What is a food philosophy? It’s one persons approach to how they make their choices and what drives those decisions. Food can easily be something to sustain life. It can be healthy or it can be detrimental to your health. It can nourish the body but it can also nourish the mind and soul.
I have always liked good food but I didn’t always know what that meant. I had some fine dining experiences but didn’t know how or if you even could translate that to cooking at home. What those fine dining experiences did teach me from the very first one to the most recent was that food can give you an emotional reaction. Think about when you eat something you don’t like. That’s an emotional reaction. The food is perfectly nutritious but you still spit out the boiled brussles sprouts. It can go the other way too. When there’s true talent in the chef and they achieve harmony in the dish it can literally move you to tears.
Knowing this began me on a journey of trying to answer one question. What is good food? Well here’s what I have learned so far. First and foremost it begins with quality. This could mean local. It could also mean things like organic, natural, non GMO, pasture raised and so on. The lead me to the next question. Where do I start? Do I throw out everything that isn’t organic? (Just to clarify the answer is no.) I started with what I love to eat most. Chocolate chip cookies. What makes a good chocolate chip cookie? Well it could be the chocolate and I’ll get to that in a minute, but I would argue the butter. You can tell a lot about a cookie from the fat that was used to make it. Good cookies use butter and not all butter is created equal. I had a preference of what kind of butter I used when I was buying large scale produced butter. Some seemed a little smoother in flavor and the fishes was more pleasant. Some seemed creamer and easier to work with. It wasn’t until my husband and I moved to Iowa that I discovered amazing butter. It comes from the Hope Creamery just up the road in Minnesota.
Using amazing butter made a difference, a real tangible difference. This got me thinking. What about the other ingredients? So then I looked to eggs. I started getting extra-large or jumbo brown free-range eggs. Then I looked to the flour. I tried different flours, thins like Gold Metal, King Arthur, but I wasn’t seeing much difference until I tried Bob’s Red Mill. Now let me say that all-purpose flour is pretty much the same but Bob’s has a company philosophy I agree with and they offer every alternative flour you can think of and let me tell you I have tried a lot of them! I think right now I have over a dozen flours in my cupboards. I then started getting my baking soda, baking powder, yeast, and anything else they offered that I used because they had a great quality product and I believed in what the company was about. I had discovered a while ago that not all vanilla is the same and had found a high quality one that I still love to this day. Granulated sugar hasn’t changed, C&H still makes the one that works best in every application I used sugar, however brown sugar did change. I found a local manufacturer called “Crystal” that makes amazing brown sugar that doesn’t dry out nearly as quick as the others. Then there’s the chocolate. I started digging in on a lot of websites looking for chocolate providers that were fair to the farmers, made a quality product, and offered the range I would need. That’s when I came across Valrhona. It does require me to chop the chocolate but I don’t think I have ever tasted anything so good.
What I am getting at is this. My philosophy is to make good food and that can only be done with good ingredients prepared in thoughtful ways. If you want to improve your cooking start with the thing you LOVE to make and see if you can only afford to improve the quality of one ingredient which one will make the biggest difference and go from there.
Another key issue to bring up from how I approach food is the thought: There are no bad ingredients there is just bad preparation. Let me explain. I was never a fan of brussel sprouts. They always smelt gross when they were cooking and the texture and flavor in the end was always blah. That was until I got a cookbook called The Farm. In it there was a recipe for Garlic Brussel Chips. This recipe had you peal off the outer petals and throw them into a bowl. Then slice up the solid center and add it to your bow. Add some garlic, EVO, salt and pepper. Then spread them out on a baking sheet and cook them in the oven till you have some nice caramelization. Takes maybe 15 minutes. They come out AMAZING! I now can’t wait for brussel sprouts to be in season because I love these as a side with almost any dinner.
Once I open myself up to thinking about food differently. Thinking about each individual ingredient I started thinking about how can I get the best quality. That naturally took me to places like farmers markets and food co-ops. Buying the meat that I use from a local livestock farmer is a real treat. The flavor and texture is out of this world and I can talk directly with the farmer that raised and slaughtered the animal. I have been so impressed with the quality of Farm on Wheels that we get our bacon from that last year I broke down and bought our Thanksgiving Turkey from them. I should say I am not a fan of turkey..until… you guessed it… I tried a fresh local free-range bird from my livestock farmer. I loved it so much that I have placed my pre-order for this years bird as soon as the option was available!
The last part I want to share is about chemicals and preservatives. Premade food is packed full of them. As I started to not be so young anymore I started to have some digestive issues. (I won’t go into detail.) I was sad that I thought this would mean I would have to give up a lot of foods I loved. Did I need to give up dairy? Maybe gluten? Maybe sugar? Maybe red meat? No, what I have found is that as long as I stay away from or at least minimize my intake of commercial chemicals and preservatives I can eat everything I mentioned without any issues. This has led me to making my own condiments, which once I had homemade mayonnaise I thought to myself I can never go back, to making tomato paste and so on.
What this comes down to is that if you know what is in your food its less likely to be a problem. It’s when you trust the commercial food production companies to only put good things in their premed foods that things can go wrong, in my opinion. I no longer buy stocks (broths) of any kind, I no longer buy cans of beans (only dry), and I no longer buy juice (we buy fruit, juice it, and can it ourselves). By making all of these things and doing the canning of it as well I am able to make them in the quantities I need rather than what the food companies are trying to sell me.
Making your own food should be fun. Yes, it’s a lot of work but the reward is knowing what’s in it and knowing that you put quality into what you are feeding yourself and your family. If you would like to discuss further any thoughts about improving the quality of what we all eat feel free to message me. Bon Appétit!