Sunday, January 24, 2016

In Defense of Food

The wonders of Netflix and other Chromecast-able video apps have brought a wealth of foodie documentaries into my home.  Granted, finding the time to sit and watch is not easy.  However, we did just get a chance to watch PBS’s documentary adaptation of Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food.  Let me say from the outset that I completely understand that many people won’t sit down to read the book and that most who would already have.  With that, I encourage you all to spend 90 minutes with this film.

What Pollan does so skillfully and with ample evidence is illustrate the challenges and the nuances of figuring out what really is healthy to eat.  What was deemed fine in one decade, appears to actually be dangerous in the next (margarine).  What we thought was bad for us, turns out to be somewhat helpful (limited amounts of red meats).  Many things are actually necessary to eat, but dangerous in large quantities.  Making matters more challenging, the food industry loves an opportunity to repackage their wares to meet the latest health and food trends.

Pollan constructs the movie around his eventual conclusions about how we should eat – Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants.  I like another suggestion mentioned by Marion Nestle in the movie – eat the perimeter of the grocery store and avoid the interior.  Or avoid foods that have packages – think apples, not apple sauce and Apple Jacks, think real poultry, not chicken nuggets.  If we all ate appropriately portioned foods in natural forms we would solve so many health problems.

Though I have seen Pollan speak and have read a few of his books, I found In Defense of Food to be a succinct, user-friendly way to initiate discussion about healthful eating.  In fact, it stays exceptionally true to the book of the same name.  I encourage you all to seek out this documentary and consider not a diet, but new life-long habits.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Last Meals

Imagine you have one meal left in your life.  What do you eat?  

I love talking about food because it is one of the only socially acceptable things we all share.  We all need to eat for sustenance, just like animals.  But sitting and sharing food humanizes us.  It is what bonds families, communities and cultures.  We can sit with perfect strangers, eat and start conversation with a million intimate directions.  If you had one meal left, what do you eat?  Ask that of new acquaintances or over a family meal and watch the conversation start to flow.  Chefs love the subject.  Check out My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals by Melanie Dulnea, a beautiful collection of pictures and chefs’ reflections on the question.

What if that last meal is due to a death sentence as a result of a heinous crime? 

One recent photography project might suggest that exploring condemned prisoners’ last meals forces us all to confront their humanity.  Take a look at Henry Hargreaves’ project, No Seconds, and consider our sometimes disturbing common humanity.  

So what would you eat?  Does contemplating the question and exploring others’ answers humanize the inhumane?  Could it even be a tool or catalyst for discussing the validity of the death penalty?  
Me?  Beer braised short ribs, duck confit, a Neapolitan pizza with anchovies, capers and prosciutto, a stinky, runny epoisses with baguette, my grandmother’s meat pie, a couple good street tacos with my wife’s refried beans, a slice of my mom’s meatloaf, a raw oyster, some chicken livers and an over-the-top, super-rich chocolate cake with chocolate chips, dark chocolate frosting and dark chocolate sauce drizzled all over with a scoop of dark chocolate ice cream.  To drink…some insanely hoppy IPA and a Chateauneuf-du-Pape, maybe some horchatta and some limoncello.  If it’s my last meal, I’m going to make it a long one!

What’s your last meal?