Category Archives: Cooking

Nectarine Couscous Salad

nectarine_salad

Now that summer is here, it’s time to celebrate stone fruit! And my favorite stone fruit is nectarines. I adapted this from a recipe I found in a magazine, decades ago, which sounded great but didn’t come together well. My version has become a family favorite and my husband recently inspired me to write it down so he could learn how to make it. Many thanks to him for testing this recipe and for making dinner!

Ingredients – Salad:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 2/3 cups couscous
  • 3 large nectarines (diced)
  • 1 cup spinach (coarsely chopped)
  • 2/3 cup chickpeas (cooked and cooled – or – canned)
  • 2 small scallions (finely chopped)

Ingredients – Dressing:

  • 4 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 4 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander

NOTE: For best results, I recommend using organic ingredients. For this seasonal recipe, be sure to allow the nectarines to ripen fully.

Instructions for the couscous:

Bring water, olive oil and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in couscous. Cover and let rest 5 minutes. Using a fork, rake the cooked couscous out of the pan and onto a cookie sheet. Spread out and let cool. Rake the couscous out of the pan a layer at a time to avoid clumps. Let couscous cool completely before adding to salad.

Instructions for the dressing:

Add all ingredients to a medium bowl and whisk until thoroughly mixed. Whisk again before pouring. You will notice that this dressing tastes very strong but it balances out when added to the other ingredients.

Instructions for the salad:

In a large bowl, mix chickpeas, diced nectarines, and finely chopped scallions. Whisk dressing again to mix thoroughly and add half of the dressing to the ingredients in the large bowl. Mix thoroughly and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. After letting it sit, re-mix the dressing, chickpeas, nectarines and scallions to distribute flavors. Add couscous and chopped spinach to the large bowl and stir gently to mix. Serve immediately as a side dish or as a whole meal.

For those of you who would like to print this recipe, click here for a printer friendly PDF version.

More about Wanda Shapiro • Novels by Wanda Shapiro


Nana’s Cinnamon Rolls

Nana's Cinnamon Rolls

The woman who shared this recipe with me calls them Jumbo Cinnamon Rolls, but I call them Nana’s Cinnamon Rolls even if this lovely woman isn’t my Nana. I’m an inveterate collector of recipes and I will ask anyone to share, including total strangers and other people’s family members. Recipes like this are my reward and many thanks to my brother-in-law’s Nana for this one.

Ingredients – Dough:

  • 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs

Ingredients – Cinnamon Filling:

  • 10 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 tsp. cinnamon

Ingredients – Glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • Maple syrup (or milk)
  • Maple extract or vanilla (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Instructions – Cinnamon Rolls:

STEP 1:  In a large mixer bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of flour and yeast. Stirring constantly, heat the milk, granulated sugar, butter and salt just until mixture is warm and the butter is almost melted (120-130 degrees). You can use a thermometer for this but you do not have to.

STEP 2:  Add milk mixture and eggs to the flour mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl frequently. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Using a spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can. (Dough will be soft.) Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough (3 to 5 minutes total). Shape dough into a ball.

STEP 3:  Place dough in a lightly greased bowl and turn once. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours). The dough is ready for shaping when you can lightly and quickly press two fingers 1/2 inch into the dough and the indentation remains.

STEP 4:  Punch dough down. On a lightly floured surface, divide dough in half and shape each half into a smooth ball. Cover and let rise for 10 minutes.

STEP 5:  On a lightly floured surface, roll each half of the dough into a 12 x 10 inch rectangle. Spread with 5 Tbsp. softened butter. Combine cinnamon and brown sugar and sprinkle half over rolled dough. Roll dough from the short side and seal edges with fingers dipped in water. Make a second roll with the remaining dough, butter and sugar mixture.

STEP 6:  Slice each dough roll into pieces about 1 inch thick using dental floss. Slide the floss under the dough bring it up and tie it right through the dough. You’ll get perfect slices without smashing the roll. Repeat to slice both rolls of dough. Arrange in a greased 13 x 9 inch pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled (about 30 minutes). Preheat oven to 350 degrees when you cover the rolls to rise.

STEP 7:  Bake rolls in a 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until light brown. Invert immediately on a wire rack. Cool slightly and drizzle with the following glaze.

MAPLE GLAZE:  Gradually whisk maple syrup into 1 cup of powdered sugar until drizzling consistency is achieved. If maple syrup is not available milk can be substituted and 1/4 cup chopped nuts can be added to either if desired. If using milk, maple extract or vanilla can be added for flavor.

NOTE:  If you want to make the rolls the night before, cover tightly and refrigerate once you’ve sliced them and arranged them in the pan. The final rise will take longer than 30 minutes when you take them out of the fridge and will depend on the temperature in the room. I take them out a couple hours before I want to bake them and bake once they’ve doubled in size.

For those of you who would like to print this recipe, click here for a printer friendly PDF version.

More about Wanda Shapiro • Novels by Wanda Shapiro


My First Steps Towards Real Food

mason jars with dry goods

So far in my reversing the process series, I have talked about my mission to get the factory out of my pantry and I have defined real food, which does not include all of the edible food-like substances we regularly call food. I explained how this process was the most positive kind of slippery slope, so now I will explain how I got started on this journey, more than a decade ago.

It was 2003 and I was living with my husband and a close friend in the Catskills. We lived for almost a year in this small town called Andes, an hour outside of Woodstock where we had moved in 2001. We had a beautiful house on a hill in the country and I was spending more and more time in the kitchen. My grocery lists at the time included things like: E.L. Fudge cookies, white bread, Velveeta macaroni and cheese, bullion cubes (the green chicken ones and the red beef ones), ramen noodles, Tropicana orange juice, and Entenmann’s pastries. My grocery lists also included their fair share of kale, root vegetables, lentils, quinoa, free range chicken stock, and organic dairy products, because I had already been living in Woodstock for more than a year and that town was on the cutting edge of the organic, whole food movement.

Even before my first ah-hah moment, my grocery shopping habits were already telling a tale. By 2003, I was splitting my shopping between a big box wholesale club, the local grocery store chain, the local butcher shop, and the local “health food store” which was what we called coops back before Whole Foods was a ubiquitous brand. And while I was buying more and more each week at the health food store, I was still making a separate list for those family favorites which were not available at the health food store. But the difference between the products from the different stores really started to bug me.

At that time, what was really bugging me were the artificial colors and artificial flavors, so I sat down one day to discuss this with my husband and roommate. Had I been living alone, I would have just stopped buying those things, but when you are in charge of feeding more than one adult, you can’t just change the whole routine without getting some buy-in. The guys had to admit they didn’t realize what they were eating, and on principle, everyone agreed artificial colors and artificial flavors are not good. We agreed to gradually stop buying a lot of things but we also agreed to not go crazy all of a sudden.

That was really how it started, with the personal rejection of artificial colors and flavors and from there each subsequent change to our food life was a natural extension of the last. Over the years, we’ve stopped buying a lot of things and we’ve started cooking a lot of things entirely from scratch. We’ve stopped shopping for edible food like substances and we’ve started shopping for ingredients to make real food, which is delicious.

I wish I could give you the exact progression of what we gave up and when, but these were the key milestones along the way, by category:

  • Hydrogenated oils like peanut butter and Crisco
  • Modern, industrial cooking oils like vegetable oil and canola oil
  • Pasteurized milk and cream
  • Dairy products made from pasteurized milk
  • Industrially canned vegetables like beans and tomatoes
  • Prepared chicken and beef stock (and before that bullion cubes and powdered stocks)
  • Industrial raised meat, fish, poultry and eggs
  • Factory-made desserts of all kinds from cookies and pies to cakes and ice cream
  • Pasteurized juices and pre-made drinks
  • Artificial sweeteners like high-fructose corn-syrup and bleached white sugar
  • Prepared breads of all kinds
  • Boxed cereals of all kinds

At this point our kitchen is more or less devoid of all of the above, with a few exceptions. For example, I do break down and buy organic cream cheese every now and then and my husband never gave up pasteurized pomegranate juice. This also all goes out the window almost anytime we eat at a restaurant, but when it comes to our grocery list and the food we prepare at home, we mostly have gotten the factory out of our pantry.

It’s taken more than a decade but only recently did it feel like a mission. For many years, each individual choice was a natural progression and they were simply individual choices which are sadly impossible to order in my memory. We didn’t make changes according to the neat categories above. For example, we stopped buying spray canola oil long before we gave up canola oil entirely and there was a time when I bought half my butter and made the other half fresh. We switched to organic milk before we switched to raw milk. We switched to dried beans years before we started canning our own tomatoes. There were years when homemade ice cream was just a treat, instead of the norm. I do still buy a few cheeses made with pasteurized milk, but less and less frequently, and I do still buy one bottle of light Karo corn syrup per year to recreate the my childhood birthday cake for my own birthday.

Over the years, each change was an individual choice and some changes were harder to make than others but as the small changes accumulated into more obviously categorical change, the remaining more industrial foods in our kitchen started to stand out. For example, the canned tomatoes started to stand out when they were the only thing left in a can I was buying on a regular basis. The canola oil was also hard to defend next to the farm fresh olive oil, the homemade butter, and the beautiful organic pork lard from the butcher shop.

And a lot of the changes were easy to make. Giving up store-bought ice cream really wasn’t that hard once I found the raw vanilla ice cream recipe on page 550 of Nourishing Traditions and the chocolate ice cream recipe on page 26 of The Perfect Scoop. Now, I make all my own ice cream and the vanilla ice cream recipe above is so simple I can make it in less than 30 minutes, including the time in the ice cream maker. And I had a similar experience with bread. I thought it would take years to start making all my own bread but one cook book changed a big slice of my food life in less than a month. With Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, I didn’t need to buy bread, and no one in my family missed the store bought version of anything once I started playing around with the recipes in that book.

Now, the remaining industrial products in my kitchen really do stand out and there are still a few I would like to eradicate. For example, although now organic, I still buy prepared mustard, ketchup and mayo. They look weird to me there in the door of the fridge with their labels and their expiration dates, but this particular category is hard for me to make from scratch because I don’t eat any of them and I gag at the smell of mayo. I did try to make friends with mayo by making it from scratch a while back, but it was an utter disaster and I have not gotten back on that horse since. I will some day but until then, I’ll buy those three things at the coop and I won’t feel guilty about doing so.

I take my food changes one day at a time and one change at a time, and there’s always a list in the back of my mind of the next food challenges I will take on. Next on my list: puff pastry, croissants, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella cheese. Oh, and this Greek soup called avgolemono, which is a good example because sometimes I take on a particular recipe I’m craving while sometimes I take on a whole category of food change. Sometimes I’m driven more by desire and sometimes I’m driven more by disgust, but each small change makes space for the next small change and quite quickly, they add up to a more nourishing lifestyle which promotes thoughtful living and provides an endless history of traditions to explore.

If you look at my food life now, it’s not a modern life. On the face of it, and if you don’t count the meals I eat out, I have given up all kinds of modern conveniences, but I have also found a new kind of efficiency and rhythm with food which is much less time consuming than you would think. But, you can’t just change your life in a weekend. And I can’t tell you exactly where to start because the changes you choose to make should be specific to your life and your taste.

The good news is, whatever changes you choose to make now will be easier than they were when I started on this path. And I will continue to share my story here with my reversing the process series which will hopefully save you some time along the way. Feel free to contact me anytime with questions.

Finally, I would also like to make a note about my mixed use of singular and plural pronouns in this post. That was an editorial red flag for me as I was finishing this post but I decided they were appropriate in this case, and more than that, my use of them reminded me of something I failed to include about this kind of change.

For me, reversing the process has been a personal, individual choice for change, but it has also been a process that my husband and I have gone through together. Sometimes, we take on a particular change together. Sometimes it’s more of a change I tackle myself which we then integrate into our lifestyle. And while I do the majority of the cooking per se, my husband is actively involved in our week-to-week food life from shopping and food prep to actual cooking. For example, I was having trouble getting in the rhythm of making our own whole grain cereal. We would end up running out and I wouldn’t have time to make a new batch for weeks. So, my husband wrote down the recipe I had concocted and now, he is in charge of keeping the pantry stocked with cereal. In some ways, change is easier when you live alone but change is not impossible when you are in a relationship. It does however require some conversation and it will be easier if there is some sort of foundational, philosophical agreement about what is driving you to change.

More about Wanda Shapiro   •  Novels by Wanda Shapiro


Persian Mulberry Pie Recipe

Persian Mulberries

I promised this recipe to a lovely woman named Ruth I met at the Santa Monica farmers market. She understood why I was rushing to the Weiser Family Farm stand for the Persian mulberries and her ears perked up when she heard about the pie I was planning to bake.

Many thanks to Alex Weiser, fam and crew for another fabulous crop of Persian mulberries. If you haven’t tried them, I suggest you put them on your bucket list. They look like wet black berries and they have an indescribably strong flavor I wait all year for. They are pricey but they are worth every penny and the rhubarb in this pie keeps the cost of the berries down.

Ingredients – Pie filling:

3 cups Persian mulberries (drained)
2 ½ cups rhubarb (diced)
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. flour
3 Tbsp. cornstarch

Ingredients – Pie Crust:

For the top crust:

1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4 Tbsp. pork lard
4-6 Tbsp. ice water

For the bottom crust:

1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
6 Tbsp. pork lard
6-8 Tbsp. ice water

NOTE: For best results, I recommend using organic ingredients, especially when it comes to meat and dairy products.

Instructions for the pie crust:

Add salt to flour. Cut butter and lard into flour with a pastry cutter until it looks like coarse crumbs. Add water 1-2 table spoons of ice water at a time. Mix thoroughly with a spoon with each addition of water until a ball of dough forms in the bowl. Gently and quickly form the dough into an even ball and transfer to a well-floured surface. Gently and quickly press the dough into a disk approximately 2 inches thick. Wrap the disk in wax paper and repeat this process for the second crust. Refrigerate for at least one hour. Refrigerate for up to 12 hours and don’t worry if the crust is stiffer when you try to roll it out.

NOTE: I know most pie recipes provide one list of ingredients that is supposed to be used for the top and bottom crusts. However, that way you end up with too much dough for the top and not enough for the bottom crust. After being frustrated by this for years, I re-wrote the recipe to make two more logically proportioned crusts.

Instructions for the pie filling:

Drain mulberries for at least one hour or overnight in the fridge. Slice rhubarb lengthwise and dice into ¼ inch pieces. Place both in a large bowl. Mix sugar, flour and cornstarch until thoroughly mixed. Add dry mixture to mulberries and rhubarb in three or four batches, mixing well with a spatula between each.

Instructions for the pie:

Preheat the oven to 425. Roll out the crusts and place in a 10-inch deep-dish pie pan. Add pie filling being sure to evenly distribute any sugar mixture which is left in the bottom of the bowl. Crimp the edges of the crust and slice a vent in the crust with a sharp knife. Bake immediately for approximately 1 hour on a cookie sheet to catch any drips. Rotate pie front to back after 30 minutes. If the pie is not browned to your taste after 1 hour, leave it in for another 10-15 minutes. Let pie cool completely before slicing and serving.

NOTE: I know this seems like a high temperature for a pie but a butter-lard crust requires a higher temperature than a butter-only crust or a crust made with vegetable shortening. One of the nice things about butter-lard crust is that the edges of the crust won’t burn before the pie is done. You won’t need those crust covering rings, even at 425. If you use a different pie crust recipe to make this pie, bake according to the temperature and time of the other recipe.

For those of you who would like to print this recipe, click here for a printer friendly PDF version.

More about Wanda Shapiro • Novels by Wanda Shapiro


Defining Real Food

real_food

In my first post about reversing the process, I explained that I’m on a mission to get the factory out of my pantry and I promised to explain what I mean when I say I try to eat as much real food as possible. Like I said before, this is a little hard to talk about because I really don’t want to offend anyone but the commonly accepted definition of food now includes what I would call real food and what Michael Pollan calls, “edible food-like substances.”

Humans have been producing food for thousands of years without synthetic chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Humans were gathering for elaborate feasts long before scientists were engineering food in laboratories, and still today when you have healthy soil, you can build a sustainable farm. You can raise healthy animals for food, milk and eggs, and you can grow all sorts of food bearing plants, depending on your geographic location. You can grow food for yourself and if you choose, you can grow food for other people. It’s the circle of life and it includes people and animals and seeds and plants and soil and water.

We give scientists credit for all sorts of advances in food and agriculture technology, but we are presuming a lot when we call each new industrial process an advance. Science has given us synthetic chemical pesticides and fertilizers, genetically engineered seeds, and farms which can grow an enormous amounts of one thing with relatively little manpower. Science has given us pasteurization, hydrogenation, homogenization, irradiation, and shelf-stabilization. Science has given us food that can be mass produced and stored for long periods. Science has given us factories which produce packaged foods in numerous varieties using very few real ingredients which are highly processed and mixed with a lot of different kinds of chemicals. Science has given us food that is convenient, predictable and loaded with flavor, never mind if it’s frequently artificial. Science has given us food which requires no work if you don’t count the dollars you pay for it or the non-communicable diseases you might develop from eating it. I don’t mean to hate on science, but science has given us food our forefathers wouldn’t recognize as food. Science has given us food that is not real food.

Real food is food someone from one hundred years ago would recognize. Real food does not require chemicals or laboratories or factories. Real food is nurtured by real people living real lives on healthy soil. Real food comes from farms that grow more than one thing. Real food does not come in colorful packages with ingredients listed in fine print. Real food doesn’t require any fine print.

Since real food and not real food have been so co-mingled in our lifetime, I have provided two lists below. The first list includes real food, which I try to eat more of. The second list includes edible food-like substances which are not real food and which I try to eat less of. I’ve eaten all the things on the second list and I used to eat them all with regularity. Now, while I make plenty of allowances out the world, I make far fewer allowances at home, but reversing the process has taken me more than a decade and it wasn’t one single choice I made one day.

Gradually, over the years, I’ve started eating and cooking more real food. It’s not as convenient, but real food is not about convenience, it’s about nourishment. Real food is nourishing not just in the ingestion, but in the preparation and each time we make a choice in that direction we are supporting ancient traditions.

In my next post, I’ll write about my first steps towards real food and my journey down this path, but for now here are two lists which will help clarify what I mean when I say I try to eat more real food. Neither of these lists are complete, but they are a good start and should give you the idea.

Real food includes:

  • Organically grown fruits, vegetables, grains, rices and nuts
  • Meat and eggs from organic pasture raised animals
  • Raw whole milk and cream from pasture raised cows
  • Butter made from raw cream
  • Oils from olives and nuts
  • Naturally rendered animal fats
  • Fresh and dried beans
  • Home canned vegetables and preserves
  • Fish which swam in wild waters
  • Bone broths
  • Naturally fermented foods
  • Cheese and dairy products made from raw milk

Not real food includes:

  • Hydrogenated oils of all kinds
  • Synthetic trans fats like partially hydrogenated vegetable oil
  • Hydrolyzed proteins
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Canola oil
  • Vegetable shortening
  • Artificial flavors
  • Artificial colors
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Natural flavors (which are not natural)
  • Pasteurized dairy products
  • Other pasteurized foods
  • Chemically grown fruits, vegetables and grains
  • Industrially canned food
  • Irradiated food
  • Meat and eggs from industrially raised animals
  • Farmed fish
  • Anything bleached, homogenized or irradiated
  • Cheese and meat products that require the word product because the aren’t actually cheese or meat
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Preservatives like sodium benzoate potassium benzoate
  • Food grown from genetically modified seeds

More about Wanda Shapiro • Novels by Wanda Shapiro


Cherry Pie Recipe

cherry_pie

As promised in my last post, and in celebration of spring, here’s my cherry pie recipe. It’s a short season so I’m on a mission to see how many pies I can squeeze into 2015.

Ingredients – Pie filling:

2 1/2 lbs cherries
3/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. cornstarch

Ingredients – Pie Crust:

For the top crust:

1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4 Tbsp. pork lard
4-6 Tbsp. ice water

For the bottom crust:

1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
6 Tbsp. pork lard
6-8 Tbsp. ice water

NOTE:  For best results, I recommend using organic ingredients, especially when it comes to meat and dairy products.

Instructions for the pie crust:

Add salt to flour. Cut butter and lard into flour with a pastry cutter until it looks like coarse crumbs. Add water 1-2 table spoons of ice water at a time. Mix thoroughly with a spoon with each addition of water until a ball of dough forms in the bowl. Gently and quickly form the dough into an even ball and transfer to a well-floured surface. Gently and quickly press the dough into a disk approximately 2 inches thick. Wrap the disk in wax paper and repeat this process for the second crust. Refrigerate for at least one hour. Refrigerate for up to 12 hours and don’t worry if the crust is stiffer when you try to roll it out.

NOTE:  I know most pie recipes provide one list of ingredients that is supposed to be used for the top and bottom crusts. However, that way you end up with too much dough for the top and not enough for the bottom crust. After being frustrated by this for years, I re-wrote the recipe to make two more logically proportioned crusts.

Instructions for the pie filling:

Pit cherries using a cherry pitter and place in a large bowl. Mix sugar, flour and cornstarch until thoroughly mixed. Add dry mixture to cherries in three or four batches, mixing well with a spatula between each.

Instructions for the pie:

Preheat the oven to 425. Roll out the crusts and place in a 10-inch deep-dish pie pan. Add pie filling being sure to evenly distribute any sugar mixture which is left in the bottom of the bowl. Crimp the edges of the crust and slice a vent in the crust with a sharp knife. Bake immediately for approximately 1 hour on a cookie sheet to catch any drips. Rotate pie front to back after 30 minutes. If the pie is not browned to your taste after 1 hour, leave it in for another 10-15 minutes. Let pie cool completely before slicing and serving.

NOTE:  I know this seems like a high temperature for a pie but a butter-lard crust requires a higher temperature than a butter-only crust or a crust made with vegetable shortening. One of the nice things about butter-lard crust is that the edges of the crust won’t burn before the pie is done. You won’t need those crust covering rings, even at 425. If you use a different pie crust recipe to make this pie, bake according to the temperature and time of the other recipe.

For those of you who would like to print this recipe, click here for a printer friendly PDF version.

#happyspring

More about Wanda Shapiro • Novels by Wanda Shapiro


Reversing The Process

real food on a counter

I’m on a mission to get the factory out of my pantry and I am passionate about where my food comes from. I’m a regular at my local farmers market and all of the dairy products in my fridge are raw, straight from the cow. I make the vast majority of the food I eat from scratch. I even make all my own bread and all my own butter, and gradually, over time, that has become normal to me. I don’t prescribe to any particular school of culinary or dietary thought, but I have become very discerning regarding exactly what qualifies as real food.

I make generous exceptions so that I can continue to live and eat like a relatively normal person in public, but I make far fewer exceptions in my own home and I eat out far less frequently than most urban-dwelling women in their thirties. I bring my lunch to work more days than I don’t and I’m an anomaly around the office with my homemade lunches packed in thermoses, mason jars and waxed paper. To some people, the food I eat is dangerously decadent but I don’t believe in the kind of low-fat American diet which so many people swear by, doctors included.

For me, it’s about real food. It’s about food that was grown and prepared the way food was grown and prepared before the industrial revolution. It’s about food that has not been fucked with by corporations and people in laboratories. It’s about the kind of food my grandparents grew and raised and fed me. It’s about a way of life that existed for centuries before convenience was the driving force in the choices we make during those three times of day when we are supposed to feed ourselves.

For me, it’s about fruits and vegetables which grew because someone took the time to cultivate and care for them, not because the correct balance of chemicals was used to propagate them and mass produce them. It’s about meat that came from animals which ate the kind of food animals were meant to eat and lived the way animals were meant to live, not meat that came from some cow which some corporation kept alive with chemicals long enough to kill. It’s about knowing where my food comes from and what went into it before it gets to my table. It’s about meals which take time but which provide nourishment of many kinds. It’s about keeping alive ancient nourishing traditions which are dangerously close to extinction.

For me, food is not about convenience but that’s not always easy to explain to my peers, many of whom are so conditioned to make choices based upon convenience they have little awareness of such. When asked, depending on the context, I do my best to explain my choices in an appropriately concise fashion, but it’s hard for me because there is no single word that describes the way I eat. People know what you’re talking about, when you tell them you’re vegan or vegetarian or gluten-free, but people don’t know what I mean when I say I try to eat as much real food as possible.

And the hardest part comes when I have to explain what I mean by real food. I don’t want to offend or criticize and I don’t usually have time to explain the whole story of how I gradually slid down a slippery slope away from processed food and towards real food. And the way I eat challenges many beliefs which have become ingrained in the last few generations. It’s hard, for example, to explain what I mean by real food to someone who has been raised to believe that portion-controlled frozen lunches heated up in the microwave qualify as, “being good.”

Unfortunately, at this point, it’s hard for me not to stick out and lately, more and more people have been asking me about why I eat the way I eat and how I cook the way I cook. I think of it as reversing the process and here on my blog, piece by piece, I’m going to try to explain what that means. In my next cooking post, I’ll define what I mean by real food and after that I’ll explain how I got started on this path.

More about Wanda Shapiro • Novels by Wanda Shapiro


Making Your Own Bread

bread

I have been making all of my own bread for years and the cooking question people most frequently ask is, “How do you make bread?” Everyone is always expecting some complicated answer, but it’s really only a few clicks away. The following book – Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day – changed my life and helped me get the factory out of my bread box. I have baked many of the recipes in the following book but the rustic boule and the ciabatta are my every-day sort of breads. Although I don’t make it nearly as often, my favorite is the cinnamon raisin bread which takes a little practice but it well worth the effort.

artisan_bread_in_five_minutes_a_day_cover

Depending on your kitchen, you may need to purchase a few other items in order to embark upon this bread baking adventure, but nothing you can’t purchase inexpensively on Amazon. You will need a baking stone, a dough bucket and a pizza peel, but you can get away without the oven thermometer or the dough scraper.

Someday, I will post the video I made for my Dad about how to make bread, but for now, this reference will have to do. This book really is all you need to wow your friends and family with professional quality bread, and there’s nothing to it but to do it.