Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fig Gifts

During Ramadan, which has been observed for the last month and ends today, observers in central Asia often break the fast (iftar) at sundown with figs.

This week I observed a fast of sorts on Thursday. Under the influence of some absurd Midwestern work ethic, I went to work while sick with the flu, and of course, I didn't have the energy to pack a lunch. Not that I was hungry.

I picked up my order at Athens Locally Grown after work, en route to bed. My order included about 8 figs from McMullan farms, and I ate them in the car in the parking lot as the sun started to go down. Their sweetness was a revelation to my parched mouth and I swore they were a gift from god.

Avian Soup in a Can Influenza

I just survived more fatigue I ever thought was possible to endure. It was likely swine flu, although I didn't bother to go to the doctor to find out. I figured since I went to the doctor for my 121st diabetic checkup last week, and came down with this post-exposure to all the sick people in the waiting room, I probably would live (perhaps longer) not knowing whether I had regular old flu or some other allegedly more contagious kind of flu. In my opinion that falls under the category of too much information.

Other interesting symptoms of my flu included a salt craving that drove me just about crazy, and which I satisfied with garlic salt on toast and chicken soup from a can. Yes, dear reader, it was so bad I ate chicken soup from a can. I did buy organic and free range, yah da yah da yah da, chicken soup, two allegedly made by Wolfgang Puck. Yeah, right. This desperate act was necessary, however, because the very idea of cooking made me want to go fetal. The idea of doing anything but sleeping made me want to go fetal. I'd like to suggest a new name for this flu--the avian-soup-in-a-can-fetal-position-influenza.

Not only did I not want to cook, I also didn't want to eat. Not exactly nauseous, just not interested. Horrors! And for me, like most mammals I know, being off my feed is a pretty serious indication of illness. So, today, when a ferocious hunger started stalking me around 11 am, I figured I was probably gonna be alright. Whew.

Interestingly, I also ate the same thing for breakfast today (chicken soup from a can and crackers) and gave the same amount of insulin as I had for the last three awful days and *today*, I had a low blood sugar afterward, right around 11 am. When ill, the body releases stress hormones like cortisol that raise the blood sugar. In the diabetic body, which has no insulin to deal with this rise, the blood sugar stays inelastically high, which adds to the misery, have no fear. When my blood sugar finally came down, I took that as a bonefide indication of being back in the saddle--so to speak. (The real kind of getting back in the saddle will have to wait til tomorrow. Yaaaaaaaay!!).

So, what to eat, to break this influenza fast? I'm not much of a wheat-eater, but all I could think of was a big fat pizza--the quintessential comfort food. My good friends Amy and Jimmy Cox had given me some venison sausage a few weeks ago and I had lots of tomatoes and basil. Sometimes these combinations stick in my head like a tune, and I can't expunge them, except for to make them come to life. So, ole, ole, ole, come to life!

I cooked up some fast pizza sauce from my ripe Amish Paste and San Marzano tomatoes with some Sweet Nardello peppers from McMullen Farms and some super strong Inchelium Red garlic from Backyard Harvest with a little dried thyme from some huge garden I had in Pennsylvania in another life. I browned the sausage, and the gamey scent of it brought back memories of growing up in Minnesota. I piled the sauce and sausage high with onions from Cedar Grove farm, green pepper from my garden, more garlic and sweet nardello pepper, layered with heirloom tomatoes from Green Girl Gardens and basil from Roots Farm. Oh my. To make a kick-the-crap-out-of-influenza pizza it takes a whole county. Wolfgang Puck, eat your heart out!

More seriously, though, I would have really liked to have sourced the weat flour and mozzerella cheese locally, both of which I bought at the grocery and both of which have origins relatively unknown to me. I just made my students trace the ingredients of a favorite food, and I really should do this myself. Do I as say, not as I do, young ones! The King Arthur flour I know is processed in Vermont, but that's all I know, and it probably contains Bt wheat, which in a recent post, I just railed against. (Does it count that I had already bought it before I ranted against it?) The Sargento cheese is probably made from imported casein, and is likely to make me feel bad since I am lactose intolerant, and casein is usually made from a lactose-based waste product that is also used in cosmetics and paint. Yum, huh?

Ergo, my next big investment is going to be in a mozzarella cheese making kit. The next time you see a pizza, or it's facsimile, on this blog, it will include cheese made from milk from a dairy in Georgia and crafted by my ownself in my very own kitchen. I gotta think a bit harder about the wheat. In the meantime, I am soooooooooooooo happy to be cooking again!

Eat well, be well and love well.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

New Foods

So, tonight, I enjoyed "lamb bacon" at the National with Eric McDonald of UGA's School of Environment and Design, before taking in Food, Inc. at Cine (I saw it again, I am such a dork--and this time I took NOTES = super dork). While savoring the impossible scrumptiousness of (already amazingly delicious) pastured lamb turned into salted, smoked, crispy, juicy, fatty heaven, we discussed the idea of a comprehensive lists of foods, so that we can check off edibles when we eat them (like birders do when they see birds that are new to them) and so we can add novel items like lamb bacon to the list when we find them. I suggested that the possible combinations of foods are probably infinite (limited only by our ability to imagine those combinations), so you couldn't really have a comprehensive list, like lists of species, which are allegedly (at least on the scale of a human lifetime) finite.

Let's put Amy-the-arguer in cold storage for a second, and talk for awhile about what would be on that list. High fructose corn syrup? Mechanically separated chicken? Xylitol? The more I think about this, the more I warm up to the idea. It would be a great exercise for us all to examine the ingredients of our diet and be shocked to find that it distills into a rather short list of hyper-processed ingredients that have their origin in corn, wheat and soybeans. (The birding equivalent would be seeing a few variants on crows, starlings and vultures every time you went birding. This revolting scenario is more likely than you imagine if we keep up the status quo in our food system). The production of these commodities destroys our bodies, our environment, our communities and our democracy. This is an empirically proven and validated fact. (See the movie, do some reading and talk to people if you disagree. Then we'll talk.) There is no more important struggle on this earth than to free ourselves from this illusion of choice and freedom, and to put some checks and balances on the control of agricultural transnationals over our food system.

I go out on a limb, and argue for a global movement against transnationals, because today, in India, farmers (some of whom are poorer than the poorest person you can imagine--think about it for awhile...start with no toilets and go from there) take to the streets in peaceful protest for the resurrection of the Doha Round of the WTO. They just want another chance to farm on a fairer playing field. They just want to turn the blood, sweat and tears they put into growing food into enough money to feed their families. In India, almost 50% of all children suffer from such severe malnutrition that their growth is stunted. This is directly related to the fact that US farmers get paid to grow commodities below the cost of production. (As the step-daughter of such a farmer, I can say that I never ever worried about my next meal and I definitely had a toilet). The chance for Indian (or Sudanese or Laotian) kids to have some good eats like the rest of us, is not gonna happen until we start asking Congress to stop spending our precious tax dollars on growing the corn, wheat and soybeans that poison us and the ecology of our country. Our money that we trust our government with, goes directly (IN CASH!) to farmers so that they can buy patented seed and grow the next crop of genetically mofidifed commodities, some portion of which will be sold (or dumped) on international markets, and which will undermine some of the poorest people in the world who have ALREADY invested time, money and energy into growing crops that are now virtually worthless. No wonder they drink pesticides. I would too. In return, we in the "developed" world (with our well developed asses) deal with diseases like diabetes because carrots and broccoli are more expensive than Big Macs. That is CRAZY! Do something about this!

After watching Food, Inc. again, I am absolutely galvanized in my opposition to the incredibly stupid waste of our resources on the production of corn, wheat and soybeans. We are so duped into thinking that our trips to the grocery store allow us to participate in some kind of choice about our diet that we don't think to look any further for our food than that oasis of inefficiency, creative destruction and death. Call me a liberal, and a communist and a tree-hugger, and a feminist and a fascist and then sue me for veggie-libel, but dammit, figure out what is in your diet, understand what your food choices contribute to, (and, yes, spend some time dealing with feeling really bad about it) and then go find and buy and eat some food that didn't hurt somebody, something or someplace already. Enjoy that meal. And do it again.