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Locally Yours: Appreciate what you eat by cooking for yourself

By: Carol Arnold
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Some food wasn’t meant to be eaten every day. A recent article titled “Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch” by Michael Pollan shows that a big part of the reason Americans are overweight is our too-frequent consumption of high-calorie and empty-calorie foods. How to combat this trend? Pollan suggests that the answer is simpler than we might think: cook what you eat, eat what you cook. Let’s take french fries for an example. Fast food french fries are potatoes that are fried in oil and heavily salted. It is not an accident that those fries are greasy and salty — that’s what keeps us coming back for more. But what if you had to slice, wash, scrub and dry the potatoes, heat a pan full of hot oil and fry those potatoes before you ate them? I am betting you would eat them twice a year on special occasions, if at all. What if you had to buy hamburger, form it into patties, cook it, slice pickles, wash and chop lettuce, slice onion, slice some cheese, and fry bacon before you ate a bacon cheeseburger? You would eat a bacon cheeseburger much less frequently. When you did eat it, I bet you would savor it. Pollan isn’t saying don’t eat fries and burgers. He is saying when you do want to eat them just make sure you cook them yourself. I can use our Christmas dinner fried chicken as an example of Pollan’s philosophy put into practice. Once a year we eat brined, buttermilk-soaked fried chicken. There are several reasons we only eat it once a year. It is a greasy, messy process to fry chicken. It takes a great deal of time to do it well. And, quite frankly, we don’t need the mega calories more than once a year. But, if we wanted, we could drive through and pick up a bucketful of greasy, calorie-laden chicken any hour of the day, any day of the week and suffer the consequences in increased food cost, increased cholesterol levels, and increased weight. Cooking what you eat starts making sense when you think of how many problems are solved at once. You increase the amount of foods eaten in their natural state such as fruits and veggies because their prep time is negligible. You decrease the amount of meat because it is expensive and more time intensive to cook. You stop your dependence on highly processed, low nutrition prepared foods and fast food. You spend some more time with your kids in the kitchen because they can help you cook and learn good eating and cooking habits from you. A drive-through joint is not typically where you would go to establish a standard for food. So why do we allow them to set the standards for burgers and fries? Why are we allowing huge corporations to create a nation of people of are addicted to worthless pseudo food? The next time you get a craving for fast food, take the time to go home and prepare it yourself. You will be doing yourself, your family, your local community, and local agriculture a big service. Find Pollan’s article at www.nytimes.com/2009/08/02/magazine/02cooking-t.html. Craving even more information? Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center, the Farmers’ Market, and Placer Slow Food are sponsoring four showings of the highly acclaimed movie “Food, Inc.” this weekend at the Old State Theatre. You may not look at food industry in America in the same way after seeing this movie. Please visit livefromauburn.com for a schedule and more information, or call (530) 885-0156. About today’s recipe: I have made french fries from scratch using the Joy of Cooking recipe twice in my 28 years of marriage. Talk about time consuming! After reading Pollan’s article I set about finding/creating a recipe that would answer the craving for fries in a more healthful way. This recipe included eight minutes of cutting and tossing, and an hour of oven time. It was prepared using Yukon gold potatoes from Natural Trading Company, olive oil from Calolea, and truffle salt from the Two Spicy Ladies. A key to getting your family off of their fast-food addiction is using the freshest, highest quality ingredients, and being committed to preparing real food. All of these ingredients can be found at the Auburn Old Town Farmers’ Market. The result was fabulous; I had to slap some hands away from the fresh hot fries to save enough for the pictures. Next time you want to satisfy a french fry craving, give these a try. Better than Fast-Food Oven Fries with Truffle Salt 4 Yukon gold, or other medium to large potatoes 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 teaspoon truffle salt Lightly oil a large cookie sheet. Scrub potatoes and dry. Cut potatoes into 3/8- to 1/2-inch slices. Cut the slices into 3/8- to 1/4-inch wide sticks. Place the potatoes on the oiled cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and truffle salt and mix well. Layer the potatoes in one layer on the cookie sheet. This is an important step — if you stack the potatoes they won’t get crispy. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes, remove from oven, and serve hot. Serve with homemade ketchup. Ketchup 6 whole tomatoes, blanched and peeled to yield about 30 ounces of tomato product 1 medium onion, chopped 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon tomato paste 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar 1/2 cup cider vinegar 1/2 teaspoon salt Purée tomatoes in their own juice in a blender or food processor until smooth. Cook onion in oil in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add puréed tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar, and salt and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until very thick, about 1 hour (stir more frequently toward end of cooking to prevent scorching). Purée ketchup in 2 batches in blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). Chill, covered, at least 2 hours (for flavors to develop). Keeps for three weeks in the refrigerator.