In all the debate that goes on in this country about what people eat and how we need to reform the American diet, it’s always taken as a given that people who attempt to nourish themselves and their children on fast food need to be educated, need to be reformed. There’s a sense that we who are enlightened about food, who subscribe to the philosophies of Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman and Alice Waters (I certainly do), are somehow in possession of a great secret and if only we could communicate this secret to the uninformed, we’ll spare them from diabetes and heart disease and cancer and all of the other blights inevitable for those who don’t buy organic produce, who gobble down Big Macs while we gobble down our brown rice bowls.
I’ve been meaning to do this post for a while, because I really believe in it.
Like many of you, I’m a fan of Michael Pollan, his book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” (which I wrote about here) and his useful and helpful food rules. I’m also a big fan of Maury Rubin’s City Bakery on 18th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. How are these two things related? Let me explain.
Protein has been the subject of much debate around our dinner table lately. “You know,” said Craig when I served him pasta for the umpeenth time the other night, “if you’re trying to get in shape” (see newsletter) “you should probably serve more protein and less carbs.”
It’s a fair point, but here’s the deal: unlike most cooks who came of age in a pre-Pollan era, I don’t feel comfortable buying that mass-market plastic-wrapped factory-farmed meat you see in the grocery store. I don’t judge those who do–I’m actually envious of those who do–but, for me, I can’t shake images from Food Inc. out of my head. So it’s easier to cook pasta and rice and vegetables and beans because it doesn’t throw me into an ethical quandary (and it’s way cheaper); only, I eat so many carbs my body is now made up of 70% flour. I think that may be a problem.
The soup dumpling was balanced cautiously on my spoon, the twisted top bitten off and, as I stared into the murky, steamy depths of broth, I was struck by the gray lumpy brain-like matter in the middle. Struck, not because it was unfamiliar—soup dumplings at Grand Sichuan are almost monthly staples of our diet—but because, suddenly, after reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” that lump of pork conjured forth images of tortured pigs, in crowded pens, their tails cut off to a stump so that other pigs won’t chew on them. Was this the meat of a factory pig? Would I, by biting in, be complicit in its tortured death? I drowned the dumpling, and my quandary, in gingered soy sauce and bit in quickly.
Eat fast and don’t think. I gobbled it up, like a good American.