WTF Are We Eating?
I was eating some pasta with pesto sauce the other day for lunch. It was lovely; topped with wood-grilled chicken breast and Parmesan curls. I caught myself reading the jar this pesto sauce came from and was blown away by the ingredients. Pesto sauce is, basically, five ingredients; basil, garlic, pine-nuts, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and the grand total comes to seven. This jar of pesto had more than twice that and there were a few things in there I couldn’t pronounce. As a chef I instantly felt, not only, guilty for using jarred pesto sauce but the fact that I know how to make my own made me feel a little under-motivated!
We try to eat healthy at my house. We eat a lot of fish and other lean proteins. There’s a salad on our table one to two meals a day and we put away fruit like it’s going out of style. I am discovering, however, that though we eat well, some of these “time saving products” we have on our shelves are worse for us than eating fast-food. Yes, we see the word “natural” on the jar and think this stuff can’t be bad for us. I am sure some of those unpronounceable things on the list aren’t all bad for us, but why take a chance? It is so easy to eat clean, scratch-made food. It is more wholesome and, in most cases, a lot tastier.
Yes, we see the word “natural” on the jar and think this stuff can’t be bad for us. But why chance it!?
Another great product that is easy to make and tastier than store bought is marinara sauce. All you need are a few ripe tomatoes, some tomato paste, some onions, garlic and maybe a little red wine all seasoned with a little salt and pepper and you have a really good sauce. Yes, those of you that are reading this must be thinking; “Yes, it’s easy to complain about eating jarred marinara sauce, frozen vegetables, store-bought loaf-bread and canned soup when you’re a chef! What about us non-chefs and home cooks, we are busy and just don’t have time to slave over a hot stove!” Well, I call BS! It all boils down to the willingness to learn and make it work. A few Google searches will result in a slew of tasty things we can easily make from scratch with little-to-no effort and no noticeable loss of time. A pot of soup takes just a few minutes longer than opening a salt-laden can, adding water and turning up the heat. Pesto sauce made from scratch takes literally as long as it takes to boil a pot of salty water for pasta. Speaking of pasta, fresh pasta from scratch takes even less time! Yes, I totally understand that cooking from scratch is a bit of a commitment, but so is reading this article and I have you reading this far, right?!
Making food from scratch, with love, cures most ills. It’s a spiritual connection to our food that can’t be had, necessarily, with a can opener. Eating together is pretty special, but cooking together, that’s a whole different level of love and connection. Some of my fondest memories were making chocolate chip cookies with my mom or catching, filleting and frying trout over a hot fire while camping with my dad.
There is something very visceral about the creation of food; chopping the onions, smashing and mincing the garlic, tearing fresh basil, one cannot get the same sort of emotional results without this sort of hands-on cooking. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to beat a can of tomato soup from the can on those raw New England afternoons while enduring a head cold. Yes, these convenience foods have their place, but cooking from scratch takes a different level of emotion.
…one cannot get the same sort of emotional results without this sort of hands-on cooking.
Learning to cook is not only healthy for our bodies, but it gives us a life-skill we will never regret. As a chef and someone who just loves and respects the great ingredients we have at our disposal, I encourage you to cook from scratch whenever possible. Start off with something simple like this simple tagliatelle pasta.
We live in a time now where we can find anything we want on the internet. You can even buy the ingredients needed to make food from scratch! I know, that sounds weird. I guess that’s a good way to save time. You can have the food delivered to you then, make it from scratch. Good luck everyone and give it a try!