“Is Junk Food Really Cheaper” – NY Times Op Ed Article

Mark Bittman is a journalist, food writer and cookbook author with a direct writing style, which I admire.  His book How to Cook Everything is a must for any avid home cook.  He wrote a great article in the NY Times this week entitled “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?”. It’s an interesting read and debunks some of the information about the cost of food.  Having just gone through the hunger challenge I agree with him that healthy food can be made inexpensively, but with effort and planning.  Money alone is not the issue.  He concludes the fight to shift people’s eating from fast food to home cooked meals must be via education, policy and culture.  He brings up some interesting statistics in this article.  I had no idea there are 5 times as many fast food restaurants as grocery stores.  Wow!  And he also write about the fact that the engineering behind hyperprocessed food makes it virtually addictive. “A 2009 study by the Scripps Research Institute indicates that overconsumption of fast food “triggers addiction-like neuroaddictive responses” in the brain, making it harder to trigger the release of dopamine. In other words the more fast food we eat, the more we need to give us pleasure; thus the report suggests that the same mechanisms underlie drug addiction and obesity.”

I think he’s got some good questions and issues and brings into focus how our food and diet needs to change, and everyone needs to take responsibility and action. Individuals, families, local communities, and government need to get educated and involved.

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Camping Cookout 101 – Go Veggie

My family just got back from a camping trip with extended family and friends to Lake Millerton, CA.  We had a great time boating, swimming, visiting, reading and cooking.  I must admit our camping meals were pretty great.  No simple hamburgers and hot dogs at this campsite.  We had everything from sausages, to grilled veggies, to homemade chili (my sister’s prize winning),  to scratch scones (pumpkin and lemon poppyseed, thank you), to grape leaves and hummus wraps, to orzo salad, etc… Did I mention pretty much everything was vegetarian, or vegan?  My sister organized the trip and she and I divided meals and shopping.  Since she is vegan and other family members are vegetarian (my daughter of course) we went with what would be easy and satisfy everyone.

Surprisingly, the most beneficial part of the vegetarian cook outs was no bees.  There are so many times I dread eating outdoors because I think the bees are going to come eventually.  Do you eat fast?  Or buy something to keep them away?  I’ve heard everything from citronella candles to dryer sheets (not what I want to breathe when I’m eating).  Now we know, just don’t cook meat.  Ah ha!My extended family sat quietly enjoying our camp dinners, while our friends at neighboring tables were running and screaming from yellow jackets.  Not fun.  Especially with little ones.

There is a great spread about camping, cookouts and favorite chef recipes in this month’s Sunset Magazine.  Ironically, I read it while camping.  I plan to make this fire-roasted veggie salad at home on the grill for Labor Day and keep the pests away.

Fire-Roasted Vegetable Salad

(by Russell Moore of Camino in Oakland, CA)

1 garlic clove

  • 2 tablespoons high-quality red wine vinegar
  • 4 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise 1/2 in. thick
  • 3 ears corn, husks and silks removed
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, cored
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • About 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • About 1/2 tsp. pepper, divided
  • 2 whole onions, unpeeled
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 yellow bell peppers
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves, torn into pieces
  • 1. Build a wood fire* in a camp grill or fire ring, using about 4 logs and some kindling; let burn to medium (you can hold your hand 5 in. above cooking grate only 5 to 7 seconds), about 1 hour. Adjust fire so there’s a thick area of embers and smaller logs in the middle and larger logs to the sides.

    2. Smash garlic, put in a small bowl with vinegar, and set aside. In a large bowl, toss zucchini, corn, and tomatoes with 2 tbsp. oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.

    3. Place onions in embers between some smaller logs and cook, turning every 10 minutes or so, until completely black and soft when squeezed with tongs, 25 to 40 minutes. Meanwhile, set peppers on embers and cook, turning every few minutes, until completely charred, about 20 minutes. Transfer vegetables to a board and let cool.

    4. Set cooking grate in place, if using a portable one. Grill zucchini, corn, and tomatoes (in batches, if needed), turning occasionally, until grill marks appear, 5 to 35 minutes, depending on distance from fire.

    5. Pull off blackened outsides from onions and peppers. Cut corn kernels from cobs into large bowl. Cut remaining vegetables into slices or strips, discarding seeds; add to bowl.

    6. Stir remaining 6 tbsp. oil into vinegar with remaining 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper. Toss gently with vegetables, add mint, and more salt and pepper if you like.

    *Or cook all the vegetables over (but not in) a medium (350° to 450°) charcoal fire, adding 8 briquets every 30 minutes.

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