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Do we love food enough?

Folks have been noticing that I have dropped a significant amount of weight over the past year. Everything has changed for me and while this has not been an easy journey, I am learning different things every day. I don’t know what ‘switched’ on (or off?) inside me a year ago to get me focused enough to even be on this path, though I am glad that it did switch, and I could not have been this successful without help, which is a theme in my life!

I have been with my naturopath, Rachel Robertson, for about 12 years. I followed her from Gig Harbor to Port Orchard, and then to her own practice at Port Orchard Natural Medicine (PONM). Last year she mentioned a weight loss program that she was featuring called ‘Ideal Protein’, and we talked about it at length. Quite frankly, I did not think it would work for me and I did not believe I would be successful at dropping any significant amount of weight. I always love a challenge so I took that dare (yes, I do realize the level of crazy that it takes to hear your own inner voice as a dare! It has gotten me this far, so don’t knock it ’til you try it…) and so far I have gotten rid of 93 pounds. Notice I don’t say I ‘lost’ the weight; it isn’t lost, I do not want to find it again, so I prefer to say I have gotten rid of it for good. Words have power, so I am not going to mess around in that area… I am exercising regularly, and being very careful about what (and how much) I eat; being very mindful of the nutritional balances in each meal or snack and throughout the day; not drinking wine or any alcohol, and receiving regular coaching from the most wonderful woman: Laura at PONM.

It doesn’t necessarily get easier the longer I do this. There are easier moments and tougher moments, though in fact, the longer I do it the more I want it to hurry up and be ‘done’ with the losing phase and just on  maintenance (aka ‘living life’). I don’t know if you have ever struggled with your weight and can relate to any part of the physical, mental or emotional issues that go with it; I have dealt with extra weight my whole life. Last week was extremely stressful for me, and I got really sick of focusing on all of it. My weekly check-in with Laura was an absolute highlight of my week! She brought me back onto solid ground from the very shaky ledge I was dancing on, and she calmed me down (thank you, Laura!) I know I still have some work to do because I want to get more fit and a bit more lean, and I am doing a better job of it this week than I did last week. My goal is a certain body-fat percentage, not a certain number on a scale, and I like that approach.

So along the lines of focusing on eating and food, I was having a wonderful discussion with Nancy Aala from the Olympic College’s catering department the other day. We were talking about food quality, cost, and more when she said: “People complain that real food, farm-to-table-fresh-homemade food is more expensive than the mass-produced-highly processed-nutrition deficient-readily available foods that so many of us have become used to. Good quality food has ALWAYS cost more! Even when most people grew their own food you worked all day every day to get enough food for your family. The high risk of physical accidents, costs of the family home, farm and equipment, all of that has always been a factor. The real problem is that we don’t love food enough! If we loved food, really loved good food, we would embrace it and show it with our purchasing power. More people need to love food more!”… now I did put quotes around all that, though I know for a fact that I paraphrased a bit because I didn’t take notes when we were talking. I totally agree with Nancy on all of that and I had not heard it articulated in quite that manner before.

I DO love food. Maybe not in the way that you might think, though. Last year when I went to the Quillisascut Farm School I learned about everything you can imagine that has to do with growing/producing food, including produce, dairy, meat, grains, legumes and more… harvesting and preparing those foods, sustainability and low food-waste, and so much more. I learned that I do not want to be a farmer! Though I do want to be surrounded by those who farm, with ready access to their products. I had known that I loved food before I attended this week-long course, though this course solidified my love for food in ways I did not know could be. I would love to go back and do it again because this time I would have more confidence and just enough extra knowledge to really dive in! I stood back a bit when I was there, in awe of the knowledge and skills of the other culinary professionals that I was there with. I participated plenty, but I would do even more if I went back. The memories are a highlight in my culinary life! I love cooking for you and nourishing other with excellent food.

      

I love to eat good food, too: eating good quality food is an experience and nourishing in different ways. I don’t eat fast food (never have), unless you count the very occasional take-out thai or teriyaki joint, though even there I am very picky about which ones I will choose. The closest I come is to go to the Blue Agave in Port Orchard, and they make all their own food, including some items that aren’t on the menu (ceviche de pulpo, aka octopus ceviche) but they have it there if you know to ask. I don’t go to those ever-popular quick-serve restaurants, or fast-casual style places that so many people are fond of, either. If I am going to spend money on food, never mind put it in my mouth to taste and my body to nourish, it has to be worth it. If a restaurant is simply purchasing menu items off of a big truck from a food distributor and essentially re-heating it and putting it on a plate for me, I see no reason to give them my money. Anybody can do that! When you work in a restaurant you should know how to easily make your own sauces and dressings, soups, croutons, and even some easy bread and desserts. If you don’t, it is not worth it to me. Not worth my time, money or energy and now that I am being very cognizent of everything that goes into my mouth, not worth it nutritionally or calorically, either. If you work in a restaurant and strive to make your foods with the most nutritious ingredients available: farm-fresh, sustainably harvested, as local as possible, or eco friendly in any way, I am thinking it could be totally worth it!

And yes, those foods may seem to cost my wallet more than the easier convenience foods out there. However in the long run they are far more valuable to me in flavor and nutrition, as well as conscientiously and as far as social responsibility goes. So I purchase/prepare/eat those things in my personal life as well as in my restaurant. Also, when I purchase those foods it is very likely that I am putting far more money back into our local economy than if I were purchasing the big brands from the big chains, and THAT is much better for my personal, as well as my community’s, finances.

Last week I decided that I was going to attempt to make ricotta cheese (again), as I had failed miserably in my prior attempts. We make it successfully in Italy, and each time I have tried it here I have flubbed it. 2 weekends ago I attended a free library Fall at the Mall event and Diane Fish from the WSU extension office was there to talk about cheese and yogurt making. I listened, asked a few questions, took her recipes and tried it again. I purchased raw Blackjack Valley Farms milk at Colello’s Farm Stand in Port Orchard. I followed Diane’s recipe and used my stove-top diffuser to bring the temperature up very slowly. So slowly that it drove me nuts! (Veruca Salt and I have much in common as far as patience goes…) But it worked! I made my first ever successful (solo) batch of cow’s milk ricotta cheese! It is not as tangy and flavorful as the sheep’s milk or the goat’s milk ricottas that I have made (with help) in the past, but it is pretty darn good. When I do it again I won’t need to go quite as slow on the milk-heating as I did, and I am confident now that I can do it again.

I also made yogurt, which was also successful, though not as creamy as I would love it to be. I did not add the thickener that was optional in the recipe, I quadrupled the recipe and on top of that I used some Fage (say it: ‘fah-yay’) Greek yogurt as a the starter, rather than a regular yogurt, which is what was recommended. It didn’t say NOT to use Greek… at any rate this morning I hopped out of bed in anticipation and took the yogurt dish out of the proofer and at first thought I had a failure on my hands because there was so much whey in it. However as I pushed a spoon into it I could see that I really had made yogurt, albeit very watery yogurt. I lined my fine-mesh strainer (which had been draining my cheese over night and now was free) with cheesecloth and spooned the yogurt into it. I let it drain out quite a bit (I like Greek-style yogurt that is thicker) and put the cheesecloth that was draining it over the top, so it would keep it moist and not soak up extra whey. I chilled it and then moved the cloth back to take this picture for you.

I have tried a little taste of both things and they are delicious! I can’t wait to dive into them a bit more… so here are the recipes that I used (as written and handed out by Diane) and I think you should try one of them if you want to. I plan to get some local goat milk and do this all again, because I love the flavors in goat and sheep milk more than I love the cow’s milk. Have fun with it and love your food!

WSU Ricotta

WSU yogurt