The longer I’m in this business of eating, the more I realize that it’s no use messing with a good thing. To help illustrate my point, I give you the "Cherpumple". Jeff mentioned this to me yesterday, and I had to look it up- 3 pies (cherry, apple, pumpkin) each baked in cake batter (white, yellow, and spice) and then stacked and frosted. I mean, look at the thing! I hardly have words.
(photo credit here)
Okay, so I can kind of see the appeal in a kitchy, artsy, humorous kind of way (which, if you know me, you know I can appreciate). However, I’d be willing to bet that this is not all that it’s cracked up to be. While I’ve never tried this monstrosity (and likely never will), I can’t imagine being able to enjoy it beyond the sheer excess of it- and I’m not sure I can jive with that. It reminds me of the Turducken, which I have tried. It was so hyped, and we were all pretty excited to try it. But, I’m sorry to say, it was lackluster. It was fine, but the flavors were all muddled by each other. I couldn’t even pinpoint what was duck. Duck, people. One of the most delicious birds out there, and I couldn’t place it. It was well prepared, and tasted nice and fowl-like, but this whole turkey/duck/chicken extravaganza was just not what was sold. Great in concept, but clearly not what nature had intended…
Everywhere I look there’s evidence of this kind of tampering with a good thing. Like, things as simple as bread. What used to be a simple nourishing staple is now loaded with corn syrup, soybean oil, artificial flavors and coloring, and preservatives. Bread used to be flour and water and the yeast from the air… In my research it’s even pretty clear that if you eat processed grains you’ll be risking actually leeching nutrients from your body, and so I wonder, what’s the point? Then just yesterday I came across this, an article about how processed meats are not safe for human consumption. I mean, how did we get here?
I went to the new fall/winter farmer’s market held down at the brewery just two blocks from my house. My sister and I took the kids, and we just roamed around and the girls played. We ran into a handful of good people and got our pictures taken for possible use in the Detroit Free Press. They said they were doing a piece on the new cottage industry law that passed. For the first time all season I got excited about some things I didn’t have and could buy- some cauliflower, onions, beets, radish, lettuce(!), I have ideas for all of these things that are just simple, and for just a few dollars I can feed my family so well. Next week I’ll be sure to show you how I use it all.
And then last night, my phone rang at 7pm (just after I had eaten two delicious homemade tacos- made with slow cooked local pork in homegrown tomatoes, beans with homegrown garlic, and homemade fermented salsa, drizzled with homemade mayo from our eggs- all served in local corn tortillas… just had to share that! So good and simple!). It was my parents who wanted me to come to this special "Preserving the Harvest" dinner with them, asap. Basically, this restaurant is making a point to create really good local and seasonal foods, and they host these special dinners to showcase what they’ve done. My parents go to most of them, but with this one (including pickles and such) they thought of me and generously got me a spot last minute. I loaded the babe into the car and we shot over to the restaurant. While I wasn’t hungry enough to really eat up, I happily sampled the simply beautiful meal (I saved the rest of everything for Jeff and I to share for lunch today). It was delicious. Simple food, complex flavors, local ingredients. I was very impressed. I didn’t think to photograph it when I was there and it was all beautiful and stuff, but here is my lunch today… Whole seed bread, two different kinds of sausage, some smoked pork chop, stuffed brined cabbage leaves with a preserved tomato sauce, a really delicious little potato, and naturally pickled (meaning lacto-fermented, the kind of pickling I talk about all the time) cabbages, turnip, rutabaga, and carrot. The soup was a borscht made from pickled beets. The only thing not pictured from the meal is the dessert, which Jeff happily finished off last night. It was awesome last night and awesome again for lunch today.
And it got me thinking. If we let the integrity of the food shine through- no longer requiring it to do what it doesn’t naturally want to do, it will in turn take care of us. I’ve learned about the simple and amazing fact that a vegetable straight out of the garden is always superior to one off of a cold shelf or out of a tin can. Occasionally it’s so much better that it creates a convert out of someone who never liked a certain vegetable. I’ve learned that meat that is ethically raised/obtained, and then rationed and used completely, is better for us and our planet- not to mention adds variety to our diets and is truly nourishing. I’ve learned that preserving food in old ways actually can enhance its nutritive value and keep our inner flora in balance and working well (which benefits us in numerous ways). I’ve learned that we need to care for soil naturally, or else we might lose one of our most valuable resources. For as much research as I do about food and how it affects our world and our bodies, I’ve really learned that the simple truth is- don’t mess with it. I’m talking about respect for what sustains us. I’m not arguing that we can’t have a hand in our world- all living things have a hand in it. But we’ve crossed a line, here. We’ve manipulated things to such a degree that we can’t even see what it’s for anymore. It’s like mixing too many colors of play-doh (forgive me, I’ve got a two year old), only to have it all turn this muddled gray/brown color. Without getting into a whole philosophical debate, I’ll just say with relative certainty that if we continue on this path we’re going to lose it all. We need to return to what is good, whole, and nourishing- our lives depend on it. That’s it.