The minute I saw Nicole’s tweet about TheGivingTable’s campaign to get food bloggers to raise awareness for hunger in America, I signed up. I’m well aware that our food laws essentially work against the goal of keeping healthy food affordable. I first read about it in The Omnivore’s Dilemna when Michael Pollan explained it in detail. When the movie Food, Inc. was released, I went to a screening and sat there frozen to my seat in disbelief about how many, many things, in our food system seemed to defy logic. The biggest barrier to access to healthy food is the cost. Government subsidies do not go towards fruit and vegetable producers, but to producers of corn, wheat, and other ingredients that are staples in processed foods. That is why a McDonald’s cheeseburger is cheaper than a head of broccoli. That is why, if you rely on food stamps (thee SNAP Program) to feed yourself or your family, you are hard pressed to afford to eat unprocessed foods all of the time. This problem is the focus of a new documentary by Participant Media—the same studio that made Food Inc.— the film follows three families struggling with food insecurity, and sheds light on hunger in America.
I think the easiest way to eat healthy, and not spend a fortune is to cook at home. That’s in part because I’ve learned how to cook, and possibly because I have no real memory of living on food stamps as a kid, though I did, briefly. I’ve never had to worry I’d go hungry, and nobody in this country should either. Although, living in NYC makes it hard to plan to eat home (or stick to a budget) all the time, I think it’s a good idea to cook something big at least once a week, leaving you leftovers that can be repurposed for another meal or two. I’d do it even if I didn’t like to stay home and cook in my free time.
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It’s that time of year when an extra dose of Vitamin C is needed. Flu epidemics, coughing, sneezing people on crowded subways, and bleak weather are just some of the facts of life during February in New York City. That, and the beautiful yellow-green undertone in my face. I need sunny things, bright colors, and bracing flavors but not another roasted root vegetable. This is why I crave citrus at this time of year. Citrus in the form of food. A glass of OJ doesn’t cut it. I want citrus salads, citrus desserts and most recently citrus-flavored cocktails. When I was a kid, one of my Floridian great-aunts used to send up a package of pink grapefruits every winter. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, thinking then that grapefruits were too sour to be edible, but the thought of a package of grapefruit arriving at my door now seems like the best mail you could find, unless of course that package also included a plane ticket to somewhere warm. To hold me over another month or two, cooking food that evokes warm weather (tacos anyone?) and eating bold flavors (acidic, spicy, pickled to name a few) is the only thing I can do to keep my taste buds from sinking into hibernation for good. One easy baked good that I make fairly regularly when my Grandma comes for lunch is a simple yogurt cake (aka Gâteau au yaourt that I found on Foodbeam’s original blog ages ago) but doused with pink grapefruit juice and flecked with grapefruit zest. You can use any citrus you like, but pink grapefruit is unexpected, and sweet, and tart at the same time. It also smells divine. Before you serve it, pinch your cheeks for an added glow of health. Grandma-ma will approve, even if she tells you, you need a haircut.
Pink Grapefruit Cake
1/2 cup 2% or full-fat yogurt (I use Fage)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 1/8 cup sugar
3/8 cup vegetable oil (1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons)
Zest and juice of 1 ripe Pink Grapefruit
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prep an 8-9 inch pan with parchment (can use a bundt pan but cake won’t be that high).
Mix yogurt through sugar in a bowl.
Mix in oil, eggs and zest until thoroughly incorporated. Pour mixture into prepared pan.
Bake cake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Flip the cake out of the pan onto a platter and drench with reserved grapefruit juice. (The cake will be very moist, and continue to soak up juice as it cools).
It’s been almost a whole year since I’ve logged in to create a new post on this site. That is not to say that I haven’t been cooking, eating and of course, sharing my food photos. I’ve been posting to my Tumblr fairly regularly, since it’s a quick way to share Instagram pics and easy to do from my phone. It’s also about 99% visual, and well, frankly I didn’t feel like sharing my thoughts much this year. At times it seems like the entire food blogosphere is just one site after another of people with these amazingly beautiful lives and families. The thought of being able to keep up with the Joneses had me retreating this year. Cooking, baking and taking photos of food still works wonders to lift my mood. In 2012, I needed a lot of that, and although I didn’t share it here, I was home cooking up a storm. With my friend-the chef-turned-neighbor, I’ve been fortunate to have a built-in audience to feed and learn from. I just didn’t have the words to share stories in 2012. Sometimes it’s good to be quiet, and just take notice of how you feel, rather than letting everyone know.
Despite there being plenty to smile about in 2012 – a lot of laughter, a bit of travel and a lot of silliness – my thoughts were mainly on other things. The nitty-gritty stuff, the sitting in a cubicle stuff, the hussle-ing and rat race cause it’s time to be serious stuff. Or, is it? At some point along the way, I realized that I had turned down the wrong path once again, and lost sight of the things that I knew made me happy. Sharing food with people, baking, and taking photos makes me happy. It’s almost like a form of meditation for me, forcing me to be present, and content in the moment. Life feels more lovely when your kitchen smells good.
I’m starting a food photography class today with Julia Crawley, of Liz and Jewels, as a way to re-focus and learn more. In anticipation, I’ve been combing through the photos of this past year. Below are some highlights with recipes for some of my favorites below to follow soon…
One of the most unique food markets around is the New Amsterdam Market, downtown where the old Fulton Fish Market used to be in Lower Manhattan. Besides the history of food markets in this area, this isn’t really your standard farmer’s market (there are only a few produce stands) but more of a local food business market. The market is held every Sunday, and often has a theme for that week. Two weeks ago when I visited, it was Slow Food NYC’s Slow Food Show. This coming Sunday they will have the author of Four Fish, Paul Greenberg signing copies of his book, and a dozen local fish vendors.
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