Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Two Dinners

Sometimes it's amazing for me to realize I've been on this food "journey" for almost six years. I know this because Amazon.com tells me I ordered all of Joel Salatin's "how to" farming books on September 8, 2006. I built my first chicken house around that time, and our first 'animal' - turkeys - were raised and processed that year, from spring until fall. I also got some pigs (and transported them long-distance in my Camry's trunk. Good times) that November.

Sometimes I don't realize all the changes we've made until I think back to something, or run into the "Standard American" meal in some fashion. This actually greatly encourages me (and I hope, you!). What once was a conscious decision, sometimes a sacrifice, is now not even thought of.

Here is an example of a common meal, in two formats. It's the same meal, but it's completely different food.  The menu? Tacos!

Rainbow Salsa?
Around here (and this isn't necessarily 'authentic' Mexican food, but what seems to be fairly normal) it will look like this:

Hamburger, seasoned with 'taco seasoning'
Refried beans
Corn tortillas, semi-fried (and/or flour tortillas)
Lettuce, shredded
Cheese, grated
Olives, sliced
Sour Cream

This meal can go two ways. The first is probably more convenient: You get standard ground beef from the store (a high-risk e.coli product from cattle in toxic environments eating corn, soy, chicken feathers/guts, and antibiotics, with a hormone implant) and brown it with a packet of taco seasoning (which includes "modified food starch" and MSG). You warm up canned refried beans (which include 'yeast extract' - which is another name for MSG). You fry your corn tortillas (made from genetically-modified corn, being linked to fertility problems, allergies, organ damage, plus environmental toxicity) in vegetable oil (made from canola, corn, soy, and/or cottonseed oil - every one of which are genetically modified and HIGHLY refined using chemical solvents/deodorizers/etc). Your iceberg head lettuce doesn't offer much in nutrition; whether or not any pesticide residue outweighs its nutrients is debatable. Does anyone wash iceberg lettuce? You sprinkle on the cheese (probably made from cows injected daily with a genetically-modified hormone, rBST to up milk production. It also ups mastitis infections and bacteria/pus in the milk, and shortens the cow's lifespan. If your cheese is pre-grated, it may have sand, starch, and/or mold inhibitors to keep it loose in the bag, and 'fresh.' (?) ) and sour cream (ditto on the rBST issue, and possibly 'thickened' with starch or carageenan). Your olives and salsa are probably canned, and your guacamole might be pre-made in a little plastic container (which I shockingly know very little about) or perhaps you bought avocados and stirred in a little packet of 'seasoning' (see the above commentary on taco seasoning).

This is normal food, believe it or not. Most people consider this 'healthy, homemade' food, not junk or fast food (I did, at one point). We do this day after day, punctuated by learning problems, behavioral challenges, visits to our doctor and routine pharmaceutical helps. [Note; of course not ALL problems can be laid at the feet of what we eat. However, after seeing astonishing changes in our own family based on a shift in diet, I believe it plays a part.]

The good news is that you don't have to pummel your body and your brain with this kind of stuff all day every day. And you can STILL have tacos! :) You just have to come at it a little differently.

You brown your grass-fed beef (which was probably produced not far from your home, includes only ONE set of bovine dna (hehe), has less bacteria, no hormone implants, no antibiotics, and has a lot higher ratio of Omega-3 fats to Omega-6. This is heart-healthy stuff!) with a powdered spice mix (we use Oregon Spice Taco Seasoning, but you can make your own or just check labels when you buy). You toss a ziploc of frozen pinto beans (which you prepared in bulk weeks or months before, soaking 24 hours before cooking to increase mineral availability and improve digestibility) into a pan and cook them down with some extra virgin olive oil and salt and seasoning to taste. You fry your organic corn tortillas (no GMOs allowed in organic products. Periodic testing helps ensure this, though cross-pollination is an issue) in virgin coconut oil (super high in medium-chain fatty acids which are anti-microbial, anti-viral, and increase metabolism in some people. Lauric acid is one of these, which human milk is high in). You use organic romaine lettuce or microgreens or young spinach to add a bit of crunch, and sprinkle on raw cheddar cheese (or perhaps a grass-fed cheese, or at the least a brand that informs "made with milk from cows not treated with rBST). Your sour cream IS cultured (soured) cream and therefore includes beneficial probiotics. Your olives and salsa are as close to 'real food' as you can get (nothing weird in the ingredients) and maybe you even make your own fresh salsa. You mash up a fresh avocado with actual spices, and maybe toss in a little lemon or lime juice to help keep it green.

Not exactly the spice mix for taco seasoning...
Do you see how same - and yet how different - this is? I don't even think about it until we're at a restaurant and I realize that seasoning tastes different, or the guacamole is weird. I didn't go into how it's prepared, but there can be differences there too. Teflon? Aluminum? I don't think teflon is very common in restaurants, but my local restaurant supply sells giant aluminum stock pots, pans, and baking sheets (I actually have baking sheets from them, but I line them with parchment paper or a SILPAT mat for cooking or baking on them). These things can be dangerous in the wrong conditions (teflon at high heat, for instance), and while not technically 'food' or 'additives,' certainly can have an effect on health.

What changes have you made to ensure you're eating what you think you're eating? If you take it one step at a time, what is your next step? Have you been able to keep the changes you've made so far?


Sara said...

I applaud the idea of creating a safer home, and because there's so much misinformation out there about the Teflon® brand, I'm not surprised that you are concerned. I'm a representative of DuPont though, and hope you'll let me share some information with you and your readers so that everyone can make truly informed decisions.

Regulatory agencies, consumer groups and health associations all have taken a close look at the Teflon® brand. This article highlights what they found -- the bottom line is that you can use Teflon® non-stick without worry.


I'd truly be glad to share additional information about it if you are interested, and appreciate your consideration of this comment. Cheers, Sara.

EllaJac said...

Sara, thank you for your comment and link. I am glad to hear that airborne PFOA is fairly low-risk on properly used cookware. I would like to know a little more about the possible food contamination. "FDA *suggests* that it's very *unlikely* that *significant* amounts of PFOA migrate from the pans into food." There are a lot of vague qualifiers there, and I'd like to know some details of their research someday.

Do you have any information about the Teflon (or equivalent; I don't even know if it's a dupont product) in microwave popcorn, pizza boxes, and paper plates/cups? That concerns me as well, though I use very little of those products.

Thank you again!!

sariah said...

I'd like to know at what stage of Telfon peeling from the bottom of my pan, should I absolutely quit using it? I seem to get my pans in that condition waaaaay too fast and then I just keep using them because I don't want to throw away a "new" pan. (Yes Ella, I'm terrible and you're probably cringing in horror!)

EllaJac said...

Hehe Sariah; I may cringe, but I'm libertarian enough to allow you your own choices. :)

That said, I'd chuck them and get something that doesn't have a useful life of too-short. 7 or 8 years ago I bought a huge stainless skillet (saute pan, they called it) from Amazon for $25 or $30. I'm STILL using that thing, and it's in great shape. I did stop putting it in the dishwasher a year ago or so because it seemed to be getting moisture somewhere between the thick bottom layer and the pan (there is a seam around the lower edge, which would leak water/steam when I heated the pan). I occasionally use vinegar to wash it if it gets that cloudy-white layer, and I just use coconut oil if I'm cooking eggs, etc. I also use cast iron a lot, though not if I'm cooking for my gluten/casein free girl (I'm not sure WHAT all is in the well-seasoned pan, and I don't want to reseason it).

Here is what I got, though it doesn't look like it's still for sale: Saute Pan

sariah said...

Do you have to scrub the bottom like crazy after cooking things like scrambled eggs or hashed browns? I have a stainless steel pot that I like but I have to scrape and scrub almost anything I cook in it from the bottom when I'm done.

EllaJac said...

Scrambled eggs are among the worst, I admit. :) I find that plenty of oil + hot pan + small batches + stirring infrequently gives the best results. I also keep a razor blade on my windowsill to help with when a layer gets stuck (like if Hubby cooks? :) ). All in all, it doesn't seem to be problematic enough to bother me. THen again, it's been years since I've used the 'non-stick' stuff, so maybe I just don't realize how bad I've got it? :) Give the above formula a try next time you have a chance, and let me know how it works (or not).