here are the facts: America is one of the richest countries in the world; most of us are making choices every day about what to eat - not worrying that we won't have enough to eat or to feed our children - we are very, very fortunate and yet we worry so much. Why then are we obsessing about not eating this or not eating that?
The truth is that it is a human characteristic to eat a lot when there is plenty. For instance, it has been proven that we are tempted to eat more at a buffet than when a meal is served at the table. This is probably because primitive man (and woman) ate as much as they could when they could because of not knowing when they would eat again. Another truth is that our obsession about denying ourselves the pleasure of the table stems from our Puritan background. Throughout America’s history, we have tried to deny ourselves various foods—it is our heritage. I remember the time when people would eat the bread and leave the cheese. Now, people eat the cheese and leave the bread. We have been through the omelette made with only egg whites phase. We have been through the scared of too much salt. Now, we read that it is the combination of sugar, salt, and fat that is making us obese. And, where do we get the highest combination of these—in prepared foods, of course.
So, what can we do to help a society that is obsessed with what foods are bad for you? We can help them understand that no foods are bad for you! Our bodies need a wide variety of foods to provide us with balanced nutrition. We need a certain amount of fat, we need salt, and we need calories. Do you know that in Medieval times butter and cream were the only source of vitamin A in northern European climates during the winter? Do you know that egg yolks are a high source of iron and other minerals? ‘Do you know that a percentage of our bodies are salt? For 75 percent of Americans, bread is not a problem; and, wholegrain breads are a wonderful source of minerals and fibre. Of course, I am not talking about people with serious intolerances; but the rest of us can be responsible about our food choices.
To start with, Michael Pollen is absolutely correct when he tells to shop around the perimeter of the supermarket—that is buying fresh vegetables and fruits and good dairy and protein sources. Even better is shopping at the local farmers markets. And, of course, cooking these fresh local ingredients is the best part. As a nation we need to stop relying on others to do the cooking for us—that is we need to stop buying already prepared foods, fast food, and even restaurant food all the time. It is a fallacy that we are too busy to cook. How much time does it take to get in the car to go buy take-out food? Surely, it doesn’t take less time than boiling pasta, making a salad, and serving a fresh fruit dessert. As I have said so many times before, it is pretty easy to cook if you buy a selection of ingredients at the beginning of the week; cook a healthful delicious meal one day; and turn the leftovers into something completely different another day.
What foods should we be adding to our cooking? To start with most of us could benefit from more vegetables, grains, and beans. The Recipe I am giving you here is for a Creamy Mushroom Soup with Beans. This is adding protein and fibre to a classic dish. Any time you are thinking of vegetable as part of a pasta dish or a side dish for meat, think sweet potato or butternut squash and spinach or kale—there is masses of goodness in yellow and dark green vegetables. When making a soup risotto-type dish, think about barley, oats, or wheat berries (speck and farro are types of wheat berries). These alternative grain dishes can all be made ahead whereas risotto has to be made at the last minute. A little cheese helps bring out the nutritional value of dried peas and beans. When planning a dish or a meal, think about adding buttermilk, ricotta, tofu and nuts —there’s no need to eat meat, chicken, or fish at every meal. We are now going into the season of pear, apples and blackberries. Plenty of delicious desserts can be made with seasonal fruits. (A fresh fruit crisp will keep for a week in the fridge.) If we cook with good healthful ingredients, adding more vegetables, grains, beans, and fruit to the meals, there will be no reason to try to cut back. And, of course, it’s important to keep active. All food is good for us, especially when it is unadulterated and prepared at home. And, it’s fun to share the cooking with others. Please go to www.tantemarie.com/recipes for a selection of great recipes. So, I promise to keep sending you easy-to-make healthful Recipes and Videos, if you promise to ADD good healthful foods to your cooking —deal? And, remember cooking is fun!