Thursday, September 27, 2012

Food Rules: No Apron Required!

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We all have our ideas about what heaven will be like... for my mom, it's a land full of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, for my dad, it's a PGA-worthy golf course where you can play for free, for my brother, it most likely involves a burrito. For me though, I imagine heaven - not as the land of milk and honey - but as the land of tortilla chips and pecan pie. Until that day though, what's life without a few indulgences?

It's OK to indulge! It's what you do 90% of the time that really matters. So have a little fun with the 10%, which brings me to our next rule from Michael Pollan's book Food Rules...


For a man who wrote a book full of rules, this statement seems a bit out of character. He goes on to explain...

"There is nothing wrong with eating sweets, fried foods, pastries, even drinking a soda every now and then, but food manufacturers have made eating these formerly expensive and hard-to-make treats so cheap and easy that we're eating them every day. The french fry did not become America's most popular vegetable until industry took over the jobs of washing, peeling, cutting, and frying the potatoes - and cleaning up the mess. If you made all the french fries you ate, you would eat them much less often, if only because they're so much work. The same holds true for fried chicken, chips, cakes, pies, and ice cream. Enjoy these treats as often as you're willing to prepare them - chances are good it won't be every day."

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I know if I had to make a pecan pie every time I wanted something sweet, there's no way that I'd be eating pecan pie all the time - no way, Jose!. The man hours involved are just not worth it to me. Our society loves instant-gratification, which is why we are plagued with an obesity epidemic that's getting worse by the day. We eat these treats because they're cheap, they're easy and they bring us instant satisfaction. I'm guilty, you're guilty - we're a product of our environment. It's not our fault!

But it's time we changed our thinking.

As I've started to cook more in the past year, I've learned that there's no better satisfaction than eating something that I cooked for myself or for the ones I love. The process of cooking is in itself cathartic. You will inevitably burn some things or set off the smoke detector. That's par for the course - I can't tell you how many times I've danced around my apartment with a dishcloth, 'pushing' the smoke out the open window. But once you get the hang of it and cease to set off the smoke detector, cooking your own meals can be really rewarding.

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When you cook, you are able to control what goes into your food. At a restaurant, you may assume that you're ordering the 'healthy' or 'light' option, but you're not seeing the butter, oil and additives that are being put into your food and you can't control the quality of the meat or produce you're consuming. Cooking has made me more aware of what ingredients go into certain dishes, so even when I do eat out, I am better educated when it comes to choosing a dish on the menu.

Make cooking fun... pour yourself a glass of vino and sip it slowly while you cook OR put on your favorite music while you're in the kitchen. If you have kiddos, recruit them to wash and peel the veggies or set the table. They'll feel important and you'll feel productive. Find recipes that work for you. They don't have to be complicated or time-consuming. Some of the best meals only have a few ingredients.

Here are a few healthier takes on your favorite junk foods. Give them a try! You might be pleasantly surprised at how good they taste!

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