With the monumental Slow Food Nation event about ready to kick off, I felt compelled to write about the latest eating craze ready to sweep the land. Now, you all have heard about the Atkins Diet, right? And the South Beach Diet, macrobiotics, veganism, vegetarianism, even the Master Cleanse Lemonade Diet, right? Well, I am here to tell you all to forget about them–they aren’t worth anything anyway–and to adopt my own new habit of Eating Lower on the Food Chain. No, don’t worry this doesn’t mean you’ll have to sit down to a plate of fried worms with Andrew Zimern or travel to some far off land with Anthony Bourdain to find out that the Gramercy Tavern was just fine with you the first place. No I am here to tell you to just eat lower on the food processing chain.
Yes, that’s right. The closer you can get to your food with the least amount of processing is the best of all worlds. For me, about the most processing I want for my food comes in the form of fresh churned butter (Yum!) or a lightly grilled piece of meat over apple wood charcoal or a fresh vegetable salad with some garlicky olive oil. With the huge craze right now in value added food products like beverages–8 gazillion and counting–or the latest salsa or jam, the fact is that there is very little that’s healthy about any of them.
Now I am not here to dis value added–I believe there are some incredible foodies out there creating some great products–just check the label first. Often there is little difference between “artisanal” value added and industrial food products. Artisanal oftens masquerades about in a haze of smoke and mirrors–beware. So, instead of strawberry jam with tons o’ sugar, try some strawberry confit or just some “jar jam.” Instead of all these crazy spreads–SmartBalance, etc–just try some real butter. Of course, a little exercise always helps when practicing this new diet of mine because butter and steak and, well, all foods have calories. And too many calories leads to too many “lbs” around the middle.
What eating lower on the food chain does is it gets you closer to what real food is supposed to taste like and gives you the opportunity to derive real nutrition from real food (thanks, Nina!). Our bodies did not evolve to digest and deal with all the preservatives and additives that go into today’s supermarket food. Most importantly eating lower on the food chain is about getting to know your farmer (the person that grows it) or the actual chicken that laid your breakfast or the steer that gave up that burger grilling outside right now.
Eating lower on the food chain means shortening the distance between you and your food, and knowing your food for what it really is, not for what some food scientist has turned it into. Of course, most foods taste better when combined with other foods–try making salsa without combining anything–just keep it simple (no preservatives or any ingredients that mask the true flavors of the food. The best food is always as nature intended: fresh from the ground, tree, or vine. One of the best meals I ever had was standing over a sink for hours shucking some fresh plucked oysters from Wellfleet Bay on Cape Cod. A knife, some oysters, a little lemon and vinegar….what could be better. I couldn’t have gotten much closer that that.