Sunday, March 22, 2015

three foods post

There's so much awful stuff going on in the world (like terrorist attacks) and so much stupid stuff (like a coffee purveyor wanting to engage hurried, caffeine-deprived people in a discussion on race) that I can't even.

So, I'm going back to something I remember reading in a cooking magazine (I think it was) a while back - they'd ask some chef what three foods they ALWAYS had on hand, and what three foods they NEVER bought.

Five things I always keep on hand:

1. Canned wild-caught salmon. It's good, it's easy to make dishes with it, it's a shelf-stable protein so in those weeks when I can't get to the store I can still make salmon patties or salmon salad or my favorite, creamed salmon. In an emergency you could even eat it straight from the can.

2. Lowfat plain Greek yogurt. First, because it's my go-to lunch food (quick, low in sodium, easy to digest) but also, there are a lot of things you can do with it - it substitutes for sour cream in quite a few things, and I've added it to things like soups and tomato sauce in the place of cream. It doesn't curdle like cream, it's lower in fat, if you don't cook it at too hot a temperature it still has its probiotics intact. I credit my avoidance of the little stomach bugs that go around to the copious amounts of plain yogurt I eat. (Also, you can dress it up however you want - cut up fruit, jam, honey, or even savory things like chutney)

3. Jarred red cabbage. Again, this is easy. The "real" homemade stuff is better (but not that MUCH better) but it is a lot of work to prepare and it also makes more than I can eat in the period of time for which it stays good. And it keeps forever until you open it, and once opened, it keeps for a while in the fridge. And it's one of the less offensive (to me) vegetables out there.

4. Oatmeal. Plain, old-fashioned oatmeal. This is my regular breakfast. Part of it is a health thing (plain oatmeal is high in good stuff and low in stuff I need to be avoiding) but also I've learned that it keeps me fuller than cold cereal does. And it's really not that bad done in the microwave. And, like plain yogurt, you can add whatever you want to it to flavor it - I've used honey. Or a spoon of apple butter and some cinnamon. Or maple syrup. Or a spoon of peanut butter. Or cut up fruit. Or cut up dried fruit.

5. Semisweet chocolate chips. Good to add to oatmeal (see above), good in baking, good to even take a small handful and let them melt in your mouth when you need a little chocolate. I get the Ghirardelli brand, which are available even at relatively benighted groceries like the local walmart (which recently eliminated several items - including the Lindt truffles - that I used to buy. I suppose they couldn't get the distributors to cut them a cheap enough deal or something.) The Ghirardelli chips are really pretty good quality chocolate. (I know, I know: you are free to argue that Scharffen Berger or whoever's is better, but we're talking about chocolate I don't have to drive an hour to buy)

Three foods I don't buy:

1. Soda, either regular or diet. I honestly don't like it that well and it's an easy way for me to avoid extra sugar in my diet by not drinking it. Once in a great while I will have one at a restaurant (though these days, if I'm getting a sweetened drink, it is more likely sweet tea). I'm not going to be one of those Puritans who says no one ever should drink soda, I'm just saying I don't like it well enough to spend part of my calorie budget on it - I'd rather be able to have cheese or chocolate. Instead, I drink plain tea (usually hot tea at home) or lowfat milk or water.

2. Cured meat. I avoid this mainly for sodium reasons. I do admit I slightly miss sausage on pizza and things like salami, but I don't miss them enough to try to rebudget my diet to have them. There's also some limited evidence that high (like, daily) consumption of cured meat can increase cancer risk, and as I had one grandparent who died of stomach cancer....well, I'm probably better off avoiding it.

3. Broccoli. I can't bring myself to like it. I've tried it, but I just can't do it. And too much of adulthood is eating things you don't really like and avoiding eating the things you would rather eat, all in the name of health, so I draw the line at broccoli. (And cooked spinach. And Brussels sprouts, though I do need to try those again some time.)

Three things I would eat more often if I lived somewhere other than I currently do:

1. Fresh fish. I'm, I don't know how many, miles from an ocean? And I'm pretty far from a large airport so fish brought in from elsewhere isn't usually an option. Around here, the common fish are tilapia (which I just don't like, it's like the tofu of fish) and catfish (also don't like, I don't care for the texture, and most of it is farm-raised, which to me means they spend a lot of time eating their own poo). Once in a while there are "pan fish" available, usually only if you know someone who fishes and gets enough extra to share. I like salmon and trout, but they're not widely available in fresh (or even previously frozen) form in the stores here - as I said, locally, I have wal-mart, and that's pretty much it, and even the groceries in Next Biggest Town don't really have a fish case.

I remember when I was younger, my family lived near a real fish market and we used to get all kinds of stuff, even monkfish, which is apparently really uncommon now (it was called "poor man's lobster" with good reason. I guess it's not cheap any more, even if you can find it)

The frustrating thing is so many of my cookbooks seem to assume that EVERYONE has access to a fish market, and that canned fish is for losers. (Check your big-city privilege, cookbook writers...)

2. Meat. Again, it's hard to find good meat! I live in the middle of cattle country but am regularly disappointed in the steaks I get at the store - either they're tough for what cut they are, or they have little flavor. (I could deal with the toughness by cooking longer, but if it's a piece that's low on flavor, long cooking will just drain away what flavor is there). I can get decent chicken (go figure) so I actually eat that more often, but I admit I miss good beef and pork. (And the pork I can get seems to come from pigs bred to be extra-lean, so it's ALWAYS dry.)

3. Salad. It's hard to find decent salad greens. I rely on spinach a lot but time was when I lived near a store that sold bulk spring mix, and mache, and something called corn salad (not actually corn, it was almost like a lettuce, except I think it was in a different botanical family). Actually, produce in general isn't as good here as it was when I lived in a larger city. I do tend to rely on frozen and canned stuff more here.

I mean, I'd never want to live in a big city again for lots of reasons, but grocery shopping is harder and less-satisfying now.

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