My (Food) Role Models

Halfway across my world, millions of people are in danger of dying of starvation. To paint a picture for you, a UN food shipment recently delivered to Somalia resulted in gunfire killing seven people. On top of this, Somali militants are blocking civilian access to food.  Knowing this helps me realize how truly lucky I am. Not only do I get to eat, but I get to choose what I want to eat. Don’t take your opportunity to make knowledgeable and healthy food decisions for granted; take control of what you eat, be genuinely grateful. I believe it is extremely important to truly think and analyze what you are putting into your mouth. What you eat affects your city, your country, and your whole world.

I love food. If you know me, you know that. I won’t even claim to be a foodie. I know a lot about food but the imperative thing is that I have an unconditional love for it. I love the culture surrounding food. I love the role of food in culture. I will travel the world looking for the most delicious food (so far, front runner is the fresh, garlicky, lemony, olive oil drenched cuisine of the Eastern Mediterranean).

Anyway, this post is more about the chefs that I admire. I have become extremely passionate about eating right – local, sustainable, ethical, healthy, and green – and have turned to some amazing resources to help me learn more about it.

First and foremost is my absolute favourite, Jamie Oliver. Not only has he established an organization that teaches young underprivileged people to cook, but he has tried valiantly to revolutionize the way British and American people eat (Google: Jamie’s Food Revolution). He shows people how to keep a garden, and how to use it to cook the most delicious looking food in the world.

Second is another great chef from the UK, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. His shows, the River Cottage series, attempt to teach people sustainability and self-reliance, and how to source local eggs, dairy, and meat. Most recently, he has highlighted the problems with our current fishing methods, and has created a campaign to promote sustainable and ethical fishing – Hugh’s Fish Fight.

Last but not least is a chef that resides in New York named Dan Barber. Dan demonstrates perfectly that food tastes better when it is produced in a sustainable and ethical way. He shows that it is in everyone’s self interest (especially chefs) to source ingredients that are grown locally, grown organically, raised properly, and slaughtered properly, because they taste better. The quality is higher. There is integrity in how they are produced and therefore, also in how they taste. His approach is an educational one – his farm shows the link between a local consciousness and an amazing dining experience.

If you love food as much as I do, why not do some exploring of your own? There are some brilliant and inspiring people out there to teach you.

Here are some more links if you find the topic of any interest:

Blue Hill
Sustainable Eating – Scientific American
Chez Panisse – Alice Waters
Slow Food Canada
Hugh’s Chicken Run

Drought in Somalia - http://jubbalandnews.com/?p=596

Drought in Somalia - http://bit.ly/pPCckl


Foie gras…Foie gross?

Now dating a lover of all things food has opened up my eyes, and also my mouth (excuse the innuendo), to a whole new world of food. There are some things I always meant to try and knew I would like, oysters, or veal cheeks are a couple of examples. But I am also talking things I never would have touched or considered touching before I met him: camel, crocodile, kidneys, bone marrow, and lamb’s tongue, to name a few. Some of these I enjoyed quite a bit (bone marrow was delicious, and the crocodile has definite potential), but one food product that has lead me to some intense debates and discussions with my beloved to-be chef boyfriend, is foie gras. And considering I am surrounded by it everywhere I go these days, it is worth talking about.

For those of you who don’t know, foie gras literally means “fat liver” in French, most traditionally, the liver of a goose. The liver is extremely fatty, and as a result, incredibly tasty. This liver is then made into different forms, mousses or pâté are examples, and is a well-known delicacy the world over. I tried foie gras with Aman and I will admit, although I have an aversion to things made from the innards of animals, I thought it tasted good. Now the problem with foie gras is that in order to make the goose livers fatty, they force feed geese, with a method called “gavage.” I am talking tube down the throat, directly into the esophagus, eat-more-food-in-two-weeks-then-they-should-eat-in-an-entire-lifetime. This makes the liver 12 times the size of a regular goose liver. Sound good?

After learning this, I find the thought revolting. I am by no means an over the top animal welfare activist, but I believe in sustainable agricultural practices, and humane raising and slaughtering of livestock. I don’t see the force-feeding of geese as fulfilling either of these categories. When I did some further reading, I found that there are plenty of free-range geese and ducks that are allowed to gorge on their own (no force-feeding), that produce wonderful “foie gras.” The problem being that, by definition, it isn’t considered foie gras because there is no force feeding involved.

I guess this highlights a disconnect between the current movement for sustainable, free-range, and pasture-fed livestock and the culinary history of France, among other places, that might involve not so ethical (by today’s standards) methods or preparations that define their culture. There are plenty of other examples all over the world. So at what point do we draw the line? When do some practices become backward?

This also gives people the perfect opportunity to make responsible choices about what they eat.

If you are interested in learning more about properly raised fatty geese, here is a great TED talk to watch: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/dan_barber_s_surprising_foie_gras_parable.html