On Food

I’m not a foodie or a gourmand, but I have always loved to eat. I recently read a New York Times book review by David Kamp of a book entitled Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss. The review shares the book's author's view that many foods eaten by the masses in America are just plain bad for you due to too much salt, sugar and fat. The salt, sugar and fat have been added to make you hooked on the foods in question. While that may be a sinister truth of the packaged, processed foods market, I will admit to you here and now that I unashamedly love salt, sugar and fat! And, what's more, I think they are good for me. But I also agree with the author of Salt Sugar Fat - that disguising bad foods with highly processed and seductive additives, does make you delight in and crave them. Indeed, salt, sugar and fat have an addictive and unhealthy aspect.

I have always been health conscious. Influenced by a number of factors, from my Sicilian grandmother Frances' gardening and home cooking - to the health-food awakening of the small town America of my childhood in the '70s. I feel I have always made rather deliberate choices about my diet. That's not to say that I don’t eat processed foods - I do from time to time - and enjoy it! But I never feel good afterward and I know there are better choices which bring as much pleasure without the pain.

A number of years ago I was diagnosed with celiac disease (I refuse to capitalize that). This, as you may know, is an inability to digest gluten, the protein in wheat. So, I stopped eating wheat and any food with wheat in it. People often ask me if it is hard. The answer is, honestly, no - not at all. And here's my trick: I eat foods with a single ingredient: apple, eggs, rice, fig, almond, olive, sea salt, dates, cheese...salt, sugar, fat! Wait a minute! Didn't that guy say that salt, sugar, fat are bad for you? You'll have to read the book to find out exactly what he is getting at - but the message really seems to me to be a good one: refined salt, sugar and fats added to processed foods are not good for you.

So, how do I eat salt, sugar and fat and stay healthy? Simple - I eat those items in as close to their natural state as possible. Salt: Sea salt (Sea Star Sea Salt is a great brand). Sugar: Honey, maple syrup and molasses as sweeteners (molasses is for certain a processed item - but I include it in my diet because it is also a concentrated source of trace minerals and vitamins - and I use it sparingly - as a flavoring, not a sweetener per se). Fat: Cold pressed olive oil and fresh unsalted butter. I also make simple baked goods with a lot of nutrition blended in. Some basic additions to cookies and muffins, for example, are fresh-ground flax seeds, grated carrots, ginger, sunflower seeds.

I also add chocolate chips! Guittard bittersweet is my favorite. But I use a fraction of what is suggested in most recipes. Would I be healthier without them? Maybe. But life is too short to do without!

Here are a few of my favorite salty, fatty and sugary indulgences: fresh-poped pop-corn with organic butter and sea salt: I use a hot air popper so that the butter is pure flavoring. I melt the butter along with a bit of olive oil so that it covers more of the popcorn and gives a bit more complex flavor. Then I sprinkle with sea salt. Yum!

Chocolate-chip cookies: I don't use a recipe and I don't usually measure, but here is an approximation of what I do: one cube sweet, unsalted butter, one tablespoon molasses,1/4 cup honey, three tablespoons vanilla extract. Blend together to form a thick base. Blend in one egg. Add equal parts fresh-ground golden flax seeds and white rice flour (about half cup each), 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. One pinch sea salt. Blend until a nice cookie dough is formed. Blend in 1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips. For crisp cookies use less flour/flax mixture. For more cake-like cookies, use more. Bake on a cookie sheet lined with unbleached parchment paper in 350 degree oven for a few minutes (I don't time things either - sorry! I just instinctively know when they're done. Check in five minutes).

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