29 September 2010

An Outlook on Food

There is so much information and research out there about what is good for you, what type of eating lifestyle is the healthiest, and what type of standards you should have when buying food. It can all be pretty confusing. I have personally been an omnivore, vegetarian, and a vegan at different points in my life, and each lifestyle has valid points defending it's healthiness. This blog started out primarily vegan, but you may have noticed that recently some things have been decidedly non-vegan. Over the years, I've shaped what I think is a healthy outlook on food that minimizes harm to animals and maximized flavor. Now, I'm going to elaborate on this outlook so it's a little more clear what goes into the planning for my recipes and food choices.

Firstly, I think I would definitely eat differently if I had the money to. Sadly, even if I had a job down here, working part time at Arizona's minimum wage is just not sufficient to provide for gas, bills, and 100% wholesome and organic eating. However, while I can't afford to buy all my produce at Whole Foods, I still try to shop for the freshest ingredients possible and spend the few extra dollars in the areas where I feel it really counts.

Opinion #1: Food is not the enemy. It's easy to get caught up in diets and fads and things that take all the fun out of eating. Your food should be healthy and nutritious, but that doesn't mean you should live off of raw carrots and kale. You're still going to die eventually just like everyone else. Food should be something to take pleasure in and really enjoy. That doesn't mean eating cupcakes every day or gulping down as much fried crap as you want. It means eating quality food on a regular basis and taking the time to appreciate it.

Opinion #2: Don't eat anything you wouldn't be willing to pick, clean, kill, and prepare yourself. Obviously, this pertains to animals. I don't think anyone has an aversion to picking blackberries or anything. Maybe if you're deathly afraid of thorns. Anyways- this is going to be a general rule in my house when I grow up and have kids. Don't eat anything you wouldn't want to personally kill yourself. You like that burger? How about you go kill a cow, drain it's blood, cut it apart, gut it, grind it up, and make it into a patty. Sound appetizing? Think you could look into it's sad, brown eyes and still kill it? I'm a firm believer that if you don't have the heart to kill an animal you have no business eating it and letting someone else do the dirty work for you.

Opinion #3: Dairy isn't very good for you, but it's worse for the animals that produce it. There's really absolutely no reason humans should be drinking milk as adults, let alone cows milk. It's entirely unnatural. We are the only species that does it. Stop drinking milk for a couple weeks, then go back to it and notice how shitty it makes you feel afterward. Soy, rice, almond, and other nut milks are great alternatives and you can't tell the difference when cooking with it. As far as cheese goes, I could talk for hours about how it's actually full of opiates- which is why people love it so much- and tons of fat and other nasty stuff. Not to mention, the cows that produce the milk to make cheese are treated terribly. They're milked by metal machines multiple times a day despite the fact that their udders are chapped and wounded. Plus, they're kept constantly pregnant so that they can keep producing milk. What happens to the baby cows? If they're girls, they become milk-machines as well. If they're boys, they go right into the veal industry. Sad, huh? The USA meat and dairy system is, to put it bluntly, SERIOUSLY fucked up.

Opinion #3: If you've gotta have it, go for the high quality stuff. I personally think that the whole "humanly killed" idea is total bullshit. Animals are still getting murdered, whether or not they got to eat organic grain and live on grassy fields beforehand- but if you just can't give up meat, at least try to go for the carcasses that weren't pumped full of steroids and kept in tiny cages before they died. It's better for you. Dairy is a slightly different story. It's still not good for you, but if you can find milk and cheese produced by cows that were milked gently by a friendly neighborhood farmer and treated with care, go for it. At the Whole Foods in Tucson, they sell glass bottles of this type of milk, and you can even bring the bottle back in so they can reuse it and get a little money back. This was the milk I used when I made the paneer for the paneer masala a couple weeks ago and it's really amazing how much better it is compared to the big plastic jugs. As far as cheese goes- I still love cheese and eat it from time to time. A lot of other (mostly European) countries aren't nearly as cruel as the USA, so if your cheese is imported chances are the cows that helped to make it were treated a bit better. Still, it's bad for you, so like with everything else, eat in moderation.

Opinion #4: Eggs: if you like 'em, eat 'em. My mom brought up a good point that while no other animals drinks another animal's milk (or any milk at all after nursing age), many animals eat other animal's eggs. Egg-laying hens in the USA are, not surprisingly, treated absolutely terribly. They are kept in tiny cages too small to turn around in with sharp wire mesh bottoms which injure their feet, literally causing their feet to grow around the wire. Many go crazy. I don't know if you heard much about the recent salmonella issue that caused a recall of a bunch of eggs, but I read the health report of the facility in question and it was atrocious. We're talking insect and rodent infested, piles of fertilizer leaking into the coops, and lots and lots of very unhappy chickens. Luckily, a lot of people in the US are catching on to the fact that the people that help make our food usually don't give a shit about quality or conditions. Cage free eggs are becoming widely available so if you're not concerned about eating a would-have-been-baby-chicken, go for it. Just make sure it came from a hen that didn't go nuts in a dark, stinky, 1 foot cube of wire.

Opinion #5: If you don't know what the ingredients are, don't eat it. I'm a cook. If you read this, you probably cook. We both know that you can make pretty much anything out of fresh ingredients that you can find in a grocery store. So why is it all of our food is chock full of crap nobody can identify? If I don't reach for the xanthan gum, autolyzed yeast extract, and modified food starch when I'm cooking my food, why do I find it in the pre-made stuff in the store? I'd rather just make my own food that eat all the chemicals they're trying to give me.

Opinion #6: If it's worth buying, it should be worth eating. If it's not really worth eating, don't buy it. For example: the seven layer burrito at taco bell. Not really worth eating. cheap, not terrible tasting, and vegetarian, but an overall "meh". The seven layer I made myself from fresh ingredients and real guacamole? Totally worth eating. And probably cheaper. I think it's pretty much a general rule that if you make it homemade it's going to be better than if you bought it pre-packaged or from a crappy fast food place. So why not spend your money on wholesome ingredients instead of  re-hydrated bean burritos put together by someone who really doesn't give a shit because they're 16 and making 7.25 an hour to crank out dozens of said burritos?

Opinion #7: No one's going to take your food away, and you're not about to take a 7 day fast. There's no need to eat a mountain of food for every meal, and there's no need to gobble it down in record time. Eating is an experience that should be enjoyed and savored. If you eat slowly, you will get full faster and won't feel the need to eat humongous portions. A good way to control this is to eat meals on the smaller salad plates opposed to the gargantuan dinner plates.

Opinion #8: Fruits and Veggies are your friend. If you're hungry for a snack, don't reach for a candy bar or a bag of chips. I practically survived on fruit stolen from the Bon last year and bags of baby carrots in my mini fridge. Produce is delicious. Also, an apple takes longer to eat and has more fiber than a handful of potato chips, so it will fill you up more (not to mention make you feel better).

Opinion #9: Potatoes are delicious. So don't be dissin'. So are pasta and bread. Just don't live on the stuff. Just try to go whole wheat, not wonder.

Opinion #10: Don't force your opinions on anyone. Perhaps the most important rule, don't be a self righteous little bitch and try to make everyone eat just like you. Don't harass them for wanting to eat big macs and drink tall glasses of chemical-rich chocolate milk. It's their own damn business. If they want to be informed, then by all means inform them, but if they're content pretending the meat they eat is created by magic, not murder, don't hold a protest in their honor and chain yourself to their fridge. What's important is that YOU are happy with your eating lifestyle. Let others make their own choices.

There you have it, a not-so-quick little review of how I see food. Don't think I'm telling you how to eat- it's mostly just for my own reference and your knowledge. I'll be back in a couple days with some more recipes, I've just been thinking about this for a while.

Happy end-of-September!


1 comment: