Just one more cautionary post then we'll get back to Michel's recipes. I promise.
Whether you agree with him or not, author Michael Pollan (In Defense of Food) makes a good point with his haiku-esque advice about what to eat:
"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
Maybe you've never thought about having to come up with a definition for "food" but in a culture overrun by corporate interests the likes of Monsanto, unlabeled GMOs, and food industry lobbyists, we need to know exactly what we're consuming.
Quick example: My former high school students were shocked--but largely undeterred--to learn from a NY Times article that the energy drinks they guzzled daily contained brominated vegetable oil, a flame retardant used in kids' pajama fabric, among other applications. I assured my students that if they continued to drink Gatorade and similar beverages that, yes, they might feel more energetic from all the processed SUGAR they were ingesting but the big bonus would be that they wouldn't need to worry about catching on fire. At least they stayed awake during class.
My most recent post covered news stories about the Agromafia selling fake extra-virgin olive oil in the US. Now we're moving on to This Week's Adulterated Food News headline:
Your packaged grated Parmesan cheese contains wood pulp (cellulose).A small amount is allowed to preserve the product in its convenient plastic shaker, but some brands go way past the limit. Want to know more? Here's a link to the CBS News video story:
The worst offender is Castle Foods, receiving this communication from FDA investigators:
The company filed bankruptcy in 2014 and criminal charges/fines are in the works.
Michel seldom buys any kind of processed food for a couple of reasons: First, packaged and processed foods are not as healthful/tasty as fresh ingredients, and second, he grew up in a culture where daily shopping was a necessity due in large part to lack of storage space and refrigeration for large amounts of food. Holland is a small country with most of its population living in small residences with even smaller kitchens.
If you watch HGTV "House Hunters International" you've probably seen American buyers complaining about how they can't possibly function in those tiny Euro-kitchens with no stainless steel appliances and sometimes not even an oven. It's all about perspective, I guess, but it makes me cringe to see how spoiled we are.
Michel has lots of childhood stories about walking to neighborhood food shops in The Hague with his mother--stopping at the butcher shop, the green grocer, the cheese shop, the bakery, etc. Fresh food was the norm and shopping/cooking was part of the daily routine. The shopkeepers would offer Michel a taste of cheese or sausage which he accepted with precocious skepticism. Sometimes he liked the samples, sometimes not, but he was always polite no matter what.
Michel is still a picky cheese shopper. He selects hard cheeses, mostly Dutch, not too expensive, and he buys what appears to be freshly (or at least recently) grated Parmesan from the supermarket cheese counter or Lotsa Pasta specialty food shop. Since this CBS news story has aired, he says he'll buy a wedge of Parmesan and do the grating himself from now on. Cutting out the middle man again, as he is wont to do.
|Lotsa Pasta cheese counter, Louisville|
Dutch isn't exactly a lyrical language like Italian, but there are some words that are fun to know and use. One of the Dutch words I find most charming is winkel, which means "shop." Cheese is kaas so the cheese shop is the kaaswinkel. If it's a really tiny shop the diminutive suffix -je or -tje is added to make kaaswinkeltje, pictured above.
There is a memorable shop in Amsterdam called the Tandenwinkel, known for its window display of toothbrushes riding a miniature Ferris wheel. This very small store is filled with all manner of interesting and unusual items for keeping your teeth and gums healthy and clean. So now you can figure out that tanden is teeth, right? The next time you're in Amsterdam, stop by Tandenwinkel and get yourself some new dental gear.
If there is a moral to this story, it's probably two-fold and not very profound:
1. Eat the freshest, most wholesome foods you can find, avoiding mystery ingredients like wood pulp and flame retardants.
2. Brush your teeth.
I'll be back soon with a new recipe for something yummy and vegetarian/vegan.
Thanks for reading!