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All You Can Eat

Trend-setting restaurants, Northwest cookbooks, local food news and the people who make them happen.

August 6, 2009 at 2:46 PM

Can o’ worms: Eat “right” or else? I don’t think so.

I love it when readers get riled up, as some did after I gave the big nod to pancakes in a can. Some of you agreed that the organic pancake-mix Batter Blaster is not only a blast — but a must-have on summer camping trips. Some took me to task for promoting it. Others voiced concern that Seattle’s recycling laws may render the product (with its “recyclable” plastic cap and steel can pressurized not by aerosol, but by the CO2 in the batter) unwelcome here in the most emerald of cities. I’m still working on getting answers to that one from the City of Seattle and the brass at Batter Blaster — who FedEx’d two cans to the recycling gurus yesterday. Verdict pending.

Meantime, I need to talk to you about something that riles me up: the pervasive attitude that educated consumers must be 100 percent clean and green in the kitchen. If not, suggest the righteous, we don’t deserve to breathe the air we share with Alice Waters and Michael Pollan — esteemed by our Slow Food nation for what they’ve brought to the table. Nor are we doing our part for our children, ourselves and our planet. P.S.? B.S.

If you’ve been reading the Seattle Times and this blog during the many years I’ve been writing here, you probably know this about me: I love to eat, everything. On the job and off the clock. I dine out a lot, though I regularly cook for (and with) my family and friends.

My favorite Sunday supper: roast chicken, homegrown potatoes and no-knead bread.

I’d rather shop for food than anything else, and I shop everywhere, from our neighborhood farmers markets to our Asian supermarkets, tiny ethnic groceries to fancy specialty stores, local co-ops to large corporate chains.

Vietnamese grocery stores and Seattle’s “Little Saigon”? Love ’em!

You’re likely to find me singing the praises of Filipino food-counters and Korean cafes that don’t give a rip about sustainable seafood, as well as sushi bars and other seafood palaces whose owners care deeply about the issue.

You may know I’m a (lousy) gardener, but I’ve yet to give up; that my backyard offers a harvest of fresh fruit from our trees; and that my husband and I teach our son not only about the birds and the bees, but the many ways we can live off the land and the sea here in the Pacific Northwest.

Look what we found in our yard! Too bad the crows got them.

Nate and I caught this beaut last week. The eyes might have it, but she was a female — back she went!

Read me enough, and you’ll find I frequently encourage you to support our sustainably minded local chefs and restaurateurs and their generous efforts to make the world — and our food community — a better place. Speaking of which, you can do so tonight by attending the Crocodile’s “Big Night for Abruzzo” a fundraising effort for victims of the devastating April earthquake that’s left some 40,000 homeless in central Italy.

And don’t forget to mark your calendars for Sunday, August 23, when Tamara Murphy of Brasa hosts An Incredible Feast — where farmers are the stars as they pair with local chef-celebs in the name of the Good Farmer Fund — providing dollars for emergency relief for area farmers, who never know when Mother Nature may unleash her forces, forcing them to their knees financially.

Want to hear how hard it is to run a farm? Talk to Linda Neunzig, a hardworking single mom who works for Snohomish County and in her “spare time” runs Ninety Farms in Arlington. I did just that a couple weeks ago when I made Linda’s acquaintance at a media meet-and-greet. There, we convened with some of the area’s top chefs at Russell Lowell’s Bothell barn, where I met up with one of Linda’s little lambs and its grass-fed cousins, some of whom ended up on our plate.

Russ and Linda, lambing it up for my camera in Bothell.

After a dinner starring enough lamb to have us baaaaahing for a week, I chatted about the event on KPLU. And when my friend and radio-sidekick Dick Stein brought up his love for goat meat, I concurred, mentioning that you can buy it cheap at Asian groceries. Soon after, I was taken to task by a listener who wrote to note she buys her goat meat from Toboton Creek Ranch while shopping a the U-District farmers market (if you haven’t been, what are you waiting for?).

“I find it interesting that you promote sustainably raised lamb, but then plug cheap goat meat without knowing how it was raised or where it came from,” she said. Yes ma’am, I do. Though I often give a shout-out to those who buy, sell, cook or raise such fine foodstuffs in the culinary paradise that is the Pacific Northwest, not all of us choose to — or can afford to — buy what they’re selling. And by “all of us” I mean me, too.

Eiko selling it like it is — from Skagit River Ranch — at the Ballard Sunday market.

Do I always buy local and organic? No, I don’t, though I believe that in a better world, it’s the way to go. And I stand with those who would like you to know there are more reasons than organic food’s (controversial) nutritional value to do so. As such, I’m a proud card-carrying member of Seattle-based PCC, whose tote-bags are among the most used in my extensive shopping-bag arsenal and whose latest store is only blocks from my house.

Don’t forget your tote bag.

I sometimes splurge on Procopio gelati at PCC, and infrequently try my hand at making ice cream at home. And I can’t say enough good things about the thoughtfully produced local ice cream, gelati and frozen custard that make Greater Seattle such a great place to live. That said, you’ll find such “horrors” as Dreyer’s spumoni ice cream, along with Fudgsicle “fudge”-pops and even a grotesquely colored Popsicle or three at my house (to say nothing of frozen French onion soup and croissants from Trader Joe’s).

Get your sustainable frozen custard — at Peaks. But be careful, it melts quick!

I give in more often than I should when it comes to a Dick’s Deluxe or the (occasional) Burger King burger my son craves. Fortunately, his favorite burger is the one his dad makes at home, and when it comes to homemade burgers, I don’t do too badly — if I should say so myself.

Mom’s Deluxe, proudly made with home-ground beef.

And yes, that’s sodium-filled, 0-nutritional-value “Cup Noodles” in my cupboard below, right next to the boxes of Annie’s mac ‘n cheese (for that, I’m admittedly not proud).

I’m not usually so tidy, but we’ve relocated our kitchen while we remodel.

Do I can my own tomatoes? Yes, I do, and I’ll be joining the Canvolution again this year, as I did last year, and the year before that, when I gather with friends to stock up on homemade tomato sauce at “Tomato Day” — the highlight of my Labor Day weekend.

Yay for “Tomato Day!”

And if you want to know why now’s the perfect time to learn to can and preserve, listen to my friend Kim O’Donnel, who knows how to get things started, as she proves here.

I’ve been impressed by the number of chefs who “put up” their own, like Boat Street Cafe’s Renee Erickson, and Matt Dillon and Emily Crawford at the Corson Building — whose preserving class I attended last fall during lunch-included Harvest Festival (a bargain $25!).

Home-y is where the heart is, in the kitchen at the Corson Building.

And I truly appreciate the largess of my friends and neighbors who are kind enough to share the fruits of their labor. In return, I enjoy being able to make gifts of my own, including orange marmalade (which, I’ll admit, relies on a can), homemade rustic bread (it’s as easy to make two loaves as one), and Chinese hot chili oil — efforts I’ve expounded upon here at All You Can Eat.

I’ve been making this chili oil recipe from the “China Moon Cookbook” for years.

But my homemade efforts notwithstanding, I won’t hesitate to tell you I buy Swanson’s chicken stock in bulk at Costco. And when I’m not rendering leaf lard for my pies, I frequently turn to Pillsbury.

Yes, that leaf lard is ugly, but . . .

The flaky, flavorful crust it makes sure does taste good!

I’m also prone to throwing on the brakes when driving by cheap urban roadside produce stands — something easy to do around here, regardless of the provenance of their produce. And I comply when my husband and son implore me to purchase Tombstone pizza (three for $10!), which they happily consume when I’m not too busy to fix something better for them, quick


Quick pizza, starring TJ’s pre-made flatbread.

So here’s my story and I’m sticking to it: For years, I’ve been opening up my cupboards, my refrigerator, my freezers and my mouth, sharing what I eat and how I eat. And by now I hope you know that I’m a standup gal.

As such, I’m writing today to stand up for the notion that when making decisions about what we eat, we should all do our best to “do good” — while feeling no shame when we’re “bad.”

For those who care to cast stones, go right ahead. I’ll be picking them up and making stone soup. And whaddaya know? I’ve got something to contribute to the stock.

Waste not, want not!

Comments | More in Cooking, Restaurants, Upcoming Events | Topics: Stuff I ate


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