This is a follow up post to my last one – Is Cooking Supposed to be Fun? I think to net it out here – no, cooking isn’t always fun when you have to do it every day – but eating most definitely should be fun! Over the the past few years I have had so many health issues that I have been pretty busy exploring how food heals vs. focusing on food as a passion. Yet – I have always loved to eat really good food – so much so that whenever my family would ask me where I wanted to eat I would always answer – ‘I don’t care – somewhere ‘GOOD”. My mother always watched me intently and laugh at me while I was eating because I ate with such relish – I always had to make the perfect bite – a mix of colors, flavors and textures that would make each bite amazing. Even through my picky teenage years where I would only eat french fries and Cokes – it always made my mad when things tasted bad…and I could already tell that low fat and processed food was not ‘good’. It just didn’t taste like real food. Thankfully, I had had real food before. Before I hit my teens I was lucky enough to have two sets of amazing grandparents who really did influence my real food journey even if they don’t realize it. They taught me what really good food is supposed to taste like and that stuck with me.
Traditional Jewish Food
One of my grandmothers made truly traditional Yiddish fare (before she also got suckered into the low fat health diet) including beet borscht and chopped liver and of course sourdough chocolate cakes for all of our birthdays. I paid some attention to what she made but not nearly as much as I would if she was still with us now – that saddens me. However, my cousins and I did do something right – when she started to get dementia many years back, we made sure we quizzed her on all her Passover recipes and we decided we would carry on the tradition and continue to get together the entire family (7 grandchildren back then has grown to 14 with husbands and wives plus great grandchildren!) and cook all of her recipes for Passover Seder. Even 15 years ago when I was still in college, I took on the task of learning how to make her chopped liver. I really really loved chopped liver and I wanted to learn how to make it and dealing with the raw livers didn’t seem to make me queasy – and everyone else was happy to let me do it. I think that this was the beginning of my real food journey. You have to deal with completely disgusting food prep to really appreciate cooking and where things come from!
Delicious and unusual food from everywhere
My other grandparents influenced me in an entirely different way. How can I best describe this? I think this will do it justice – we would ask my grandfather what we should order and he would order us one of everything on the menu just so we could taste it all. He really wanted us to learn all different kinds of flavors – from all over the world. They were frequent travelers and I have been to the Caribbean, Africa, and all over Europe with them. I ate crabs and shrimp fresh from traps we would set in Galveston at their vacation home. They would take us everywhere from the local Chinese joint, traditional Texas BBQ and to really nice restaurants and insist on us having impeccable manners at the table – no matter what the place – the rules were to taste and relish everything we ate. Food was theater and was meant to be delicious. I am so thankful to them for this food education – I truly wouldn’t be the person I am today without it.
Later – when the low fat craze really took hold – I remember seeing my very sick grandfather have to eat food that was to put it bluntly – completely beneath him – fake salt and vegetable oils and low fat cheeses, etc. It was shocking to see how that food did nothing to help his condition – knowing what I know now about how damaging it is. He was only truly happy with real BBQ or my grandmother’s beef stew or seafood gumbo in front of him. At the time I didn’t really think about why this upset me – but now after learning all that I have from the Weston A Price foundation and other great blogs and multiple studies, I do understand. I think we have had our food culture almost taken away from us. ‘Healthy’ food is now low fat and frankly low on flavor. Recipes have become overly complicated because without the fat in them you have to add a lot of other stuff, spices, sugar, thickeners to make them even edible. We call things like ice cream, butter, whole milk and steaks ‘junk food’. What has replaced them is really atrocious from a foodie standpoint.
I can truly say that I have been slowly moving toward eating a real food, unprocessed diet over the past 6 years – first in buying vegetables weekly through a Community Supported Agriculture program and then now in following a Weston Price diet. The past year has been the biggest part of our transformation. Adding saturated fat back into our diet combined with my almost obsessive desire to learn how to really make things from scratch, has put my recipes over the top in terms of taste. I have no trouble getting my husband or three year old daughter to eat the food I cook. And even my mother, father and my in-laws have been converted because you just can’t deny really good food. How could something so natural and real and as unprocessed as it gets be bad for you? It isn’t. So – I say bring back the deliciousness and enjoy your food again!
The recipe makeover challenge
There are of course rules – sourcing is the single most important thing to make this work for you and your family. You have to start to think about the quality of your ingredients, where they come from and how they were raised or grown. It is the first rule of cooking – your food is only as good as your ingredients. So here is my challenge to you – think about your favorite recipes either now or from childhood – and I will do a real food makeover of it for you! I will help you figure out how to get the processed ingredients out of it – how to add fat back into it and how to make it with real ingredients the traditional way. I will provide suggestions on where to find a good source for your ingredients that will fit your budget and what kitchen tools will help make it easy for you to make the dish. So who here wants a real food makeover? Please post a comment with the recipe you want made over and I will select a few and post their ‘makeovers’ soon!