Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Beef, it aint for dinner

So, I am now grossed out. After sufficient footage of downer cows being cattle prodded, shoved with forklifts, and walking on seemingly backward-growing legs; after seeing bizarre fatty tumors in the middle of a muscle on a loin of supposedly USDA Prime beef as I cut it; after recalls and recalls and recals; I am done. I am no longer choosing beef as a meat. I will eat it for professional reasons, but not indiscriminately.

Of course, I will look for options in humanely raised beef. I will seek out grass-fed, well-tended flocks as soon as I can. I will bring to the table clean and safe beef. As a chef, it is my duty.

But as an eater, I am completely in love with the pig right now. It is a holy animal, edible from tail to snout, easy to grow, easy to preserve, easy to eat. Why worry about infected beef supply when we are already cooking pork to safe temperatures and the lure of tartare is not there? Why have a steak when a sexy young generation of butchers are creating poetry with swine? Why worry about marbeling and pay $25/# for Prime steer loin when well-marbled pork loin is at most 1/4 that price? And what is the beef equivalent of jambon serrano, prosciutto, or Virginia ham? And the beef equivalent of bacon? We pay a bunch of money for beef steaks and turn the rest, some 85%, int cheap burger meat. Completely unsustainable.

Viva la Swine! The only thing you can't produce out of a pig is good whiskey.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Ten Food Goals for 2008

So it is February 3. I don't care. Here is what I will be doing about my relationship to food in 2008:

1. Convert my home eating to more local. Call it laziness, or lack of planning, but I got awfully far from being a good locavore. We do way better at the restaurants than I do in the house. I'll subscribe to a CSA, order my swine and chicken from farmers, hit the farmers' markets at least once a week, and get back on the program.

2. Focus on the quality of every single ingredient. This is obvious, and I should do this with every waking second of my work life, but I am going to go back to previous decisions and touch consider every over-looked ingredients to make sure we are cooking with the best products possible. This is the year I switch Mad Mex to all local pork. This is the year I get Elysian Fields in Mad Mex. This is the year I make the spices better. I am going to get a better avocado. This is the year of the perfect ingredient.

3. Eduction. I have the unique position that my ruminations on food can reach a lot of people. Not, of course, from this little lark, but from speaking at various events, the newsletter, and TV. I will continue to talk about great ingredients and good eating, but never preaching. I believe that there is an eating crisis in the US, that people eat junk all day every day, and that we all need to reconsider what goes in our bellies. But I think that I can lure that horse along with the fresh carrot and avoid the preachy BMI stick as much as possible.

4. I will increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables in my diet and make a better example to all around me. If it kills me. Really. I will also eat fewer slabs of cold, braised pork belly from the walk-in cooler. Because this will kill me eventually.

5. I will drink better wine, and maybe a little less of it. I will expand my wine palate to the enjoyment of new regions and grapes (to me). I will pay even more attention to the pairing of wine and food. Goodbye savings account.

6. I will become as much an expert on Mexican food and tequila as I can. (This is a vow every year, but worth noting every year).

7. I will cook more. Home, work, wherever.

8. I hope to transition my food writing to more humor, more information, and more quality of content. Less schmaltzy remembering and silly commentary. See item #3.

9. Like things more. I want to enjoy what I eat more. I'll still identify opportunities for improvement in my/our cooking and act upon them but in general I'll really dig what it is that I am eating for what it is. See the person in the food, respect that, and praise it whenever possible.

10. Get my kids to eat more vegetables.

Maybe the last one should be first.

It is going to be a great year. I feel a huge surge of excitement for the world of food and cooking and think, through my many channels of contact to the bellies of the people around me, I can fill them with happier product.

Time to eat!