As a transplant from Michigan, I am fiercely proud of my Midwestern roots and flaunt my familiarity with the sour cherry. Since leaving my home state, I have obtained a BA and MA in Art History and, while my degrees remain a relatively useless part of my professional career, cooking has provided me with a creative outlet. I don’t see anything wrong with formally analyzing and socially contextualizing the perfect meal.
My culinary background is rooted in the processed and bland, with an early focus on heavily boiled vegetables and Wonder Bread. To his credit, my husband is largely responsible for retraining my palate. On our first trip to New York City, he took me for a pie at John’s Pizzeria, patiently explained that spoons are never used when eating Italian ice, and convinced me that “log cabin” should only refer to a rustic dwelling and never your pancake syrup.
Although it has taken a while to develop, my dietary philosophy is fairly straightforward. I partake in saturated fat and refined carbohydrates in moderation and supplement with plenty of plant material. Martha Stewart’s pâte brisée makes for one hell of an onion galette and I am not about to give that up. But there is no better counterpoint to a rich meal than a simple green salad, mounded on the side of your plate, lightly dressed in a little lemon, Dijon, and olive oil. I try to eat some form of greens every day. I hold that there are few things more satisfying than the season’s first winter squash, steamed and lightly salted, or a really good tomato. I enjoy my fruits and vegetables immensely. They constitute most of my diet. I strongly recommend cooking with a little black dog at your side ready and willing to aid with the cleanup of any stray vegetables that happen to take a tumble from the cutting board.
When my husband and I first moved to New York, it took me a while to accept that the areas we were able to afford were also the ones conspicuously lacking the restaurants, markets, and grocery stores to which I was accustomed. Over the years, I’ve grown to love my Brooklyn neighborhood, the people who share my building, the old women at the green grocers who carefully appraise the quality of the vegetables in the discount dollar bags for their usefulness. Although I suppose this blog will mainly pique the interest of readers whose neighborhoods lack a Bedford Cheese Shop or a Union Market, I believe we can all take a cue from the resourceful old ladies of our fare borough and use what is available to us to its best advantage. We need to learn to cook in a way that is resourceful and satisfying. We need to realize that perhaps it is advisable to go without those illusive grocery items when your only options are processed, overpriced, or quickly approaching their expiration dates. Better yet, we can decide to make these things in our own kitchens. But most importantly, we need to work to insure that the resources which are improving the quality of local food distribution remain accessible and affordable to all.
My name is Aleda, and I live in Queens. As a part-time graduate student of Urban Affairs and a harried full-time mom of a wild one-and-a-half year old daughter and a self-described “curious” three-and-a-half year old son, I often find myself at odds with my love of food and desire to be a great cook and my everyday time constraints. Ever tried to follow a recipe that calls for managing twenty ingredients in a five plus step process with one kid attempting a stage dive off of your kitchen table and the other creating a colorful crayon masterpiece on your wall? No? Me either.
I am constantly trying to find ways to make my family’s food as tasty, healthy, and simple as possible, which is by no means an easy feat. What I am even more intersted in is the quality of food I’m putting into my tiny children’s bodies. Every week I find myself grocery shopping across at least three different stores, finding the best deals for the best produce I can get, and trying my hardest to scan ingredients in snacks and pre-processed foods, all while living on one salary for four people and a dog in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I constantly feel torn between my utterly restrictive budget and my desire to keep my foods as whole as possible. This, as my fellow middle class New Yorkers know, is no easy task. I know I can’t be the only mom in the grocery aisle feeling pangs of guilt and anxiety over picking between the hormone free milk and the antibiotic free chicken in an attempt to feed a family of four for a week for under $100.
I am writing for this blog because I want to discover and share good spots for good produce, whole food, and good easy recipes with others in a similar predicament. I want to find and share news and articles about food politics in the city and the issues affecting our health. I want to help create a place for those of us with dreams of being able to buy all local, all organic food who don’t have the means to live that culinary dream.
Here is my disclaimer: when I say healthy, I mean as healthy and hearty as possible, which for me may often not quite meet the standards of other foodies. I like butter. I don’t believe in “light” foods. I either make whole meals that are low in fat naturally, or I eat whole meals that are delicious and fatty in moderation. I will never purchase light beer, low-fat peanut butter, or reduced-fat cheese. I will always eat it less and enjoy it more to maintain balance. I will also never buy anything with the word “lite” in the title due to a pure disdain for purposeful misspellings or grammatical errors.
I will do my best here, so feel free to be constructive, but please be kind. And if you have any idea on how to do any of it better, please let me know.