Sunday, February 21, 2010

Kiss 4 You



I think everyone loves getting a kiss. It establishes a connection, embodies emotion and conveys intimacy and tenderness. A kiss is a very special way of showing love.

A kiss works the same in the kitchen - Keep It Simple Stupid is the right motto for food no matter what you're eating, cooking, serving or buying. If you want to show someone you love them (or if you at least want to love yourself), then follow KISS.

Why am I all hung up on kiss? And wouldn't keeping it simple mean buying pre-made or frozen meals instead of bothering with cooking? No. Kiss isn't about making things easier for yourself, but rather keeping your ingredients, your methods and your motives simple. Here's what I mean:
  • Don't add (or start with) anything except the exact ingredients needed - that means minimizing added sugars, preservatives, transfats or processing
  • Don't serve anything from a box, can or bag if you can reasonably avoid it - use what's fresh, in season and available locally
  • Stay "as close to nature" as reasonably possible - cut out refined & heavily processed products and avoid chemicals or artificial anything (even if it claims to help you shave off pounds)
And that's just the start of keeping it simple. So why am I so worked up over kiss? There's plenty of good, health-related reasons (link between BPA and cancer, link between high fructose corn syrup and obesity, link between transfats and heart disease, link between refined and processed foods and weight gain, troubling evidence that artificial sweeteners may cause weight gain and/or cancer - just to name a few) and plenty of cooking reasons (e.g. real butter, eggs and cream work better than substitutes; fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables have better flavor and texture than alternatives; homemade breads, treats and meals allow precise customization - just to name a few). And if that's not enough, there's even environmental reasons to keep it simple (e.g. reduced packaging waste, reduced manufacturing emissions, reduced transportation emissions, reduced energy consumption, reduced construction waste from ballooning convenience isles - just to name a few).

Think of it this way:

If you wanted to give flowers to your partner, child, friend or coworker to show how much you care, would you first dunk them in chemicals, grind them into dust, bleach away the color and then re-shape into new artificial flowers?

The same is true for food. Nature provides a spectacular array of fresh options, so why mess with it beyond what's absolutely necessary? Show someone how much you really care by taking the time to keep it simple. Here's a check list for a kiss kitchen:

  • Nothing out of a can or plastic
  • Fresh or forget it
  • Seasoned, not salted
  • No preservatives
  • Start from scratch
  • If it doesn't occur naturally, what's it doing in my food?

Sound daunting? It doesn't need to be and I'll share everything I know in this blog to help keep it from becoming an unmanageable task. But before you shake your head or roll your eyes or otherwise dismiss my lecture on kiss as crackpot organic garbage, answer this: if I can't be bothered now that someone else has pointed out why kiss is the right thing to do, what kind of person does that make me?

What does it say about us if we'd rather pop open a can of tomatoes (filled with dangerous BPA additives and skinned with chemicals) because it's easier than blanching and chopping fresh tomatoes? Or what does it say about us when we buy a pre-made dessert loaded with transfats, sugars and preservatives - all because it's faster and easier than baking a batch of brownies from scratch? Does it say "I love you" or does it say "I can't be bothered"?

I think next it's time for a recipe...


6 comments:

  1. Sabrina Spiher RobinsonFebruary 28, 2010 at 2:01 PM

    I have one disagreement with you:

    canned tomatoes.

    I'm a big ingredient label nazi: if it says "artificial flavors" OR "natural flavors," I won't buy it. Seriously. Follow this step, and you'll end up buying almost nothing substantially processed or substantially refined. (Though, amazingly, at Costco yesterday, this rule allowed me to buy a giant barrel of Utz cheese balls, which tickled me pink for some reason, and which I justified by reminding everyone that Utz is a family-owned business in Pennsylvania. ANYWAY.)

    Back to tomatoes. In the summer, of course, you can grow your own delicious tomatoes, or pick up delicious tomatoes at the farmers' markets, or in a CSA share. But in the winter time, tomatoes suck. Even the organic Whole Foods tomatoes: they're shipped in from God-knows-where, and so therefore they're picked super unripe, and then artificially ripened later, and they've got the consistency of mush and a taste no more pungent than biting at the empty air hovering over a bottle of ketchup: this is true, at least, of every tomato I've got available to me in Pittsburgh, even from Whole Foods, even from the Co-op.

    Faced with this, when I go to make my pasta sauces in the winter, I totally buy the canned tomatoes. They're cheaper than the crappy imported tomatoes, and they're more flavorful.

    Thoughts?

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  2. in general, i have to insist that everyone should avoid stuff out of a can whenever possible due to exposure to BPA. here's a link for suggested reading although googling "bpa dangers" will turn up plenty more:
    http://www.usnews.com/health/diet-fitness/heart/articles/2008/09/17/5-ways-to-keep-bisphenol-a-or-bpa-out-of-your-food.html

    when it comes to taste, i agree that sometimes canned tomatoes do actually have more flavor than fresh, especially in the winter. i typically buy roma or cherry/grape tomatoes in the winter as these seem to retain the most flavor. you can also roast tomatoes with a little kosher salt, onion powder, and a drizzle of olive oil/balsamic vinegar to bring out flavor (depending on what you're using them for). add a squeeze of tomato paste will also often help with the flavor problem.

    and if you decide to can or freeze a whole batch of tomatoes you've grown in the summer, this will help cut down on how long you'll have to rely on "winter" options :)

    while i'm all fired up about using fresh vs canned, i'll also just feel (although cannot necessarily point to nutritional facts on this) that sticking as close to fresh as possible ultimately allows the tomato to retain more vitamins and minerals. since we're the ones doing the cooking and processing of the tomato instead of the canning company, we know exactly what has happened to each tomato.

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  3. A Google search reveals that Eden brand canned goods are BPA-free. Would you object to BPA-free canned goods for nutrient reasons, or would they pass muster?

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  4. the simple answer is congrats! i definitely approve of Eden brand canned goods (but see caveat below). here's why i approve:
    + no bpa to speak of
    + no gm products
    + eden attempting sustainability
    + eden packaging & shipping methods appear responsible
    + eden is invested in their local community

    here's the fine print & this is where i really start getting demanding. :)

    in an ideal world, i believe everyone should try to buy truly local stuff 100% of the time. this saves on shipping waste, packaging waste, emissions, manufacturing byproducts, etc. plus, it supports the local community. at least for me, this isn't really always an option if i want fresh tomatoes (tough to find locally grown tomatoes in the dead of winter!). so i'd buy from a local grocer who imports - or i'd import my own from a seller like Eden.

    the question, beyond nutrition, is how will my choice affect the world i'm sharing with others?

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  5. See, that's why I only buy local bulk cheese balls ... :)

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