A simple (chicken!) sandwich

A semi-local chicken sandwich

Roasted a White Rock chicken last night, today, got a Spicy Cheese Loaf from Fran, the baker beside me at the farmers’ market. (The market day went well, it was the first day of CSA shares: mesclun, spinach, radishes, garlic scapes, beet greens—it’s still early.) The chicken and the bread naturally organized themselves into a late afternoon simple sandwich…

Looking at it before the first bite, I realized that I’ve been thinking about FOOD a lot more recently. Not exactly my own diet, but on a more personal level than as a local veggie grower, probably something to do with the Endless Salad, more communal cooking and eating lately…

Part of the running stream of thought has to do with nutrition, what I know about it, how much I want to and need to explore further. I mean, do I really have any sort of basic IDEA of what to eat, beyond “lots of veggies, little meat, drink lots of water,” vague general guidelines like that? Do I NEED a plan? Should I RESEARCH? Consult with a nutritionist or a naturopathic doctor (I’ve been considering visiting an ND for an initial workup)? Sheesh, more RULES! All that is really clear is that most people around here (a “developed nation”) don’t know much practical stuff about the food they eat, me included.

The other part is about food quality, and local food. The one thing I’m quite sure of is that it feels way better to eat fresh food that you’ve grown, and to know where the rest comes from and what’s in it, and that wasn’t at all painful to discover. So, I examined this pretty local sandwich. The cheese bread listed the ingredients: flour, water, cheese, sugar, milk, vegetable oil, butter, yeast, dried chili peppers, salt. The chicken was raised here on the farm from two weeks old, fed mainly Purina (Cargill) starter and grower feed (nutritional content in percentages, contact the manufacturer for the actual INGREDIENTS), with some greens from the garden. The lettuce is from the garden. I poured on home-made vinaigrette dressing: extra virgin olive oil from Italy, pink salt from the Himalayas, fresh-ground black pepper, vinegar, Tabasco pepper sauce from…the store. The mayonnaise is from Kraft, it was in the fridge, the bottle says it’s “real.” It’s all ingredients within ingredients… I’m planning to make my own mayo, with eggs from the farm and oil from…Italy. Should I care where the flour in the bread came from? The cheese? The chili peppers? And what about the “vegetable oil,” what’s up with that? Should I make my own cheese and bake my own bread? When do I start looking around for organic chicken feed, how IMPORTANT is that, what’s the priority, how much can I afford to PAY?

I don’t have any neat point to sum up with here, I’m just being a literalist and looking at what I eat. When you start to question your basic eating habits in a very primitive way, they may not hold up to much scrutiny, and that’s unsettling. I’m curious. The story unfolds…

10 thoughts on “A simple (chicken!) sandwich”

  1. That is the tastiest looking sandwich I think I’ve ever seen. I’m starving now LOL

    I’m currently on a quest to minimize the ingredients in everything we eat, working towards a “whole food” diet – simple, local ingredients with nothing containing anything that I can’t pronounce and immediately identify (mono and diglycerides? what? It might be harmless, but if I don’t know what it is, I shouldn’t be eating it)…just adding my thoughts to your post =)

  2. Mike,

    I too have been having this dialog with myself on food. Since January of this year I have radically changed my shopping and eating.  There are a few cheeses that I enjoy from England, olive oil and cheeses from Italy, etc. Even these purchases are begging the question: do I really need to eat a food flown thousands of miles, using all that fuel???

  3. To kind of build off of Julie’s question, I think it is very responsible to eat foods from other countries. I’m not quite sure how to explain this, but it is something I’ve been thinking about for quite a while. Actually I think it was a post you made a ways back that kind of got me on this kick. I’m pretty sure it had something to do with the strictness a lot of folks have been having with what it means to eat local. Take the Kraft Mayo for example. There is a sizable difference both nutritionally and environmentally between a store bought jar and what could be made at home. There’s no denying it. However, forbidding ourselves food and drink that is specific to a region because of distance traveled in turn neglects us of cultural diversity. Could we live without olive oil from Italy, Champagne from France, or the many spices from India? Sure, but is it worth the not knowing to save on transportation? I think not. Granted, if consumed in excess there is a problem, but these are simple pleasures that connect us with the rest of the world. (Wow, I’m going on a tear here. Many apologies.) You mentioned the pang of all the dietary rules that could emerge when food is criticized. I live by two: Can I get this from myself or my neighbor, and do I absolutely need this? An example that comes to mind is garlic. If someone is buying garlic in a jar instead of at their local farmers market, that’s not cool. On the other hand I would go insane if I gave up coffee because it isn’t grown in Pennsylvania.

  4. Great comments & still lots of questions & answers yet to be discovered. Eating locally is great when you live in area where that can be done.  Some places cannot grow the variety of foods if they are not shipped in.  Farmers markets are not everywhere & if you can find one, the cost in gas alone to get there is not affordable for most. Majority of the population do not have a place for gardens nor the time due to their work…and what do you eat when harvest seasons are over?  Canning/freezing is an option but even with that…well I can’t see how we ALL can eat “locally” year round.
    If you can we should support our local farmers & markets, they are great…and we should all strive to eat right, beware of our carbon footprint…but you can only do what you can & what is avalible to you. We all face these factors, something the past generations hadn’t
    too…some good & some bad. My best hopes to all of us! 

  5. I’m in agreement with Kelly — I think there’s a problem with the term ‘local’ — mostly that people use it in opposition to ‘produced somewhere else’;  in my mind — when I say local, I mean something that is produced in a sustainable manner, without chemicals/additives/unpronounceable inputs, rather than something that was produced within xxx miles.

  6. I was pondering this very subject today as I made my very first EVER trip to the Farmer’s Market. Before we went we actually stopped by a meat store that I’ve seen on my commute. The idea of buying for just that day is very new to me… and new to our culture I think as some people I know shop for a month at a time.

    I’m in agreement with Kelly as well… I was looking for ways to use up all this basil I managed to grow (after thinking it wasn’t growing I put lots more seeds in the ground, lol) and I found a recipe for shrimp. I went to buy some shrimp from the grocery store and it happened to have where each type came from. Mine was from Thailand… is it possible for us to give all of this up? I don’t know.

    I can say though that I really enjoyed talking with the farmer’s and getting to know about the food. After questioning the difference between two zucchini varieties the farmer told me why he liked a particular variety over the other.. I purchased some and he asked how I was going to cook it. I told him I wanted to try it grilled and he gave me some advice on how to do it!!! Then he gave me a pepper for FREE… and told me to try in my salad that I would really enjoy it! I was completely blown away!

  7. Great to read these comments.  Have you tried hemp oil as a substitute for olive oil?  It’s loaded with healthy essential fatty acids (wonderful energy food) and has a great earthy taste (not for cooking but for dressings).  Hempola likely sells it (they’re just outside Barrie), otherwise there’s Manitoba Harvest.

  8. In terms of the nutrition question, I strongly recommend reading stuff by Michael Pollan (In defense of food, omnivores dilemma, other essays).  I think he has great insight on nutrition and has changed the way I look at food.


  9. I second Chris’s suggestion of reading Michael Pollan’s work. He provides great discussion on the reductionist approach to nutrition and provides examples of some of the most AMAZING sustainable farms. He’s fabulous.

    To chime in with other folks, I eat as much of my diet from locally sourced, sustainably produced (which does not always equate organic these days, unfortunately) foods as possible. I live in California, so it’s easy to get most of my food locally, including that ever elusive olive oil!

    As a member of Slow Food, I get to learn about and eat from small producers who are working with endangered foods (odd–to save them, we have to eat them!) from all over the world, which lends itself to some fabulous sampling of different cultures.

    I suppose in the end, it’s all about balance and pleasure, which is a really gorgeous way to approach food, me thinks!


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