Saturday, December 18, 2010

Food and Food for Thought

It was finally my turn to cook for the rotating supper club on Tuesday. I made seitan and dumplings from American Vegan Kitchen, a great resource for veganizing American diner classics. I didn't want to cut out biscuits, so I opted for the drop biscuits mentioned at the top of the recipe. However, the recipe does not include altered cooking times for drop biscuits. My biscuits disintegrated! As I tried to skim the biscuit-y layer off the top, it ended up completely falling apart and thickening the soup part. It was tasty, especially since it was a hearty dish when the weather was so cold outside. I didn't photograph the result, because it looked like gravy/vomit. Anyways, the seitan recipe involved rolling the seitan into a cutlet shape, then cooking it in a flavored broth in the oven with foil over the pan. It was a new way to prepare seitan for me. The recipe makes 10 cutlets, but you only need 4 for the dumplings recipe. I decided to pan fry the other cutlets later in the week and serve them with baked potatoes and a green vegetable. Very American.


Jess invited me over for dinner on Thursday. She made curried soup with squash and chickpeas. The recipe (from Vegetarian Slow Cooker) originally called for lentils but she didn't have any. I personally LOVE chickpeas so I enjoyed the substitution. I served my soup over rice.


I had mentioned to Ling that I wanted to grab the Crock-Pot on sale at Costco. She went very early this morning and grabbed me one! I paid her back, but I'm so excited to use it soon. I bought the slow cooker cookbook because I knew I couldn't find a better deal than a Crock-Pot for $40. I finished most of my Christmas shopping today, as well as picking up a few canisters to store my specialty flours with all the 20% coupons I've received from Bed, Bath, & Beyond. I'm tired of keeping them sealed in Ziploc bags, so this will allow me to label the canisters for organization and have a pretty cabinet. :) I wish they had another one in the size I bought so I could have one for pasta, but I will look for another one when the next 20% off coupon comes in the mail.


I also finished reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. The first section of the book is about corn. It reminded me of the documentary King Corn. Corn is so cheap due to government subsidies, thus allowing the excess corn to be fed to livestock animals. The cheap, inedible corn serves to fatten up cattle and other animals, as well as getting processed for a variety of food and non-food items. What's crazy is that cows are not even meant to eat corn. It causes acidosis, where their blood pH drops and can make them really sick. The cows are slaughtered before it gets that bad, but it's really strange that we advertise "corn-fed beef" so proudly when cows were never meant to eat corn. The second section is about grass and sustainable farming. Michael Pollan goes to stay at Polyface Farms, owned by Joel Salatin. I'm pretty sure this was the same guy featured in Food, Inc. (I meant the movie, but it's likely Joel Salatin would have contributed to the book as well.) At Polyface Farms, Joel Salatin rotates crops, grows a variety of plants (instead of a monoculture), allows cows to eat a variety of grasses he grows, allows chickens to roam free after the cows graze in a certain patch of grass, and raises other animals. When you buy "free range" chickens or eggs, it is extremely likely that the chicken NEVER went outside. To get the free range label, the only requirement is that there is a door allowing chickens access to the outside. On an industrialized factory farm, the door is only open for about 2 weeks prior to the animals being slaughtered. At the farm, Michael Pollan actually helps slaughter chickens and then is concerned about whether or not he can eat a chicken again. He seems very appreciative of the experience to see animals living freely and to have the chance to decide whether he wants to be involved in killing an animal that he will ultimately eat. The third section of the book is about foraging and hunting. Michael Pollan wanted to gather enough food to make an entire meal on his own. He learned to forage mushrooms, to hunt wild boar, and to gather salt and little mussels from San Fran Bay. He writes about the people who help him learn how to do these tasks, as well as how he thought he'd be repulsed by hunting. He seemed to enjoy the experience, but was again struck by whether or not he could eat the animal. I really respect that Michael Pollan did a stint as a vegetarian and took responsibility for killing an animal he wanted to eat, but I ultimately wish he had taken a vegan stance as an alternative to factory farming. He instead justifies eating animals that are produced in a sustainable way, like on farms similar to Polyface. It was an interesting read.

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