Monday, October 30, 2006

Lots of food news appearing in the papers lately - from a recent article about the new meat labels that are created to entice us to eat - animal compassionate, certified humane, and free farmed, for example - to news of the gathering of foodies in Turin, Italy for the Slow Food Terre Madre event, to the growing interest in ultra-premium fresh and frozen organic baby foods. For me, what is underlying all these issues is the challenge of bringing this information (and food) to the masses, because there is confusion and often a price premium.
Those meats that are labeled with animal welfare labels can be confusing for the average shopper - or even the well-informed shopper for that matter. And, they often come with a price premium that many consumers are not willing to pay. Likewise, the basis of the Slow Food movement is something that appeals to true foodies, but hasn't captured the mainstream consumer who is focused on price and convenience, often with little interest in where the food comes from (and in many cases, what is in it). As for the organic baby food end of it, price is also an issue, even though many new parents are focused on giving their children the best things.
I guess the bottom line is becoming an educated consumer. And becoming educated about the food offerings we have takes time - which many of us don't have. It is often too easy to fall into the habit of fast food, overly processed foods, or cheap food.
We have made a good transition to organic foods, buying most of our groceries at Whole Foods. This is the place our kids have come to associate with the grocery store. When I do go to Safeway, I bypass many of the aisle - soft drinks, candy, cereal, etc. because I don't need to deal with the marketing pressure. What they don't know about many of those foods will certainly be better for them in the long run.
Sometimes I fall into a rut where I am just looking for something quick and easy to prepare, and something my kids won't complain about eating. Some days they ask for apples and pears, others they want nothing to do with them. The same when I make a dinner. My son tells me that he wants something else - we'll it has been trying, but I let him know that I have served him what everyone is eating and if he doesn't want to eat it, then he doesn't have to. I also let him know that he won't have anything else - no snacks, no crackers, (no left-over Halloween candy) nothing. Most of the time he will eventually start eating, other times he won't and I just stand my ground. Granted there are things we make that the kids won't like, but I at least want them to start trying. And, I make sure we don't keep snacks in the house, and always try to offer a protein, starch and veggie at every meal. They might not all get eaten, but at least they know that this is the type of meal that they should expect.
with that said, I'm off to prepare lunch - who knows whether it will be a good eating day or a bad one - but at least I know I'm offering them will be healthy. If they choose not to eat it this time, they eventually will when they get hungry.
Until next time, enjoy Food, Family and Friends

Monday, October 09, 2006

Enjoying Food, Family and Friends in the Piedmont
Last month I traveled to the Piedmont region of Italy to enjoy a culinary adventure. I was based in Bra, the home of Slow Food, and had the opportunity to eat at several Slow Food designated restaurants. Aside from enjoying delicious restaurant fare, I visited farms and vineyards to learn about various foods from the region - from robbiolo cheese to truffles to barolo, Barbera, Barbaresco and other wines of the region.
Perhaps one of the most memorable lunches on the trip was the one we enjoyed in the city of Serole. We were visitng a farm to see their small cheese production, but soon learned that everything the family ate, was produced right there on the farm. They were totally self-sufficient -- growing hay and herbs to feed the animals, using the goats for milk and cheese, raising cows for meat, nurturing bee hives for honey, growing grapes for their own barbera wine, and of course making their own grappa!
There were about 10 of us visiting the family, who welcomed us into their home and to their table (after a visit to the farm). The meal lasted 3 hours long, and was filled with fabulous homemade cooking - the ladies remained in the kitchen, preparing the next course and doing dishes, while the men kept us company and the wine flowing.
Among the offerings was a delicious bruscetta made with a tasty tomato 'jam' created by placing the tomatoes in a pan and cooking for a short while. The tomatoes were then put through a food mill to remove the water leaving behind a delicious, chunky tomato paste of sorts. Spread on homemade bread and topped with basil, it was so tempting to eat the entire loaf, but we kept reminding ourselves that this was just the beginning. We were then served two types of homemade salami, frito misto de Piemontese; sweet, fried semolina; veal, beef tongue with a green salsa, porcini mushroom crepes, pasta with mushrooms and tomatoes, beef and fried potatoes, followed by a mostarde di frutta made with pear, grape, and hazelnut, served with robbiolo cheese that was 3 days old. A custard torte was followed by a hazelnut torte, and homemade grappa. (Needless to say, we cancelled our dinner plans)

Aside from the fabulous meal, what was truly inspiring was that three generations of the family (one of the couples happened to be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary that day), welcomed us into their home to enjoy the fruits of their labors. The meal is such a part of their everyday lives, and they savor every moment of it -- and want to share it with their friends as well. Always a smile on thier faces, preparing this feast was not a chore, it was a privilege. Something that they could share with others and show them how they, as a family, enjoy their company around the table, eating freshly prepared foods.
it surely was a great experience of Food, Family and Friends.
I'm inspired to continue that tradition here at home.
Until next time, enjoy!