Franken Food

Back in November of 2008,  I was getting ready for the Keep Portland Weird festival at Multnomah County Library. I was watching the news.  KATU was describing new FDA regulations for radiating food to kill dangerous bacteria.  Radiation or irritating lettuce and spinach kills dangerous bacteria and extends the shelf life of these vegetables.  The interviewed biologist found no ill effects of irradiated vegetables.  Sure, it sounds scary, but it’s been proven safe.  Still, the question should remain: is it the wisest course of action?

We know when it comes to car maintenance and our health that preventive treatment is the best medicine.  In other words, it is better to make sure your car is tuned up and the oil changed regularly.  Likewise, it is best to visit the doctor regularly, have your vitals checked, and watch for known diseases like different cancers.  And, to go further, we are encouraged to eat healthy and exercise regularly to prevent heart related diseases and diabetes.  The prevention is the key to good health and good automotive health.

So, why wouldn’t the same be true of the food we eat?  If we eat good food to keep us healthy, why shouldn’t the food we eat be healthy from the start?  Why would we consume food that has been potentially contaminated with E. coli?

I would rather not. The priorities should be eat local first (ensure a secure food economy) and then organic (strict organic, not necessarily USDA organic that lets a % of bad stuff in). I’ve been studying food in many wasy for the better part of a decade now. I’m familiar with CAFOs, cutting chicken beaks and their fattened breasts, spinach fertilized with the manure of infected steers causing E. coli in a vegetable that wouldn’t otherwise have it. With our family money, I try to choose better. I try to choose more local, more whole ingredients so that I can control what goes in our food: not some big factory. I don’t make my noodles from scratch, but I know how. I do make bread, but I don’t mill my flour: but I buy it from a local, reputable source.

We still eat the occassional box of mac ‘n cheese (need easy, super easy, for the times when I can’t whip something up). When we have those foods, it’s always hard. When I am at the grocery store (it feels very rare now-a-days) considering a quick chicken meal for my family, it always gives me pause. I know how these things are created, and it’s not good. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about irradiated vegetables or beakless chicks with overgrown breasts: our options are primarily franken food.

Margaret Atwood described a whole new level of Frank Food in her book Oryx & Crake. I quivered at the thought of her chicken fingers born in a lab. But, how different are our choices today? Genetically modified this, genetically modified that. My high school chemistry teacher claimed that if you make an orange on the level similar to nano-technology, ensuring all the molecules are there that it’d be the same thing as an orange grown in sunny Florida or California. I disagree. It’s not the same. The former orange is some idea of an orange. Some manufactured construction of what we think an orange should be. Not the orange from our earth with thousands of years of practice before it.

Frank food is not natural. And I wonder what happens to our bodies when we regularly put unnatural foods in it.

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Cookies & Pancakes

I made up a pancake recipe tonight. No oil. A little too much sugar, but I will cut it in half next time.

No Oil Buttermilk Pancakes

  • 2 farm fresh eggs
  • 2 cups local, lightly pasteurized buttermilk (1 pint)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 6 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (will decrease to 1 tablespoon next time)
  • 1/2 teaspoon homemade pure bourbon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup organic applesauce
  • 2 cups flour (1 1/2 cups hard red, organic flour; 1/2 cup unbleached white flour; all stoneground)
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1 cup hand-picked, local, organic blueberries, frozen

I mix the eggs and buttermilk, quickly whisking. Then, I add the powdery items (sea salt, baking powder, sugar, vanilla), mixing until well incorporated. Quickly add and mix applesauce, flour, and oats. Stir in blueberries. Drop by the estimated quarter cup on to a hot non-stick skillet. If you use cast iron, make sure the pan is well seasoned. If sticking occurs, use oil or butter. Try not to get too distracted by the milk delivery so you can turn the pancakes at the right time!

The next recipe is one of my favorites, and now one of my family’s favorites. This is a recipe for my grandmother’s “no-bake cookies.” For the other learned folks out there, they can be called “on-top-of-the-stove cookies” as some cooking is done.

Clearly evidenced as the family favorite.
Clearly evidenced as the family favorite.

Grandma Pat’s No Bake Cookies

  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa (can add more as desired)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 cup peanut butter (creamy works best)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 cups oatmeal (quick oats work best)

Boil for one minute: sugar, cocoa, butter, and milk. Add a pinch of salt, and peanut butter. Melt peanut butter. Add vanilla. Add oats in two parts, stirring until fully incorporated. Drop by the spoonful unto waxed paper. Makes more than 9 cups of cookies!

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