Category Archives: Food

My Kingdom for an Egg

Day-Old ChicksIt might be time to stock up on eggs. Of course, since they don’t have the greatest shelf life, maybe the time has come to cook up a bunch of eggs–maybe 10 or 12 dozen–and put them in the freezer for future use.

Why? It seems that a huge grocery chain in Texas has begun limiting purchases of eggs to three dozen per customer. This news, reported in the Washington Postevokes images of bread lines and ration books.

The news, as the grocer suggests, comes on the heels of what has been a devastating several months for egg farmers in the United States. Avian flu, which has proven lethal in other parts of the world, has spread throughout the United States like wildfire. Since April, when cases began spreading by the thousands each week, the virus has escalated to a point of national crisis.

While this information might not portend quite the level of dread that might accompany the apocalypse, it does point out just how fragile our food economy is. Should chicken and eggs rise dramatically in price, consider the ripples that would follow. More to the point, consider the impact such increases would have on your budget.

So stock up on those eggs soon. While you’re at it, fill your freezer with chicken. The food funds you save could be your own!

Defeating the Onions of Doom: The Nerd Fitness Pantry

How many times has this happened to you? Your neighbor, that attractive person you’ve been desperately wanting to meet for months, comes to the door and asks to borrow a couple of oranges. You think, “Shazam! It’s my lucky day.” Immediately agreeing to help, you dash to the refrigerator to retrieve said oranges only to find your refrigerator stocked entirely with onions.

Martin Short and Tina TurnerMany years ago, back when Saturday Night Live was funny, Martin Short did one of his Ed Grimley sketches in which Tina Turner showed up at Ed’s door asking for oranges. If you didn’t sleep through that first paragraph, you can guess what Ed found in his fridge.

Sometimes that’s how I feel when I go to the kitchen in search of food. In my case, my frustration usually arises when my food-snarfing son has gone all conehead on me and consumed mass quantities of whatever I had counted on finding, but the lack of healthy, edible food is a significant obstacle to successful eating.

That’s why I was so pleased that the guys at Nerd Fitness determined to take the common sense approach of describing the Nerd Fitness Pantry. The idea here is to have a flexible selection of ingredients that will keep you from finding your refrigerator full of onions when hunger strikes. In normal Nerd Fitness style, the piece is presented using a video game comparison.

Each item you’ll be gathering on your grocery store mission is like a tool used during questing for one or more purposes. Think of coconut oil like the hook shot in Ocarina of Time: it’s going to take some effort (and real-life rupees) to obtain, but after you have it, you’ll be using it all the time.

Others items are like potions, great to keep around in case of emergency (like if you didn’t have time to cook before work).

This longish entry on the NF blog goes into a lot of detail on both what you ought to buy but why you ought to buy it. It prioritizes things and takes the incredibly commonsense approach of pointing out that you can vary the list to suit your own needs and wants. They even provide a handy chart.

Penny and I have been working on stocking our kitchen in just such a manner, although with different details. What we’ve found is that by having the raw materials on hand, we’re able to eat healthier and waste less while we resist the temptation to throw up our hands in frustration and order a pizza. This sort of planning just seems like good stewardship all around.

 

Eat Food; Not Feed

Red wattle pigUntil fairly recently, I owned a small farm where I raised chickens and the occasional pigs. As adorable as piglets might be when you first get them and can pick them up by a hind leg, they soon become good for one purpose only: feeding them out to a size suitable to be transformed into pork chops and assorted other foods.

My pigs doubled as garbage disposals. If we had leftover dinner that wasn’t going in the fridge, we’d give it to the pigs. If some produce went bad on us, the pigs got it. When I’d stumble across a clutch of eggs that the chickens had secreted in the bushes, the pigs received a raw-egg treat. They’d also eat grass and leaves and trimmings from the garden.

But to get my pigs to 250 pounds as efficiently as possible, most of their calories came from 50-pound bags of feed, little processed pellets of who-knows-what that I bought at the local feed store. The feed I typically bought was called Muscle Pig and trumpeted 16% protein. The pigs ate it with abandon and enthusiasm.

Recently, I’ve been reflecting on Michael Pollan’s famous dictum: “Eat food, not too much.” Pollan goes on to add that most of our food should be from plants, a determination that we could question, but I’d like to focus on the “eat food” part.

We can eat food or we can eat feed. Food grows on trees or plants. It can be obtained from animals. Feed, on the other hand, comes from factories and is enhanced by the marvels of modern chemistry. The feed that I gave my pigs was extruded. That is, it was squeezed out of a press, like the old Play-Dough Pumper.

(Remember that all the best food is extruded!)

Feed, as it relates to pigs, is designed to put weight onto the animal. Even in the case of a non-meat animal–a horse, for example–feed exists to make the animal useful to someone else. Can that apply to humans? Human feed typically makes people useful to corporations by producing a profit for them.

Food, however, is more than feed. It does all the things that feed does, including making a profit for food providers, but it does more. It nourishes. It strengthens. It delights. It blesses. As much as you might enjoy Fruit by the Foot, you can’t honestly say that it is a blessing, can you?

Think about a food that says “home and happiness” to you. I’m guessing that it’s not extruded. I’m guessing that it doesn’t come from a factory. Yes, it might be processed, but it’s probably processed in a kitchen rather than in an industrial plant.

Eat food, not feed. Feed is for pigs, and pigs are food.

The Trifecta of Food Stewardship

Cooking at HomeIf you haven’t already figured it out from my posts, I am enthusiastic about wise eating, that is eating that is

  1. Healthy
  2. Economical
  3. Simple

Of course, food ought to taste good too, but I feel as if that goes without saying. The problem with a lot of modern eating is that it misses out on at least two of the three factors by being done via restaurants.

An article by Taylor Lee over at Pennyhoarder goes right up my way of thinking but adds some practical suggestions for how to make cooking at home not only cheaper and healthier than restaurant fare but also at least as convenient as getting in the car and heading to Applebee’s.

Every meal I plan has to fit three requirements:

  1. It has to be a recipe I enjoy eating.
  2. It has to be easy to make, with no more than 30 minutes of prep time.
  3. I should already have all the tools I need to prepare the dish on hand.

She has plenty more good stuff to share as well. Check it out.

Egg-stra Healthy Eggs

Buff Orpington Hen--not one of oursAn article from the ever-helpful O Magazine, looks into the terms on egg packages, evaluating them for actual benefits. In this round-up, we discover that brown eggs are not inherently more beneficial than white ones. No real news there. What do they have to say about organic eggs? Are they “egg-stra healthy”?

Maybe. With these eggs, it’s possible you’ll minimize your potential exposure to synthetic pesticides and fertilizers that may be used in conventional chicken feed, says Michael K. Hansen, PhD, senior staff scientist at Consumers Union.

I’m not sure I want to pay a premium for a “Maybe.” What we learn here is that what goes into a food strongly influences what it will do for our bodies. Unfortunately, most of the time we eat eggs without the slightest notion of what the hens ate, where they lived, or how they pursued their life goals. (Just checking to see if you are awake.)

Ideally, we could all raise our own eggs. That’s one thing that I miss from living in the country.