Monday, December 6, 2010

The Search for Flavor in Our Modern Food Supply

I’m convinced, unfortunately, that most of our industrially-produced food doesn’t have much flavor. Unhealthy soil, long shipping distances and genetic modification have led to almost blanket blandness.

At the farmers’ market this weekend I heard a shopper ask a farmer what she should add to the butternut squash she was buying. The farmer and several of her regular customers were at a loss, knowing that all of the farmer’s food is of such superior flavor that it is delicious on its own.

But the shopper needed an answer, so I responded. (Shocker.)

“It doesn’t need anything,” I said. “This is real food with flavor. It doesn’t need teriyaki sauce, Worcestershire sauce or anything.”

The farmer laughed, as did some of the regulars. The shopper, though, may or may not have understood how lucky she was to have found food grown in healthy soil without the use of chemical sprays. I bought one of those butternut squashes as well, which I baked plain. It was bursting with flavor; adding even the smallest amount of any seasoning would have been criminal.

I see a similar theme in my cooking lessons. We’ll make simple dishes using quality grass-fed beef, pastured chicken, wild fish and vegetables. Despite the limited use of only basic seasonings (unrefined sea salt, fresh ground pepper, fresh lemon juice), the reaction is often “This is the best chicken I’ve ever eaten” or "Wait, we only used salt and pepper on this skirt steak?".

But we have far from reinvented cooking; the quality ingredients are the key to the heightened flavor.

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