Archive for May 2016

Are You A Food Snob?

Are you one of those who doesn’t pick up ready-made meals or other prepared foods? Yeah…us too! I see shoppers at Wholefoods with their baskets laden with these items and was totally blown away by the fridge “walls” stuffed with ready-made meals at M & S Simply Foods in Chelsea, London. It was amazing to be in that shop around 6:00 PM!

DSCN0030 nx2This brings me to ready-mades in Italy. In Rome at the sketchy Todis we noticed all sorts of frozen stuff just waiting to be popped into the nearest microwave! In Italy? Shocking I know! However, we managed to restrain ourselves! Yes, when on vacation, we have been known to purchase bagged salad greens, cheeses, perhaps some caponata or prosciutto and a loaf of bread from fabulous deli’s to throw together a quick, light dinner after trudging around seeing the sights all day…but we are always on the lookout for fresh produce and a proper butcher shop.

The other night hubby and I were having a conversation about how people cook and how much convenience food they buy and the cost of those items. I get sticker shock when I see something like prepared spaghetti and meatballs that only require re-heating. It also surprises me that people are willing to pay that kind of money to eat what can only be referred to as “leftovers.”

I belong to FB groups that include a bunch of terrific cooks who cook from scratch and are proud to support farmers markets in their towns and cities as we do. It’s such a pleasure for a cook to work with top notch seasonal ingredients. Not only that, the food tastes so much better…and I am not saying everything has to be organic, just great quality, fresh and grown with respect.

A little bug-a-boo of mine are jars of ready-made pasta sauces lining the shelves and in shopper’s baskets at grocery stores. The stuff ain’t cheap folks and I can guarantee that if you went to all the trouble of opening a tin of Italian plum tomatoes (obviously San Marzano would be the preference) but not everyone feels like spending $5.00 on a 28 oz. tin of tomatoes…even though they don’t seem to mind coming up with the same or more for a jar of pasta sauce, that in my opinion is so removed, so inferior and just plain mediocre, from a homemade sauce. That jar of ready-made may be enough for a lb. of pasta (depending on how you dress your pasta) whereas a simple tomato, olive oil and garlic sauce that can be embellished with onions, fresh herbs and peperoncino (chili flakes) costs somewhat less, goes further, tastes 100% better and you can actually count on your fingers the ingredients. There is nothing like a simple home-made tomato sauce that takes 20 minutes to cook while your pot of water comes to the boil! Whew…I knew I felt a rant coming on! Click here for the link to my easy-peasy tomato sauce.

And then there is Salmon….where should I begin? Canada has just approved the sale of GMO’d Salmon to the public!!! Not on your Nellie! Wouldn’t touch the stuff with a barge pole! Back in the day Salmon was a seasonal fish not meant to be over-fished or grown in pens so it can be put on dinner plates as many times as desired during the week. It was something that was considered a treat, the same goes for Halibut…when not in season there are other fish in the sea!

So…has the time come in our evolution that if we cook from scratch as much as possible with real ingredients and in-season produce allowing us to put good food on our tables, we are now considered “Food Snobs?” Whenever I hear about food recalls for things like Salmonella or Listeria, it’s very scary but maybe the majority is simply willing to take that chance?

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Then There Was Cheese!

Have you ever had a thought that keeps popping up every now and again?

Well…in my case one of these is “daddy, where does cheese come from?” Or should I say “how did we come to have this wonderful stuff called cheese?” Every time I watch someone making cheese on a T.V. programme I just shake my head  wondering who or how they came up with the concept?

DSCN2992 nx2It’s something that I find mysterious and some sort of alchemy. Have you ever wondered about all the different countries that make cheeses using basically the same ingredient, milk of some kind but ending up with absolutely different results and not all tasting the same…maybe I should get a life but I do wonder!

Maybe it was an accident that it occurred at all!

There are hundreds of types of cheese from various countries; the style, texture and flavor depends on the origin of the milk, what the animal eats, whether the cheese has been pasteurized, what the butterfat content is, the bacteria and mold, the processing and finally, the aging.

There is research saying it was at least 7,000 years ago that humans started making cheese. The first cheeses were basic and somehow they figured out how to separate the milk into solids (curds) from the liquid (whey). I tip my hat to those folks!

Aristaeus, a god of ancient Greek mythology, was worshiped as the protector or flocks and shepherds, cheese-making, bee-keeping, olives and grape vines.

During Roman times, cheese was an everyday food and cheese-making a mature art. Pliny’s “Natural History” includes a chapter describing the diversity of cheeses enjoyed by Romans of the early Empire. The amazing thing is that cheeses from the Alps and Apennines were as remarkable for their variety then as now!

In Europe cheeses diversified further when Romanized people came into contact with peoples from other regions who had their own cheese-making traditions. Many cheeses available today were first recorded in the late Middle Ages. Cheeses like Cheddar were recorded around 1500, Parmesan in 1597, Gouda in 1697 and Camembert in 1791.

The British Cheese Board claims Britain has approximately 700 distinct local cheeses! Having been to England, where I have never eaten so many delicious cheeses in a couple of weeks, I can only say we have a lot more tasting to do! Beenleigh Blue, our favourite to date; is a farmhouse, unpasteurized, organic, vegetarian, blue cheese made from sheep’s milk. Its more than worth seeking out and is produced by Ben Harris of Ticklemore Cheese Company. It was awesome! By comparison, France and Italy have perhaps only 400 cheeses each.

Every trip we take includes suggestions for some serious cheese tasting…

Pick yourself up some amazing cheese, open a bottle of wine, kick back and enjoy!  Salute!

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