Expanding Choice

October 4, 2010 8:00 am
Posted in: Strategies
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Today’s post comes from Lisa Lucas Talbot. Lisa is the coleader of Slow Food Los Angeles and Slow Food USA‘s governor for its southern California region. Slow Food promotes the production and consumption of good, clean, and fair food and works toward a world in which good food will be a right, not a privilege.

If you just discovered October: Unprocessed, go here to find out more and take the pledge. Don’t worry if you missed the start date! You can start your 30 days today, or simply join in for the rest of the month.

Expanding Choice
As a supporter of the Slow Food movement, I believe I make conscious, careful choices about the food I eat. I don’t claim to be a model of unprocessed consumption, though, and sometimes circumstances provide me with few—and not great—options. One thing I’ve learned, however, is that when I plan ahead, and when I’m conscious of what’s in my pantry and freezer and what’s in season at the market, I stand a much better chance of meeting my goal of keeping my processed food intake as low as possible.

What makes the October: Unprocessed challenge exciting to me is that it’s a way to remind ourselves of the power we have to make change, to make our health and the health of our community a priority, and to broaden our food horizons. It’s not about forsaking all forms of handling or preparation. It’s not about depriving ourselves of flavor or variety. And it’s not about achieving some sort of food perfection for 30 days.

I’m using the October: Unprocessed challenge as an opportunity to get out of my own food ruts. I suspect you know what those are: The dishes and preparations we turn to time and time (and time) again, out of habit or because they’re familiar and easy. While I’m a big fan of simple recipes, and I’m the first to turn to an oft-made recipe when I’m short on time or patience, I also know the benefits I gain when I step out of my comfort zone. Comfort can lead to boredom, and boredom can lead us to substitute food that’s fast, cheap, and easy (and probably processed).

So how do you get out of a food rut?

  • On your next visit to your local farmers’ market, find at least two vegetables that you’ve not prepared before, or that you haven’t prepared in recent memory. If you’re a fan of salads, try incorporating dandelion, mizuna, or other greens into your usual mix. Add a handful of chopped fresh herbs, or some edible flowers. Not sure where to start? Amelia Saltsman’s The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook is seasonally organized, provides inspiration regardless of your location, and may become one of your most well-thumbed cookbooks.
  • Each week, find a new type of grain to prepare. Haven’t tried quinoa? Wondering about wheatberries? If you love to bake, try recipes that utilize amaranth flour, spelt, or teff. Working with whole grains can require adjusting proportions: A great resource for whole-grain baking is Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain cookbook.
  • If you consider yourself a conscientious carnivore—or want to become one—consider the alternatives available to you. Here in Los Angeles, several farmers’ markets offer the opportunity to purchase sustainably farmed shellfish and locally raised bison, beef, rabbit, lamb, goat, pork, and chicken. Seek out a source for sustainably raised meat in your area; for seafood advice, there are few sources better than the Seafood Watch.
  • Make Sunday a soup day. Whether your preference is for a parsnip bisque or a hearty borscht, a curried lentil soup or a comforting bowl of pasta e fagioli, homemade soup can provide satisfaction for many friends, or for many days. If the thought of eating soup for five days in a row isn’t appetizing, freeze it. A reliable source for soup inspiration is James Peterson’s Splendid Soups.

Not every new food or recipe will be a winner, and that’s ok. What matters more is that you continue to explore the food options available to you and make conscious choices about what you eat. Expanding the scope of your diet, increasing your support for farmers and ranchers in your foodshed, and being confident that the food you’re eating is good, clean, and fair will yield happy dividends!

I look forward to hearing how you’re using the Unprocessed challenge to expand your food choices. Enjoy!

2 Comments on "Expanding Choice"
  1. Comment left on:
    October 4, 2010 at 9:22 am
    marlen says:

    I’m with you Andrew…what is it about Sunday’s in the Fall and the subtle calling for a heart-warming bowl of soup? Sweet corn is still in season where I live, so a simple corn soup I’d tasted at a recent farmers market demo was satisfying bridge between Summer and Fall. Instead of garnishing with peppers, I added some heat with a roasted pasilla pepper added to the blender. Here’s the a link to the recipe I used for my inspiration: http://qafma.org/2010/09/20/tamaras-sweet-corn-soup-and-melon-feta-salad/

    • Comment left on:
      October 4, 2010 at 6:01 pm
      Andrew says:

      Hi Marlen,

      I went for chili today instead of soup. Perfect for a rainy day in LA…

      Those recipes look great – thanks for sharing! :)

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