Friday, August 28, 2009

Food Blogging Legitimacy

I wrote an email to my two very best friends alerting them to/explaining/defending my new blog, and this post is more or less what I wrote. I realized as I wrote that my need to defend food blogging was meaningful and merited a more public account.

So, I studied political science in school and used to write a political blog--and by "write," I mean "hardly ever write." I was too much of a perfectionist about political theory, logic models, structured arguments, gross stuff like that. It felt too much like work to put together regular cohesive political essays.

I do a lot of reading on food issues vis-a-vis political theory/philosophy, and there is a large emerging genre of such writing. There is also a trend in popular culture of analyzing our collective and personal food habits. Then "Julie and Julia," a movie about talking about cooking, came out and is hugely popular, and I had the realization that everyone's talking about food right now.

And I realized that I eat interestingly, with a more ritualized food ethic than most Americans. And I think American food culture may turn out to be at the crux of the great struggle of 21st century. And if I'm really a feminist and if I really assert that the "personal is political," then my personal interactions with my world are more relevant political commentary than engagement with theory and logic and all of the traps of "reason" and "truth" and "reality" that the patriarchy controls. And what's more personal than what I put into my body to sustain it? And what's more intimate than sitting down and breaking bread with someone? This story is important. Stories of breaking bread together always are. And everyone enjoys some good food porn.

So I gave up on the pursuit of truth and the confines of logic, to embrace the primal, the spiritual, the pleasures of the flesh and all the other erotic and delicious indulgences The Man wants me to demurely eschew.

Or maybe, I'm just a narcisist writing a food blog, and trying to make it sound less lame.

So if you are a passionate food voyeur, a connoisseur of wholesome food and mediocre writing, or a merciful real world friend of mine, read on. Comment. Encourage my narcissism. Maybe it'll suck balls. Maybe it won't.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Slow-Cooked Beef

The beef was tender and delicious. It has a slight gamey flavor compared to supermarket beef, which I really enjoy. I could have cooked down the red wine in a pan at a higher heat to make a sauce, but it was really moist and flavorful without that. We ate at our new dining table for the first time! We've been couching it for way too long. It is so nice to finally sit at a table across from a person. It really makes eating food feel like Having a Meal.

I got some stew cuts of beef from Heiden Valley Farm at the South Wedge Farmers Market here in Rochester. They raise cattle, pigs, and chickens that are pasture-raised, grass-fed, and sold locally. I've had their bacon before and loved it, I get eggs from them every week (at $3/dozen), and I'm excited to try their beef.

Eating ethically, particularly when it comes to meat, is often very expensive. We have decided the investment in our health, the local economy, ecology, and general food culture is worth it. Still, we are not rolling in dough over here. Money doesn't grow on organic, local, community-supported trees. So I use some budgeting tricks like buying in bulk and freezing, buying a whole chicken and stretching it with other ingredients into several meals, saving the bones for stock. And of course, getting the cheap (read: tough) cuts of meat and cooking them slowly.

I thawed the beef (which is cut into 2 inch sq. chunks) last night.

Today at my lunch hour, I grabbed a bottle of Bully Hill semi-dry red wine, reflected on how great it is to live in the Finger Lakes area, ran home and took out my slow cooker.

I braised the meat (which was still a little frozen) in a hot pan, then threw it in the cooker, and covered it with salt, pepper, rosemary, oregano, and a little brown mustard.

I sliced an onion, sauteed it in some butter in the braising pan until it was starting to get brown, then I added a sliced clove of garlic.

After another minute or so, I added the onion and garlic to the slow cooker, poured about 1/3 to 1/2 the bottle of red wine over it all, covered, set it on high, and headed back to work. Were I not such a procrastinator, I could've done all that last night, put the pot in the fridge, and set it on low this morning to cook all day. Alas, I did not. It will still get 6 hours of cooking time.

I'm now about to head to the farmers market where I'll pick up some green beans to sautee on the side. I'll just cook them in some olive oil, salt, and garlic.

I may also cook the one new potato I have left from last week. I'll probably slice it pretty thin, toss it in olive oil, salt, pepper, and maybe a little dill, throw it on a baking sheet and roast it at about 425 degrees.

I will update later on how it turns out! Also on all the lessons on pollination I learn from the overly friendly Bee Guy at the market--since I need to buy honey today.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Granola Cries for Help

I am trying to perfect a granola recipe, mostly because I neeeeed to eat breakfast in the morning, and I'd like something quick that I can "grab and go" if necessary. Lately I've taken to staring in the pantry and whining, "we don't have anything to just pick up and eat." To which Boyfriend replies, "we decided it's not ethical to 'just pick up and eat' things."

Blah blah blah, I know he's right. But I'm sleepy and grumpy in the mornings and it would behoove both of us if there were something I could prepare in advance to be eaten quickly. Granola is what I'm trying at present, but suggestions are welcome.

Here's what I've done:

Poured maybe 3/4 cup of olive oil in a bowl, added a drizzle (less than 1/4 cup) of honey, warmed it in the microwave to soften the honey, and tossed in several cups of rolled oats--just enough for them to be coated in the oil/honey mixture.

Oh, I throw in some cinnamon and nutmeg too, with a pinch of salt.

Then I spread the mixture on a baking sheet and bake it at around 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, add dried cranberries, let it cool, and put it in a big jar.

It's not bad, but it has an almost burnt flavor. Definitely not the light crunch of boxed granola. Maybe I am using too much oil, or cooking at too high a temperature. I will continue to play around with these factors.

Meanwhile, help! What else could I be doing wrong? What other breakfast items could I pre-make?

Honestly, I don't see why Boyfriend can't just get up half an hour earlier and make me a delicious breakfast every day. Seems totally fair.

Monday, August 24, 2009

First You Take Some Peanuts and You...

I decided to make peanut butter yesterday, because I heard it was easy. And it really freaking is.

I bought a giant bulk container of shelled, unsalted peanuts (they are not grown locally) at Wegmans--(where they stock local eggs, dairy, and produce when it's in season!).

I put maybe a sixth of it (a few cups) in my food processor with a little bit of olive oil, a sprinkly of salt, a drizzle of honey, and blended until it was smooth.

Done. Seriously.

Why do people buy peanut butter? It took me not 5 minutes to make a 12 oz. jar full of peanut butter. And I will make several more jars with less than $5 worth of peanuts. And it tastes fabulous.

It has the texture of "all natural" peanut butter--a little grainier than conventional kinds--which I enjoy. The honey is a natural preservative, so I figure it will last at least a few weeks to a few months in the fridge.

Food "Rules"

I live with my boyfriend in a tiny apartment in the moderately sized city of Rochester in upstate NY. We decided, upon moving here, to be more conscious eaters. This means, for us, that we follow some rules when it comes to selecting our food and eating it. They aren't always strictly enforced (at the moment), and are subject to change. We're just dipping our toes in the whole foods, local foods water, so to speak. But here they are:

1. We buy local food whenever we can.

This means we go to farmers' markets in the city and farm stands around the city. This rule is fun and easy in the summer and early fall, but nearly impossible during the long, frigid winter here.

2. If it comes in a package, we don't buy it.

In other words, we buy whole foods, not pre-processed, pre-packaged foods. We'd rather do the processing of foods--cooking, blending, mixing, preserving--ourselves, and control what gets done to and added to what we eat.

3. We buy organically grown food if it meets our first two rules.

The first two rules are more important than the third. We would rather buy from a farmer down the road who can't afford organic certification than from a certified corporately run agri-business in California. It is important, if it's available locally, to eat food that's grown sustainably and animal products without antibiotics and growth hormone.

Exceptions to the Rules

We are okay with buying items from far away that can't be or aren't produced locally--and can't be replaced by something that is. These items (for now) include coffee, tea, chocolate, flour, sugar (though we replace with honey when possible), various spices, rice, and olive oil.

When winter arrives we will have to buy non-local produce. We have not had the resources this harvest season to preserve, freeze, or dry the amount of produce we'll need for the winter. Unless we plan to eat jam and pickles until June.

So, to sum it up, we are in our early twenties, with a limited budget, in a city, in a tiny kitchen, in the soon-to-be frozen tundra of the northeast, and we are doing this! You can do it too!