I have been thinking a lot about food lately.
After reading Mark Bittman's article concerning eating sensibly and Michelle Obama's roto-tilling the back yard of the White house to put in rucola, it hit me how far we have come from eating real food and how we really need to get back to what Italians have been doing all along: eating what we grow.
I know it sounds simple, but it's not. Our lives are rushed and we need to get something on the table quickly. Food preparation becomes a chore and we need to cut out the time it takes. Entire industries have been created out of making our lives more "convenient" -- or, in other words, by enabling us to pack even more business into our lives by removing the time it takes to prepare something nutritious, our lives are supposed to have gotten better. But it seems to me that we have just gotten more stressed. And tired. And malnourished.
It is like we are starving while shoving the food into our mouths.
Our food comes from places very far away. It takes trains, planes and automobiles to get it to us. It is picked early and rushed to markets half a world away.
I come from a family which always grew what it ate. We always had huge vegetable gardens, and my mother and father kept the gardens impeccably. We had beefsteak tomatoes in the summer and swiss chard which had been blanched and flash frozen in the winter. My father hunted, and we had venison all year. Venison chops sauteed in a little olive oil with garlic, deglazed with dry white vermouth. That is how we ate. I was jealous of my friends who had prepackaged ham, canned peas and potato buds. I did not know how good we had it. But I do know now. I think that it very much had to do with my family being of Italian heritage. My grandfather, while living in an apartment, always had tomatoes and basil growing on his small balcony. I did the same when living in an apartment in Germany. It is in the genes.
Now we are all learning the benefits of sustainable gardening, small agriculture and vitamin content. Eating well, unlike just before the bubble burst, does not mean eating fancily. It means eating simply. It means knowing what you are putting into your mouth, and knowing where it came from.
I have taken to making my own muesli. Breakfast is: Italian strawberries, muesli, plain Italian yogurt and honey from my neighbor.
Dinner is: Italian asparagus and leeks, sauteed in Italian olive oil with rosemary from the garden. Half the sautee goes into the blender and is smoothed with parsley and a ladle full of the boiling pasta water.
It is then all tossed with Italian spelt, or farro pasta. It took exactly 16 minutes, start to finish.
Simple foods have color, have texture, are appetizing. They beckon us to eat them. They are not overdone.