Today, we continue the Unburdening series.
Cooking healthful, affordable meals for a family doesn’t have to be a burden. I’ve been there. I’ve lived through the challenges. And for the most part, I’ve found ways to overcome them. Today’s topic however is especially close to my heart and lies at the intersection of cooking and parenting.
Thanks to a recent study from North Carolina State University, and the media attention it has received, the barriers to cooking meals at home have been painstakingly documented. My goal is to offer solutions to as many of these problems as I can.
We’ve addressed the impossible expectations of the ideal meal.
We’ve covered the expense of lean meat and less expensive options.
We’ve identified healthful alternatives to expensive, perishable produce.
We’ve explained how a few quick preparations are better than 30 minute meals.
And there are still more to overcome. Because what good is it to make a simple, quick, inexpensive meal, packed with nutrients if it’s going to create fights over the family table?
Today we’re turning it around. It’s time for a little hump day positivity, and I want to focus my attention one of the newest players in the Capital Region grocery scene: Whole Foods.
I must confess that the Albany store didn’t immediately wow me. There were some start up supply issues that prevented me from getting my weekly challah and roast chicken there on Friday afternoons. The disappointments were hard to take, but I’m glad that I persevered. They continue to bring up the Zomick’s challah that I discovered while on sabbatical. Plus, I feel good about buying their Level 2 rotisserie chickens, which are mighty tasty after I give them a little TLC back home.
Is Whole Foods expensive? Yes. In fact, for some things our smaller Whole Foods has higher prices than the massive one down in Princeton. The price they are charging for Tom’s of Maine toothpaste up here borders on criminal. But every grocery store has a handful of ridiculously overpriced items in order to subsidize the values. The secret is knowing what to buy where.
So while some people find themselves blowing their whole paycheck at this market, I find it hard to leave spending more than $50.
Last night I got a sneak peek at Ric Orlando’s new Albany venture. It’s a catering operation on Delaware Avenue in the old Burger Centric building. Previously, his catering gigs were being cooked and loaded out down in his Saugerties restaurant. But it’s totally insane to try and cook for three different events while cooking for 200 people in the dining room.
Chef Ric would do it. But he’s clearly much happier about the new production space.
Of all the little bites that were being passed around and sampled, my favorite was the Korean chicken bites with gochujang and kimchi. Ric does know how to bring the heat.
Really, I should have been eating more so that I could report back on the food, but I often find that conversation gets the better of me. This is especially true when surrounded by passionate food lovers who never tire of talking about the subject.
There’s one topic that came up last night I want to share and spend some more time discussing. And that’s what seems to be a meta trend across restaurant food over the decades. We are stealing food from the poor.
Coffee. More than anything else, I drink coffee. Beer may be eclipsing wine these days. Seltzer is up there. Bourbon and gin make regular appearances on my weekly beverage intake list. Juice appears only in splashes to flavor the seltzer. Really, water should be higher up on that list. When I’m exercising, it certainly is. But we haven’t seen a lot of that lately and I’ve got the pizza judging gut to prove it.
Did you notice what was missing?
We really don’t drink soda. It’s one of those things I’ll keep in the house for emergencies. The “best by” dates on soda are years out, but we drink the stuff so infrequently that we’ve been known to blow past them.
It’s not that I have anything against soda. It’s just that I’d rather get my sugar in other forms. The idea of drinking liquid candy with my food isn’t generally appealing. Of course there’s the issue about soda switching from cane sugar to cheaper high fructose corn syrup. Caramel coloring isn’t great, but I drink so little of the stuff, I don’t particularly mind.
Funny story. Mrs. Fussy was hosting a party yesterday and she forgot to buy soda. So she sent me out to the store with some very specific instructions. Well, it looks like big soda has sunk to a new low.
If you’ve been following the All Over Albany Tournament of Pizza, you know I’ve been eating like a beast unchained. It’s a lot of pizza. And sausage. And ricotta. Jon in Albany is doing an admirable job in following up the official posts with detailed notes from his seat at the judge’s table. Bless him and his pizza obsessiveness.
Me, I’m just feeling bloated and incredibly thankful that ouzo exists.
This weekend is filled with great stuff. There is Queen Mab’s Enchanted City over in Troy and then the Harvest Festival in Albany. Just over the border in Massachusetts there is a meat terroir dinner that sounds simply amazing.
As usual, I won’t be taking part in any of the festivities. Mostly because tonight marks the beginning of the Day of Atonement. Tomorrow, I will fast. And I can’t even believe what I’m going to be doing on Sunday.
Last week we took a break from the “Unburdening” project. Interestingly, it was last week that Vox ran a story on this same piece of research and interviewed one of the sociologists at North Carolina State University.
Reading it rekindled my desire to try and solve some of the problems that American families are having trying to put healthier food on the table. We’ve already smashed the idol of the ideal meal, tackled the strawman of lean meat, and exposed the fallacy of fresh veggies.
Today it’s time to address a big one, time itself. I hope you’re ready. Let’s start with the Mark Bittman quotation mentioned in the Vox interview.
October. Okay, now it’s pumpkin season. So drink that pumpkin beer if you want. Pumpkin lattes are still forbidden, not because it’s the wrong time of year, but because they are a crime against espresso.
Outside, leaves are turning. Leaves are falling. Autumn is undeniably in progress.
Every year around this time I recall the spring, when all the leaves looked pretty much the same. Tiny buds emerged bringing a faint hint of green to barren brown branches. Then impossibly small leaves unfurled, and grew, and grew, until the canopy was filled with a lush uniform greenness. But those same leaves, at the end of their life, all go out differently. Some turn early, some hang on. Some go out brightly, while others simply brown. Some fall while they are still green. Death is rarely as beautiful or poetic.
Okay. That’s about all the writing you’re getting out of me today, mostly because I’m getting sidetracked by a few pet projects. Nothing all that interesting. Just time-consuming. Which isn’t to say that I’m leaving you empty-handed today. I would never do that.
What I will do is this.