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February 8, 2012

Whatcha cookin'?

I'm almost too full to type this...wow! Do you remember the braised pork hock they made in this spectacular "how to cut up a side of pork" video? I made that Tuesday nite and it was stunning. Honestly I don't think I can move from the couch. And superDUPER thanks to whoever gave me the link to that site - but I can't remember who did! Lemme know if it was you and I'll give credit where its due.

Anyway, my extra yummy dinner almost entirely came from the yard. Easy, cheap, good, and good for you. You could probably even make it in the crock pot if you were gonna be gone all day. What could be better? It reminded me of a funny conversation I had with someone recently.

This person was telling us that we should never, ever trust Big Food Company X. Ever. Then they turned around and said they were on Weight Watchers and were doing great on it.

Us: * blink blink *  "Um.. so you know that Big Food Company X probably manufactures most of what's in them snacks and shakes and frozen boxes of whatnot you're eatin, right?"

And I think you know my feelings on what WW's is pushing lately.

Then the conversation turned an ever more troubling corner when they went on to tell us that sure, now that they were retired they could put a little more effort into controlling their high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and weight...but you know... its so much easier to just take the pills for it and continue their life as it has been, didn't we agree?

Us. *blink blink*  "But..um... are you sure about that?"

When we have visited them we've always been shocked at the amount of prepacked, factory made "food like substances" they have in their house. Almost nothing they eat is home made. I mean nothing. Not even cookies. They buy cookies. From Costco. In a huge tub. There's only two of them.

I find this very odd.

I have to wonder why would anyone live like that... especially after watching the news and hearing them squawk on and on about how we're all getting too much salt.  And this is hot on the heels of the report where some fool wants to treat sugar like a controlled substance. In both cases it was reported that much of the sugar and salt comes from commercially produced "food."

It might surprise you that I'm not actually against Big Food. Someone has to feed all these people. And I think one of the highest security priorities for this country is to keep food production (literally) in and on our soil. So Big Food has a place. I just think they are making the wrong thing. Mostly because people buy it.

Lets face it. The SAD (Standard American Diet) is sad. Filled with soda (diet or regular), food groups that don't exist in nature (like the "itos" food group), and sticky sweet who-knows-what's-in-that-food-like-substance. But it tastes good and its easy, right?  Not only is it sad, we think its kind of silly.

I admit it. We like to make fun of the "food" in the grocery store. Some of the more hilarious items we've found are pre-packaged spices for making one meal. You get an over-packaged plastic thingy with 4 or 5 separate, common spices that are pre-portioned so there is none of that tiresome measuring. White sandwich bread scares us both pretty badly. And don't get me started on packaged, pre-cooked bacon. Now that is a crime. Who wouldn't want to cook their own bacon?!?

We feel like we are lucky because we grow most of our own food. But even if you don't, or can't, the least you can do is eliminate the sugar and salt by starting with raw ingredients and making it yourself. And be careful about what you buy in a can. You might wanna check out the frozen aisle for bags of veggies that don't have any extra stuff in them. And not the frozen, tossed together 'meal's - just get the veggies. Mass produced pasta sauce? Stop it. Read the label - see all that salt and extra sugar? Move down the aisle 10 feet and get no or low sodium crushed tomatoes and make it yourself.

Heading over to the meat section? If the guy behind the counter is crying its because we were just there screaming with laughter over their meat selection or asking each other "Hey! do we need ham?" We think we are hilarious. But seriously, check the packaged meat carefully. If there is a label that says something like "Moist and Meaty" then be careful that it hasn't been injected with who knows what.

What if you can't cook?

Friend, here's where it gets hard. Everyone over 12 should know how to cook. I know a 10 year old with exceptional knife skills. You don't need to be a four star chef, but everyone should know how to take care of themselves. At the end of the day you are responsible for what you eat. You either make an effort to do it yourself or shove off the responsibility to someone else but either way its your choice. I love Ruhlman's rant on cooking. He also doesn't really believe America is too stupid to cook.  Neither do I.

If you won't cook, then shame on you. I know people who "won't" cook. To me that's like saying to your family that its 'good enough' to live under a tarp in the front yard. Technically that is shelter. But that's not really living, is it? Technically those packages of stuff you put in the microwave are food. Technically those bags of stuff you get at the second window after yelling your order into a clown is food. But that's not really living is it? If you won't cook, then go ahead and stand on principal while your family's health suffers. I'm sure you're making a point to someone.

If you don't know how to cook then let me introduce you to my friend Rachael. She is fun and has easy-to-make meals. If you are organized you can make these meals in about half an hour. If you are just getting started it might take longer. Set your DVR or Tivo or what not and record her shows. Watch them.  She starts making supper about 20 minutes before the show ends. Go ahead and fast forward to that point.  Then do what she is doing. And you can run right out and get her books - this one here and this one also. I don't have this one but it looks good also. See? Easy peasy. You can cook.

Once you get your confidence up then you can move on to other things. But you get extra points for making food starting with raw materials and that does not include the instructions "remove container from the plastic wrapping."

Back to my dinner and the folks we know who'd rather take the pills. My supper took less than 5 minutes to put together. It took me longer to unload the dishwasher than it did to put everything in a pot and shove in the oven. I went away for a while and came back and the house smelled like heaven. So I find myself unable to agree with them that its just easier, or better, to just take the pills. I'd rather have real food that I cooked myself.

Now what are you cooking today? What's for dinner? Snow is in the forecast so I have my mind on a complicated bolognese sauce made entirely from ingredients that came from my yard. It will take a while but it will be worth it.

Have a great Wednesday everyone, now get out there and make your supper. Don't believe the lie that its easier just to take the pills!