A Book Review on Perlmutter

A Review By Dor

Brain Maker by David Perlmutter, MD

Dor photo by David CrowI’m simultaneously sad and exhilarated when scientists catch up with cooks and say things like, “A medical revolution is underway…”and when you continue reading the conclusion is that we all need to eat homemade sauerkraut. Honestly, haven’t our Hungarian grandmas been telling us all along to eat pickles because they’re so good for us? Haven’t our Korean grandmas been putting kimchi into everything else forever? My new favorite book is The Brain Maker by David Perlmutter, MD (of Grain Brain fame, I adore this man). A medical revolution that affirms what traditional cooks have known all along is my kind of revolution.

What I didn’t know – and what I’m so thrilled to learn – is how profoundly the content of our guts affects the functioning of our brains. From ADHD and autism in children to the rising tide of early dementia, people from the so-called civilized world suffer often-preventable debilitating brain disorders. No matter what Suppers meeting you go to – blood sugar, digestive disorders, vegan, omnivore, low carb, carb addicts – people complain of brain fog and mental fatigue. Perlmutter says it all starts with your microbiome, the vast population of organisms that inhabit our gut and outnumber our own cells ten to one!

I am of the “Eat-a- pound-of- dirt-before kindergarten” school of thought, a gardener who seeks to avoid putting city water on my spinach and berries. Now science tells me why, and why I want to grow the organisms that come in from my garden by lactofermenting – just about everything. Allie and I had a productive argument about the relative merits of various kinds of home fermentation. I’m trying all the kinds that don’t involve wheat (although I bet a lot of us could eat a properly fermented sourdough and not suffer).

Check the Suppers calendar for fermentation workshops at North Slope Farm, Terhune Orchards and my house. Charlie and I are doing one on kombucha making and will be sharing our SCOBYs. And doesn’t some one want some of my kefir grains?


Sauerkraut Demistification, By Allie

48465d_e59e795f6cb742439f1316e9dd4a1081Dibs on those kefir grains, by the way. Clarification is important here, both in terms of helping to demystify the process of making your own sauerkrauts and also so that we all understand why we ferment and which fermentations are the best ones to perform. Let’s dive into the science a little bit.

Lacto-Fermentation

Very basically, the process of lacto-fermentation utilizes the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, as well as other probiotics, or lactic acid bacterium (LAB). These special organisms are present on foods that grow close to the ground and they do the best when they are in an anaerobic fermenting environment – which just means an environment without oxygen.

That environment is extremely important to the process because the environment dictates which bacteria are going to be present. We want to harbor the good guys only – the probiotics we discussed before – the places where they thrive -like salty, acidic brines – are also the places where harmful bacterium don’t want to be! 

If you’ve done things correctly then you will have created an environment which first kills off all of the bad bacteria (because they don’t like the salt and need oxygen) and then allows the lactobacillius to start working on converting sugars into lactic acid. That acid is why fermented foods have that bold tanginess!

That’s the science for you. Here’s a comforting thought though – whether you understand all that bacteria/probiotic/cillius discussion or not, the process itself is really quite simple.

Sauerkraut

Step One: Slice cabbage as thinly as you can. Don’t forget to take out the core! You can also slice up any other veggies you want to ferment with the cabbage. Dino kale is a good one, leafy herbs, carrots and other crunchy vegetables – go nuts.

IMG_1777
Cut a triangle AROUND the core in your halved cabbage and remove. Shred the rest.

Step Two: Add salt – usually 1 Tablespoon of salt per head of cabbage – and start to massage and squeeeeeeeeeeeeeze that cabbage. Massage it like you are massaging a pro wrestler’s shoulders, even if you don’t want to have to do that. Use the same amount of strength. You are finished when you can lift a handful of cabbage and squeeze that fistfull and water streams out of your fist.

After that happens you are available to add some liquid flavor – throw some water, ginger, jalapeno, garlic, lemon peel, orange peel, etc. – anything you want – into a blender. Blend it up and mix in with kraut before packing into the jar.

Step Three: Pack tightly into a glass, wide mouthed Ball jar. Make sure to pack it really tightly to create that anaerobic environment!

IMG_3512

Step Four: This is the easy part – wait. You can do all sorts of things to try and keep the vegetables underneath the liquid brine that is created.

Some folks put a small glass jar with some water or marbles in there to hold the veggies down. There are even special sauerkraut pots that they sell where you can put water in the moat and keep the air out. Don’t worry, it’s only $150 for the pot. Or you can use a two dollar mason jar (and that’s when they’re not on sale).

s-l1000

Probably the easiest thing to do is what Dor does – just make sure the water is there and visit your jar daily. With a spoon, press veggies down underneath the brine at least once per day for three days. Keep the metal lid of the jar – just the lid, not the screw top over the jar to help keep out air, dust, and bugs but other than that…not much to worry about.

Keep tasting – by the third day your kraut should be beginning to have that classic tangy taste. In a week she should be done fermenting and can be popped in the fridge!


IMG_3515

Sauerkraut

1 medium head green cabbage, shredded
1 Tablespoon salt
1/2 bunch kale, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, thinly sliced
1 1-inch piece ginger
1 clove garlic, peeled
3/4 cup water

1. Place cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Begin massaging the cabbage very forcefully, breaking down cell walls and drawing water out of the cabbage. Continue squeezing and processing cabbage until water streams out of fistfulls.
2. Add kale and carrot, continue massaging until kale is wilted.
3. In a blender, combine ginger, garlic, and water and process until liquid or mostly broken down. Pour over vegetables and toss until mixture coats vegetables.
4. Pack into glass jars very tightly and continue adding and packing kraut until jar is almost full.
5. Each day press vegetables down underneath the brine with a clean spoon. Make sure there is enough brine to mostly cover veggies. Taste on the third day and allow to continue fermenting for about 1 week. Some sauerkrauts take longer depending on the room temperature. When done, refrigerate! Kraut keeps up to 3 months or so in a refrigerator.

*There should be liquid at the top of the jar once packed. If not, it’s possible you did not process vegetables enough or perhaps you need to add brine. Give it a day and if the liquid level is still a concern then make brine with 1 cup water mixed with 1 teaspoon salt.*

Advertisements

My Hungarian Grandma

A Welcome From Dor

Dor photo by David Crow

I have never done a formal study on the demographics of Suppers meetings, but I’m going to say with unscientific confidence that we attract a disproportionate percentage of non-American-born women.

This makes sense to me. They seek us out because we have a food ethic that more closely resembles that of their country of origin and they bond readily with others who share more traditional values around food.

Actually – and to tell you the truth — I’m smug about it.

I savor the righteous indignation that I shouldn’t be feeling as the founder of Suppers because it’s Oh-so-judgmental to feel that way.  I enjoy the holier-than-thou feelings that rise when the New York Times “exposes” things you and I have been saying for years about processed foods.  I’m going to re-double my efforts to actively practice non-judgment for everyone but traffickers of junk food.  In the meantime, let Eva and Allie inspire you to do something really important; it’s time to start making pickles.


Eva’s Story: My Hungarian Grandma

When I was a little girl in Hungary my grandmother used to preserve all sorts of vegetables from her garden. At that time fresh (which meant not processed, but not really fresh because they were imported) vegetables were not available in Hungary during the winter months and I was told to eat our pickled vegetables because they had lots of vitamin C. I did not need much persuasion; I loved the sour taste. Our favorites were pickled cucumbers, green tomatoes, peppers, and cabbage.

Sauerkraut was our number-one favorite in winter and in summer we loved pickled cucumbers best.

Starting in May we made pickled cucumbers almost every week. As soon as one jar was gone, the next was already out in the sun waiting to be “done.” It was not a big deal for us but a way of life. 

Now in America three decades later, I signed up for a fermentation course at a health food store. I did not know exactly what it was about (we never used the word “fermentation” in Hungary, we just pickled our vegetables) but it seemed interesting and healthy. The master fermenter gave a long introduction about the health benefits of fermented foods. He also talked about his childhood; he learned to ferment from his Slovakian grandmother. As Hungary and Slovakia are neighboring countries. I thought maybe I had heard about this process; it sounded very familiar. When he switched from “Why lactobacilli are healthy” to “how to ferment” I had a strange feeling of discovery – evidently I grew up “fermenting” vegetables. 

Only now do I realize the value of what Grandma taught me. My favorite sauerkraut has not only vitamin C but also vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12, E, K, niacin, iron, copper, and more. It regulates fat digestion and cholesterol, strengthens heart muscles, and stimulates cell growth. It has anti-cancer properties and, last but not least, is a very effective treatment for hangovers! 

I came to the Suppers program because I wanted to learn about healthy eating. I started reading the information on the website and I must adit it intrigued me. How can people live without wheat, dairy, and sugar? What is left to eat?

The Suppers Programs has been the best health investment I have ever made.

At Suppers we talk about the spirit of creativity, which to me means the healing force that rises when we feel we are actively participating in creating the program. This is how I felt when I brought samples of my fermented vegetables to share at a meeting. There was great enthusiasm among members who wanted to learn to do this. When I teach them how, my Hungarian Grandma will be sitting next to me, smiling. “These are just pickles.” Just?


Pickled Veggies for Eva, By Allie

48465d_e59e795f6cb742439f1316e9dd4a1081Uh, I don’t know about you guys but when I initially discovered home fermentation and looked at the directions, I was intimidated. Dor and Eva might be pros but Allie O’Brien (and a bunch of folks I talk to, too) did not begin her education on home fermentation with confidence.

Sure, probiotic rich foods are good. Sauerkraut that comes out of plastic bags is yucky. Fermented foods have, like, all of the B Vitamins and give you all the right tools. But it’s a murky, mysterious world in those jars. And I’m like…

“What is that, is that mold?!?!?!”
“We’re supposed to sanitize EVERYTHING when it comes to wine and beer but we don’t even WASH vegetables when fermenting? Uh…”
“What is schtooping? We’re supposed to ‘schtoop’ the cabbage? I thought that was a bad word in Yiddish?”
“I’m scared.”

So I started with pickles, myself, it just seemed easier really. I did want to get better at making kraut and in actuality Dor has totally demystified that process for me by offering visual cues: cabbage should be streaming with water, that’s not enough salt, put some kale in there, that’s too much salt (this one has little recourse unless you have more cabbage or more vegetables). So I’m learning.

But it’s just…her kraut is about 900 times better tasting than mine. Not only that but also I constantly discover millions of different types of krauts that come churning out of her kitchen with astonishing regularity and I get to taste them! My favorite is when she does the kraut with the kumquats in it – omg. So good. I call it “orange juice sauerkraut” and I can actually enjoy the flavor again finally because straight OJ hurts my tummy and I’m allergic to it, no matter what Ned and Farmer David say. I’m allergic to orange juice.

You guys. Dor is the queen of sauerkraut. Seriously.

So I figure I should probably stick to pickles. Last summer I had an overabundance of cucumbers (I know, huge problems over here) and decided to have my GSCK kids try out some pickles. Since I had never made them before I looked through some of my cookbooks: Nourishing Traditions, Alice Water’s cookbook, and Cook’s Illustrated, and in the end I did what a lot of people do: I went on the internet.

Ted Allen (not Tim Allen, that’s the Home Improvement guy – TED Allen is the foodie dude from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy). He had a recipe for Refrigerator Pickles and it looked pretty easy. 

Well folks, it just reaffirmed things: fermenting vegetables is straightforward but not easy unless you are trained by hand. His amounts were WAY OFF – so off that I have spent almost a year making this recipe again and again and again, trying to justify the amounts suggested in his recipe and then fix them accordingly and today I almost got it. So let’s do it. In the world of fermentation, this is probably as simple as it gets. 

Pickled Pickles Pickled Pickles Pickled Pickles! Yay!

Step One: Prepare all your vegetables. We’re using Kirby Cucumbers, carrot, broccoli, garlic, cilantro, and scallion. You can use jalapeño, summer beans, dill, fennel, etc. You can use anything, ok? Anything.

DSC_0153.jpg

Step Two: Boil 2 cups of water. Ted Allen first said to boil FOUR CUPS of water but that couldn’t have been more wrong. I was like, “Ted Allen, have you ever actually made this before?” Cause that’s how wrong it was. Boil, then simmer 2 cups of water and toss in the garlic, let it cook for 5 minutes or so.

It still made too much brine so if you are feeling adventurous, boil 1 cup water and see if that is too harsh with the vinegar. That’s ultimately what you have to balance with the water.

DSC_0154

Step Three: Take out two 1-quart jars (I’m using plastic containers because all of my jars are occupied, I know, plastic = bad, glass = good) and measure spices into the jars. Add any sprig you are using – today I’m using cilantro because I want to see if it works or if it is too delicate and gets slimy.

Once you’ve done that, pack veggies TIGHTLY into jars – Ted Allen was also wrong about the amounts of veg suggested. He must have magical Mary Poppins jars where you can add like triple the amount of things that would normally fit. Or he didn’t recipe test. Just add until you can’t add anymore and save whatever is leftover for another cooking project.

DSC_0161

Yes that’s coffee ok I didn’t get to the blog until this morning I’m sorry!

Step Four: Finish the brine with vinegar and salt, then separate out the garlic into jars and pour the brine. Cool, refrigerate, enjoy within a few hours! Pickles always taste better the next day and they last up to 3 months! If they make it past a week, that is.

DSC_0162


Refrigerator Pickles

2 cups water
10 cloves garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
6 teaspoons salt
2 cups white vinegar
4 sprigs fresh dill, anise, thyme, or cilantro (success pending)
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
6 kirby cucumbers, halved lengthwise
1 large carrot, peeled and thickly sliced
1 large scallion, thickly sliced into coins
8 broccoli florets
*additional items include 1 cup summer beans, 2 jalapeño peppers, summer squash, kale, cauliflower, bell peppers, red onion – you name it

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add garlic. Allow garlic to cook for 5 minutes. Add vinegar and salt, raise heat to a boil, dissolving salt. Remove from heat.
  2. In two 1-quart jars, separate sprigs of herbs. Divide seeds and peppercorns between jars. Then remove garlic cloves from the brine using tongs or a spoon and separate evenly between jars.
  3. Pack jars full of vegetables very tightly.
  4. Pour brine over vegetables to cover completely. Let cool on the counter, then cover and refrigerate. Pickles will taste good after a few hours but will be much better after a few days and will keep up to 3 months.

To all of you who came out for the Suppers Founder’s Day Fundraiser and supported The Suppers Programs – thank you!!!! Give us some love by checking out our Instagram @suppersprograms and here’s the link to our Facebook page and our website too!

 

Zita Serves a Stone

A Welcome By Dor

Dor photo by David CrowIn all my years of parenting and feeding children, I never did anything as clever as my friend Zita, a Suppers facilitator who took Suppers with her when she moved to Florida.

I hid vegetables in spaghetti sauce; I made sure there was nothing but raw vegetables and fruits around when the kids were “starving”; I bribed; I brainwashed; and I told them they would die of vegetable malnutrition if they didn’t eat their vegetables. But I never served them a stone.

To this day, Zita Serves a Stone is my favorite Suppers story.  I identify with the frustration.
I feel the pain of a mother who knocks herself out trying to raise children who have been hijacked by the American junk food culture. I’m warmed by the love and humor in Zita’s solution.

If you think serving a stone to children who don’t eat their food is a good idea, at least put some jam on it. See Allie’s super easy recipe for refrigerator peach jam.

Zita’s Story: Zita Serves a Stone

When I was growing up the relationship between parents and children was very different from what I’m experiencing now with my own children. For one thing, I grew up in Europe in a close-knit family. We respected our parents. We learned from them and knew we needed them. Homework was meant to be done, and we ate the food that was given to us. 

That is not how it is for me in America. At a Suppers meeting attended mostly by mothers who are struggling to improve their children’s food choices, I commiserated with them. I shared that I have three beautiful children who have a completely different attitude toward adults.

My nine-year-old tells me that if his homework doesn’t get done, that’s too bad for the teacher; personally, he’s fine with it! His brother claims he was born just to skateboard.

None of them have a taste for the traditional homemade foods that are so familiar and comforting to me. Their palates are American. The older they get, the harder it is to find ways to teach them to appreciate the flavor of real food.

Do you want to hear a story? The other day I made a brown rice cooked cereal for breakfast for my sons. It is steel cut so it is a bit chewy, even after you cook it for an hour. I also made fresh apricot jelly for them as a topping, also for bribing. Then one of my darlings says, “Mommy, it is not possible to eat this, it is like a stone.”

After a brief discussion with him where neither party persuaded the other, I went out to the garden, found a nice piece of stone, washed it and served it on a plate with my fresh apricot jelly on top. All three kids became quiet immediately and looked at me in total shock.

“If it is a stone, eat the real thing.” I said. “I’ll finish your cereal.” He was so surprised that I was not kidding, and finally said he would eat the rice cereal instead. And he did!

Sometimes my children need a jolt. I have to do something crazy and unexpected to get their attention and let them know I mean business. A friend at Suppers said she also had to grab her children’s attention. But who has the patience, energy, time, and creativity to come up with something crazy all the time? I certainly do not. Although I must admit, I can’t wait for one of them to tell me that dinner tastes like cardboard.


Zesty Jam for Zita, By Allie

48465d_e59e795f6cb742439f1316e9dd4a1081The other week I did a cooking demonstration for a trained Suppers facilitator who was holding an outdoor family yoga class. There was a young girl there whose focus was pretty difficult to maintain through a couple of the activities I witnessed. Since the demo was outdoors I decided to make a salad – Quinoa Tabbouleh – with fresh tomatoes, scallions, parsley, lemon, oil, and salt. First thing this kid says:

“I don’t LIKE quinoa.” I’m like,

“Well today we’re going to try it in a different way.” Few minutes later,

“I don’t LIKE tomatoes.” I’m like,

“Have you ever tried tomatoes WITH quinoa? Sometimes foods we don’t like end up tasting really good when they’re made a different way or combined with other foods.”

And always I try to sail quickly past the back-and-forth discussion, past the bribing with treats to follow, past long explanations, everything. I just inform the child(ren) that they are going to try it and that’s that – because I know what my secret weapons are: 

  1. I’m not their parent, I’m a new person and most kids aim to please, if only for their own personal attempts to be seen as “good.” This is useless if you are their parent, however, I’ve had the same kids for three years now and they still chow down on some veggies without any battles.
  2. I know that, pretty much no matter what, any kid in my clutches will eat, or at least try, whatever I want them to because I’m not going to be making it for them. They are. And that’s the difference you can work with.

I don’t have kids and I don’t want ’em. Ever since the invention of the personal screen and fruit roll-ups, kids have become ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, I love them – they say amazing things, they make me smile, they present constant learning experiences and challenges for adults, and it’s cool to watch a person figure things out for the first time. But jeez. Kids today require so much more everything because everywhere they go they are everythinged. You can blame whoever you want for that one – commercials, Steve Jobs, white sugar, No Child Left Behind, little league trophies, or parents – and you wouldn’t be wrong but you’d be no closer to the solution. 

The little girl in my demo slipped on a pair of gloves that were only a little too big and started to mix the cooked and cooled Quinoa. I quickly showed her how to gently lift and fold salad over with her hands and she got it. Some spilled out of the bowl but whatever. As I added each following ingredient I explained what it was and why we needed it for our salad. I explained how lemon zest adds flavor and nutrition. I showed her how to zest a lemon and she did it – poorly – but she did it and I’m pretty positive that was the first time she ever held a Microplane in her entire short life. She juiced the fruit with my citrus squeezer. She flavor balanced and added some salt. She tasted her way to completion. I was just her measuring cup. And her recipe.

In the end she tried a bite of salad with quinoa and tomato. First she closed her eyes, talking herself into the experience, and then quickly she shoved the spoon in her mouth, chewed carefully, eyes closed, and then put her thumb up. She ate a full 1/2 cup before deciding she still didn’t like tomatoes. I told her to keep trying.

I never really figured this out before having kids cooking in my kitchen. It just happened because at the GSCK things get a little hectic and my time is mostly spent fielding zillions of questions and troubleshooting – there’s no time for Chef Allie to actually cook. So the kids do it all and…well, they own it. They own their work, they’re proud of themselves. They cooked that okra (that they also grew) in some vinegar with some sea salt and now they want to eat it because they made it. I never had to fight about how okra is good and vegetables are good – it’s not really the point anymore. 

There is something you should know if you are going to embark on this I’m-not-cooking-you-are thing – kids are TERRIBLE at following recipes. They NEVER read through the procedural steps, they just throw everything in a bowl and then they’re like…”Oh. It says we were supposed to ‘blah blah blah’ now what do we do, Allie! What do we do?!!” It drives me insane. It’s my next problem to solve.

Good thing making jam is so forgiving. Let’s talk about that now.

JAM ON IT

Oh my GOD making jam is SO EASY I can’t believe people actually spend money on jars of store bought jam. Once upon a time I was like, “I’m going to start a jam company!” and then I was like, “I’m going to get into non-profit!” and now I’m like, “Shoot, I could have been rich.” It’s ok because I really love sharing recipes with everybody so I probably would have driven myself out of business anyways.

Step One: Choose your ingredients. You need 5 cups of roughly chopped fruit. If it’s a small strawberry I don’t even bother to cut it, seriously. That’s what potato mashers are for. Usually what I do is take my 4-cup glass Pyrex and just fill it all the way to the top with fruit. Like this:

DSC_0096

Today I’m using peaches because it’s May and I will patiently wait for fresh local strawberries, and also stonefruit is pretty low glycemic – my thing is making really low sugar jam.

There are two ways to do this:

  1. Cook your fruit down over low heat for a long time. The color won’t be as bright and it takes longer and it doesn’t taste as, like, “WOAH” but it works.
  2. Use Ball’s No-Sugar-Needed Pectin.

It looks like this:

realfruit_low_sugar_flex_batch.jpg

You can find it at most grocery stores but it used to be only at Wegmans. I’ve found that Target has the best price on pectin (and mason jars) unless Shoprite is having a sale. It’s not at Whole Foods but I bet it’s at McCaffrey’s.

Step Two: Get your other ingredients ready. I use 3 Tablespoons of lemon juice, 3 Tablespoons of my pectin, and like 3-4 ish Tablespoons of coconut palm sugar.

DSC_0107

Do you know how much sugar normally goes into jam? Try like SEVEN TO NINE CUPS OF SUGAR for FOUR CUPS OF FRUIT. That’s what the recipes say anyways. That’s CRAZY.

DSC_0110You do not need that much sugar. Stop it.

This is Coconut Palm Sugar.
It’s a sugar that still has some minerals in there.

When a human consumes processed, bleached sugar the biological processing and zooming fast use of the sugar steals minerals from the body.

Sweeteners with minerals still present like Molasses, Coconut Palm, Sucanat, even maple syrup or honey give back some of what they take away. 

Honey is tough to use in jam because it’s an invert sugar and invert sugars spread out, they don’t collect and congeal. You can use it but the jam will have a hard time getting jellified.

Step Three: Start with fruit, lemon juice, and pectin. Throw all of those into a stockpot and bring to a rolling boil – it’ll take a bit and you have to keep a pretty close eye on it and stir very frequently. If you are using frozen fruit, let it cook a bit and then use a potato masher to chop it up a bit – it will release some water which you need for the boil. 

DSC_0124

Step Four: Once you’re at a rolling boil, add the sugar and bring it back to a boil. Boil hard for one minute and remove from heat. Stir in herbs now if you are using them. Use sterile jars if you are going to can or, if you’re me, use a ramekin and throw it in the fridge and say to yourself, “Ned will eat it in less than a week.”

Just wait, I’ll be right.


 

DSC_0128

Allie’s Low-Glycemic Peach Thyme Jam
(Refrigerator Version)

5 cups peaches, chopped roughly, skin-on
3 Tablespoons Ball’s No-Sugar-Needed Pectin
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup-ish Coconut Palm Sugar or Sucanat
1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh thyme, minced *optional

1. In a stockpot, over medium high heat, add peaches, pectin, and lemon juice. Stir very frequently until peaches break down a bit. Use a potato masher if necessary.
2. Once mixture begins to bubble, stir constantly and bring fruit to a rolling boil, which is a boil that cannot be stirred down and boils in the middle.
3. Stir in sugar and keep stirring. Bring mixture back to a rolling boil and boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in thyme if you are using herbs.
4. Store in refrigerator for up to 1 month or properly can for indefinite shelf storage. (My jam jars still in the cupboard are coming up on a year old and they’re still going strong.)

That’s it for this week! Thanks for reading, we love The Purple Apron. And we love Purple Aprons. As always, head to Suppers Website for all of your recipe needs and if you are interested in coming to a meeting! Don’t forget to check out our Facebook page or our Instagram @suppersprograms.

Lastly, our fundraiser is THIS SUNDAY! You can support The Suppers Programs, a non-profit organization, by registering for our event HERE. If you can’t attend you can still make a donation. It would be so wonderful if you could help to support this awesome organization so we can keep making blogs and being awesome.

 

Feeding My Children in America

A Welcome By Dor

Dor photo by David Crow

Among our many friends from different cultures, Suppers welcomes quite a few Indian women.  One of them, a physician, told me,

“We have bad genes for diabetes.”  

“Maybe,” I thought to myself. “But it wasn’t until you came here and started eating our food that things got so out of control.” 

I feel like apologizing to everyone who comes here and suffers our hopelessly addicting, processed food supply: my Japanese friend who gave her child coke in his bottle and rotted out his baby teeth, a European whose child ate smoked tongue or whatever she gave him until his first day in an American Elementary School, and now my Indian friends who can’t get their children to eat real food.
Anu figured it out.  She reclaimed her position in the family as the one who sets the rules for and the tone of the dinner scene.  Yes, it took work. But consider the alternative and the consequences.

Anu’s Story: Feeding My Children in America

I am an Indian mother raising two children in America. I have a very picky 5-year old boy and an 8-year old daughter who will eat anything as long as it is not too spicy. What?  I’m Indian! Their Western eating habits have evolved from being annoying to worrisome, especially as my son is barely grazing the lower edge of the growth charts and is bound to fall off any day now. And to make matters worse, my angst grows when I hear my father’s voice in my head and I can sense his disapproval. 

After feeling desperate and hopeless for many years, I decided I had to take control of the situation by putting my focus on it. I have recently started experimenting with a style of feeding children which is more the way French mothers do it. The children are offered one snack after school and nothing else before or after dinner. My kids are starting to understand that dinner is it! We have stopped eating in the car. It has to be at the table, with placemats, and cutlery. The kids are learning to not expect food on-demand but at certain times during the day and only in a setting that honors the importance of eating well.

Dinner has been a struggle, and frustrating experiences in the past have led to complete meltdowns and me manipulating their eating with guilt-inducing tactics. I now try to make the experience pleasurable. We bring our best place mats and dishes out every night. 

We have a four-course meal two or three nights per week. Even when we eat out or order in, I try to ensure that we lean towards healthier options, Japanese food instead of pizza or a pub meal. We include a homemade soup, usually something very simple like dal — Indian lentils —  or some boiled veggies like cauliflower, carrots, kale, zucchini etc. that have been blended with some stock, butter or maybe crème fraiche. Then we have a salad, entrée and dessert. Dessert is usually fruit along with some chocolate, ice cream or rice pudding.

And I use no more language that makes dessert the goal, “If you eat X, then you get dessert.”  Instead I say “Let’s first eat X, then Y, then dessert.”

If they don’t at least taste the first course, they cannot proceed to the next course and have to wait it out until the next meal. Yup…that was not fun the first time we tried it, but I am glad I stuck with it because I have not had to explain it since.

Dinner has turned into a fun game, except the winner is not the fastest one but the person who eats all their courses…slowly.

Finally, we are talking more about what we are tasting, how it feels on our tongues, etc. The only rule is they can’t just say, “I don’t like it.” They have to describe what they are tasting as they develop their palates.

We have been at it for only a few months, but I can tell the difference this approach is making in how my kids show up for meals. We are still years from perfection, but I am grateful for every sip or lick or bite that they take of the rainbow colors that fill their plate, and for their willingness to stick with me on the greatest teaching challenge of my life.  And while I call this approach French, I am also realizing that this is exactly how I was raised in India…to value food and associate it with pleasure not guilt, to look forward to engaging with the family during meal times, and to appreciate the ceremony around each meal.  What a gift my parents gave me, and I hope my children will thank me some day for passing it on to them.


Applying Anu’s Tactics, By Allie

48465d_e59e795f6cb742439f1316e9dd4a1081Channa Masala is, like, my jam. I totally love anything that is like “blank” masala. I figure that the “blank” or X is some sort of protein and the “masala” part is spices + protein + total fiery hotness and then you have a masala.

Yo. Indian Cooking – especially South Indian Cooking – is spicy. I feel the pain of Anu’s children, I really do. I also am of the persuasion that omitting hot peppers from cooking is generally the way to go when it comes to accommodating every eater at your dinner table. But I digress.

Channa Masala is the bessssssssst. It’s the best. Know why? Cause canned chick peas. Cause canned tomatoes. Cause availability. Cause everyone should freeze their ginger whole. That’s why. I don’t have a singular story about South Indian Cooking – how my bestest friend in the world traveled across India for a month and came home to teach me how she ate systematically with her right hand and a piece of delicious Naan in her left, (or the other way around) or how my other best friend lived on an Ashram for a year and became extraordinarily spiritual and never DIDN’T become meditative and incredibly calm or how I basically love Chicken Tikka Masala. I know that’s like the most basic thing to love from Indian cuisine but did you know how Tikka Masala was invented? Let me tell you.

Once Upon a Time, Queen Victoria was totally in charge of India even though she, like, never lived there for a second and only came to visit when she felt like it. The soldiers lived there, though, and the folks who lived there weren’t feelin it. At all. So one day the soldiers were going to be dining with all of the residents (AND the Queen was coming too) and THEY were like – let’s take control of this situation, basically. And so they were like, essentially, “let’s poison these folks.” So they cooked. They took rancid chicken and cooked that rancid chicken in tomatoes and spices that were heavy enough to cover the flavor of the rancidness so that the soldiers would eat it and NOT KNOW THE DIFFERENCE. So they didn’t know the difference. But guess what else. They also didn’t get sick. The volatile, acidic, amazingly powerful spices plus the heat and probably the time (and not the thyme) made it so that the soldiers literally did not experience sickness from the otherwise yucky dinner. And guess what else? They LOVED it. They loved the dish! Its popularity did not escape notice by the Queen and she made it a big deal. Chicken Tikka Masala it was named and India had to wait, like, way longer to gain independence from Great Britain. But they got it and that’s why we now have Channa Masala. I think. That part I made up but the rest is true.

So let’s make that now, together.


Step One: Chop all of your things and prep stations. Heat a pan with olive or coconut oil or Ghee (if you really want to be relevant and stuff.)

 

Step Two: Saute onions, peppers, ginger, and spices all together for as long as possible. Onions are the foundation of all flavor, basically, in case you were wondering. Also, do you freeze your ginger? CAUSE YOU SHOULD. Keep your ginger root in the freezer and take it out when you need and it grates like a dream. Like a Brad Pitt dream. Like a dream about someone you always dreamed of. Yeah. It grates like that. Like snow. Jon Snow. (Also a dream). Try it. Peel ginger? Who does that?

DSC_0072

Step Three: Add chick peas, tomatoes, some broth, herbs, and everything else in the recipe. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until thickened to your desire!

DSC_0074


Chana Masala

3 Tablespoons coconut oil or ghee
1 large yellow onion, chopped roughly
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 Tablespoon freshly ground garam masala
5 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
3 Tablespoons freshly grated ginger
2 Red Habanero peppers, minced (*optional)
1 Tablespoon ground Turmeric
2 15oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
1 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes, smashed and chopped
1 cup vegetable stock, plus some if necessary
1/2 cup fresh herbs  (parsley, cilantro, thyme, oregano, etc.)

  1. In a stockpot, over medium heat, melt coconut oil or ghee. Add onion, salt, and garam masala and saute, stirring frequently, for 7-15 minutes, or until onion is translucent and very tender.
  2. Stir in garlic and saute while stirring constantly until fragrant, or about 2 minutes, and immediately grate in ginger and add minced hot peppers, Turmeric, chickpeas, tomatoes, and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer 15 minutes or until thickened to desired consistency.
  3. Top with fresh herbs and serve hot!