Today at the Newport Beach Farmers Market I bought a bottle of blood orange olive oil, from award -winning Sonoma producer The Olive Press, so fragrant it was if the zest of the orange were on my fingertips. It was $20 and, for its versatility, purity, and aroma – worth every penny. I also came home with some of the finest cheese money can buy, a Bavarian Algäuer Bergkäse and Parmigiano Reggiano from Picnic’s Fine Foods. Granted this is for an art and wine event tomorrow night where, as guest chef, I’m creating three memorable appetizers, but being able to buy the best quality food and afford fine dining got me thinking about an article I read on the disparity between what we eat – yes, you too- and what many other Americans eat.
Many of us in the foodie universe are concerned about eating locally, or organically, or sustainably – but what Lisa Miller addresses in her Newsweek article “Divided We Eat”, is being able to afford to feed your family fresh, nutritious food and what the food we eat says about social class in America. Lisa admits to being a food snob with her breakfast of cappuccino made in an Alessi pot and mixed with organic milk along with Dutch Parano imported cheese on homemade bread with butter. Her food experiences and those of her neighbor, an organic and locavore Michael Pollan disciple, serve as a contrast to the statistics she offers and the story of two families that live within 5 miles of her in Brooklyn. Here are a few excerpts from her article, but I urge you read it in its entirety.
“According to data released last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 17 percent of Americans—more than 50 million people—live in households that are “food insecure,” a term that means a family sometimes runs out of money to buy food, or it sometimes runs out of food before it can get more money. Food insecurity is especially high in households headed by a single mother….
Reflected against the obsessive concerns of the foodies in my circle, and the glare of attention given to the plight of the poor and hungry abroad, even a fraction of starving children in America seems too high.
But modern America is a place of extremes, and what you eat for dinner has become the definitive marker of social status; as the distance between rich and poor continues to grow, the freshest, most nutritious foods have become luxury goods that only some can afford.”
This isn’t intended to be a preachy post, I’m sure many of you are aware of food-related issues that are threatening the well-being of America and our health care system. The article goes on to say that Michael Pollan “sees a future where, in an effort to fight diabetes and obesity, health-insurance companies are advocates for small and medium-size farmers. He dreams of a broad food-policy conversation in Washington. ‘The food movement … is still very young’ ”
Ms. Miller also speaks with Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, who “believes that part of the answer lies in working with Big Food. The food industry hasn’t been entirely bad: it developed the technology to bring apples to Wisconsin in the middle of winter, after all. It could surely make sustainably produced fruits and vegetables affordable and available. ‘We need to bring social justice to bigger agriculture as well.’ ”
Which brings me to my next post where I make a heart-healthy dish using lycopene rich canned tomatoes. In the winter, when tomatoes are out of season and I’ve depleted my supply of roasted frozen tomatoes, I buy canned tomatoes. This time I turned to non-organic Hunt’s tomatoes because that’s what’s readily available in supermarkets everywhere. I also wanted to make a dish that was quick and inexpensive, yet nutritious.
But I’ve already gone on too long, please read Ms. Miller’s article if this is a subject you care about and if you’re still with me, thank you for reading I think we in the food community can influence change with the choices we make but also working toward what Joel Berg believes: that besides what locavore activists and city programs are doing to help the poor have better access to fresh food such as food co-ops and community garden associations and incentives to buy at farmers markets, “the answer lies in seeing food more as a shared resource, like water, than as a consumer product, like shoes”.
Tomorrow, I’ll share the recipe for the aromatic Chickpea Curry and more about an interesting study that reveals canned tomatoes to be more readily absorbed by the body than fresh – I know, I was skeptical, too.