Monday, July 16, 2012

Quality Ingredients

Then there are the days that Leni does not cook. It's going to be in the 90's the next couple of days, and I'm recovering from heat exhaustion, so cooking is not a huge priority for me today! Thankfully, I have some meals stored up in the freezer and my family shall not starve. ;o)

I've been pondering for a couple of weeks the topic of Quality Ingredients. The conclusion that I've come to is that this means different things to different people. Certainly it has meant different things to me during various stages of my life. There are a lot of factors to take in. The amount of money available to spend, what is accessible in your area, culture (both where you live now and how you were raised,) and what you are trying to accomplish.

At this stage of life, my philosophy is to buy the best I can afford, because I want the best quality taste and the healthiest finished product I can manage. That doesn't always mean I can buy the best of the best, I still have a house full of teenagers to feed, and I could go broke just on food! But I can make simple changes like coconut oil instead of shortening, butter in place of margarine, fresh lemonade rather than soda. 

There have been times where due to my health, my major challenge was just to put a meal on the table. Any meal. Anything at all. During those times, I kind of wished I held stock in the Tyson Chicken company, because we were certainly doing our part to support their business! Not what I would picture as health food, but I felt like I made the best choice I could given the circumstances.

In the early years of our marriage, money was the driving factor. Let's face it, there are times when it really doesn't matter what we eat as long as our bodies register it as food!

When we were in Bible College, we had a teacher who had been a lumberjack in Maine in his early years. Mr. Lanpher never stopped being a lumberjack! He was the sweetest man. He used to work for local farmers, and one of the things they let him do was glean the fields. (Are you familiar with that term? They let him go through and gather what the machines had missed, and he could just take the food.) He supplied the students on campus with fruits and vegetables as long as he had them to give. He would stop by my house daily and pound on the wall next to the door so I'd hear him. By the time I got to the door, he was always gone, but there would be a bag full of produce. Money was tight in those days, but we ate like kings. We couldn't really afford meat, but we had a huge pot full of steamed potatoes, carrots and onions every night, with a side of cucumbers and tomatoes. He always kept us supplied with apples, also. Another teacher brought me bags and bags of rhubarb. I'd say we ate pretty well for starving college students!

So when a young cook asks me for tips, I always tell them to buy the best they can afford, and to shop around. You never know where you're going to find that treasure! Living in Western New York, we are blessed with weekly farmer's markets in local towns and the Public Market in Rochester. The last time we were at the public market, we found a company selling spices. I was thrilled to discover that he grinds all of his own spices! No fillers or MSG added. I found Lemon Pepper without food dye in it! "If you want something custom, just call my shop, I'll whip it up for you." The prices were great, the product was top quality. I sure wasn't going to find that at Walmart!

Same thing goes for meat. Honestly, I'd rather have one ounce of good quality meat than a pound of injected meat or additive filled goo. 

My children were raised on a diet free of preservatives, dyes, additives, etc. We did this to handle their ADHD symptoms. Hard? Yes. Beyond hard. But worth it. When they got older and were able to start trying some of the stuff they'd been missing out on for years, they all had the same reaction. "You can taste the chemicals in this. That's all you can taste!"  True enough. ;o)

"Real food tastes real good!"  

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