RANDOMusings: Food

March 23, 2010

Back in a November post, I detailed how much I took food and cooking for granted for most of my life.  As a kid, I was skinny and blessed with a fast metabolism, but that didn’t mean I was eating well.  Back in those days, I had my personal chef named Chef Boyardee and thought that every meal I ate out was better than anything I could eat at home.

Today I want to share with you some random thoughts (or musings) about food and some interesting web sites related to that topic.  I’m sure I’ll be back with another RANDOMusing post later about another topic.

First off…I am a huge fan of the TED talks.  TED is a great source of ideas on just about anything.  In recent weeks, I viewed a talk that hit me like a ton of bricks and absolutely moved me.  It was Jamie Oliver’s talk about transforming the way we feed ourselves and our children.  In the talk, he mentions that we all fear crime and homicide in our cities and neighborhoods, yet three of the leading causes of death (heart disease, all cancers, and stroke) are diet-related.  Sadly, he also mentions that accountants often determine what our kids get fed in schools (cheap, sodium-laden processed food).  Also sad is the fact that french fries are considered a vegetable (huh?) and that kids are being fed fast food at every meal.

This shortsightedness has led to an epidemic of obesity and poor health and will shorten the life-span of future generations.  Considering how sophisticated and advanced our country is, this situation is tragic.

Please watch Jamie Oliver’s TED talk.

Second, Jamie Oliver has a new program on ABC, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution that is set to premiere Friday, March 26.  Much of Jamie’s TED talk is based on his experience of trying to create change in the town of Huntington, WV.  I watched a “sneak preview” Sunday night and was moved by the experience.  I typically do not care for watching reality television (except for sports), but I can identify very strongly with Jamie Oliver’s cause.  What is also amazing to see is that even though we, as humans, are aware of this problem…often we are resistant to the change that is necessary.

I feel incredibly grateful that even though I grew up eating a large quantity of fast food and processed food, I’ve learned to cook and enjoy food that is less processed and better for me.  Believe me, I am no health nut, but I now feel that I can cook food that tastes better than most food that I would get at a restaurant.  It has taken me virtually my entire life to realize this.

Third, part of eating better is cooking for yourself.  And good cooking occurs when you have great knives.  Sad to say, but I have spent most of my time cooking with dull knives that are actually more dangerous than sharp ones.  In the last month I purchased my first chef’s knife.  It is the same knife that has been highly recommended on the PBS show America’s Test Kitchen.  The good news about this knife,  is that it is less than $30 on Amazon.  I also purchased a small paring knife with a large handle for less than $10.  I don’t want to sound like a commercial, but if you have been using dull knives like I have, look into getting some good knives. Both knives that I purchased have very comfortable handles and are manufactured by Victorinox, the same company that makes the Swiss Army Knife.  For the price of a meal at a good restaurant, you can have good knives that last for years…

For more info about some great knives, check out the Chef’s Knife (note, these are not affiliate links) and the paring knife.

Fourth, I enjoy cooking and creating recipes.  After years of eating ready-made spaghetti (I can still remember the Chef Boyardee Spaghetti dinner I used to eat when I was a kid…it came out of a box with tall, narrow can of meat sauce), last year I created my own recipe for marinara sauce.  I’m going to share this recipe with you in hopes of getting feedback and some suggestions on how to improve this.  So here goes…

Tim’s Simple Spaghetti/Marinara Sauce

(1) 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes
(1) 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
1/3 of an onion
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
dash salt and pepper
liberal amount of Italian seasoning
dashes of grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 lb. of browned ground beef (optional)
fresh Parmesan cheese
fresh basil, chopped

Chop the onion and garlic cloves and saute. Combine cans of tomatoes and seasoning. Add the sauteed onions, garlic and browned ground beef to the mixture and let simmer for 30 or 40 minutes. Serve with fresh Parmesan cheese and fresh basil and enjoy with your favorite bottle of wine.

Again, I invite you to try this recipe…it is basic, but it will taste more fresh than the jar stuff and the fresh Parmesan cheese are keys to the recipe.  I welcome any feedback and any suggestions on how I can improve this recipe.  No worries, this blog will not turn into a competitor to The Food Network 😉

Top Creative Commons photo courtesy of dimitridf.

1 Ryhen Satch March 23, 2010 at 11:02 am

You just made me even more hungry, Tim. I was about to go to the kitchen to grab something when I saw your post from my reader. Initially, I thought I’d see several pictures of mouth-watering… you know… food. Then you mentioned something about TED talks (which I’m also very familiar with) and I was like, “Where’s dessert?” LOL

Anyway, this is very informative. I rarely touch knives so I probably won’t purchase one any time soon, but the rest of your info was great. Happy eating!

.-= Ryhen Satch´s last post…Correspondence: Why The Macrocosm and Microcosm Are So Fugging Awesome =-.

2 Lance March 23, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Hi Tim,
I, too, watched the Jamie Oliver TED talk. I had originally thought I would only watch a few minutes…and before I knew it the talk was done. The whole talk he did was so well presented. And with real life examples of what this is doing to us, as a nation – by consuming food that really has hardly any nutritional value.

So – this is great to see you sharing it here. The more people that see this, the better. Fast food has become all too prevalent (and I eat it, too….although on a very limited amount).

We can change this, but it’s going to take a committed group of people to really make this possible. Jamie Oliver and his upcoming show sound like a great start toward this! thanks for sharing about that, as well!

And now…I’m hungry for spaghetti!!!
.-= Lance´s last post…Sunday Thought For The Day =-.

3 Lori March 23, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Hi Tim,

I’m there with you — from TED to knives to food. Yes! Yes!

Thanks for the link to the Amazon knives — I’ve been meaning to acquire a proper knife since we moved to SF. Excellent.

Reading your recipe for Marinara sauce made me salivate. Since I married a full-blooded Italian, I’ve learned so much more about making savory food. Since you asked, here’s my suggestion for your sauce (although, it’s great the way it is!).

I try as hard as possible to start with all fresh ingredients (nothing canned). Most things canned have too much salt for my tastes and canned things always taste a bit funny to me — plus my husband would have a fit if I made Italian food with canned stuff (ha). Although what I’ll describe will take an extra, say, two minutes — I think it’s worth it.

As a substitute, buy about a dozen to twenty juicy Roma tomatoes, wash, cut into small cubes, and then toss into the garlic/onion/olive oil saute which you could start in a big sauce pan (one-pan cooking is a good thing in my book). 🙂 Let simmer a few minutes and then cover and put on a low setting for about 30 min. The low setting helps the flavor to develop.

For a little variation, when adding the tomatoes, add a pinch of red pepper flakes (adds a “spunk” to the taste) or a dash of brown sugar (deepens the flavor).

And, yes, grated parmesan makes all the difference. Shaka that, brother.

Thanks, Tim! 🙂

4 Tim March 23, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Hi Ryhen: I’m glad I could help make you hungry 😉 I know what you mean about knives…I already cut myself pretty good with my new chef’s knife. It makes me realize that I should probably invest in a knife skills class, which would be a wise investment for the sake of my fingers. I’m glad you’ve seen some TED talks…hopefully you’ll get a chance to see the Jamie Oliver one, which is so needed in the U.S. I hope all is well with you!

Hi Lance: I’m glad you’ve seen the Jamie Oliver talk and can identify with it. You’re right, it is going to take a lot of committed people to pull this off. Sometimes its best to do the right thing instead of the cheapest…so hopefully the bean counters, ahem accountants will see the talk and Jamie’s show, too. I know you are a parent, so I wish you well in the battle. Have a great week!

Hi Lori: Thank you for your comment and suggestions…I like you’re idea of cooking in one pot. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that in the first place. I failed to mention that I do saute in olive oil…and in addition to the fresh Parmesan cheese, the fresh basil is amazing! I think its wise to use all fresh ingredients and when it’s in season, I will try it. There are some times of year, here in Chicago, when the fresh tomatoes look awful. I can also identify with your sodium concerns for the canned tomatoes. I’ve found that the larger, whole peeled tomatoes are fairly low in sodium and the smaller can of tomato sauce has a little more. But together, they are as low (or lower) in sodium than some of the “heart healthy” sauces. When I can find them on sale, the Muir Glen organic canned tomatoes are pretty good. Thanks, also for you flavor suggestions…I will try them. I bet you cook a mean marinara sauce and I can remember a dish that you mentioned that you made (either here in the comments or on your site)…and it made me extremely hungry. Once again, thanks for your suggestions…it makes me glad that I included the recipe. I hope your week is great and filled with great food!

5 Ana Goncalves March 23, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Dear Tim,

It is deeply insightful and important the way in which we connect with food, and the way in which food affects our emotions and perceptions.

Talking of knifes, I nearly ended up buying a whole stack of them when I worked as a Commis Chef for a few days at an event, but I thought that every Chef would have their own set of knifes anyway, and I could just borrow theirs for the day. It turned out every Chef did have their own set of knifes and they were all very popular.

Your spagetthi sounds divine, minus the beef for me as I am a vegetarian. It may be a spin on spagetthi, (the vegetarian kind anyway) but I quite like using leeks in mine, and mushrooms. As with sauce, I’m sometimes happy with just some simple basil or a tiny tea spoon of pesto. On the contrary I enjoy mine without any sauce, as I prefer to taste the leeks and the mushrooms in the spagetthi or the pasta.

Love your blog!
.-= Ana Goncalves´s last post…Inner Guide =-.

6 Megan "JoyGirl!" Bord March 24, 2010 at 7:30 am

What a great post, and I’m so glad you mentioned that Jamie Oliver show. I didn’t realize “what” the show was (saw an ad for another reality TV show about food and just skipped by it in whatever magazine I was reading). You have me really intrigued now, and I will keep an eye out for it on Hulu.

Food has been a big part of my life since I was a teenager. First because I had issues with it, and today because I honor my body, and therefore honor what I put in my body.

Food, Inc. turned me around in many ways, and it sounds like Ted & Jamie Oliver could help continue that loving trend.

Thanks, Tim!

7 suzen March 24, 2010 at 9:35 am

Hi Tim! I am with you totally on the Jamie Oliver thing – I hope his TV show helps to educate people because from the preview I watched, the majority of people don’t know diddly about nutrition. And WOW, look at you! I am SO proud of you for cooking and tuning in to healthy eating. FANtastic! In my March archives are several posts on foods and the food industry lies – hope you will take a minute to read them. Not only did I do a year’s worth of research, I am also taking classes to be a Health & Wellness coach, then plan to get certified as a Nutrition Consultant.

Funny how this ties in with the book review I just did – a late in life new “career”. I did a lot of motivation speaking in the past so this transition into health (which I am SO passionate about) seems just right!

As for your recipe, I make Lori’s version whenever I can get fresh tomatoes – hey I live in Chicago area too! – and I’m big on oregano, basil and fresh pepper. I rarely use meat (I call myself a flexatarian) but when I do it MUST be organic. I grew up on a farm in the days everything was organic – we just didn’t know differently!

Go Tim! Go Jamie too! Maybe we can all be catalysts of change!

8 Tim March 24, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Hi Ana: I enjoyed your statement about connecting with food. Thank you also for sharing some of your favorite pasta ideas…I don’t know if I’ve ever tried leeks in my pasta. But you’ve hit on something I enjoy: sometimes I enjoy pasta without the tomato sauce and meat and simply served with butter, mushrooms and olive oil. It’s all good as long as its fresh. In any case, thank you for stopping by and for your compliments!

Hi Megan: Yeah, Jamie Oliver’s show sounds interesting but it’s also frustrating to watch the decision makers at that school. But its a battle worth fighting and I’m glad that Jamie is leading the way. I’m also glad you’ve turned around your relationship with food and honoring what you put in your body. In recent years, I’ve seen the light, too. I am not a vegetarian, but I have become much more conscious about food. I recently purchased a copy of Food, Inc. and it has been eye-opening in many ways. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Hi SuZen: Wow, your research and the classes you’ve taken sound very interesting…it sounds like a very interesting path. I will have to check out some of the archives on your site. As far as Jamie goes, I’m very glad you feel strongly about this, too. I don’t know if you’ve heard…the Chicago Public School system is supposed to be making some changes and adding fresher foods to their lunch program. I’m not sure if, or how much Jamie’s show has to do with it. But I’m willing to be that parents are beginning to demand this. Thanks for stopping by and being a catalyst for change!

9 Nadia - Happy Lotus March 25, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Hi Tim,

I so love Jamie Oliver and we watched that preview too and it was so sad how negative some people were about the food system.

Thank you for the link to the TED talk too. It was great especially the part with the wheelbarrel and all that sugar.

Food needs to be food and not a bunch of chemicals.

Hope all is awesome!

10 Tim March 27, 2010 at 8:10 am

Hi Nadia: I am glad you’ve seen the video and can appreciate some of Jamie’s methods of getting his point across. I just watched his show last evening and I realize it is a reality show. But, man, he really needed to do some creative things to make his point to teachers, kids, parents and administrators. Thank you for stopping by and sharing!

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