Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The End of the Mediterranean Diet?

I was just about to write about Pepperidge Farm’s colored Goldfish, but instead I have to post a link to a story that appeared on the front page of today’s New York Times. It's debatable what the most appropriate adjective to describe the article is, but I think I’ll vote for “sad.”

The article perfectly sums up the consequences of the modern diet, an issue that Weston Price addressed in his research of various peoples in the 1930s. (Read my post about Price and his work.)

And you don't have to travel to Greece to see the ravages of our contemporary foodstuffs. Simply walk around immigrant neighborhoods in New York City and compare the waistlines of the older residents with those of the younger members of the community. Fresh fruits and vegetables and smaller portions have been replaced by processed and packaged food in ever-increasing quantities.

By the way, look for the Goldfish story later this week. I had an entertaining (at least I thought so) conversation today with Jennifer, who answered my call to Pepperidge Farm’s toll-free number. She held her own pretty well with one “Dave Williams.” (Yes, I'll admit it: I was too scared and embarrassed to give my real name after 10 minutes of grilling her.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Diet That Works

I'm a strong believer in the theory that diets don't work.

From a purely logical/common sense view, look at it this way: if any single diet was ever the panacea for our weight and health issues, would the multi-billion dollar dieting industry still exist? Probably not.

As I've written previously, I'm a supporter of eating real food. Real food is cheese derived from a cow that eats grass and that is cut from a wheel or block, not shrink-wrapped in plastic. Real food is a carrot with its greens attached, not “baby” carrots that come in a plastic bag. Real food is wild fish, not fish from a fish farm. Real food is mayonnaise, not “lite” mayonnaise. The list goes on and on and on.

Knowing the genesis of our food supply is paramount and understanding that processed, man-made foodstuffs are foreign to how we should be fueling our bodies is essential.

To reiterate some major points that I try to convey in my cooking lessons, demonstrations and lectures:

• For the most part, don’t eat food that comes in a box or plastic container.

• Read the ingredient list. If you can’t pronounce something or think the last time you saw it in writing was in high school chemistry class, don’t buy the food item. (The ingredient list is different from “Nutrition Facts.”)

• Don’t buy food items that have the words “lite” or “low-fat” or “sugar-free” on their labels. Some guy in a laboratory somewhere has done something to these items to make them different. Remember, nobody has ever gotten fat from eating real avocados, real salmon, real peanut butter and real cheese.

• Cooking isn’t that difficult and the rewards are great. It’s easier than you think to produce a well-balanced meal. And you’ll feel much better because of it.

Read a great article in this week’s Dining section of The New York Times about shunning diets in favor of eating real food.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Reusable Shopping Bags

Reusable shopping bags are becoming more popular as the ramifications of using plastic and paper bags are better understood. San Francisco has banned petroleum-based plastic checkout bags in large markets and pharmacies, and Whole Foods no longer gives out plastic bags at the register.

Plastic bags are made from oil, they don’t degrade in landfills and constantly get stuck in trees and storm drains. Estimates vary greatly, but Americans use anywhere from 15 billion to 300 billion plastic bags per year. That sounds crazy, but it’s actually quite plausible. Let’s take a number on the low end of that spectrum--30 billion. If the 300 million Americans each use 100 bags per year (about two bags per week), that’s 30 billion bags per year.

And two bags each week isn’t that many when you think about it.

The numbers for paper bags are equally shocking; it’s estimated that 14 million trees are needed to make the 10 billion paper bags used annually in the United States.

I started using a reusable shopping bag about a year ago. At first, I couldn’t remember to bring it with me to the market. Slowly but surely, grabbing the bag became part of my shopping routine.

Recently, I figured I’d make the conversion easier for everyone, so I ordered 1,000 bags (branded with the Cook with Class logo, of course). If you’d like one, please e-mail me at

Let’s all do our part to help out a little. Granted, the following quotation from Robert F. Kennedy may be a little extreme when it comes to reusable shopping bags, but it plays into the bigger picture of how an individual’s actions can have an impact:
Few will have the greatness to bend history; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is thus shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.