menu planning monday

Back by popular demand, our next few dinners on deck. My favorite thing we ate last week? The spinach and mushroom lasagna. I even made my own noodles with the pasta maker I got for my birthday, and they turned out amazing. The spring vegetable paella also turned out fabulous, even though I didn’t remember to get pimientos and threw in some saffron for extra flavor. We ate it with fried eggs, and Claire had like 3 helpings! We still haven’t eaten all the meals I planned last week, so we’ll be having the cauliflower and chickpea tacos this week for sure.

Other things we’ll be eating this week (note, if you’re viewing this in an RSS reader, you may need to click through to see embedded images and be able to click through to recipes):

We’ll likely have this potato tortilla with a side of salad and some olives and cheese, pretend we’re in Spain:

Recently our girls have been liking roasted brussels sprouts, so I think this is worth a try:

Might make a bean and corn salad to serve on the side with these tostadas:

We’re also hosting a Friday Night Meatballs this week (with eggplant based “meatballs” since we gave up meat for Lent–I may even try to write up my recipe for these, so look for it next week) and planning to go to our friends’ house for dinner another night, so that’s it for this week’s plans!

In other food news, my love for Michael Pollan is well-documented, so you won’t be shocked to learn that I love his docu-series “Cooked” on Netflix. On the night we watched the third episode, I immediately got up and mixed up some bread dough because I was so inspired! Check it out, for sure!

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Is Michael Pollan a sexist pig? Uh, no.

IMG_1935Wow. What a question. But it’s been a Salon headline, thanks to an excerpt from a new book about Femivores, and as a result, has been re-blogged in several places. And now I’m asking too. Only I’m also going to answer the question.

NO.

I’m a feminist, I bake my own bread, and oh hey look, I dealt with all of this stuff in a post back in 2010.

To recap, what I said then is true now: yes, it’s sexist and inaccurate when food writers express nostalgia for a Good Old Days that never existed. As Emily Matchar makes clear in the excerpt of her book that Salon posted, and as is clear to anyone who watches Mad Men, it’s simply not true that our grandmothers ate better, more wholesome food than we did. My grandmother’s most famous recipe involves a jar of Cheese Wiz, for example. You’d have to go back to my great grandmother on the farm to get to something close to “slow food,” and then you’d also have to consider that she was living a life of drudgery during the Great Depression with many many mouths to feed. So yes, it’s absolutely a valid criticism of folks like Michael Pollan to ask that they please lay off the pre-feminist nostalgia.

It’s also one thing to note that feminism led many women out of the kitchen and into the workplace, and another to blame all our current food woes on that fact. Sometimes, it has seemed that Pollan has done this, but in a rather large body of writing I must charitably point out that overall, I do not get the feeling that he’s truly a sexist who thinks cooking is women’s work, as he himself is a man who cooks. Still, we need to consider that the lack of home cooking in this country might be precisely because FEMINISM ISN’T FINISHED YET, and true equality would have as many men getting into cooking as women getting out of it.

This brings me to my frustration with the “Is Michael Pollan a sexist pig” chapter/article heading. It’s like Jay Smooth’s awesome video about racism: you need to keep the conversation about what the person said/did, rather than on who/what they are as a person. Absolutely Michael Pollan has written some sexist things. But calling him, as a person, a sexist pig, even in a semi-joking headline, really goes too far, especially when there are so many actual sexist pigs out there not doing good work and fighting the good fight, save for a few statements.

I guess, as a bread-baking, yogurt-making, pastured-egg eating, feminist, stay at home mom, I wonder what people think is exactly the problem in this movement, one in which people who have other options are choosing something based upon important values and beliefs. I don’t want to fall too far into the choice feminist camp, because I believe even feminists can make problematic choices, and that the personal is political, and the choices we make perpetuate a system larger than ourselves, etc. etc. etc. BUT. There are a lot of us, women and men, for whom food and other seemingly small choices are deeply important, even spiritual. We may find joy in a system of farming, cooking, and eating that is healthier for ourselves, for the workers who make/grow/produce our food, and for the planet.

Matchar writes, “As should be obvious to anyone who’s peeked at a cookbook from the late 1940s or early 1950s that promotes ingredients like sliced hot dogs and canned tomato soup, we’ve been eating processed crap since long before feminism. Yet the idea of the feminist abandoning her children to TV dinners while she rushes off to a consciousness-raising group is unshakable.”

But in a way, Matchar seems to echo this early criticism of feminists, and seems to think we’re choosing these domestic pursuits to the exclusion of other, worthier causes:

“Many smart, educated, progressive-minded people, people who in other eras would have been marching for abortion rights or against apartheid, are now immersed in grassroots food organizing, planting community gardens and turning their own homes into minifarms complete with chicken coops.”

But you know, we’re the people who have time to show up to the pro-choice rally with homemade muffins in tow. It’s like when you show interest in supporting a charity for say, animal welfare, and someone reminds you that there are starving people in the world who matter more. Well, it’s amazing how boundless my interests and passions can be. I can care deeply about the food I feed myself and my family and also about social justice and politics. And I can be part of a slow food movement while still recognizing that it has major problems with privilege, a lot of the time.

And you know, I have a feeling Matchar feels the same way, too. She mentions in her piece that she’s “been learning to can jam, bake bread from scratch in my Dutch oven (though my husband is better at it), and make my own tomato sauce from a bushel of ugly tomatoes I bought at the farmer’s market.” It’s entirely possible her book reflects my tone of largely admiration for the work of slow-foodies while also seeing a few shortcomings. It’s just unfortunate that she (or an editor?) are (even jokingly) calling one of the “good guys” a “sexist pig” in order to sell a few more copies.

on skinny shoppers, food elitism, and gender in the kitchen

You don't have to be a skinny, white, rich lady to get into cooking. Image by Nina Leen via the Google LIFE Photo Archive.

I’m a foodie. I’m an unabashed, CSA-member, local-beet-eating, corn-syrup-eschewing, pickle-making, bread-baking foodie. I write a lot about food, how I sacrifice my hopes and dreams to bake bread, how I experiment with the new and wacky produce that appears in my CSA boxes, how I try to eat everywhere worth eating in my city before I have to leave it.  I also read a lot about food.  I’m a big fan of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and if Michael Pollan wrote it, I’ve probably read it.

This doesn’t mean I *like* everything I read from Michael Pollan. Continue reading

food rules

If I had to name the top three people who have changed my life the past few years, they’d be Rob Bell, No Impact Man/Colin Beavan, and Michael Pollan.  All have significantly shaped the way I think about my life and my choices and my raison d’etre.  This post is only about one of them.

Michael Pollan created a famous tagline: Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.

It’s the tagline for his book In Defense of Food, which I have not yet read, but hope to. The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which I have read, is excellent.

Anyway, a while back Pollan started soliciting others’ food rules in the vein of his famous maxim, and today the results of this search are presented in a slide show over at the New York Times.  I thought I’d share some of the ones that interested me, and maybe muse a little on my food rules.

Picture 1I rather agree with this one, perhaps because my father (a physician, though this is probably not a medical opinion) was a big believer in eating real butter.  He reasoned that it tastes so much better that you only eat a little of it, and the increased pleasure is worth it.  I tend to agree.  I use real butter, drink 2% milk, put actual half and half in my coffee which is sweetened with real cane sugar, and tend to like tofu best when it’s not pretending to be something else.  My one hangup is turkey bacon.  I do love real bacon, and often use it in my cooking, particularly now that I’m cooking mostly veggie food, just using the bacon for flavor.  BUT.  If eaten alone as a breakfast food, turkey bacon is my choice over real bacon most of the time.  I think it goes back to texture issues related to a childhood refusal to eat anything with actual fat attached, because I hate the gummy squishy way fat feels in my mouth.  So, turkey bacon excluded, I’m all about eating real food. Continue reading

you(r values) are what you eat

I consider myself pretty well informed about food issues.  My upbringing was decidedly unconventional concerning food, though I didn’t really know it until I went to college.  My parents were rather prolific gardeners, growing most of our produce organically, though at the time I never really knew what “organic” meant.  We had our own chickens from whom we gathered our eggs.  We even briefly raised our own pig.  The first taste I ever got of a frozen vegetable was in a cafeteria, and no lie, I called my mom to ask her why the green beans there didn’t taste right.  She laughed at me, perhaps realizing she’d ruined me for life. As an adult, I try to frequent the farmer’s market, or at least buy organic produce at my grocery store.  I thought I was informed, making wise choices, doing what was right for my body and the planet.

I even read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  So I really thought I knew.

Food IncBut there is something different about SEEING it.  We saw “Food, Inc.” this weekend and afterward, as I headed off on my bike, a backpack full of reusable bags, to the grocery store, my husband asked, “What are you going to buy?”  “Oh, just some veggies and some yogurt.”  “Good, because I’m not sure I can eat any meat today.”  We’ve decided it’s time to get serious about our food choices after watching this film.  It really affected us.  And I hope you will see it too.

There are just too many reasons now for me not to do the right thing in my food choices.  Because I care about the way farmers are treated by big companies like Tyson and Purdue and Monsanto.  Because I care about the way workers are treated by big companies like Smithfield and Pilgrim’s Pride.  Because I care about the way animals are treated, all along the food chain.   Because I care about the way the land and the water are treated all along the food chain.  Because I care about the impact on world hunger.  Because I care about the way consumers are treated by large companies and the regulators who fail to protect them.  Because I care about the health of my body and my community.

Now, I have friends who are already saying things to me about how they don’t want to watch this film because they don’t want to have to change the way they eat.  This shows that they already know there is something wrong with our food system.  They just don’t want to put in a little more effort, maybe cut back on spending in other areas in order to be able to afford more ethical food, maybe spend less time on the couch and more time in the kitchen.  But we can’t sit here with our fingers in our ears singing “La La La La La, I can’t hear you” for too much longer.  Because we KNOW something has to change. Continue reading