Get In My Belly: A Fresh Table Update

Red Ooze It’s been a while. Way back when, in the Epicurean Era known as “May, 2009,” I discussed starting a little something-something over the summer, an eating experiment called, dun dun dun:

The Fresh Table Experiment.

The goal there was, as Michael Pollan puts it, to eat products that are more “food” than “food science.”

Seems like a good time to update, what with summer tapering off soon enough.

How’d I do? Let’s go with a tentative “not bad.”

Over the course of the last three-and-a-half months, I think I’ve been in a grocery store a total of three times, each time to buy lunchmeat for my wife’s sandwiches. Now, yes, I’ve gone to Target and purchased the occasional food product — though always things I really couldn’t have made myself. Corn chips, okay, I could probably make, but fuck that. Soy sauce, no, I’m not fermenting soy beans in my house. Plus, anything I buy, I take a look at the ingredients. Not to see if it’s strictly “organic,” but just to check if the actual components of this food are actual food, or bizarre alchemical products scraped from lead tanks after secret government weapons tests. If a corn chip includes ingredients like “dimethylcortisone flakes” or “energon cubes,” I won’t buy ‘em. If the corn chip includes ingredients like “corn” and “chips,” then, heck yes.

The Farmers Market has therefore been my point-of purchase for stuff. Which has been equal parts fun and delicious. The Farmers Market is a hoot, actually. Down-to-earth farmers. Crazy dudes selling awesome honey. People who dress up their dogs. Historical societies, people who make their own soap, local cookie makers, and so on, and so forth.

So, let’s go over a handful of the things that we at Der Wendighaus, Inc. (a Terribleminds sister company!) have learned:

  1. Raw Milk Will Not Kill You. No, really, it won’t. My wife’s been drinking it regularly. At no point did the milk represent a “loaded gun” in her mouth. It’s also tastier. Yes, pasteurization was a big awesome invention, and Louis Pasteur still deserves a trophy and a thumbs-up. But, people act like it’s the only reason milk got safer. Anyone hear of refrigeration? Funny little future science, keeps things cold? Like, say, milk? No? Not ringing a bell?
  2. Raw Milk Will Not Miraculously Heal You. Trust me, the Fresh Table Experiment is woefully non-scientific. That being said, while raw milk didn’t kill anybody in this house, I don’t think it cured anybody in this house of radical ailments. I still have syphilis and a supernumerary nipple that oozes shadowy nectar, for example. Now, again, maybe raw milk had subtle gastrointestinal or mood-based effects, but I don’t think so. I do think that raw milk is tasty, and if you like milk and are in Pennsylvania, it’s worth finding a sanctioned maker of said milk.
  3. It Might Be Time To Rethink Fat And Cholesterol. I’ve done some calorie and nutrition counting. In making foods that are non-processed, I also threw expected food cautions to the wind. I used a lot — no, really, a lot — of butter. Saturated fats were a bigger part of the meal; I made it less of a concern during this process (and by less, I mean no concern at all). I used to make a very strong effort to get stuff that was lower-calorie, lower-fat, lower-this, lower-that. And somehow, I got kinda fat. Now, after three-point-five months of eating stuff everybody tells you is bad, I’ve lost weight. Close to 20 pounds. The wife and I had both been told previously that we had high cholesterol (despite the fact I don’t bring a lot of high cholesterol foods into the house). I haven’t had a test yet, but she has recently, and her cholesterol was markedly down. This despite the fact that we’ve upped our cholesterol intake somewhat significantly. Lots of eggs, butter, and the raw milk is… well, a thick, full, whole milk. Oh, and a thing about eggs — eggs continue to be proof that nobody knows what the fuck they’re talking about when it comes to nutrition. A single egg contains almost the amount of cholesterol the American Heart Association says you should have in a whole day. Sounds bad. Except, as it turns out, nutrition and how our bodies process food is still an ongoing mystery, as evidenced by the constant leak of “new information” around food. For example: eggs have lots of cholesterol, but eggs also have a compound that helps you break down that cholesterol. It’s called lecithin. And yet, the myth that eggs are a karate chop to your heart persists, and will persist. (Oh, and never mind the fact that our bodies actually produce and require cholesterol to function properly, just as the body requires fat to operate properly.)
  4. Vegetables Are Fun! Jesus, I sound like some kind of PSA. Shudder. Anyway. Veggies are good stuff. You can do fun things with vegetables. Fruits, too, though it’s vegetables that are more versatile at the dinner table for obvious reasons. I’ve bought a lot of vegetables I’ve never considered before. Hell, just this weekend, I bought tomatoes. Tomatoes. If any of you know me, you’ll know that me buying tomatoes is like a vampire buying bulbs of garlic. Tomatoes squick me the fuck out. I like tomatoes in things. But tomatoes raw, or on a sandwich, gives me the vapors. I’ve been able to overcome most of my food aversions by now, all excepting tomatoes and eggplants. I wouldn’t even buy or handle tomatoes. Just last night, though, I took the tomatoes I purchased, and I roasted those little red bitches in the oven with garlic, onions, oil and herbs, and then I used my immersion blender to turn it into a damn fine pasta sauce. Vegetables are some versatile critters. I bought cabbage. Okra. Hull peas. Swiss chard. Escarole. Mustard greens. Plums (fruit, I know, but so is a tomato, so shut yer trap). This is stuff I’d never buy, and never cook with. It’s been a hoot.
  5. Vegetables Are Fun, Part II: Son Of Leafy Greens. You go to the grocery store, you get spoiled, because everything is in season, all the time. At the Farmers Market, you can only get what’s in season, so it varies your dinner table more than a little. I like that. I like that I can’t get asparagus now. It makes it special, then, when I do get it. (If you had told me, ten years ago, that in the future I’d get excited about fucking asparagus, I’d have kicked you square in the snack pouch. I either have a brain disease, or I’m entering adulthood. Then again, adulthood might just be a brain disease, anyway.)
  6. Some Things Are Worth Buying This Way. Pasture-raised eggs taste eggier. Pork from the pork store tastes… well, porkier. Bread that someone baked today is a billionty times better than bread that came in a bag and might’ve been made in, I dunno, 1989. While I don’t know that I’ve noticed a significant difference in the taste of vegetables, I know where they’re coming from, and I know they haven’t been preserved so they survive a trip from Chile or something, and I know that buying locally means that someone local gets the cash. (Local fruits, though, do taste better than what I’ve bought in the store.)
  7. Then Again, Some Things Aren’t. It’s likely that I haven’t found the proper purveyor yet, but I haven’t found chicken to be worth the overwhelming cost. Also, since I don’t have a root cellar, I’m eventually going to have to go back to buying veggies and fruits from the grocery store, but that’s okay. Stick to the margins of the store and you’re a better eater, I think. Local butter wasn’t much better than store-bought butter, taste-wise, though you might decide to stick local to try to avoid some of the potential additives.
  8. Processed and Overprocessed = Different. Any food taken out of its original state is processed. Cooking is a form of food processing. I buy local-made ketchup (drool), and that’s obviously processed. So are the breads. So is the olive oil I buy locally, which uses olives from three different countries but is pressed locally (and is way more delicious than what I get in the store, f’reals). Overprocessed foods are a different matter, and are what line the shelves of your mega-super-market. People are up in arms about high fructose corn syrup, but then are happy to wolf down foods that have “hydrofecal ethyl-sodium iglootimate,” or “Nyarlathotep #9.” If your food has to go through a dark wormhole to be blessed by the Outer Gods, it’s probably overprocessed. If reciting the ingredients list on a box of cereal summons an imp and binds him to the Breakfast Aisle, it’s probably overprocessed. If one of the ingredients on the list is a bezoar that will reportedly cure the Bubonic Plague, it’s probably… well, you get the point.
  9. My Farmers Market Brings All The Hoity-Toity Fuckheads To The Yard. Actually, the market we go to isn’t bad. But I went to another local one a month or so back, and I lost count when trying to tally up the Mercedes, the Audis, the Lexuses (the Lexii?). String beans were five bucks. A bunch of rich-yet-curiously-dirty hippies were selling these disgusting “raw chips” (think “taste and texture of a screen door”) for like, all the money in my wallet. Lots of khaki. Anyway. You have to know when to separate out the fuckheads from the non-fuckheads, and know that some markets will see significantly higher prices because of the faddishness surrounding the “new food consciousness.” Remember: you can always stop at one of those farm stands on the road. You will find cheap, cheap, cheap vegetables. Green beans for one dollar? Yes. Potatoes, onions, corn, for one dollar? Yes. In this way, it’s economical. Speaking of economical…
  10. It Isn’t As Expensive As I Thought. Early on, it was, because I was like a kid in a candy store. I just bought and bought and bought, because — hey! So much new shit to try! I want to eat that! And that! And ye gods, that! Over time, I pared down my shopping list and developed a routine. I’m a pretty big mathtard, but from my crude finger-counting it looks like at the end of the day we’re not spending more money than I did at the grocery store in a given week.

12 comments

  • Nicely done and admirably prepared, but I call bullshit. If you saw something had energon cubes in it, I do believe you’d buy one of it. If just to know.

  • My process this summer has been less formal, but almost a direct parallel. Well written, sir.

    Except for the tomato bit. Tomatoes are definitive proof of the existence of a loving and benevolent God and anyone who says otherwise should know His loving and benevolent wrath.

    • Tomatoes are great, as long as I don’t have to eat them raw, that’s all I’m saying.

      But glad to hear I’m not the only one on this path. Have you found yourself feeling healthier, too?

      — c.

  • I love raw tomatoes. My lasagnes and bologneses are often called “Death by Tomato”.

    The very proximity of ketchup makes me retch.

    Horses for courses, like they say.

    Good work on the proper cookery, by the way.

    • Wood:

      Well, sure, but a lasagne or any pasta sauce is going to have cooked tomatoes, not raw tomatoes. (Er, I presume?)

      And ketchup — well, if you’re willing to try home-made or farm-made ketchup, it’s worth it. It tastes… entirely different. I love both, really.

      — c.

  • Your bit about eggs reminded me that I heard a guy in the food media say once that no matter what anybody tells you, “scientific” knowledge of nutrition today resembles the “medical” knowledge of about 1800.

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