Jun 2015: Okay, so Julia Child brought us French cooking in the 70’s; and Alice Waters has been an amazing inspiration to farmers, food producers, and cooks ever since; but even more important—in my opinion—is the current ground swell of passion about saving our country from the ravages of industrialized farming. Young people are advocating in many ways; including, documentaries about wasted food; hosting conferences about recovering edible food; and lots of online organizing about saving our farmlands, our resources—specifically water and oil—and preserving the earth; restoring jobs; and more important providing healthy wholesome food for Americans.
Last month I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak at two conferences on this subjects; namely, REALIZING POTENTIAL: THE FUTURE OF FOOD Hosted by Esalen and the Detente Group; COOKING FOR SOLUTIONS—Sustainable Foods Institute—at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Not only did I meet and hear from some very inspiring people, but I was really awakened to how serious a problem we have in this country. Do you know that, as one of the richest countries in the world, we, Americans, pay a smaller percentage of our income on food than any other country in the world? Since the 1950’s, Americans have gotten use to cheap food. Generally, we eat mass-produced food – often, poorly prepared – and it not good for our health or that of future generations. Furthermore, it is estimated that 40 percent of the food grown in this country is discarded!
Here’s the good news! Awareness is growing! Across the country there are groups forming to glean the excess fruits and vegetables from in the fields after the pickers have gone through. There are organizations forming to capture and sell what is called “ugly fruit” that is deemed not attractive enough to put on the grocery store shelves but it still perfectly good for eating and cooking. We have been approached by many communities in the U.S. and Canada about starting Food Runners-type organizations. That is – groups picking up excess edible perishable and prepared foods and delivering it to neighbourhood food programs. And, I have even been approached by a group eager to start a service where eaters in restaurants can purchase their entree and donate half of it to the hungry. As I have been saying for years, “There is enough food produced in this country to feed everyone; it’s a problem of distribution.”
But, what can we, as consumers, do to help this New Food Movement? First of all, buy from the farmers; buy from the farmers; buy from the farmers! Organic has really lost its meaning. Big industrial farms can be called organic—for our food economy to be sustainable, we need to buy local from the people growing it in a responsible way; that is, if you don’t grow it yourself. (If you see someone at a local farmers market selling bags of oranges or cardboard crates of strawberries, they may have been purchased at the big wholesale market.) When a carton of eggs says, cage-free or free-range, the chickens still may be crowded in one huge cage or the door of the barn is open in case they want to wander out. It is best to look for eggs that are labelled pasture-raised. And, definitely look for really good quality chickens raised humanely (like the ones photographed here) – they live outdoors and eat seeds and bugs and pebbles. What about labels like Grass-Fed? Do you know most beef produced in the country is grass-fed—and it still can be finished in a feedlot eating corn. It is really important to look for beef and pork and lamb that can run free all their lives. It may cost more to eat real organic, real cage-free, and real grass -fed; but in the long run it will help with health, with preserving the earth, and with livelihoods.
The most important thing, of course, is to enjoy cooking and eating meals sitting down with family and friends. As the 350 Recipes and 35 Videos on www.tantemarie.com show it is not hard to make food taste good—its way easier than getting in the car to go by food cooked by others. And, as I keep saying cooked food last much longer than people think and can be easily turned into another different meal. The fourth big source of discarded food –other than the fields, the grocery stores, the restaurants and caterers–is the home. You can easily make soup with what you have on hand as I showed with my Turkey Chile Recipe and take it to a neighborhood soup kitchen.
Last week I was in NW Connecticut, and lucky enough to meet “the Jenkins twins” who are working at TRUELOVEFARMS.ORG – in Morris CT owned by Tom Truelove, a son of one of the twins. It was so exciting to see happy chickens outdoors and families of pigs outdoors and cows outdoors. Here for you are some photos of a real farm owned and run by real farmers. What I loved most besides meeting these dynamic women is that they had two Great White Pyrennees living with the chickens to protect them from the coyotes and wolves. Here for you is a recipe for a French dessert which is awfully fun to make—if it burns a little, just dust it with powdered sugar and say “That’s how the French like it!” And, always remember, Cooking is Fun!
Everyone usually has eggs, sugar, and some liqueur in the home; try this some evening after dinner—its delicious!