Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Modern Nutritionalism

What is a chef?  Is a chef merely a professional cook who manages a kitchen, or does a true chef turn the feeding and entertaining of palates into an art?  Obtaining quality ingredients, balancing nutrition and flavor and presenting product in an appealing manner are all difficult things to do under any circumstances for a discerning audience, but when you factor in modern cooking techniques, varying tastes and preferences for individuals and the myriad of cultural and philosophical issues related to food production and consumption, the job gets more and more complicated.  On top of all that, the chef must maintain a good perception of basic business matters and safety and personnel issues.

It's complicated stuff.

People eat food.  We require protein, carbohydrates and fiber as well as a good balance of tocopherols and other nutrients and minerals in order to build solid health and good physical systems for moving and operating in our world.  There are many ways to obtain these basic building blocks for our digestion and it's not as difficult as one might think.   Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much thought or activity going into adapting the food that is available so that it is palatable and useful for our consumption.

power smoothie
I read an article somewhere that some young genius was given some insane quantity of money to help him develop an egg substitute.  Doesn't everyone know that flax is already a great egg substitute?  Why not just grind up the flax, filter out the gritty stuff and get to marketing?  Seems simple to me.  There are many products that are already out there which provide all the nutrition that people need and are incredibly cheap.  The only problems I see are related to packaging and processing.

People don't want to eat raw sunflower seeds, but raw sunflower seeds are high in healthy plant fats and tocopherols as well as all kinds of other good stuff.  Why aren't there any crackers or cookies or breads that contain them in reasonable quantities?  Why isn't there any kind of raw sunflower seed milk?  Why does almond milk have to contain 45 different ingredients including artificially manufactured tocopherols when almonds already contain high levels of tocopherols (vitamin e)?

moringa blossom
Some people use the word 'superfoods' to describe things like flax or sunflower seeds, but to me they're just foods.  True, they do have superpower qualities, but it's just food.  Why aren't normal foods being prepared with these super kinds of things?  It's frustrating.  Look on a shelf at a health food store and they might have a flax cracker, but when you read the list of ingredients, the flax isn't really a big part of the total mass of each cracker, then on top of that, sometimes they aren't even ground up, so you only really get the appearance of eating healthy, but your digestion isn't capable of breaking down the tough shell on each seed, so it just passes through your system undigested.  That seems idiotic to me.  A flax cracker should be mostly flax with a minimal quantity of binders and stabilizers.  It might be necessary to include some regular flour in order to obtain a good texture, but how many food engineers and marketing specialists does it take to produce a plain-old cracker with an inedible flax decoration?

ginsu w/ apple
 I propose a challenge to you, go to the store and purchase a quart of almond milk, drink it.  Contemplate it's flavor.  Contemplate how it makes you feel.  Next, purchase a good sized bag of almonds and make your own almond milk.  I am willing to bet you an entire nickle that your homemade milk will taste incredibly delicious and will even make you feel a lot better.  Why is that?  Why is it impossible to purchase almond milk that tastes as good as simply putting some almonds into a blender with some water?  Why does store bought almond milk give my baby the craps, but home made stuff is just fine for her? 

To me, it seems as if there is this old way of thinking about food, which involves equating protein with meat and which is generally worried about having enough, and then there is this other way of thinking about food, which is generally more relaxed and healthy and which is more aware of all the nutrients which are present in our food and which strives to maintain a balance for building a stronger person.  To me, meat is a nice thing to eat occasionally, but it's expensive and consumes time and resources and is generally messy and greasy.

making cake

I'm not a chef, although I am a big fan of the work that they do.  I am a farmer.  My specialities are herbs and experimental livestock forage, although most of the plants which are currently occupying the space which I manage are landscape plants.  The production of livestock is distasteful to me, but producing good forage for them is one of the most important food supply questions that we have to deal with in our world economy.  My goal is to produce a system for cheap livestock fodder production and to have an herb farm, which produces high quality culinary herbs for restaurants and for public consumption.