Tag Archives: you are what you eat

Pig. Farmer. Chef. Guest.


We were all there in the kitchen at the same time.

Salt of the Earth restaurant

Chef Matthew demonstrates how to butcher a pig as farmer Darrell and a class attendee observe.

I recently had the opportunity to learn more about butchering. And what could be a better place than one of Bill’s and my favorite local restaurants?

Salt of the Earth, in Fennville, Michigan, offers cooking classes throughout the year. What I liked about “The Whole Hog: Butchering 101” was how it brings me (Guest) closer to the animal (Pig) through the direction of the butcher (Chef Matthew Pietsch). And Darrell (Farmer) is a critical part of the experience, too.

The Berkshire hogs came from local farmers Darrell and Conni at Coach Stop Farm. So while Chef Matthew explained the various cuts of the animal and how to “break down a hog,” Darrell talked about the breed and how his happy, pastured pigs differ from those confined in factory farms.

Bill and I already buy only happy meat from local farmers but I enjoyed the discussion during the demonstration that night, along with the wine….and did I mention dinner followed? Pork, of course! Thank you, Salt of the Earth, for providing this educational venue to help us all–pig, farmer, chef, guest–develop more understand about how we are all so connected and dependent upon each other.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The only question I forgot to ask is: What is the photo of Christopher Walken doing on the walk-in door?

P.S. – Check out this post over on EatGR.com, which included Life Is Fare in its Monday Mingle (Blogger Link Up) on July 14, 2014.

 

School Lunches: Have They Really Changed?


School Lunches No One Should Have to Eat

So much is happening to improve school lunches in our country but it seems we still have a long way to go. Check out this slide show from Takepart.com. Sort of reminds me of lunches back in the 1970s, when I was in grade school.

Five Absurdly Large Fast-Food Serving Sizes


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

From Takepart.com, here’s a photo gallery of some enormous “servings” of food. I don’t know about you but I can hardly stomach the photos. I can’t imagine eating like this.

How to Camp Like a Locavore


Fresh eggs from Good Harbor Farm

When I go camping at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore with my friend Sandy, we often have a theme that drives our meal decisions as well as the activities we do. This year we decided to wing it, bringing few staples from home and relying on the local food choices we could find in Leelanau County, Michigan.

Okay, so I’m not a purely authentic locavore. That would mean I would only eat food that is locally produced, excluding olive oil, coffee, chocolate, and lemons, to name a few of my favorite ingredients. But I try my best to eat in season as much as possible and support our local economy here in Michigan. So what are staples for Sandy and me on a camping trip? Popcorn, olive oil, and coffee.

The first step to camping like a locavore is heading to the local winery (or grocery store) to get some sparkling wine. One of our favorites is Moonstruck from Good Harbor Vineyards. After picking up some provisions, such as eggs and asparagus at Good Harbor Farm, we headed back to our campsite to pitch the tent. But first we popped the cork on the Moonstruck.

Moonstruck sparkling wine from Good Harbor Winery

Then we had some cherry pie that we picked up at The Cherry Hut in Beulah, Michigan, on our way to the campground.

Moonstruck and cherry pie

Then we put the tarp down.

Camping step two: Put down tarp

And finally, the tent went up.

Camping step three: Put up tent

The first night we went out for dinner at Good Harbor Grill, which is not our normal practice. But the Cherry Pecan Whitefish on the menu was enticing. (What’s with all the Good Harbor this and Good Harbor that? D.H. Day Campground, a rustic campground within Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, resides along Good Harbor Bay, one of the most beautiful harbors in Lake Michigan—with no marinas. It’s a nature lover’s paradise.) After dinner we made popcorn over the campfire.

The next day, we headed to the beach at—you guessed it—Good Harbor Bay to make breakfast, which was an Asparagus Frittata and pressed coffee (and leftover Moonstruck).

Frittata ingredients

Red onion and fresh asparagus for frittata

Asparagus frittata and Moonstruck at Good Harbor Bay

Moonstruck sparkling wine from Good Harbor Winery

Good Harbor Bay, Leelanau County, Michigan

After relaxing at the beach, we toured some wineries, including one of our favorites (L. Mawby), where we shared a flight of sparkling wine with whitefish pate.

Sparkling wine flight at L. Mawby

Then we headed back to camp for some R&R. I had brought a few ingredients from home to make Lavash Pizza Over a Fire. The base for the pizza was Stinging Nettles Pesto that I had made a few weeks earlier and froze. The tomatoes for one pizza were from the Holland Farmers Market and the goat cheese came from Dancing Goat Creamery. We put Manchego sheep’s cheese and parsley from my garden on the other.

Lavash Pizza Over a Fire

And in the morning? Fried egg sandwich paninis with Stinging Nettles Pesto!

Fried egg and pesto panini

The challenge is always to find ways to use up the ingredients that you find locally and bring from home. The only leftovers we had were pieces of cherry pie. But that was easy. They were nicely accompanied by cups of coffee from Gemma’s Coffee House at the beach in Empire, Michigan, on the way home.

March Against Monsanto: 1,000+ Demonstrators in Grand Rapids, Michigan


March Against Monsanto, Grand Rapids, Michigan

We had an impressive turnout of demonstrators today in Grand Rapids, Michigan–people who were motivated to March Against Monsanto to call attention to the dangers posed by genetically modified food (GMOs) and the food giants that produce it. I was thrilled to be a participant in a worldwide event to bring awareness to consumers about who’s controlling our food system. Good to see local news stations WOOD-TV and Fox 17 West Michigan covered the event.

Here’s my video of marchers on Pearl Street.

And check out the slideshow I created of demonstrators and their creative signs. (Oh, plus a wedding in progress as we passed the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

March Against Monsanto: May 25


March Against MonsantoIf you haven’t heard, a global initiative is underway. People all over the world who care about what they eat and the future of the earth will March Against Monsanto on Saturday, May 25, to demonstrate their concern about the global food supply.

Marches are planned on six continents, in 49  countries, totaling events in over 370 cities. In the U.S., events will occur simultaneously at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time in 47 states.

I’m marching in Michigan to take a stand against Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), which can threaten people’s health and longevity, as well as biodiversity.

To learn more about initiative, read the mission statement and press release.

Interested in marching? Find a city near you.

The Perennial Plate: Episode 82


Warning: This video is graphic. It’s about a halal slaughterhouse in Queens, New York, that sources many of its chickens from small farms and is run by a guy who believes in the humane treatment of the animals he buys for food. And many people in the neighborhood prefer to come here and pay a premium for natural, free-range, organic, or pastured chickens rather than paying cheap prices at the grocery store down the street because of the way the chickens are slaughtered and processed.

The Smell of Money


Dodge City

When you head into Dodge City, Kansas, on Route 50 from the east, one of the first things you come to is the overlook. It’s not a scenic overlook, unless the view–and the smell–of a cattle feedlot and processing is appealing to you. I bet it’s scenic to the people who appreciate “the smell of money.” That’s the phrase used by many ranchers and managers of confined animal factory operations (CAFO). Beef processing is a lucrative business. Luckily, on our visit to Dodge City, Bill and I were up wind of the smell at the overlook.

I think Dodge City is proud of its heritage in cattle production. Excel Corporation, one of the world’s largest beef-processing facilities is adjacent to the feedlot and processes about 6,000 head of cattle a day, six days a week. Nearby National Beef, a processing plant cited in a 2011 product recall for E. coli contamination, processes 4,000 head daily. One of the signs at the overlook says, “Combined, annually these two plants annually market enough beef to feed 16 million people for one year. Kansas ranks first in the United States commercial cattle production, processing over 8 million head annually. ” That’s amazing. But it makes me ask, what’s wrong with our country that we have to eat so much beef?

I wanted to see the feedlots first-hand. So on a recent trip to the Plains, Bill and I photographed several, beginning in Dodge City and heading west to Colorado. To me, CAFOs are the smell of inhumanity. Not just the inhumane treatment of cows lying around in their excrement, but also the conditions employees endure in the processing plants.

Here’s a video I took of just one feedlot in southwest Kansas. It’s 1 1/2 minutes long taken from our car going 30 m.p.h. Notice the drainage areas, which can have negative effects on the environment.

And here are more photos from southwest Kansas.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Wouldn’t you rather have beef from a happy cow, like these from Grassfields, raised on grass in open space?

Happy cows at Grassfields

Chez Marcita Presents: Raw Milk Butter


Can you imagine the doors that were opened when Bill and I learned that he could eat butter made from raw milk? For years, he’s had an allergy to cow-dairy products. But a friend of ours learned that pasteurization is what causes the allergic reaction for many people, including her son. So when we had the opportunity to try raw milk, and found out Bill’s system could handle it, it meant more options on the menu. Ice cream! Butter! Buttermilk! Now we’re making butter with the raw milk we get from our local cow share program. Watch this video on how to make butter from raw milk. It’s simple and easy, and a decadent treat to have on hand.

Know Thy Customer


One of my top-five favorite restaurants in the country is Blue Hill at Stone Barns, up the hill from Tarrytown, New York. For me living in Michigan it’s like a pilgrimage to go there because executive chef Dan Barber is more than a creative culinary artist. He’s an inspiration for home cooks and anyone who eats (that’s everyone!) by creating consciousness around everyday food choices. Three years ago I made the pilgrimage to Stone Barns with my friend and fellow home-chef, Cathy. When we visited this year, we brought Bill.

Arriving at our table we found a Field and Pasture Four Season Journal that lists the potential harvest by month. I loved reading the list and anticipating what we might be eating that night.

Field and Pasture Food Journal

Field and Pasture Food Journal - March

On the restaurant’s website there’s a phrase: Know Thy Farmer. Dan Barber’s philosophy is that great cooking starts with great ingredients. And great ingredients start with great farmers. You can find all the local farms that inspire the menus at both Stone Barns and Blue Hill New York (in Manhattan) by scrolling over a map on their webpage.

But I’d like to offer a new phrase that incorporates both restaurants’ philosophy: Know Thy Customer. The staff goes out of its way to accommodate people with food allergies, like Bill. At Stone Barns, where each meal is a “farmers’ feast” comprised of multi-course tastings from the day’s harvest, no meal is alike. It’s amazing to see how meals are customized for each person. It’s not just about food allergies; it’s about making your experience delightful by being attentive to your preferences–all within the confines of a seasonal harvest.

Here were our preferences for ingredients to avoid:

Bill: Wheat, corn, cow-dairy

Cathy: Mayonnaise

Marcia: Shellfish, mushrooms

We decided upon the 8-course feast, which means a variety of dishes keep coming out over a timespan of two to three hours.

The Vegetables on a Fence was the first to arrive, along with Pickled Asparagus and an egg-yolk dip (that I cannot remember the name of!). We were also given a pot of pea shoots, along with pruning shears (in foreground) with which to cut off the shoots. These were then dragged through the citrus-pepper oil shown on the white ceramic plank.

Vegetables on a Fence and Pickled Asparagus

One of the favorites among the three of us was the “make your own tacos” course served with celery root tortillas. Yes! Tortillas made from celery root! In the center was a nice arrangement of shrimp and mussels, which Cathy and Bill enjoyed. I got to have fresh spinach as a substitute for shellfish.

Make your own tacos

Celery root tortillas

And when Cathy and I were served Red Fife Bread with Marmalade of Greens and Fresh Ricotta, Bill had wedge of roasted rutabaga.

Roasted rutabaga

Because it’s not the time of year for beef, we enjoyed a Parsnip Steak instead, cut  tableside by our server. The way it was prepared, you would have thought you were eating steak. It was so delicious.

Parsnip Steak cut tableside

Parsnip Steak

To see the other courses we enjoyed, check out the slideshow below. We really enjoyed our meal and the excitement of wondering what would be served next.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.