Food Ethics Reflection

I wonder what the owners of the major meat companies eat for dinner every night.  Would they eat the meat that they produce?  America’s homes are filled with chemicals, fats, and mystery ingredients that often times are unhealthy, even if we think we’re eating healthy food.  It makes it challenging, especially in college, to eat three healthy meals a day.

Personally, I don’t eat any red meat.  I find it to be much healthier to choose options such as turkey bacon or ground turkey instead of beef.  Unfortunately, if I’m not purchasing the chicken and turkey from ethically sound farms, my desire for a healthier option is almost unachievable without a pretty penny.

The issue I have with all of the complaints with the current American dependency on the major meat dispensaries, is that the only solutions require a huge monetary commitment.  For a middle class income, there are no feasible methods to combating the monopolized meat industry and staying on budget.  So I ask, what should I do?

Realistically, the suggestions that were mentioned in class sounded great but do not work with a normal college schedule.  I have no room on my back deck for planter’s boxes, and needless to say I can’t have a chicken here.  As I previously said, I feel more frustrated than ever, especially because I know I’m consuming food that is unethically produced and I have no concrete solution.

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Bizerkeley

When I first heard of the “Gourmet Ghetto” I pictured a street of hole-in-the-wall type restaurants filled with hidden culinary gems.  I was far off.  The Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley is an area that has mastered pizza, glorified chocolate, shrunk the cupcake, founded tea trading, and remained traditional in it’s meat practices.  The place that stood out the most to me, however, did not over-exaggerate a simple idea, but rather perfected it using an incredible sauce.

This simple little place was called Gregoire.

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It is a take-out restaurant that serves high-end French food and sandwiches for affordable prices.  The class and I were privileged to try their signature potato balls.  The balls were fried and breaded, and stuffed with mashed potatoes.  It was easily the best food I tried on the tour.  The balls were presented in a reusable cardboard box.  There were nine balls that surrounded a healthy cup of their home made chipotle sauce.  The balls were rough on the outside but soft upon biting into them.  They were lightly spiced, but it was the chipotle sauce that provided the real quick.  The sauce was creamy and light orange in color.  The taste was spicy, but not overwhelming.  It was the perfect combination with the potato balls.

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The Berkeley excursion was truly rewarding.  Besides the great food, I learned more about the Bay Area and how truly broad the array of food possibilities are.  Needless to say, I’ll be going back to Gregoire’s very soon.

The Mother’s Perspective

For the family interview, I asked my mom to answer the questions below.  After reading them I can honestly say I knew what she would answer to all of them.  Also, she is a great cook but will never admit it.  Here are the questions and answers:

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What did I hate eating when I was younger? How did you deal with that? 

You hated eating anything green!  I sometimes wrapped it in cheese to get you to eat it!  (That’s how we give Roxie her medicine!)

What did I love eating?

Cheese was your favorite food.  Especially “dinosaur bones,” or string cheese.  (Cheese was your first word after Da-da!)

Did you cook different things before you were married than after? 

I cooked healthier meals after we were married, I think.  Incorporated more types of vegetables.

How has your relationship with food changed over the years?

I no longer eat red meat.  I crave it sometimes, but I don’t eat it for ethical reasons.

How did you start cooking? What made you want to start?

I started cooking when I moved off-campus in college.  It was healthier and less expensive than eating fast food all the time.

What is your favorite meal to make?

My favorite meal to make is chicken parmagiana and spaghetti with a salad and garlic bread.

What were my table manners like as a kid?

Oh boy!  You were a messy eater.  You loved to eat with your hands.  Even mashed potatoes!  Thank goodness you learned not to do that by the time you went to school.

How was your parents? cooking? 

My mom cooked the same meals each week.  Friday was always roast beef, for example and Thursday was always fish.  She was a pretty good cook, but she didn’t use fresh vegetables very much.  I grew up on canned and frozen.

What are your favorite food memories of me growing up?

Your love of cheese is one of my favorite memories.  But you used to get food all over your face when you were little and we have lots of pictures to prove it!

Why did you cook more than (other parent/person)? 

I did most of the cooking because I worked part time at home.

Is there a special food that reminds you of me?

I will always think of you when I eat mashed potatoes because it was always one of your favorites.

Did you cook for me or for yourself? 

It was a combination.  Sometimes I would make you and your sister mac and cheese, and I’d make something else for dad and me.  As the two of you got older, I cooked more adult-type meals for all of us.  If you ate it, you ate it.  If you didn’t, you didn’t.

What foods did you stop cooking once you started a family?

I didn’t cook as much seafood—mainly shellfish—because you and your sister didn’t like it.

How did you think you’d feed me when I was little, and did that change? 

I expected that you would eat typical kids’ foods, and you did.  Again, as you got older, I changed to more adult foods.

How would you rate yourself as a cook?

Not great, but not terrible.  It’s not my favorite activity.  I cooked because I had to.  I could be more creative in the kitchen, I suppose.

Did you have any kitchen disasters? 

Not really.  Oh, once I took a glass pan of stuffed cabbage out of the oven and the potholder on one side was too thin.  My hand was burning and I dropped the pan on the floor.  I had a mixture of stuffed cabbage, sauce and glass all over the kitchen.  I think I can classify that as a disaster!

What do you hope I?ll cook when I have my own family?

I hope you’ll be creative and try new things that I didn’t make at home.  I hope you always use fresh vegetables, like I usually did.  Try to get your kids to eat fish early on!  It’s healthy!  And it’s better to start adult-type foods earlier than I did with you guys.  That way your kids will learn to appreciate foods besides mac and cheese, hot dogs, chicken tenders, etc.  If they’re hungry, eventually they will eat what you put in front of them!

Do you wish you made more of something that you don’t cook very often?

I wish I made more fish when you were little and tried to get you and your sister to eat it earlier.  I’m glad you like it now.  (I wish she did.)

If you could have any meal (the ultimate meal) what would it be? 

My favorite meal is paella.  I love to eat it at a good restaurant, but dad makes it very well, too.

Do you enjoy cooking, or do you do it because you have to? 

I’m afraid, as I indicated above, that it’s mostly the latter.  I do like to bake, though, when I have time.  I love to bake banana bread and the occasional pie.

 

 

 

Not so Sweet Potato

Asking me to try to recreate a “Chopped” episode is like asking a newborn to try to compete in “Survivor.”  Destined for disaster.   The three ingredients I drew were: Sweet Potatoes, Sugar, and Mascarpone Cheese.  Mascar-what? I had never heard of this type of cheese which was discouraging from the beginning.  Also, Sweet Potatoes and I have never been fond of one another.  Even when I was a baby I couldn’t stand them, so naturally I would get that ingredient.  For a few days I pondered what I could create with these three ingredients and then it hit me…Mashed Sweet Potatoes.

I headed to Safeway with a fairly simple recipe in hand.  I gathered my ingredients after a 15 minute hunt for the Mascarpone Cheese, and headed back to my kitchen.  First I skinned every potato, and did so with ease.  Then I had to chop them up into small chunks.  This was fairly difficult due to my lack of a sharp knife and the potatoes reluctance to be chopped, but eventually it gave up the fight.

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Then, I threw the potatoes into boiling water, and let it boil for around 25 minutes.  This part was a piece of cake.  As I waited, I decided to take out the other ingredients.  Along with the salt came the dreaded and mysterious Mascarpone Cheese, and the one ingredient I was familiar with, Brown Sugar.                                                                                                 photo 3     photo 2

 

Finally, I mixed the last ingredients in with the now mushy potatoes, and stirred like a mad man.  I was determined to not only make this dish, but to enjoy it.  Well, I made it.  Unfortunately, I did not enjoy it at all.  Knowing my battle with Sweet Potatoes has 22 years of consistency, I figured it was time to cease fire.  I was wrong.  I had two or three bites and could not have anymore.  I’m proud of myself for successfully making the dish, but the distant relationship that I have with Sweet Potatoes looks like it will continue for a long time to come.  As for the dreaded Mascarpone, it was pretty much tasteless.  It’s eery texture was quite intimidating, however.  It was smooth like cream cheese with a lack of a sweet scent.  As for the Brown Sugar, I ended up adding it to the recipe to try and make it more appealing.  As I mentioned this idea did not work, but the spoon of Brown Sugar I enjoyed after my mission was complete was exactly what I needed.  I supposed a spoonful of Brown Sugar helps the Sweet Potato go down?  I’m not sure Mary Poppins would agree, but so be it.  Anyway, That’s my “Chopped” experience.  Needless to say, I would’ve been eliminated in the first round.

Japan Town Exposed My Weaknesses

Ah, Japan Town.  How I fear thee.

Firstly, I have avoided sea weed my entire life.  In Kindergarden, a kid named Jeremy strolled into class seemingly flaunting what I found to be the stinkiest stick of green crunch I’ve ever seen.  Ever since then I’ve been nearly frightened of one day coming face to face with the Green Monster.  On our excursion to Japan Town, I conquered my fear once and for all.  This is the last thing I saw before my life changed forever.  It is known as Onigiri.

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These innocent pockets of shrimp and rice had me shaking in my boots.  As I looked around I saw my classmates chowing down like there was no tomorrow.  I was taken back!  How could you possible fathom eating a plant that grows in the sea?  Well, there was no turning back.  I didn’t want to be “that guy” who doesn’t eat the food.  Bite #1: “Interesting, I hardly taste the seaweed.”  Bite #2. “I still don’t taste the seaweed, but this shrimp is spicy and tender.” Bite #3. “Where’d the Onigiri go?”  Three bites and it was gone.  My fear of sea weed was conquered.  I will definitely be trying sea weed more often in the future.  I’m still scared of Sushi but that’s another story.

As for my other challenge, utensils, or lack there of.  Japan Town did not take my inexperience with Chop Sticks lightly.  Every meal we ate came with Chop Sticks, and along with the Chop Sticks came my own inadequacy.  It made me feel completely uncultured and almost barbaric as I found myself stabbing my poor food.  The worst was the Okonomiyaki.

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As the flakes on the top fluttered back and forth, it was like they were waving at me as if to say, “you can look but you can’t eat!”  I discretely struggled with the Chop Sticks.  I tried to scoop: fail.  I tried to pinch: fail.  I try to stab: great success!  I stabbed the Okonomiyaki until there was no more.  Unfortunately, it was so challenging to eat that I did not even notice the flavor.

Ultimately, my experience in Japan Town was eye opening.  I learned that I can dig Sea Weed, and that I need to work on my Chop Stick skills.  I’ll be ready for you next time, Okonomiyaki.

The Rebellious Chicken

I turned on the stove top to grill a completely thawed chicken breast.  Six to eight minutes on either side should cook it just fine, right?  Apparently the chicken breast had other ideas.  Unlike its brothers and sisters that had cooked perfectly in days passed, this rebellious little chicken breast did everything possible to stay out of my stomach.  Unfortunately, it succeeded.

It was destiny for this little chicken breast to ruin my dinner.  The day I was having leading up to it pointed in that direction.  As I headed into Safeway, the grocery cart I chose had one missing wheel and the advertisement on the cart was for cooking classes in the Lamorinda area.  At that point the best thing I could’ve done would have been to call the cooking class and attend a lesson as fast as possible before I destroy what was to be my dinner.  Anyway, I continued down the isle of doom to the back of the store where the evil chicken resided.  I bought the fresh chicken breast, even though I felt it giving me the evil eye the whole time.  Yes…a chicken breast with an evil eye…don’t ask.

I got home around 5 and decided to cook the little sucker.  I grabbed the best non-stick pan I could find, wiped it down with canola oil, and began my culinary adventure.  My goal was simple.  I wanted to grill the chicken breast, evenly on both sides, and garnish it with a modest amount of lemon pepper.  The first 8 minutes went very well.  The chicken was grilling to a light brown color.  Then, I flipped it and began grilling the opposite side.  It too grilled to a perfect color.  I thought my dinner was ready!

The chicken breast seemingly said, “not so fast!”.  I cut the chicken in half to make sure the inside was not pink.  One side was perfectly white while the other had a little pink in it.  I ate the side that was cooked completely, and left the other side to cook for an extra 4 minutes.  Well, the extra 4 minutes didn’t do the trick.  Neither did the extra 10.  And neither did the extra 35.  This piece of chicken refused to give in.  The top stayed pink until I gave up and threw it away.  I successfully cooked half the chicken breast, and burnt the entire bottom of the pan, but this little piece just would not cook.  I am forever scarred, and now bake my chicken.  It still gives me nightmares…

To avoid having a chicken from hell, here’s a link to tips on how to pick the perfect chicken breast:

Chicken Survival Kit

Also, here’s a lemon pepper chicken recipe!

Ingredients:

One boneless, skinless, chicken breast (not an evil one)

1 teaspoon lemon pepper

1 pinch garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Place chicken in a lightly greased 9×13 inch baking dish. Season with lemon pepper, garlic powder and onion powder to taste. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes.
  3. Turn over chicken pieces and add more seasoning to taste. Bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear.

source: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/ginas-lemon-pepper-chicken/

The mission to the Mission

After feeling like a snowman while the class and I waited for the Bart train to come, I expected the city to numb my ears and turn my lips purple.  As we hopped off the Bart at 24th St. Mission, the sun greeted us.  The beautiful murals covered the walls in such great details and the atmosphere was uplifting and almost encouraging.  It was pleasantly warm which was an indicator for the rest of my time in the Mission.  We attended eight different restaurants, trying everything from ice cream to tacos, but only one place stood out for me more than the rest.

Venezuela is 5300 miles away from Italy.  The two countries have immensely different cultures, and an obvious language barrier.  This however, did not phase head chef and restaurant owner, Manny Torres Gimenez.  Gimenez owns a restaurant on Mission St. called Roxy’s Cafe, where he combines the latin flavors from his native Venezuela to classic Italian dishes such as Gnocchi.  This is the dish he shared with the class as we walked into his “pop-up” restaurant.  The restaurant had been up and running since the 3rd of January, which was merely seven days prior to our arrival.

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After a brief introduction about the restaurant and himself, Gimenez explained the dish we were going to try.  His hospitality made me feel more than welcome.  The dish he shared with us was a classic Gnocchi with a ground beef sauce with spices from Venezuela.  As someone who loves Italian and loves spicy, the combination sounded perfect for me.  As I expected, the flavors were incredible.

The Gnocchi provided a perfectly soft texture, serving to soak up some of the sauce while not dominating the bite.  The natural flavors from the meat also contributed to the sauce’s flavor and added an additional texture.  It was more chewy than the Gnocchi.  The sauce, which was the main attraction, was dark brown in color but light in taste.  It was surprisingly sweet but still had a bit of a kick.  I probably could’ve eaten a salad bowl size portion of this dish.

Before I could fully comprehend the culinary miracle that had just happened, we were on to the next place.  Unfortunately, I compared everything we tasted for the remainder of our tour to the Gnocchi, and was thoroughly disappointed.  I’ll definitely be going back to Roxy’s for my second bite of that Gnocchi.  Until next time, cheers!

 

Most Memorable Meal

A memorable meal takes more then just ridiculously good food.  The atmosphere has to be uplifting, the crowd has to be littered with smiles, and most importantly, the person(s) sitting with you at the table has to be someone you’re truly interested in talking to.

I can’t tell you the name of the restaurant where my most memorable meal happened.  It was in the up-and-coming Fillmore district in San Francisco.  I picked up my date at around 7 and she looked great.  We didn’t have an exact restaurant in mind, just a general area.  We found parking right away and began our search for what would be my most memorable meal ever.

After hearing “45 minute wait” about five times, we found a cajun style restaurant that gave us the same shpiel, but added that we have an option to be seated right away outdoors.  Despite the 45 degree weather, this idea sounded great.  With a heat lamp over our table, it felt like we were dining in the tropics.  Finally…my grandmother (Oma) of 91 years and I began our dinner.

I ordered the cajun chicken with chipotle mashed potatoes, and Oma ordered a soup and salad.  Once the food came out I almost felt rude at how little attention I was paying Oma.  I was mesmerized by the spicy and sweet taste of my chicken and the similar taste of the mashed potatoes.  I’m trying not to drool on my computer as I write this but it’s challenging.  Unfortunately, I did not get much time to admire the food as it was gone in no longer than ten minutes.  After I finished eating, Oma and I shared great conversation.  I listened to her stories about growing up in Germany, London, and Israel which capped an incredible night.  Seeing my grandmother glow with happiness paired with incredible food puts this meal above all others.