Food Politics: What Do I Do?

Upon further examination, food politics is a tricky topic. There are so many different ways to view food politics, with different opinions and views from companies, producers, chefs, writers, farmers, and more.

More than ever, I realize that food politics has been becoming more and more important in the recent years. Questions such as: Where is our food REALLY coming from? How important is organic? How bad is GMO and processed food? Should I change my eating habits or are people making too big of a deal with it?

I don’t know. There is too many people with different directions, lacking a unified direction.

Seeing advertisements showing Chipotle portrayed as a good company, and then another video saying it isn’t. What do I believe?

Now knowing that there are hundreds of thousands of children working in fields in the United States, farming for major companies, being robbed of their childhood for wages that add up to less than those on the poverty line, I realize that it is an issue, but how can I help to make a change? Is there somewhere that I can purchase food that does not have such a harmful impact on other people?

Perhaps the point of these advertisements is to get people thinking about the problems and giving more thought to food before buying it. It’s something that I’ll have to learn more about and be more conscientious.

 

My Mother’s Kitchen is My Favorite Restaurant

My mother’s kitchen is my favorite restaurant. She has been cooking for my family longer than I’ve been alive. I asked her a few questions about cooking for me growing up and about what she ate growing up.

The interview went something like this:

  • What was your favorite meal to cook before you got married?

A: Spaghetti. Noodles in general is just such a versatile thing to cook. You can do so much with it.

  • What was it like to cook for me? What did you enjoy or not enjoy (or both) about cooking for me? How did it feel?

A: Sometimes it was really hard to get you to eat vegetables. You never had a problem eating meat when you were young. To get you to eat vegetables you would have to have dressing, like ranch or something. To get you to try new or healthier things, I would just have you try one bite of whatever it was, and sometimes you would pick up on it and ask for more.

  • What is something you miss eating that I wouldn’t eat growing up?

A: That wasn’t a problem. I would cook what I always would eat, and you would eat it for the most part.

  • Who taught you how to cook? How did you learn? Did you teach yourself?

A: My mom and my grandma taught me how to cook. Most of what we cooked was from scratch with whatever was available or in our kitchen already.

  • What is a memorable trick or tip you learned for cooking?

A: I learned how to improvise very well and use what was in the kitchen. I can usually put something pretty good together with what I have in the kitchen. I’m pretty good without recipes and just putting things together.

  • How did you adapt your cooking for your spouse/partner?

A: No he likes everything I make, so that has been really good.

  • What were your favorite foods growing up and what were typical things you would eat growing up?
  • A: We would eat a lot of broiled steak, fried potatoes, spinach, a ton of Italian food, Italian meats, and cheeses. My favorite growing up was when we had spaghetti and meatballs on Sunday afternoon at grandmas because everything was homemade and I always helped make it.
  • What you were picky about?

A: I wasn’t really allowed to be picky. If I didn’t eat what was made that day, I wouldn’t get to eat at all really. Whatever my mom made, I ate, and for the most part really liked. My least favorite food growing up is when my family had liver and onions, I absolutely hated it.

  • Do you have a signature dish? Is there anything that people love when you make it?

A: People seem to love my lasagnas. I make the sauce and it just seems like everybody loves it!

  • Do you have any memorable meals growing up?

A: On Christmas Eve my grandma would make meatball sandwiches with cheese. It was always so delicious, all homemade of course.

 

My mom is an excellent cook. I’m thankful for growing up with such great food and with a focus on good nutrition. Ever since my parents have moved to Colorado I often find myself craving a home cooked meal made by my mom.

Beer & Food: A Modern Art

Let’s face it, if you don’t love beer, you know someone who does. It’s frothy, diverse, bitter, sweet, refreshing, filling, and so many other things. While beer has played numerous roles throughout history, a major role that it has today is food and beer pairing. More recently and increasingly, much interest and participation in pairing the right beer with a dish.

One memorable beer and food pairing that I participated in occurred just this weekend. Since my parents were in town from Colorado, I thought it would be fun to go to the farmers market, then to the liquor store, to prepare a food and beer pairing as a family. We picked up some fresh sol fillets, ripe tomatoes, and ripe berries. We served the sol lightly floured, pan fried with salt, pepper, and a little cayenne pepper. The tomatoes were sliced, served raw with salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar. The berries were served by themselves.

I decided to pair the fish, vegetables, and berries with a floral, moderately hoppy beer. For those who are unfamiliar with hops, it is a very frequently used ingredient added to beer to add a floral and somewhat bitter flavor. I chose a beer called Matilda by Goose Island Brewery from Chicago. Matilda is a Belgian style pale ale. Matilda’s mildly bitter taste filled my pallet with crisp floral flavor served as an excellent compliment to the fish and berries.

Many people are used to food and wine pairing, as it has been much more common in the past. Beer pairing is a nice change to typical food and wine pairing and its existence is more prevalent than ever before.

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Food Adventure: Fried Pickles

My assignment was to turn a list of three random ingredients into a delicious food item. Out of all the ingredients I could have selected, I ended up having to use pickles, cheese, and brown sugar. After a while of reflection and thought on how I could combine these three ingredients, I thought beer and whiskey battered fried pickles topped with cheddar cheese would be just groovy.

I created and used the following recipe for my fried pickles:

2 cups dill pickle chips

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste

1 teaspoon black pepper plus more to taste

1 egg

1/2 cup skim milk

2 cups finely crushed saltines or other similar crackers

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

Salt to taste

Olive oil for frying

6 oz beer of choice

4 oz Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey

1 Tablespoon of brown sugar

The Method:

Place the flour, salt, and pepper in a large Ziploc bag, then mix in the pickle chips to coat them thoroughly. Heat up the oil in a pan filled up about 1/2 inch to about 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Take a sip of beer (for quality control purposes, obviously; and if you’re feeling saucy, a sip of the whiskey too). In a bowl, add the egg, milk, the beer, and the Fireball, and mix them thoroughly. In another bowl, mix the cayenne, brown sugar, and crushed crackers. Take the coated pickle chips out of the bag, place into the egg/whiskey/beer/milk mix and then place into the crushed cracker/cayenne/brown sugar mixture, ensuring to coat the pickles fully. Move the pickle chips into the oil and cook for about a minute, flipping once. Serve immediately with ranch, hot sauce, or by itself.

My cooking adventure was shocking. I fully expected these fried pickles to be disgusting. The funky, yet exciting aroma of the frying pickles was soaked up by the walls of the kitchen. The fried pickles were cooked perfectly, and had a salty start with a slight cinnamon finish that complimented the pickled flavor. What I thought would be a kitchen disaster turned out to be an exciting culinary experiment.

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(They taste a LOT better than they look, I promise).

Bread Disaster

It was eighth grade in my middle school cooking class. Previous to today, my group and I were quite flawless in our cooking and baking. It was the day in the schedule that we were to make banana bread, one of my favorites.

Everything was going as planned, we mixed all the ingredients, created the dough, and placed it into the oven. But that is where the perfection ended.

As it was many years ago, I cannot remember whose responsibility it was to check up on the bread, to ensure it would bake for the perfect amount of time, in order to not under-bake or over-bake the bread.

It went something like this:

Ingredients:

  • 3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup sugar (can easily reduce to 3/4 cup)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 5 forgetful students

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to some random numbers. Mix ingredients into a bowl, place dough in a bread pan. Place in the oven, forget about it until smoke begins to fill the room, rendering the bread inedible, burnt, and setting the fire alarms off.

This was a very poor attempt at baking banana bread. A bread that is at its best when it is moist, dense, nutty, and soft, was forgotten about and burnt. As our neglect continued, the room began to fill with smoke, a haziness that began to catch our attention after it was too late. We rushed to the oven, pulled it open, only to find that the amount of smoke would increase in the room. The smoke was so thick and dense, it set off the building’s fire alarm, causing the entire school to evacuate their classrooms, requiring the fire department to come before classes could resume. It was kitchen disaster I would remember for years to come.

Mission District, San Francisco

My food-filled day in the Mission District of San Francisco was one of the most exciting food excursions I’ve been on.

It began at Mission Minis, a cramped, yet charming little miniature cupcake shop located on 3168 22nd Street. This store was nearly as small as the mini cupcakes they bake and sell on premises. Out of the several flavors they offered, when I noticed that they made a cinnamon horchata cupcake, I had to try it. My first bite of this less than half-sized cupcake started a dance party in my mouth. The cinnamon flavor of the frosting and the moist cake took me to my cupcake happy place.

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Next, my classmates and I went to a deli called “Wise Sons Delicatessen”, on 3150 24th Street. This reasonably sized Jewish deli was opened two years ago and in the words of Evan Bloom, co-owner of Wise Sons, “We’re first and foremost a neighborhood restaurant.” The inside was filled with photographs of the owner’s family. At Wise Sons, I tried their hot pastrami sandwich. Their spicy mustard tingled, making me desire for a whole bottle of it. The crunch of the rye bread led me to the moist, warm, deep taste of the pastrami.

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After Wise Sons Deli, my classmates and I went to the Local Mission Eatery, this modern style restaurant that only uses the freshest and most local ingredients from the Bay Area. This restaurant offered what they call a “winter vegetable sandwich”.  The bread was the freshest, warmest, with a buttery aroma that I can classify as the best bread I’ve ever had. Then I tasted the freshness of the kale and cucumber, with melted cheese on it. The freshness of the ingredients only enhanced the flavor. An employee at the Local Mission Eatery said that they even know the names of the goats who provide the milk for their cheese, an example of the use of local ingredients.

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After Local Mission Eatery, my classmates and I took a detour from the restaurant hopping and stopped in Balmy Alley to observe the beautiful colorful murals.

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After Balmy Alley, we went to Pig and Pie, a bratwurst and desert pastry restaurant located in an old record store building. To keep the look of the record store, the outside of the restaurant remained largely unchanged. The inside of the restaurant was kept with the local restaurant theme. We were served veal and pork bratwurst topped with house made tangy sauerkraut and house made beer mustard. The combination of the warm fatty sausage and the tangy toppings made for one of the best bratwursts I’ve had.

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Next, we continued our Mission District food excursion with an al pastor taco at El Farolito on 2779 Mission Street. This large white walled taqueria was filled with yellow top lunch tables and a line going out the door. The taco that I had was juicy, with a pineapple juice tint, with fresh chopped onions and cilantro on top. What a delicious taco.

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We ended our Mission District food excursion with ice cream at a small shop with exotic flavors called Humphry Slocombe. When I found out that they made a bourbon corn flake ice cream called “special breakfast”, I had to try it, being the whiskey fan that I am. It had a great sweet bourbon flavor with a hint of scotch-like smoke. The corn flake added a crunchy end to the sweet and salty creamy bourbon flavor.

The food experience in the Mission District in San Francisco was one of the most memorable days I’ve had as a Saint Mary’s student.

My Most Memorable Meal

It’s very possible that my most memorable meal was just this past November, during my study abroad semester in London, England. While I had numerous great meals during my time in London, it was the Thanksgiving dinner that my flatmates and I made that was the most memorable. As most of our friends were from other countries such as Norway, Japan, England, Switzerland, Sweden, and Wales, the only people who have ever participated in a Thanksgiving meal were Veronica and myself, the two Americans.

The preparation for the meal began early in the day, when London’s autumn fog had yet to lift from the ground. As each person began making their dishes, the entire flat slowly began to be filled with the warm scent of a bakery, with fresh butter, and earthy herbs.

After a long day of preparation, all of us sat down at our large, old dinner table for this enormous meal. It was my job to carve the ten pound turkey, a task in which I’ve never performed previous to this meal.

As we began eating the gigantic sized meal, which it turned out could have probably fed twice the amount of people, the group began an outburst of various conversation. After the meal had begun, Veronica and I took charge of the discussion, instructing the others who have never participated in a Thanksgiving until that night about what Thanksgiving entitles. We told them that each of us should tell the group one thing we’ve been thankful for.

This meal was not only memorable for the fantastic food in such outrageous quantities, but for the conversations, the memories, and the friendships that it acted as a catalyst to create. It made me feel as if I was at my own home, in my own kitchen, and with my own family.

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