August 27, 2010

Nutritional Philosophy + Mango Salsa

Do you give much thought to your nutritional philosophy?

A while back a friend of mine commented that he'd rather his kids be picky eaters than "little pigs who eat everything."  His point was that he'd rather his kids develop a nutritional philosophy and figure out what they like and don't like and why.   So often we complain about picky eaters.  I found my friend's sentiment so refreshing that it has stuck with me for a good ten years. Of course, it probably helped that this friend and I shared a mutual disdain for mayonnaise and that he made excellent tri-tip.
(By the way, my practice is not to use names when I talk about friends, but if you catch me writing about you, and leave a comment on that post, I'll give you extra credit.)

Here's the rundown on my current Nutritional Philosophy.  I hope you feel no pressure to share my beliefs about food, because frankly, some of them may be unfounded.  I just want to be clear, so that you know what to expect from me.

I really love the loca-vore mentality.  (Isn't it funny that spellcheck doesn't recognize that word?  Hasn't it been in the vernacular for, what, five years?)  After reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.) and The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, our household was about 70% locavore.  We bought almost all of our produce and eggs at the farmers market.  All our beef was from Chaffin Orchards in Oroville.  I craved Shredded Pork six months before I found the right cut locally.  The main things we ate that came from more than about 100 miles away were coffee, sugar, flours, pastas, breakfast cereals, dairy products and the occasional yellow onion or avocado. (Isn't it odd that Glenn County has so many dairies, and yet, the most 'local' milk available in our area in from Marin County?  It's wonderful stuff, by the way, and we used it exclusively for at least a few months, but...

But you know what?  I missed cilantro. It has such a short growing season here that I suffered through an entire summer with no 'perfect' homemade salsa.  (Cilantro is what makes it perfect for me.)

Then our food budget got tighter.  And, yes, I do believe that it is less expensive for society in the long run to rely on local food systems, but we had to make some compromises.   Especially after I burned two $16 pasture-raised chickens in the course of a month.

And I missed shrimp.  And salmon.  And mango.

So after about a year, we made some adjustments:

I still buy most of my produce at the Farmer's Market, because I really value the agricultural land that it supports, and I value the farmers who make a living from the land. I value the security of knowing where my food comes from and that it is less likely to be tainted with salmonella than all that stuff in the grocery store that goes through essentially the same processing plants as all the stuff in all the other grocery stores.  That said, if something is not available locally, I don't feel guilty about buying it.

I prefer organic milk, but if I find that I must buy non-organic, I make sure to choose the stuff without rBST.  I understand that the living conditions of those cows that provide the national brand organic milk probably aren't much better than the conventional cows, but still, I buy organic when I can.  And I don't buy ultra-pastuerized.  I like Tillamook Cheese.  It's not organic, but it is from Oregon and I think they do a good job of knowing where their milk comes from.  I imagine farmers in the co-operative get compensated more fairly than those whose milk is purchased to make generic brands of cheese.

In recipes calling for sugar, I use organic evaporated cane juice.  Oddly, I use regular old brown sugar in recipes calling from brown sugar.  I buy local honey either at the farmer's market or at the natural foods store, and well, sometimes from the bulk section at Win-co.  I don't keep very much on hand, because it seems to disappear fast.

I buy eggs from Chris' Egg Farm at the Farmer's Market.  Every so often, I end up buying conventional eggs at the grocery store, and I am getting past the feeling that I am poisoning my family with them, but I don't think I will ever trust them. Besides, Farmer Chris is very entertaining.

There are a lot of rice producers locally, but sometimes I buy jasmine rice or sushi rice at Trader Joe's.

I prefer fish over meat.  Seafood obviously isn't a local food in inland California, but that's okay with me.  Meat is a difficult thing for me.  I don't buy it at big grocer's.  Well, I have purchased it at Costco, but I prefer local butchers, even if the meat isn't sourced locally.  And I have been known to pick up a package of bacon at Trader Joe's. In an ideal world, I'd feed my family only locally raised, grass-finished beef and locally raised chickens and pork.

Speaking of Trader Joe's, after much thought, I've decided that I like that place.  Yes, they are highly secretive about some of their sourcing and management.  Yes, their pre-packaged produce isn't very 'green,' but they've raised the culinary awareness of many Americans, made organic products more accessible to us, and you can trust that nothing in their store has artificial flavorings or preservatives.

Well, I think that covers my Nutritional Philosophy, at least regarding food sources. What is your nutritional philosophy?

Mango Salsa
I learned this recipe from my father-in-law.  He serves it over carne asada in corn tortillas.  You could serve it with chips. 

1 white onion
6 poblano peppers
6 firm-ripe mangoes, or 1 container (12 oz ?) mango chunks from the pre-packaged produce section
large handful of cilantro
salt and lime juice to taste.

Slice onion into 1/2 inch rings. Leave rings intact and grill over medium-high heat to soften and just barely char.  Char peppers over grill.  Let vegetables cool.

Remove skin and seeds from peppers.  Chop peppers and onions into a 1/2 inch dice. Chop mango into 3/4 inch dice.  Chop cilantro.  Combine ingredients.  Season with salt and lime juice.  Let flavors marry 15 minutes or so before serving.

And for those of keeping score at home:  My goal was to make dinner five nights in a row this week, but  tonight we didn't do dinner at home.  We went to a friend's house instead.  And that's ok with me!  Tomorrow night, though, Chiles Rellenos!


1 comment:

  1. I'm afraid I cannot define my nutritional philosophy except to say that it includes both bleu cheese and bacon.