Sure, if you read my food and wine blog posts on Cooking Chat, much of the focus there is simply on the pure sensory delight of good food, and the aesthetic appeal of a well-presented plate. Today being Food Day, with a focus on a healthier diet and food system for all, provides a chance for me to put my passion for food in a broader context and reflect upon how my foodie ways connect to other interests, including our work at Social Capital Inc. I noted the post about Food Day at Babson College talked about everyone having a “food story”; essentially this post shares a bit of mine.
I use term “real food” here. I like the way Michael Pollan defines it in Defense of Food–you can get an intro to his take on it in this summary of his book.
Food and place: My food story starts with enjoying healthy and tasty food every day. Enjoying tasty, real food provides immediate gratification to the sense. But really paying attention to the nuances of flavors provides an opportunity to reflect upon what is on our plate, where the food comes from and how it was produced. Good food, in my book, provides a sense of connection to a particular place and the people that care for it.
As much as I love to eat local as much as possible, I also love the way food can transport us to another place. My travel budget is limited, but a good meal celebrating the cuisine of a region along with wine from that area is a way to visit the culture of that place for the evening. Twice a month, I join fellow bloggers in exploring a specific region of France and Italy, sharing recipes and wine pairings that seek to capture the food culture of the area. Most recently, we visited the Cotes du Rhone, and I made this Rustic Chicken and Sausage Stew to pair with a wine from the region.
One of the most important values that undergirds our work at SCI is that place matters, something we need to be reminded of given the amount of time we spend on screens, untethered to place. Enjoying real food that is clearly traceable to specific places and people is a great way to ground ourselves in the tangible world.
Food brings people together: Our work at SCI is about bringing people together in local communities, and valuing the importance of relationships. Coming together to share a good meal is as good a way to build relationships that I can think of.
Waste not: This morning I overcooked my son’s waffle. Too crispy for him, I cooked another without much argument. But I inspected the discarded waffle before tossing it, doctored it up a bit, and enjoyed it with a second up of coffee. I did this instinctively, muttering “waste not” to myself. Reports that we waste about 40% of the food produced in America are quite disturbing to me, and I work hard to make good use of all the food we purchase. Including taking one for the team and eating what others won’t!
Real food has to taste great: Let’s face it, those of us advocating people eat real food are up against big industries that have figured out how to manipulate salt, sugar and fat to appeal to cravings that have been hardwired into us over the course of evolution (see Michael Moss’s book for more on this). That’s a big focus of mine on Cooking Chat, sharing healthy recipes that taste great. Toward that end, earlier this year I published my first cookbook: Collards & Kale: 20 recipes that will have you loving your greens. I also posted a recipe roundup, 25 Healthy Vegetarian Recipes, tying into today’s Food Day theme “toward a greener diet”.
More on the Social Capital links: There have always been some natural links between my food interests and our work at SCI, based on the way it brings people together and grounds us in a sense of place. The link is even tighter recently, as our current strategic plan includes a focus on building social capital to promote health and wellness. Thus, we now have several AmeriCorps members based with local food and fitness coalitions, doing great work to promote healthy eating and food access in urban communities. Based on this tie Dan Arrick, SCI AmeriCorps member based at our headquarters, participated in yesterday’s Massachusetts food system event and wrote this blog post, A Need for Low-Hanging Fruit.
OK, I’m going to sign-off now and enjoy the rest of my Food Day! On the menu tonight–ziti with kale pesto and roasted broccoli (for now linking you to another kale pesto recipe, will update!). My 10 year old is participating in a contest at school to see which class is eating the most healthy fruits and veggies, with extra points for local food. Awesome idea, so we will be looking for local broccoli and kale!