The One Thing The Food Industry Won’t Tell You

Slate’ Criticizes the ‘Home-Cooked Family Dinner’: Joel Salatin Responds

Tags: Joel Salatin, family dinner, home cooking, Slate

Victimhood escalates to stratospheric whining with Amanda Marcotte’s recent Slate post titled Let’s Stop Idealizing the Home-Cooked Family Dinner.

Joel SalatinThe piece concluded more often than not family members (especially the male ones) were ingrates and, generally, home-cooked meals were too stressful, expensive, time-consuming, and utensil-dependent to be worthy of the trouble.

Marcotte’s indictment of what she considers a romanticized cultural icon certainly speaks volumes about where our cultural mainstream food values reside. Indeed, the average American is probably far more interested and knowledgeable about the latest belly-button piercing in Hollywood celebrity culture than what will become flesh of their flesh and bone of their bone at 6 p.m.

In the circles I run in and market to, the home-cooked meal is revered as the ultimate expression of food integrity. The home-cooked meal indicates a reverence for our bodies’ fuel, a respect for biology, and a committed remedial spirit toward all the shenanigans in our industrial, pathogen-laden, nutrient-deficient food-and-farming system.

I would imagine most of the ungrateful males in these families watch TV or see a lot of food ads on their computers. You won’t find integrity food advertised on TV or pop-culture web sites. It’ll be a steady brainwash of junk food, convenience, highly processed food-like materials. That we can physically chew and swallow the stuff does not make it desirable for our bodies.

Further, since when are women the only ones who are supposed to shoulder the burden for integrity food? Why doesn’t Marcotte, rather than whining about unappreciated women, write instead about families who seem to think sports leagues and biggest-screen TVs are more important than health? Who think pharmaceutical companies are responsible for wellness?  Who think no difference exists between factory chickens and pastured chickens?

Here’s the question I would like to ask these families: “Are you spending time or money on anything unnecessary?” Cigarettes, alcohol, coffee, soft drinks, lottery tickets, People Magazine, TV, cell phone, soccer games, potato chips . . . ?  Show me the household devoid of any of these luxuries, then let’s talk. Otherwise, you’re just unwilling to do what’s more important, which is provide for the health of your family and your environment. That’s a personal choice, and one that’s entirely within your control.

I’m amazed at the difficult situations I hear about in which people do indeed rise to the occasion. Whether it’s sprouting mung beans or alfalfa seeds in a quart jar on the windowsill or buying grain by the bushel, resourceful, can-do people committed to changing their situation figure out a way to do it.

For Marcotte to accept irresponsibility this easily underscores a profound courage deficiency. Turn off the TV, get out of the car, get off the phone and get in the kitchen — men, women and children. The most expensive potatoes in the nation are cheaper by the pound than the cheapest potato chips. Ditto healthful ground beef from pastured cattle versus fast-food burgers.  

With slow cookers, indoor plumbing, timed-bake and refrigerators, today’s techno-enabled kitchens allow busy people to cook from scratch and eat with integrity far easier than during Great Grandma’s time. She had to fetch water from the spring, split stove wood, start a fire and churn the butter and she still managed to feed a large family very well. If our generation can’t do at least as well with our 40-hour work week and kitchen tech, then we deserve to eat adulterated pseudo food that sends us to an early grave. I don’t know that anyone’s children deserve this, however.

While extreme hardship does certainly exist — and my heart breaks for impoverished people who truly have no resources — let’s not excuse the other 98 percent from their responsibility on that account. If everyone who could do something would do it, perhaps we would all have enough left over to help the egregious hardship cases. Soccer moms driving their kiddos half a day one way to a tournament, stopping at the drive-by for “chicken” nuggets, and then dismissing the kitchen as “too stressful” is an upside-down value system. And how many of the men whining about not liking what they’re being fed spend their Saturdays on the riding mower managing a monoculture, fertilized ecological-dead-zone of a suburban lawn, rather than using their resources to grow something nutritious for their families and wholesome for the planet? When do we start talking about them? Hmmmmm?

Photo by Richard Lord: Joel Salatin raises pastured poultry and grass-fed beef at Polyface Farms in Swoope, Va.

Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/slate-family-dinner-zb0z1409zsie.aspx#ixzz3Ckxhk96M

One. Last. Time…

Old Timers around my part of the country refer to what is called “Good Friday Gardens”  because they never put out warm season crops such as tomatoes before Good Friday- the Friday before Easter Sunday.  Here is why- 9 times out of 10 we will get a freeze or at least very close to freezing the week or so before Easter.

As I write this the temperature is falling and we are looking at the mid-thirties overnight.  So long as we stay above freezing the vast majortiy of our plants will be just fine.  Quite a few won’t even care if we dip below freezing.  However; tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, Basil and other such warm season crops do mind very much if we get into the thirties at all.  So, we have been covering what is already planted and wrapping up those items that have already blossomed and are putting on fruit.

sierra in the garden covering squash

The squash plants were covered in plastic pots with plastic staked over the top so this confounded wind doesn’t blow them to kingdom come.

jonathan in the garden covering peach trees

Jonathan is working to stabilize the frame he and Tony built to protect the peach trees.

family covering peach trees

A farm requires a family to pull together.  Covering our crops and praying that the temps hold above freezing.  The white rectangle is covering the tomato patch.

sierra covering tomatoes

Sierra helped me put pots over all the 50 tomato plants and 20 Basil plants.  There are three times as many tomato plants to go out, but those are still safe inside the greenhouse.

tony and J covering peaches

My two favorite men.

peach tree covered

Here is our harvester peach tree all tucked in for the night.  The cold weather won’t kill the tree but we are concerned about damage to the young fruit growing on the little limbs.  We are just to close to the end of all this cold weather to leave it to chance.  We are determined to get a peach this year!

Once this was done, we all trooped inside for hot chocolate and a wonderful meal of sauteed Swiss Chard, mushrooms, bacon and eggs.

swiss chard, mushrooms and eggs

swiss chard from the garden

Swiss Chard is a beautiful crop and one we did not have to cover as it doesn’t mind the cold.

So, here we go just one last time.  Easter comes this Sunday and this winter will just be a memory.

Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries with Rosemary

I must say that for years, I had an aversion to sweet potatoes.  The only form in which I had ever encountered them was creamed with marshmallow on top.  While most of my family loved these at Christmas, I did  and do not.  Not until my husband requested sweet potato fries did I reconsider this versatile vegetable.  Now, I can’t imagine a pantry that is not stocked with a box of sweet potatoes.  I love to chop one up and add it to vegetable soup.  While sweet potatoes are on the sweet side of life naturally, they are not so sugary that they would ruin a good savory soup.  On the contrary, they add a depth of flavor and texture along with a great punch of vitamins, flavor, and anti-oxidants.

As oven roasted fries, sweet potatoes are fabulous with a caramelized outside and a tender yet firm bite.  These compliment any meat dish and pair well with rice, quinoa, and most other grains.

For a simple, non- processed meal, sweet potato fries are a great side.  Easy to make, very healthy, and quite tasty- a great recipe.  This is the time of year to purchase sweet potatoes, they keep for months so you can buy them in bulk at your local farmer’s market and stash them to grace your table all winter.

 

Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries With Rosemary

Serves 6

 

4-6 Sweet potatoes

Olive Oil

2 Tsp. dried Rosemary

Sea Salt to taste

Slice sweet potatoes into French fries.  Place on cookie sheet, cast iron skillet, or baking stone. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat, sprinkle with rosemary.

Place in a 450’ degree oven for 20-30 minutes.  Cook until tender with a nice bit of caramelizing.  After 15 minutes, give the fries a stir flipping the potatoes over.

If you are not a fan of Rosemary, just omit the herb.

sweet potato friesSweet potato fries prepped and ready to go into the oven.

sweet potato friesOven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries, cooked and ready to into my mouth!

Try some, you will be glad you did.

 

 

Off To Whispering Pines (the butcher)

Today was the day!  We have been looking forward to this for months.  Effie the Pig and the heifer ( and I mean that in EVERY sense of the word) went to Whispering Pines today.  Shortly, we will have a freezer full of good clean meat.  Meat having been raised on love, clean water, lots of grass and in the case of Effie, lots of kitchen scraps and melons too far gone for us to eat.

I am often asked, “How can you eat your animals, animals that you know?”  Well, I must admit that sometimes it is hard.  Francis Bacon was a pig that I loved.  I patted him as we unloaded him and told him thank you.  Effie, she was another story and pig all together.  You see, some animals push your buttons and make life miserable.  As you chase those animals around the farm, through your gardens, and out of the sheds – you find yourself thinking, ” I can’t wait to eat you!” Really, some animals are so determined to upend  a farm’s balance and happiness that you even have ideas of just getting the shotgun and having roast pig luau style.  I keep using pigs as an example and that should tell you something.  Effie was one of those animals that was made for pulled pork sandwiches. So when she got out of the trailer, with much ado and drama I must say, I was like “Good riddance and don’t let the screen door hit you in the behind on the way out.”  Very kind and loving, I know.  But until you have chased a pig in  Texas summer heat not once but three times in 5 days- don’t judge me.

In all honesty, I do take this seriously.  The fact is that it takes life to sustain life.  I am grateful to the animals that feed my family.  I show them this by providing shelter, good food and clean water and plenty of kindness.  They lead a joyous life, even if their joy is derived from causing me to cuss a blue streak, until the day they die and they never saw it coming.  Most humans can’t say that about their own lives.  Everyone has a job and purpose in life, farm animals are no different.

Most folks have problems with knowing the animals that they eat because in their minds they only have two files- Pet & Wildlife.  The reality is that there are three files- Pet, Wildlife, and Food.  All of our animals are stewarded as best we know how and treated humanly every step of the way.  Some are destined to a long life as a breeder (which are sometimes considered pets and sometimes considered family members) and some will have a much shorter life and are destined for the freezer.

The butcher we use is very important to us.  When you have taken the time to raise your own meat and treat the livestock in a certain manner, you want to know that they are handled humanly in the end.  We do not have the resources to process the large animals we raise so we take them to Whispering Pines.  This is a Mennonite community that are committed to peace.  You might not agree with their philosophy, but that peace and calmness permeate the place and even the animals feel it.  Cattle are very jumpy critters when stressed and will cause quite a ruckus.  Every time we have taken our cattle in, they have trotted onto the scales and then right on out to the holding pen with 5 or 6 other steers just standing there like everyone took a large dose of Valium before they arrived.  This is a wonderful bunch of folks and they make certain that you get the meat from the animal that you brought in to the shop.  It makes it so much easier to leave you animals when you can do business with people like these.

So, the circle of life goes on and I am looking forward to getting the lard from our pig.  I have never requested the lard before so this will be a new experience.  I hear tell that baked goods made with lard and just addictive they are so good.  We shall see!

Jonathan making pork chopsFried Pork Chops- a Southern Love.  Can’t wait for Jonathan to cook us up some more!

 

For the love of Salsa!

This is a post from the archives, but Cheyenne made a batch of salsa yesterday and she just nailed it.  That Salsa is so good, it needed to be shared again!

 

Me & Cheyenne (drinking bubbly apple juice)
Cheyenne and I share a lot of things.  For instance, neither one of us can hide our feelings very well, what we think is telegraphed on our faces, we love taking care of our animals, we are strong willed, and we love babies.  Also, we share a love of really good Salsa.  Mexican food makes us happy and we like a little heat.  She is her mother’s daughter, with just enough of her daddy mixed in to mellow her out in a nice way.
She has been making some noise about needing to make salsa with our bountiful harvest of tomatoes.  Apparently, Cheyenne has not thought that using the tomatoes to make tomato sauce was a very wise use of those beautiful ‘maters.  A love of spaghetti is not something we share.  So, I surfed the internet for a recipe and found one that was simple and looked promising. And yesterday we got busy over some tomatoes, hot peppers, and cilantro.
The recipe was simple and we followed it up until we tasted the salsa, then we went to tinkering.  Cheyenne is really good about making notes as she improvises so we were able to recreate the same flavor this morning, as we already needed more.
Below is the recipe- our rendition, not the one from the internet.  Before putting everything in the food processor, we cored the tomatoes and scored the other ends and dropped them into boiling water for about a minute.  The tomatoes are in the boiling water just long enough for the skin to start to curl.  Then the peeling just slips off, chop the tomatoes roughly and toss in the processor.  The longer you run the food processor the finer the salsa, so if you like chunky then just pulse a few times.  Also, for thicker salsa use paste tomatoes such as roma or Illini Gold.
Cheyenne’s Fresh Salsa
2-3 medium tomatoes, stems and peelings removed (see above)
½  onion coarsely chopped
2- fish peppers seeds removed- unless you want to up the heat then leave the seeds in. (if you don’t have fish peppers, jalapeno or any other hot pepper will work.
Juice of one lime
1 cup cilantro
1 tsp salt (adjust to taste)
½ tsp of cumin
Put tomatoes, peppers & onions in food processor and pulse for about 2 minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse till you are happy with the consistency.  Taste- if too hot add more tomatoes, if not hot enough, add more peppers.
Let set in the refrigerator for one hour to let the flavors blend- if you can wait that long, we just eat right out of the blender bowl.
ENJOY!

The Best Things In Life Are Free

jonathan picking berries

Oh, summertime.  One of the first signs that summer has arrived, other than every item of clothing on your person being soaked with sweat- and I mean all your clothing- is the arrival of dewberries.  These are a variety of blackberries- not as big and not quite as sweet as the cultivated varieties but they are available for the picking.  Seriously, free and organic fruit- what could be better.

Around the corner from us on an abandoned fence, there is a whole mess of berries.  Lots and Lots.  Jonathan and Sierra and whoever else will walk down the road with them have picked berries everyday for a week now.  The vines are so loaded that I think we will have another week of harvest.  There are so many things to do with berries- cobbler, ice cream, flavored cream for the top of a pound cake, pound cake, crumb cake, and the list goes on.

As Jonathan and I picked berries together in the warm sunshine, he prattled on about the possibility of what we might do with the berries. Once back at the house, of course, the first thing to do is to get a bowl full and sprinkle them with sugar and eat them with your fingers- that way you can lick your fingers clean. But in the meantime, you eat the most plump and ripe berries right on the spot.  No, you don’t need to wash them they are fine.  You might eat a bug, but it won’t kill you.  Eating them off the vine is a big part of the fun.  The best part of the berry pickin’ is the memories you make.  The conversation is seemingly meaningless as we chatter, but in that chatter you build connections with your kids.  These are the tidbits that come together as the whole picture that tells the kids who they are and where they come from.  Not to mention the warmth in your heart you feel when your twelve year old son reaches over and takes your hand as you walk down the road.  I love that kid and I love to pick berries with him.  The best things in life are free.

My favorite use of berries is a cobbler and here is the most simplest of deserts best eaten warm with vanilla ice cream!

 

Dewberry Cobbler (or whatever berry you have on hand)

One recipe of pie crust

2-3 cups of berries

1 cups sugar

Take one half of the pie dough recipe and roll it out.

Put half of the rolled out dough in the bottom of a 9X9 pan-  I like cast iron pans.  Place berries in the pan and pour sugar on the berries.  Cover with the other half of the rolled dough.  The dough does not have to cover the berries or the bottom completely.  Place in an oven heated to 350′ oven and bake for 30-45 minutes- just until the dough is brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool a bit.  Put a generous helping in a bowl and top with ice cream.  Let the good times roll!

Choosing Seedlings

Nice strong plants with a large cup for plenty of room for roots
Nice strong plants with a large cup for plenty of room for roots

Each year I encounter folks who want to know why their seedling died or simply state the “I cannot grow anything”. I hate hear these words!  The main reason that people fail at gardening is not because they can not grow things or that they are lacking in ability, it is because they start with seedlings or plants that were set up to fail.

Perhaps you are wondering how a plant can be set up to fail?  Well, here is how-

Most of your big box stores or really large retail nurseries get their plants from contract growers.  Contract growers are growers that grow plants for these companies and may be independent, but they are controlled by the big box companies.  An example of  the way the growers are controlled is by the company telling the grower I want this certain plant and this many of this plant in 4 weeks. Now the grower can respond with “That is a plant that takes 8 weeks to grow.”  Then the company simply replies that they don’t care, do it or they will find someone who will.  So the grower then pumps the plant full of synthetic fertilizers, stimulants and even chemicals that cause fruit and plants to ripen prematurely.  Greenhouses are kept at the perfect temperature at all times and grow lights are employed top achieve the most growth in the least amount of time.

 

Now, after having read that- just how strong of a plant to you think you are going to get from that store?  Not a strong plant at all.  The odds are that plant will die as soon as it is exposed to the real world.  If it does live, it will probably never produce as it should.  So you see, most people who think they cannot grow things really just never had a shot.  Those who do know a bit about how to grow things don’t understand why their stuff dies- it all goes back to the beginning.

Now, consider the small grower, the “mom & pop” garden shop.  These people cannot afford to have unhappy customers who tell folks that every plant they have ever bought from that shop has died.  My customers know my face, know where I live, and my name is literally on the product.  If my customers don’t succeed, I don’t succeed.  I chose this business because I love it.  I WANT my customers to be successful and to enjoy their experience in the garden.  So, therefore, if I tell you it is too early for Basil it is because it is.  Most of the other “small guys” grow like I do.  We seed our flats to have the plants ready at the right time.  I fertilize my plants of course, but I use an organic compost tea once a week.  Not daily.  If you buy a six pack of tomato seedlings that are 8 inches tall- those plants are already stressed.  Those plants are too big for the pot they have been living in for way too long.

It may cost you a little more to buy seedlings from a smaller producer, but you will get better plants.  If you are buying vegetable seedlings, you will get more produce from a plant that has been handled properly from the start.  And, you will feel successful not like a failure!  This makes it far worth a little more money up front.  If you are really strapped for cash, then you will do much better to buy seeds and start your own plants in a sunny window.  Cheap seedlings from big box stores are not the place t0 save money, especially when you are wanting to grown your own food.

Garlic & Texas

As we get out and about now selling our herbs a Farmer’s Markets and Garden Festivals, I am frequently asked if I have any garlic.  When I ask questions to clarify just what the customer is looking for, I am surprised that they are looking for seedlings so that they can grow their own Garlic.  How marvelous!  Just one problem…

If you want to grow garlic in Texas you need to plant is in September, the same with strawberries- but that is a whole other blog and soapbox.  Once planted in September, the bulbs will sprout and grow all winter long then in June or so, the tops will start to turn brown and it is time to harvest.  Yes, no matter where you live garlic takes that long to grow.  But, it is so worth it and it really is easy.

To get started, you will need something to plant- right?  Garlic can be purchased in the store as a bulb.  In that bulb are many cloves.  Each clove when planted will produce another bulb and the cycle just keeps going.  So, once you purchase your garlic you will not ever need to purchase more, just save some cloves from your harvest and you will be good to go.  You can plant the garlic from the grocer or you can order from a seed company.  If you order from a seed company you will know exactly what variety you are getting and in the supermarket you will have no idea.  I have planted plenty from the grocer and did just fine.

The looser the ground, the better for growing garlic.  However, I have grown in clay and done fine.  Just dig a little whole twice as deep as the clove is long and plant the clove pointy end up.  Then wait.  You can inter plant with something like lettuce that has a shallow root system to make use of the open soil and double your harvest from the same square footage.  For the best harvest, you will need to water- but no more than you would for any other crop.

You will know when to harvest by the fact that the stalks have bloomed and now are beginning to turn brown.  Use a pitch fork or something similar to loosen the soil.  Gently pull the garlic up.  Spread the stalks on a dry and flat surface and let the cure (dry out a bit and the outer “paper” will dry).  Garlic can by stored for the better part of the year easily meaning that if you plant enough you will never need to buy garlic again.

Happy Planting!

garlic bulbgarlic plantinggarlic young plantgarlic bloom

Quick & Easy Cream of Mushroom Soup

The basic ingredients for Cream of Mushroom Soup- things I keep on hand at all times.
The basic ingredients for Cream of Mushroom Soup- things I keep on hand at all times.

One thing I have encountered in my quest to cook healthy food which means very little from cans and nothing from boxes is the challenge of finding good casserole recipes that do not call for canned cream of mushroom soup.  Most of our favorite recipes from “the old days” had cream of mushroom soup in them.  Even before we made the changes in our diet, I must say that I found the huge sucking sound that the canned soup made as it slid out of the can into a cylinder shaped blob on top of the other ingredients a little disturbing and disgusting.  However, I did not know any different.  Now that I have been cooking from scratch and eliminating as much processed food as possible, I just can’t stand it.

As with all packaged food, somewhere out there is a recipe that was once the standard that the “counterfeit” food was based.  So, I went looking.  First I looked at my Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking- which I love- and found the soup took two hours to cook after assembly.  Well, given that I needed the whole casserole done in 2.5 hours, this was not going to work for me.  I then turned to the internet and specified “quick” in my search and found a lovely short recipe that could be done in 30 minutes.  Now granted, the recipe in the French cookbook is probably a show stopper and one I would do for a main course soup, but this one was quite good.

Of course, the recipe below is not like the one on the internet because there were some flaws and extra steps that were not necessary.  I also prefer cream in my soups- it is after all, cream of mushroom soup.  So, I used the recipe as a base and formulated my own.  Give it a try, I know you will like it.  This recipe takes the place of 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup so it is an easy swap in your favorite recipes.

Simple and Quick Cream of Mushroom Soup

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups of broth
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions

  • In a large saucepan, saute onion in butter until tender. Add mushrooms and saute until tender add more butter if needed.
  •  Stir in flour and cook for 5 minutes more
  •  Add broth stir until smooth.  Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.
  •  Reduce heat. Stir in the cream, salt and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring often.
  •  Yield: 4-6 servings.

Goulash- Our Way

A family favorite from the farm that will satisfy your tummy and soul.

I know that there are variations on this dish and what I grew up calling Goulash is not what those of that culture call Goulash.  However, my kids love this and if you say “Goulash” this is what they expect.  I love it because it is simple and good, very filling especially when it is cold outside- and it only uses one pot to boil pasta and one dutch oven for the rest.  I like to use ground turkey in this dish because there is no excess grease to drain off and that makes preparation much easier.

Goulash-

Ingredients:

1/4 cup chopped onion

2 lbs of ground Turkey

1- tablespoon of cumin

1- tsp of paprika

1- pint of stewed tomatoes (if you don’t can your own you can use a 14 oz can of stewed tomatoes)

1- ear of corn with kernels cut off the cob (1- 14 oz can of corn)

1- pint of ranch or chilli style beans (1- 14 oz can of ranch style beans)

Salt and pepper to taste

16 oz of pasta- elbows, shells, or bow-tie- really any small pasta that you like.

Boil pasta according to your liking.

While pasta is cooking- In a large dutch oven, add a tablespoon of olive oil and cook onion until clear.  Add meat and brown.

Add remaining ingredients and heat through.  When pasta is done, add to mixture.  Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.  Feeds 6-8 with some leftovers for lunch.

All done- Enjoy!