Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Your Family Recipe

I just finished reading "The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken".  Laura Schenone, the author, introduces us to her family and her desire to recapture a food tradition that has all but been lost by the passage of time -- and the passing of grandparents -- Ravioli.

Are you lucky enough to have a traditional dish passed down for generations?  One that isn't plagued by the convenience (questionably real) foods that only resemble the real thing?  Have you made it lately?  Why not?

Through several trips to Italy to retrace her family's roots, Laura discovered a lifestyle filled with family tradition, great hand-made food, and a slow appreciation of life.  A food artisan in Genoa or Recco, Italy, actually has a name and face!  In the end, her family downsized to a smaller home, got more involved in cooking and developed closer relationships with their family.

Yes, there are great ravioli making tips and a handful of recipes to consider, but perhaps the real gem in this book is the questions it begs us to consider.

Food is central to our lives.  Why not invite friends and family into the experience of making quality food, slowly enjoying God's bounty?  When was the last time your family made a complete meal from scratch?  When was the last time your dinner lasted three hours because of great conversation, food and wine?  What's your family recipe?

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I just finished reading "slow life in a tuscan town" by Douglas Gayeton that strengthened my resolve to try to slow down and enjoy the real things (the four f's) in life -- family, friends, food and faith.

Douglas traveled to Italy in search of what made their lives so meaningful and came up with the word "slow".  His photography is beautiful and the text meaningful.  While many things are important in the life of a rural Italian, slow food (organic and raw) plays the central role.  I highly recommend you spend an evening or two with this book.

While he admits that some will seek the Italian lifestyle by moving to Italy, he ultimately encourages readers to develop that lifestyle in their own communities.  And he followed his own advice, purchasing a farm in Northern California where he and his wife and daughter now reside.

He writes the last sentence of his opening page saying, "We can begin by simply breaking bread around the table, inviting our children into the kitchen to help prepare the family meal, and planting a few herbs in a window box.  Your life will be richer for it."

I agree.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What's in a Name?

Have you ever realized while perusing your pantry and refrigerator that the best tasting foods -- and those best for your body -- tend to always have an individuals name attached to it.  For example, my pantry/refrigerator includes:
  • One of my dozen free-range organic eggs is from "Pat & Ginny Rakowski" and the other a bit more genric "Willowcrest Eggs", but both provide their local address and phone.
  • Our 1/2 gallon of maple syrup is from "Ned and Heidi Stoller".
  • Our ground beef, ground sausage, beef roast, hot dogs and turkey drumsticks are from "Nathan Creswick".
  • Our lamb bratwursts and ground lamb say "Pierre & Sharon Schierbeek" or "Jill & Mary".
  • Our vegetables are organically grown by "Anja Mast and Michael VanderBrug".
  • Our apples are from "Kurt, Tom and Scott Wells".
  • Any bread we purchase is from "Casey Lubbers".
  • Our raw Michigan honey is from "Al Haarsma".
  • The fair-traded Peru coffee is hand roasted by Craig Patterson to my specificiations.
  • Even our hand soap is from "Betty".
The better products we buy from national organizations carry the founder's name too such as "Gary Hirshberg" of Stonyfield Farm, "Bob & Charlee Moore" of Bob's Red Mill, and "Drew & Myra Goodman" of Earthbound Farm.

So what's in a name?

First, for us, we purchase directly from the people named above and can get to know them.  This provides a great opportunity to ask questions about how our food was cared for, cultivated and prepared.

Second, there is no "trash" in their food in the form of fillers, additives, preservatives, junk oils, artificial sweeteners, extra sodium, extra flavorings, added water, etc.  And, because they love what they do, they take extra effort to ensure the best nutritional product for our bodies in the form of 100% grass-fed animals and organic growing.

Third, their system of producing is significantly less damaging to the environment and in most cases enhances the environment.

To borrow from a credit card company, "What names are in your pantry/refrigerator?"  If you find a myriad of store brands and the big food companies, you're missing out.  Kudos if you know who made your food and how!