Steak with Bordelaise inspired sauce

Steak with Bordelaise inspired sauce
Steak with Bordelaise inspired sauce

I recently happened upon a blog post about making Bordelaise sauce on the Food Wishes blog. I love making steak, but sometimes too much of a good thing can start to be a problem. I tend to season my steak with salt and pepper so as to not overwhelm it with a foreign flavor. I’ve always been suspicious of sauces and what they may be hiding. I truly enjoy the flavor of the meat, especially the subtle flavor of the meat I get from the CSA I am a member of. Chef John of Food Wishes had the perfect answer in Bordelaise sauce. Making a simple and light sauce such as Bordelaise was an easy way to add depth to the flavor of the meat while still being true to it.

Making the sauce was fun and easy. Not having beef stock on hand, I used store bought beef broth. Cringe, I know. To add further insult to injury to French cooking tradition, I also used some open Chianti as a wine instead of a traditional French wine. While going through the prescribed steps was not hard to do, an all important question did come to mind. How do you know when you have it right? and as I previously wrote, even if it is right, does it matter?

An interesting problem with following recipes or with taking inspiration from food blogs is that you don’t have a real live example to compare to, nor do you have the experience of someone who has come before you to guide you through your food preparation. While this is an interesting “gotcha”, the idea is that you are cooking for yourself or others; this enforces the notion of cooking through method and not relying on recipes. Once you have the basics down you are free to cook and experiment however you wish.

Dinner tonight was different, but not too different. Life keeps getting tastier each and every day.

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Food Inc., Where does your food come from?

Do you ever think about where your food comes from? Have you ever thought about how all of the different components of the meal you are eating came to be and what processes they went through to get to your plate? Have you ever looked at the perfectly cut packaged steaks or pork chop chops or chicken and tried to imagine the animals they came from and even what part of the animal they came from? Ever ask yourself where  that apple or orange you are eating in January grew and how it became ripe just in time for you to eat it? I know I rarely do, but as my new-found passion for food grows I know I need to ask myself these questions and man others.

Last night I did something I rarely do; I went to see a movie in the theater.  I went to see Food Inc., directed by award-winning filmmaker Robert Kenner and produced by notable food writers Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan who wrote Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore’s Dilemma respectively and was given an impactful reminder to think about and appreciate the food that I eat and where it comes from. I read Schlosser’s book almost five years ago and found it eye opening. I expected more of the same and asked myself, “How bad could it be?”. The answer to that question was more shocking than I expected.

The film focuses on three aspects of food: industrial meat production and as presented the unsanitary care and inhumane treatmetnt of animals from birth to slaughter and then similarly the industrialization and scientific modification of plant based food and closes with the legal and economic impact of the food industry on the country and people in the industry, in particular the farmers illustrating an interesting dichotomy of subservient farmers  working with major food corporations out of greed or necessity and those who oppose the production practices of the major food conglomerates and pay the price for their insolence with legal battles or financial struggles and intense government scrutiny. It also brings to light the power and impact on government policy the multi-national corporations have and how corporate profits influence decisions that affect the food supply and overall our health. The food industry is no different in this regard from other major industries that politicians are concerned about, but it does have a major impact on our health and livelihood that other industries do not.

The film was definitely tough to watch. I’m sure I’ve enjoyed watching horror movies more than the absorbing the content of this film, but all in all it is best not to turn a blind eye when concerning what goes into your body. The inhumane treatment of animals, unsafe and unsanitary conditions of food production that were portrayed as well as the economic impact and destruction of people’s lives by the major food companies were very hard to take in, a striking reminder of how far we have veered from pre-industrial times and have been removed from our food source, buying pre-packaged meat, fruits, vegetables and other food products without any idea where they came from, how they got there nor their impact on the society and the environment. The idea that food no longer has seasons, allowing consumers to buy apples, pears  and strawberries for instance and different types of meat all year round is something rarely thought about regarding food, something the film’s producers hope will change.

I’ll admit, the film did portray an impactful yet somewhat one-sided view of an issue, yet it was still eye-opening and a great reminder for anyone and everyone to value where your food comes from. Beyond the gory images and gloomy tone of the film, clear messages were given that anyone can benefit from for a healthy life.

  • Know where your food comes from
  • Buy food that is in season
  • Buy food that is local and sustainable

While thinking about the sushi for lunch this afternoon I couldn’t help but think about where it came from. The realization that my once frozen fish, vacuum sealed in a plastic bag probably did not come from a beautiful bubbling brook, river, lake or ocean, but rather an overcrowded pool on an industrial farm, fed a diet of corn rather than food it would normally consume in its natural environment was an illusion shattering thought. The burger I ate for dinner the night before consisting of meat from a multitude of cows raised on overcrowded farms knew deep in their own waste started to feel a bit unsettling.

It’s interesting to see the trend of restaurants thinking more and more about their food, promoting locally grown and grass fed beef on their menus for instance. Some do this because it is aligned with their mission while others do it because of consumer preference. Americans are starting to care about what they eat.

Watching the film and thinking about my food from farm to plate reminded me of a discussion about Thomas Keller in Michael Ruhlman’s book, The Soul of a Chef and Bill Buford’s account in his book Heat. Each chef went through a process of discovery bringing them closer to the food source while also giving them a deeper respect for it. I’ve started to get closer my food sources participating in a Meat CSA with Chestnut Farms and look forward to buying fresh and locally sustainable food from farmer’s markets. My resolve definitely has been strengthened, and that’s the point of it all. The film promotes activism and participation of consumers in legislation about food as well as getting closer to their food sources, making healthy decisions and eating better one person at a time. I am glad I went to see this movie and hope to obtain more knowledge about the issues presented in it as I continue my culinary journey.

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Supporting Your Local Farmer Through CSAs

Be A Local Here, Buy Locally Grown
Be A Local Here, Buy Locally Grown

I was about to leave work now when I received an email from Chestnut Farms, a local farm in Massachusetts, welcoming me into their meat CSA. This is really exciting news. I learned about them and their meat CSA a few weeks ago at lunch with my friend Erik. He is part of the program and after hearing about it I knew I wanted to join.

CSAs as they are referred to stands for Community Supported Agriculture. The idea is that members contribute contribute to a share of a farming program in return for locally grown meat and/or vegetables depending on the farm. It’s great both farmers and consumers as it it allows for both to connect. Farmers also get the added benefit of a guaranteed demand for their livestock or produce while consumers gain a better awareness of where their food comes from in addition to a fresher and healthier product. A sustainable farm shares a limited amount of shares as the farm must be able to sustain it’s livestock or vegetables by utilizing the land that they have instead of buying feed or chemical fertilizer from outside sources. This requires the changing of grazing areas and the rotation of crops on a regular basis, just as nature intended.

Most of us buy our meat from the supermarket or butcher. It comes wrapped in a package and is practically indistinguishable from its live form, often treated with chemicals or dyes to make it look fresh. While I’ll be picking my meat up at a distribution site once a month, the farm encourages share members to visit and see where their food comes from. I like the idea that I can drive to the farm, see how the animals are treated and cared for. I k now I will feel confident that the food I will be eating is as healthy as it can be and that the animals have been treated and slaughtered humanely.

I signed up for the lowest share to start which provides me with 10 pounds of meat a month consisting of pork, beef, chicken, turkey and lamb. I’m really excited about getting meat from a local farm that is grown without the use of hormones or other artificial means.  The commitment for each share lasts 6 months and is available for pick-up at many different locations in surrounding towns; I chose a pick-up site in the town that I grew up in.

At the moment I see three drawbacks of joining a program like this. The first and obvious one is price. It does cost a bit more to buy the meat through the CSA than at the supermarket, but when I think about about what I am getting I am ok with this. Secondly, I have to pick it up at a certain time and place each month whether I need it or not. This means that I have to keep that day free for my pickup or ask my parents to help me out if they are around. It also means that I could run out of meat and have to buy it at the supermarket anyway or that I could have leftover meat which I have to store in my freezer. The other thing which is not really a drawback but a change is the lack of choice in meat. Depending on the time of year and the availability on the farm, my meat share contents will change each month. This actually makes sense and is more natural as not all meat is “in season” all year round. Being able to eat meat or pork any day of the year is only a modern phenomenon which draws gasps of disbelief when pointed out. My share starts in June and I’ll provide updates as I make my pickups

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