Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Food Matters

I've been reading Mark Bittman's Food Matters this week. We have a bit of a Love/Hate relationship with the New York Times' Food critic in our house. I love his pieces in the magazine, where he lays out templates for a style or type of cooking. For instance, his piece last Sunday on kebabs was like an entire cookbook in one page.

On the other hand, a lot his work seems designed to remove all of the pleasure from eating. Don't eat meat. Don't drink milk. Don't eat refined foods. I mean, what's left? Is a life without pleasure worth living?

After reading the book, I can see that his approach is a little more nuanced. He loves food and wine, so the deal that he had made with himself is that the rules don't apply after 6 pm (although he tries to be mindful of them), and that, as George Orwell recommended, he'll break any of them sooner than do anything outright barbarous. Because it's not the occasional indulgence, or the crash diet that matters; it's your lifestyle over the years. That's a message that for me is a little more, um, palatable, and it fits with the way I like to eat.

So my takeaway from the book is to eat more whole grain, especially at breakfast. This shouldn't be hard, since I'm a sucker for beans and rice, and, although I would have fought it as a child, I have no problem with brown rice today. After my shrimp and grits, I've been making griddle cakes with the leftover grits, dusting them with flour and frying them up in a little vegetable oil. I also topped a barley pilaf with steak off the grill, and last night, I tried the flatbread recipe from the Bittman book (without the onion and rosemary), with the whole wheat flour from my brother in law's Wisconsin mill. The results were inconclusive. It was dead simple to make--mix flour salt and water, throw it into a hot pan coated with olive oil and bake for 30 minutes--but it stuck to the pan, and the texture was a little to pancakey for my taste. I used it to make quasi-quesadillas, using the leftover pimento cheese, and that worked pretty well. I think I may not have let the oil get hot enough in the oven before adding the batter, but if the results are similar next time, I'm inclined to make tortillas, which are almost as simple.

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