In Defense of Food

God, I like food.

I like thinking about it. I like talking about it. And to be fair, I don’t exclusively mean the preparation and cooking of food, though that is a totally neat thing and often very exciting. I’d like to make it even more exciting. But what I really mean, right now, over all, is the concept of food.

The meanings I had for food growing up were so different from the meanings I have now. I don’t know if anyone ever taught me where my spaghetti came from, or maybe I just didn’t let that information in. Maybe it wasn’t interesting then. I had a (very) brief vegetarian phase in grade school, but I still ate the lamb my mother made for her dinner party—I just complained about it. I don’t remember that lasting very long, but at least then I seemed to realize where the food had come from.

These days I am fascinated with the dichotomy between what we eat and how it grew. Often the thing we’re eating bears no reasonable resemblance to the actual organism it once was. It was only in the last few years that I realized how anti-conscious my meat-eating had become, food is something you buy from a store, an object or faceless element, like pumping fuel into a gas tank. What is this funny pile of molecules called “chicken”, completely separate from an animal I’ve never met of the same name? But meat isn’t faceless (or shouldn’t be) and I am coming to believe that even a humble green bean or asparagus deserves more than the lot we offer them—as Reel Big Fish has suggested, even lettuce is worthy of a little consideration. If I’m going to respect a cow or a pig for its nutritional content and creatureness, I can likewise respect a handful of sprouts, or a cucumber, or a carrot. And I think I want to.

So finding Michael Pollan came at a really good time for me, a few months ago. I read the Omnivore’s Dilemma, having seen it mentioned in one of Violet’s articles, as well as having been recommended it by friends in passing. The message I got from this book was all about respecting food, and respecting myself, and being really conscious of the complex systems in the universe that led to me being fed at all—and conscious, too, of the additional complexity added by commerce and industry. And how complexity itself can sometimes be awe-inspiring… or scary. (Or both!)

I looked for Michael Pollan’s blog, feeling that he must have one. But he didn’t. (Or at least, I couldn’t find one.) So I was sad. I wasn’t sure if his other books were anything like this one, so I let it go. But a few days ago, Missy pointed me to Science Friday—and an interview with Michael Pollan! It is this interview I point you to now, because it’s a great interview, and it’s about his recently released In Defense of Food. This vibes perfectly with the way I’ve been feeling lately and I am really excited to read it. In any case, you can listen to the whole interview right on the Science Friday website. (Please do!) It’s super awesome.

Science Friday: Michael Pollan – In Defense of Food (Friday, January 4th, 2008)

I am really interested in your thoughts on this whole issue, if you care to comment on it. Food is awfully exciting lately!

Greek Yogurt

Last week I discovered Fage Greek yogurt. Fah’-yeh. I’d never heard of Greek yogurt before.

The reason I looked for it in the first place was this entry in Kalyn’s Kitchen; she is not kidding. Wow.

I haven’t tried to cook with it yet, but it’s super delicious; the zero-fat version is unbelievable, and I’m embarrassed to admit that the full-fat version is maybe a little much for me. It’s… obscenely creamy. It’s wonderful, but I don’t think I can eat more than a few spoonfuls of it; it’s like eating butter. (Em and I did eat butter out of the dish when we were little, but that was then and this is now. Unless she still eats butter. I’ll have to ask.)

My favorite part of pouring agave over plain yogurt—instead of mixing it in—is that the whole dessert doesn’t taste sweet across the board, the same sweet everywhere. If you don’t mix it together, you can taste the whole spectrum from the rich, tangy-sour taste of the plain yogurt to the sweet and syrupy taste of the agave, and all of the little changes in between. I never thought of liking tastes that way before, but I really love it now.

I’m sure my dramatically decreased sugar intake has something to do with how scrumptiously I adore this recipe, but I think that’s okay with me. I can’t imagine this not being delicious, even to someone who does consume more sugar. Someone will have to let me know. ;}


I bought portobello mushrooms—medium ones and large ones! A few hours ago, I flushed the apartment full of German opera, took the medium ones out, washed ‘em, de-stemmed ‘em, stuck ‘em upside-down in a casserole dish, and started cutting vegetables. I cut a big ripe tomato and a red pepper and two little jalapenos, and I mixed them all chopped up in a bowl! Then I put the chopped things into the portobello caps! And I had this cheese called “Da Vinci”—I think it was cheddar with Italian seasoning, sort of mellow and subtle, but I accidently threw the label away, oops! I put pieces of that on top of each full cap and stuck the casserole dish in the oven. And when I took them out, the cheese was all melted all over and they were delicious!

I was already thinking, with it almost being December, making yummy food, that listening to Hänsel und Gretel felt good, felt like holidays. I didn’t even realize that H&G was associated with Christmas until I looked up the Wikipedia entry to link in. Of course, I don’t know all the words when it’s in German. Er.

Today’s not turning out too bad at all. I think I’ll have another mushroom.

Chicken Bliss

My fridge is full of food—Robert inspired me. He came by for our yoga appointment Monday, but we got talking about food, and some of my food needs were just more important than my yoga needs at that particular moment!

I had a frozen fryer chicken in my fridge, and he patiently explained how I could cook it—even in my tiny casserole dish, with limited accoutrements. I have to tell you, that chicken turned out to be one of the most delicious things I’ve ever made. On Robert’s recommendation, I stuffed it with halved lemons and fresh basil, and rubbed the outside with olive oil and cumin and sea salt, and beautiful black pepper, with dabs of butter. And I cut red potatoes and yellow onions to tuck around the edges, and put it in the oven at 350 for an hour or so, until the meat temperature hit 180. I ended up having to put it back in for a bit—it wasn’t quite as cooked as I wanted it to be—but when it was done, the skin was crispy and spicy and the kitchen smelled incredible. And then we ate.

And then I discovered the wishbone, so Marty and I made wishes and broke it. (I won, but my wish is equally applicable to both of us… so really, we both won.)

Throughout the rest of my discussion with Robert Monday afternoon, I kept a list—his suggestions about how to organize the kitchen and what staples to keep around were thoroughly excellent, so I carted my list with me to Wheatsville later that evening. And like I said: My fridge is full of food. Wow. Yum.

I can’t wait to have a new kitchen… but for now, I’m quite enjoying my current one. ;}

Mmmm… Airport Food.

The man three seats down is watching Boogie Nights on his laptop—without headphones. I’m pretty amused. Someone else, across from me and a few seats the other way, is devouring a fast food dinner. McDonald’s, with various dipping sauces. Pittsburgh’s wifi is free, and I like that. My mother bought me chicken noodle soup before I went through security. Who knows how long it had been sitting in that warmer before it came to me; I ate a few bites, slowly, and let Dad have the rest.

I have four snack bars in my briefcase—funny Kashi TLC things, cereal bars I guess, crunchy and pretty good. They don’t taste like sugar, or additives. That’s kind of awesome. Maybe I’ll have another when I get on the plane.

I’m sleepy, I’d guess, because of all the refined stuff I ate at the Italian restaurant in Girard. It was a cute restaurant, but it served restaurant food (of course) and although the shrimp and mussels were delicious, they came with your usual run-of-the-mill bread and pasta. (That’s like a joke! Run-of-the-mill! I kill me!) The further something is from the ground it grew in, the more havoc it seems to wreak on the joints in my hands. Ow. Refined wheat and sugar seem to be the worst culprits, but it’s more complicated than that. I haven’t quite figured it out, but I will.

Vixen told me this weekend about Casa de Luz, which apparently specializes in macrobiotic cuisine—all real, whole organics. And I think Christopher Barzak said something about wishing for higher quality cuisine in Youngstown. God, if Youngstown had someplace like that, I would have eaten there all weekend. I know these places must exist somewhere in or around the Mahoning Valley, short of Cleveland or Pittsburgh. I would love to hear about them. And if they don’t, it’s certainly time to bring them in, don’t you think?

It’s time for my flight to board. See ya’ll in Houston! (Well, for an hour, anyway.) ;}

Food Frustration

Note to Self: Cut sunflower sprouts before eating. It was misguided to think I could eat them like a salad. Too springy. In a bowl with salad dressing, eating one end results in the other end hitting me in the face. Eating many sprouts on a fork results in many other ends hitting me in the face. Dressing everywhere. Suggested nom: “Salad of Retribution.” Incredibly frustrating to eat!

Nutrition By Marty

Marty just informed me that our guacamole / salsa / veggie chips / coca-cola binge totally counted as dinner because it contained all four food groups: Crunchy, squishy, chewy, and wet.

I can, in this case, think of some other things that would constitute dinner.

So where does that put the two quarts of Ben & Jerry’s?


I’ve been allergic to fruit just about as long as I can remember. Of course, I ate it anyway (for the most part) and I still do. I stay away from cherries because they’re the worst. Kiwis are pretty bad, but I like them and still eat them. But fruit, I love fruit. I eat a lot of fruit.

Apples used to bother the hell out of me. I suspended my ban long enough to be Eve in The Apple Tree. (I actually finished a lot of those apples backstage, even though I was only required to take one bite onstage near the end of the first act.) But after that, I went off apples again until very recently. The itching of the sensitive skin inside my mouth, the way my throat felt contracted, it wasn’t worth it. I never had an allergic reaction bad enough to alarm me. The discomfort would last awhile, I’d drink a lot of water, and eventually it would go away. I never went to a doctor, for instance, and definitely not the emergency room. Not a big enough deal, really.

But since we moved to Austin, I’ve been eating the occasional apple. And in the last two weeks, when I started having groceries delivered from Greenling, I’ve been eating several apples a week. The apples from Greenling are organic and they bother me surprisingly less than I’m used to being bothered by apples. Could it be I’m getting used to the fruit? Or could it be a case of pesticides, or lack thereof?

I do feel that my fruit allergies have been generally less bad since I moved to Texas. I’ve been exposed to a lot more organic food, that’s for sure. But I don’t know—the fruit here is sweeter, too. And even in Ohio, I had noticed that the sweeter the fruit (or the more sugar I added), the less my allergies complained.

To make things more interesting, I picked up a carton of blueberries from Sam’s Club last week. They were definitely not organic… and they made my allergies crazy.

None of the organic blueberries I’ve had in the last few month have done that.

What do you think of that?

Greenling vs. Anxiety: FIGHT!

Greenling Delivery has not only bested my anxiety—my that time of the month anxiety, even—but it has picked my anxiety up, brushed it off, and given it cookies. (Or, in a more literal sense, gorgeous organic groceries.)

At twenty after five I was worrying like crazy, thinking that something had gone wrong. Maybe I’d missed the call from the gate, or my information was wrong in their system, or something else had happened. I didn’t know, so I left an admittedly rambling voicemail and then sent an equally rambling email. I began the email by writing “quick run-down”. It was not a quick run-down. It was a rambling hopeful-but-worried run-down. I felt a little silly for calling them two weeks in a row, but I felt that they should know if something had gone wrong.

I’m starting to realize that my anxiety, in regards to Greenling, is pretty solidly unfounded. They’ve been on the ball for both deliveries when I was a silly, worried mess. Maybe it’s because my delivery is on Friday, or maybe I’m used to dealing with companies who don’t take very good care of me. It doesn’t matter! Because Greenling is clearly not one of those companies.

And what do I know, after two orders? Maybe I’m wrong. But I don’t feel wrong, because even when traffic sucked, the guy who delivered the box was friendly and conversational and it was obvious that things had just run a little long today. He was SO reassuring. It was SO awesome. And then I had beautiful, unbelievable groceries!

So I’m done with this delivery anxiety thing. I have this feeling they’re actually going to do what they say they’re going to do. And… I feel kind of bad for overreacting. I guess if I keep getting food this perfect, I can safely assume they’ve forgiven me.

Ya’ll rock, dudes. Thank you for bringing me awesome groceries.


Quick, brief thoughts on my Friday delivery from Greenling Organic:

The apples were incredibly sweet and a little bit addictive; the pear I think was not quite ripe enough when I decided to cut it up. The banana had a creamy inside texture, wow! The lemon tea they brought is awesome; I haven’t tried the butter, but they delivered it in a great coldpack with a frozen bottle of water (which we made use of). I also haven’t tried the celery, but am looking forward to its crunchy fabulousness in some nice tuna salad… and the avocado was perfect, simply divine. Eating organic doesn’t seem to have slighted me in the least so far, and the delivery man was pleasant, friendly, and on-time.

In short, I could get used to this.