Alice Water's new book, In the Green Kitchen, Techniques to Learn by Heart, reminds us that what is best for us, is fresh, organic, and minimally processed foods and meals. She brings us back to the basic values of eating, cooking and shopping for ingredients. There is something satisfying in shopping for our own food. Just take a look at the farmer's markets that have blossomed around the country in the past ten years. We are yearning for a different and better experience than what our mega grocery stores can offer. Its not volume we crave, its value and quality. There is happiness to be found based in good, clean living. That is the real credo for eating well. It is not dinner out at a fast food restaurant that feeds your body or your soul. Not only are these places devoid of any real food, they bankrupt our communities by hiring people at the lowest possible wages, pollute our communities with styrofoam (think, doesn't ever decompose) and other litter while not giving back to the community in any meaningful way. Their kids don't go to school at our kids' schools and they certainly don't donate to our schools or support local businesses. Of course, they do pay taxes, but so do all businesses.
So why support our local restaurants rather than fast food chains? Because the people who run and work in the restaurants are usually people that live in our communities. They live near where they work. Their children go to school with our children. They pay taxes in the community they live in and they are committed to the community and comitted to making it better. The other part is that the food will taste better if it isn't mass-produced in some factory.
As I pick up Alice's new cookbook, I realize that I pretty much live my life this way and always have. I don't eat out at fast food places. I do eat out, and enjoy it, but I choose places that are more socially, ecologically and deliciously oriented. I would rather dine at a friends house, or dine at my own house with friends. I grew up in a food family. We always ate dinner together and rarely ate out. My grandparents made everything from pickles, to jams, to baked goods and always had a little plot of dirt to grow tomatoes, green beans, raspberries and Babcock white peaches, Blenham aprictos and more.
When I moved to San Francisco, I worked in the food community, catering, and managing a restaurant. When I moved to the East Bay, I started my own catering business and learned where to find the freshest, and most authentic of everything. What about other parts of the country where fresh is only part time, part of the year? Can we all adjust our lives to live more fully, more locally and more in tune with nature? I think so, but it takes planning. It is an adjustment, but once made, you can't go back....there is no going back. Our own foods are simply so much better tasting. Learn to can when produce is at its freshest and cheapest. Even learning to do one thing can empower you to start to do more for yourself. Or host a party where there is an expert and make enough for everyone to take something home. I took a class on pickling because I didn't want to kill anyone with my concoctions. I made the most delicious chutney. It is really easier than you think! Ask your grandmother to show you! Or try this recipe from Saveur. Below is the Manifesto that Alice Water's has in her book. Bon Appetite!
Here is Alice's Water's Manifesto....rather The Green Kitchen Manifesto:
Delicious, affordable, wholesome food is the goal
An organic pantry is an essential resource
Buy food that is organic, local, and seasonal
cooking and shopping for food brings rhythm and meaning to our lives
Simple cooking techniques can be learned by heart
Daily cooking improves the economy of the kitchen
Cooking equipment that is durable and minimal simplifies the cooking
A garden brings life and beauty to the table
Composting noursihes the land that feeds us
Setting the table and eating together teaches essential values to our children
Create a manifesto for yourself and follow it! You will be amazed how good it feels.
PLUM and DRIED CHERRY CHUTNEY
4 lbs. Italian prune plums, pitted and quartered
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups dried Montmorency cherries
1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 cup grated peeled ginger
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 TBS salt
4 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 1/2 tsp. Red pepper flakes
Bring sugars and vinegars to a boil in a heavy medium heat. Stir in dried cherries, onions, ginger, garlic, salt, mustard seeds and pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer. Stir in plums. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until chutney is dark and thick, about 1 hour.
Sterilize five 8 oz. canning jars, their lids and ring bands, and a wide-mouthed funnel in a large pot of boiling water for ten minutes, then transfer them to a clean towel. Using the funnel, fill each jar with hot chutney to no more than 1/4 inch from the rim. Wipe rims, place lids on jars, then screw on ring bands. Using jar tongs, submerge filled jars in pot of gently boiling water (jars should be covered by at least 1 “ of water) and process for 10 minutes. Transfer jars to a dish towel at least 1 “ apart; let cool undisturbed for 24 hours. Test jars for a proper seal: press on center of each lid and remove your finger; if lid stays down, it is sealed. Refrigerate any chutney that hasn’t sealed and use within 4 weeks.
Inspired by a recipe From Saveur Magazine, No. 87 Page 109 / by Michael Semler