Food Politics

The two main aspects of food politics that I find myself pondering the most on are the ethics of factory farming, and the vast amount of food waste. In a capitalistic society like we live in, everything is motivated by money. This once basic skill of farming to eat never used to be so centered around profit. Now, there are a handful of giant corporations that pretty much control the entire production of different meats. Companies like Tyson have way too much power in the chicken market. They have so many farmers working under them, raising chickens exactly how Tyson tells them to. They are placed in crammed chicken houses, most which don’t allow any light inside. The chickens are given hormones to grow larger quicker. While this results in a bigger bird and a quicker turnover time, the chickens’ bones cannot keep up with the fast growth. This results in many chickens not even being able to stand under their own weight. This is just one of many ways that factory farming treats animals inhumanly. All of this stemming from a strictly profit based mindset.

This mindset causes production to not be based on how much people need, but instead to be based on how much a company can produce. They will continue to produce and produce until they run out of resource, or more likely, just have to wait till the next shipment of resources. This mass production obviously has waste, try 130 billion tons of waste. That much food is thrown out, or never even reaches consumers in the US. If all this food waste were somehow able to make it to the less fortunate, so many problems of hunger and starvation would be solved.

Mama’s Cookin

My mom has always been the main person to cook for me. When I called her to ask a few questions for my class, I am sure she was thinking, “great, my son needs an assignment from class to call me.” After some time catching up, my mom recalled how I used to eat basically anything and everything. She remembers a specific story when I was probably no older than 3. She walked out into the kitchen of our old house, and I was sitting on the ground in front of the fridge. Siting on top of my criss crossed legs as I sat on the ground was a metal bowl of tomatoes. I was hand deep in biting into whole tomatoes. As I got older, I actually became a pickier eater. I stopped liking vegetables, except for the pure white, crunchy pieces of romaine lettuce.

After I was told about my pickiness, I asked my mom if she enjoyed cooking for me. To my surprise, my mom said she loved it, especially when my brother and me were around doing our homework. She then continued to inform me of ways I used to play in the kitchen while she would cook. Her favorite way was when she would spray shaving cream on a cookie sheet. I would get lost just playing with my hands spreading this foamy shaving cream around. I asked her about her favorite food she would cook for me, if she had any kitchen disaster stories, or if she learned to cook out of necessity or passion, but I realized cooking for her wasn’t about all these stories or simple answers to these questions. Over the countless stories of spilt milk, I came to an understanding that my mom cooking and bringing our family together for dinners has contributed to the strong bond we have and always will have as a family.

Memories of Meals Alone

It was a typical weekday during my semester abroad in Rome. My roommate, Stevie, and I usually ate together, but he had already eaten this particular day, so I was left to eat alone. I figured I would just walk around the blocks surrounding our apartment building in Rome. I happen to stumble upon a small café about two blocks away that had a full menu. The outside tables and chairs were springtime yellow and red. These tables were about ten feet from the busy street, snuggled up to the café walls on the sidewalk. I walked inside and noticed the glass island with pastries and various coffee makers behind. Quickly realizing I did not speak Italian, the hostess asked me in a European accent, “Would you like to sit inside or outside?” I responded outside, and she quickly arranged the table for me.

I quickly glanced at the menu and immediately knew what I wanted, the Diavola pizza. This is just a typical margherita pizza with some type of spicy salami on top. I remember not having very high expectations, as the café was just a small random restaurant. When it came out, I could smell the spicy salami floating up from this picturesque looking pizza sitting in front of me. I picked up the pizza and took a bite; the crust was cooked to be slightly crunchy but not overdone. I could taste the quality and freshness in the cheese and tomato sauce. The spicy salami added a slight amount of heat that added just what I was looking for instead of a plain old typical pizza. After this, I found out they were one of the fewer places I found in Rome that would let me carry out a whole pizza. It’s safe to say I may have become one of their regulars.

Chopped

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Upon picking ingredients for our chopped challenge, I chose chicken, mustard greens and taco meat. Unaware of what exactly is meant by taco meat, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and use chicken as the “taco meat.” Mustard greens were going to be my hardest ingredient. I decided to make chicken parmesan with Calabrese mustard greens on the side. I used panko crumbs, parmesan cheese, and freshly chopped parsley for the breading around the chicken parmesan. I cooked the mustard greens in olive oil, garlic, chili flakes, and then stirred in red wine vinegar at the end.

My other two roommates decided that it would be a good idea to all cook our meals at the same time. It was hectic. All burners were taken up, all counter space was being used, and we could barely move around the kitchen without bumping into each other. Each dish had a distinctly different smell, but combined together, engulfed our apartment with a restaurant kitchen type smell. The simmering oil and sounds of knives cutting all around me made me feel like I was a line cook in a small restaurant.

My timer went off and it was time to take my breaded chicken out of the oven, and put sauce and mozzarella on top. As I opened the oven, a heat wave rushed over my face, and gave way to three golden brown chicken breasts. I put marinara sauce on and mozzarella on top and placed them back in the oven for another minute. Meanwhile, my mustard greens were nearly done cooking in the olive oil, garlic, and chili flake sauté. I placed the mustard greens on my plate. They looked identical to cooked spinach stacked on a plate. Then I pulled my chicken out of the oven. The mozzarella cheese had cooked just enough for it to cascade over the sides of the chicken, but not long enough to brown. I placed a breast on my plate and walked to my table to try my food. The chicken had a crunchy outside from the breadcrumbs, the mozzarella and sauce combined for a soft and comforting taste. The mustard greens did not turn out so great. I may have cooked them wrong, but they had a very salty taste and chewy texture. Over all the chaos in our small kitchen, I believe the overall dish turned out well, but the mustard greens definitely took away for the dish.

INGREDIENTS

  • olive oil
  • flour
  • 1 large egg
  • panko bread crumbs
  • chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • grated Parmesan
  • salt
  • pepper
  • chicken breast
  • marinara sauce
  • mozzarella
  • crushed red pepper
  • red wine vinegar
  • garlic

 

Let’s Tacobout my Kitchen Disaster

In sixth grade, my parents finally allowed my brother to watch over me for the night, and not have another “adult” watch us. I was 12 at the time and my brother was 15. On this specific night, my mom told us she made taco meat already, and all we would have to do is heat of tortillas or taco shells. We looked in all our dark wood cabinets and found a box of taco shells. This was probably not the best idea, but we placed a few in the oven to heat them up. We set a timer and went back to the couch to continue watching TV. After about ten minutes, that burnt food smell wafted throughout the room. At first we couldn’t figure out the source, as our timer did not go off yet. We walked over to the kitchen and saw a bright light peaking through the stainless steal oven window. My brother ran over and pulled the oven door open to find our taco shells now engulfed in flames. We stood there for a moment staring at each other in pure shock. He ran over to get a glass of water and threw it on top of our shells. This put the fire out, but we were left with shells as black as a night’s sky, and an oven with a puddle in the bottom. It is safe to say we saved our house from burning down that night, and also… we did not eat those taco shells that night.

Moragans Mission

IMG_5931.JPGI woke up this morning, took one step out the door, just to turn around to get one of my warmest sweatshirts. The air was brisk, like a beautiful morning in snowy mountains. We arrived to BART just in time to make the last train that would take us to the Mission District in time for our food tour. The usually quick 35 minute train ride felt like it took hours, as if we were in stop and go traffic the whole time. When we finally arrived, our first stop was Mission Minis. I had a bite sized red velvet cupcake that reminded me of the ones typically seen in magazines or books. The icing on top seemed to be so delectated and meticulously placed. It looked pristine. I did not want to ruin the cupcake by biting into it! But I caved and took a bite. The red velvet cake warmed my mouth with hints of chocolate, vanilla, and buttermilk. The sweet cream cheese icing on top complimented the natural richness of the red velvet cake. After this great start to the day, we went around to five other delicious eateries in The Mission. We tasted marinated pork tacos, pastrami on rye, homemade papusas, pork tamales, and ice cream.

 

When our tour guide came out of a little restaurant with halved tamales on plates, I was eager to try one. I unwrapped the warm cornhusk, giving way to a square lump of masa. Instead of waiting for salsa, I placed a piece on my plastic fork and ate it. The corn masa was not too dry, as is the case with some masa. The seasoned pork inside the masa rounded off one of the best tamales I have had. I remembered being younger and my dad would bring home tamales that his coworkers would give him for Christmas. We would finish the bag he was given within two days. After each bite of this tamale I was unable to wait for my next. I found myself getting my next bite ready before I was done with the last. Then before I knew it, the half of tamale I was given, was gone.

Grandma’s Infamous Cooking

Over the chaotic chatter between my family members on Christmas, my grandma announced for everyone to sit down for dinner as she was going to bring her soup out. The soup contained tiny pasta balls the size of bee bee gun pellets. The chicken was on the larger side, seemingly as if she had just pulled perfect pieces from a whole rotisserie chicken. Then there were pieces of scarola, an Italian type lettuce that is cooked, and celery perfectly placed throughout. The broth was clear with a slightly yellowish tint to it, smelling of dreamily spiced warm chicken broth. Upon first bite, the savory flavor of the chicken noodle soup took me back to when I would stay home, sick, from school. Bundled up in the covers of my bed, my mom would bring me this same soup, or at least her version of it (which is never as good as grandmas cooking). With each bite of my grandma’s soup on Christmas, I tasted the salt and peppered chicken broth, along with tender pieces of pulled chicken, then topped with the delightfully small bastina pasta balls. I would have been satisfied if this was the whole dinner!

Then the main course followed, which consisted of prime rib, au gratin potatoes, and cream corn. The prime rib was cooked on the medium rare side, exactly how it should be cooked; it was so tender, I could have cut the prime rib with a butter knife. The seasoning was just a simple steak seasoning salt, but added together with the a jus, combined for one of the most memorable pieces of steak I have ever eaten. The au gratin potatoes had a thin layer of deliciously overcooked crunchy cheese on the edges. This layer gave way to bite sided slices of potatoes that were covered in some type of cream. I could not stop eating them. Between the texture and the taste, they were nearly addictive. Don’t get me wrong, the smooth and flavorful cream corn was delicious, but the potatoes and the steak stole the show.