Your great-grandmother wouldn’t

Gorgeous nourishment from nature's menu at Pike Place Market, Seattle, April 1993

Gorgeous nourishment from nature’s menu at Pike Place Market, Seattle, April 1993

“Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”
Michael Pollan

As a carb-craving sweet-toothed treat junkie, I must admit that learning to eat my vegetables has been an ongoing effort for me.  There are a few I really enjoy: tomatoes, spinach, corn on the cob, field peas or most other legumes, preferably fresh from the garden.  But many of the highly nutritious varieties don’t appeal to me.  Eggplant, broccoli, beets, Brussels sprouts and most types of greens are among the foods I’d rather avoid.

Fruits are a different matter.  There are none I really dislike, and many are near the top of my favorite foods list.  So I tell myself I can make up for my veggie deficit by eating more fruits.  I’m not sure how true this is, but I hope it’s at least a step in the right direction.

I have noticed, though, that the more I eat wholesome, natural foods, the less I enjoy junk.  After years of being a fast food fan, I eventually lost my taste for most of it (I probably will always love Taco Bell).  Most “junk foods” no longer appeal to me at all, except for Cheez-its.  I can honestly say the photo above looks more appetizing to me than a photo of potato chips, french fries or pastries would.  OK, not better than a photo of ice cream or cookies, but I’m working on that.

One rule of thumb I adopted long ago is to avoid anything for which the ingredient label is very long and has lots of words I can’t pronounce.  This rule alone eliminates much of what passes for food in a modern grocery store. Cutting out anything with artificial flavors, colors or preservatives shortens the list even more.  But I don’t miss any of those things now.

When I cut out a great many of the so-called convenience foods, I discovered they really weren’t so convenient after all.  Lots of them involve microwaving, stirring, covering or uncovering, microwaving again, or other multi-step directions.  And have you ever noticed, given the long lines inside or at drive through windows, fast food really isn’t fast anymore?

As with so many other aspects of contemporary life, we may have picked up some eating habits that were more influenced by advertisers and  rushed living than enjoyment and sanity.  Re-learning the way we think about food doesn’t come easily (at least it hasn’t for me) but the rewards are better health, more enjoyment and often (surprise!) monetary savings as well.

I hope you will let today’s photo inspire you to enjoy something fresh, locally grown and simple in place of something that comes in a package with a label.  Your great-grandmother would be proud!

One year ago today:

Produced in a garden

40 Comments

  1. I’ve only been to Pike’s Place Market once but it certainly left a smile on my place. I saw them slinging fish over the counter as busloads full of Japanese schoolgirl tourists giggled in delight. My friend & I found the German butcher we were seeking and picked up 3 pounds of authentic headcheese, a German delicacy. I had carried a chilled chest on my motorcycle just so I could protect the memory from my childhood. Born to two German parents I remember how much I loved that unusual lunchmeat as I grew up.

    • Jeff told me years ago about headcheese – I had never heard of it. He also mentioned something called souse, which may be the same thing. Since I am not much of a meat lover I never had any desire to get adventurous with these type dishes. For me, the butcher’s and seafood merchant’s stalls in these type markets send me straight to the produce, probably a good thing in my case! But I imagine there is something for everyone at Pike Place Market.

      • Souse is the Southern version of headcheese. It’s basically the scraps off a butcher’s table with gelatin added to form it into a sliceable loaf, an acquired taste for sure.

        • It’s funny how we can learn to love foods that other people think strange and unappetizing. In college I used to love to eat rice cakes, which my friends said looked like styrofoam, and I have to admit they were right. Now when I eat them they taste quite bland. I used to make my own yogurt in those years and would eat it with absolutely no sweeteners at all; I actually liked the tart taste and didn’t mind making my own as I liked it best. I guess we can get used to anything. But hot dogs (which I love) are the closest I get to any sort of offal dish.

          • I’ve made my own buttermilk and yogurt in the past. Buttermilk is so much thicker and much more tart when homemade.

            I also ate lots of pork rinds on the Atkins diet that I used to get control of my blood sugar levels with diabetes. Ground up they make the perfect filler for meatloaf or coating for fried chicken.

            • I’ve never eaten a port rind, but I think that’s rare for a southerner; they are very popular in the south. There is a company near here in North Carolina (Carolina Country Snacks) that is famous for them. (Their website is http://porkskins.com/ ) I can’t vouch for their pork rinds but we love their popcorn and it’s very reasonably priced.

  2. Susan

    Good morning, Julia! When my sister first moved to Seattle, she lived just around the corner from Pike Place Market. Your photo selection is good. The food looks like — food!
    Although my weakness is in salt and grease rather than sugar, it’s been so long since I’ve had fast food that much of it gives me a tummy ache if I eat it. But I still occasionally go for the potato chips! Piled with cottage cheese, please! 🙂
    Oh, forgot to mention, my parents are both chemists. I can (unfortunately) pronounce a lot of those chemicals — but on the plus side, I also know what some of them mean!
    Blessings on your day!

    • Hi Susan, thanks for your interesting comment. I learn something here all the time. I have never heard of having potato chips with cottage cheese, but I guess that’s not all that different from tortilla chips with cheddar cheese (a favorite snack of mine). Having chemists for parents would definitely be a perk when it comes to reading labels. I’ll bet they also know how to make their own household products! From what I’ve read, all food additives are NOT equal; apparently some are much more potentially unhealthy than others. One ingredient I do recognize, that I’ve avoided for years, is nitrites – although I do indulge in the occasional pepperoni pizza!

  3. raynard

    Julia, growing up I hated onions which my mom used alot in most dishes she cooked. My wife makes sure I eat alot of green veggies.( does applesause count? lol Mc Donalds snack wraps is all i eat there( throw in a smoothie) I cut back on the pizza and only turkey burgers these days( no steak) and with the State Fair coming up( is it time to start singing”the Cookie Monster song”Healthy Food”. ? Lol Be blessed and have a good day..

    • Raynard, it sounds like your wife is a very good influence. I think applesauce counts for the fruit and veggie group. Onions are one of the few veggies I LOVE, which I forgot to mention. I love to cook anything that involves sauteed onions. State Fair is one of those times (like Christmas) when you are allowed a few indulgences. I don’t even want to know how many calories or fat grams are in funnel cakes! Seriously, I have NEVER had one — can you believe it? — but I love the way they smell. I’ve never had a Cinnabon either, as far as I can remember, but I certainly love walking past their shops. Hope you have a great weekend!

  4. Sheila

    Good Friday morning, Julia. That photo is gorgeous and prompts me to go to a produce stand that I saw yesterday. But right now I’m going to slice a banana for my cereal and pour a glass of orange juice and toast this glorious day! 🙂 Love to you and yours!

    • Sheila, that sounds wonderful to me. Pass the strawberry jam! I hope you ALL have a wonderful weekend! ❤

  5. I find you can never go wrong absorbing some of them in every meal each day! They will bless your life and body in the long run! Thanks for sharing!

    • Wendell, you’re welcome! I’m so happy you agree. I haven’t been getting enough veggies lately and I’ll try to do better.

  6. Julie,
    As you said: it’s a matter of changing our habits. The more we turn away from that which holds less nutritional value, the less we feel the urge to return. When in my mid 20’s I was surprised to discover that I had elevated blood pressure. So my first reaction was to eliminate all salt use; an extreme change. But, in time when meds and diet had it under control, I found I no missed salt, and I don’t even cook with it.
    I once came across an interesting article that showed by research that the shape of a vegetable or fruit determined which organ in the body it was most useful to. For example: the tomato-the heart: when the tomato cut in half from top to bottom, it reveals the 4 chambers of the heart. Another example: kidney beans; pretty obvious that they are so named for their shape, as well to the organ it most benefits.
    There is quite an extensive list. Probubly can be googled, for those interested.
    I suppose the phrase holds: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” I know I follow it.
    – Alan
    p.s. Eat well and stay well, but one must treat oneself; once in a while. Reasonable pleasure is a good thing.

    • Thanks Alan! I agree that an occasional treat is a good thing. My problem is over-indulging in them. Having said that, I agree with you that we can train ourselves away from these things. I substitute pepper for salt now, and use very little added salt in anything I cook. I have decreased sugar to the point where many treats I used to love now taste overly sweet to me (and sweetened iced tea sold in some restaurants tastes almost like syrup; I now drink my tea mostly unsweetened). I never heard that about food shapes but next time I cut open a tomato I will be looking at it in a whole different way! I have had more than my share of diagrams of the human heart, that’s for sure – so I should be able to recognize the similarities. Maybe I’ll add some tomatoes to Matt’s diet! They are one of my very favorites.

  7. Looks like Pike Place market in Seattle.
    Yummy fresh produce!

    • It does look beautiful, doesn’t it? Yes, that’s Pike Place Market. I hope I get to go back there someday.

  8. Julia, hello. I do like veggies and fruits. tomatoes, new potatoes, corn-on-the-cob, butter beans, field peas(is corn bread a veggie?) lol…I do like broccoli and beets. Not the others so much…
    Water melon is my favorite fruit and fresh peaches, strawberries but i like most fruits but have to be of careful high acid fruits. 🙂

    My g-mother cooked on a wood burning stove…a fancy one for the times…it had space on side to keep water hot, and a warming oven on top. she kept a pot of butter beans or soup simmering. Biscuits or corn bread in the warming oven. Ohh…the memories of her butter beans and biscuits… 🙂

    • Merry, how I wish corn bread was a vegetable! I’d have absolutely no problem getting my veggie quota. Nothing beats a good skillet of cornbread, and we like to add cheddar cheese to ours. You seem to like the same things I do, except for the broccoli and beets. Field peas and butter beans are SOOOOO wonderful but I don’t remember ever seeing either one sold in a grocery store. In fact, I don’t even find canned or frozen butter beans; what is sold under that name is what I would call a lima bean, but the kind my Granny used to cook that I loved so well were brown when cooked (they would start off with these lovely speckled patterns). I used to hull peas (the purple hull kind) gladly because I liked to eat them so much. Reading about your grandmother’s wood stove made me hungry! I can just smell that pot simmering…

  9. I had to stop and leave a comment on this one Julia 🙂 Great post – I changed my life style dramatically about 18 months ago – I didn’t eat that badly, fast food was a rarity and my tooth was never particularly sweet [except when it came to icecream] But I discovered I had a low tolerance for sugar. Any sugar. White sugar is pure poison to my system and even natural sugars [fresh fruit] have to be taken in moderation. I gave up wheat also. Removing those two ingredients from my diet seemed intimidating, but my pain levels were so high, my weight kept going up and I was constantly tired – I had to try! It was surprisingly easy and now I am in better health than ever and the weight is still dropping without me having to ‘diet’. My energy is sky high [or was until Siddy entered our lives :-)] I recognise that we eat ‘food-like products’ when we eat food marketed by corporations. Research shows that the sperm count of men has dropped dramatically and the more men eat factory farmed chicken in any form the more at risk they are. Its all those hormones that are pumped into the hens to make them ‘plump and juicy’. If you eat a corporation chicken and then a free range organic chicken the difference is unbelievable. The increasing move to growing what you eat is so great on many levels – I try to ‘eat locally’, or at least nationally. I never buy imported vegetables for so many reasons. [Eeee – rant, rant, rant! Sorry] I am always so heartened when I see people moving towards real food again – I know from m y own experience and from others that a myriad of illnesses can be cured, depression banished and energy gained just by choosing not to eat corporation food.

    Please feel free not to publish this – just basically agreeing with you 🙂

    • Pauline, I’m happy to publish this just as you wrote it, but let me know if you’d rather I edit it. The more I read up on how chicken farming works, the more I want to buy free-range chicken products, including eggs. In recent years we have been buying the hormone-free products as much as possible. When buying produce, I do try to stick to local or national products as well. I am happy that these locally-grown products are becoming more available even in the commissaries, which purchase everything at the national level. I totally believe that a huge portion of the health problems facing our country could be resolved by improvements in diet. One thing I was hoping for from health care reform was more emphasis on diet as a preventive strategy. But the big food corporations are too powerful a lobby for much serious emphasis on natural eating. I just read a really good book called Pandora’s Lunchbox that I think everyone should read. When it comes to what is going into our foods, ignorance is NOT bliss!

  10. Michael

    This market is about eight miles from my house -downtown on 6th and Pike- and a favorite haunt of ours. They have an awesome tea shop I think you would enjoy with their famous blend-Market Spice- a heavy cinnamon mix and a personal favorite. Free samples in the shop and in winter I circle back there, wandering through the market which covers about 5 blocks of Seattle real estate. And thanks for the comment on the tea bags and I pray you are not in any boiling water this day.
    This market is famous for the “Flying Fish boys”. I will see if I can find you a clip. They also have cool flower shops, a Chinese Bakery, a Mexican bakery with giant Anise almond cookies, a French Bakery, a working cheese factory where you can sample homemade Mac and cheese. .Also the original Starbucks coffee shop – Number one. Lots of cool little shops including a famous Bead shop”-Shipwreck beads.” A famous pig statue. Lots of street musicians and performers. You can easily spend a whole day there. We usually do most of our Christmas shopping there. My favorite shop is Delaurenti’s Italian market with 12 kinds of Prosciutto. And they also have a Crumpet tea room- I know you would enjoy. First time ever for me – crumpets . My favorite place downtown and if you take the Ducks tour -you get to ride right through it.

    • Wow Michael, reading this makes me say “we just HAVE to go back there!” It would be worth it for the pig statue alone (Matt loves pigs). That tea sounds wonderful; spice teas are my favorite. And I love bead stores, tea rooms, bakeries, etc. I remember we loved it the first time and would probably get a big kick out of it now. There are some nice military billeting options at McChord AFB, Whidbey Island, and various recreational areas nearby. We would really like to be able to spend some time there sometime.

  11. Michael

    By the way- my grandfather called white sugar- poison number one. I just picked the first lettuce of the season this morning. I think it is called Red Sails. The other one is Endive- not quite ready and then the Butter leaf is on the way.

    • A lot of people agree with your grandfather that refined sugar is poison. That’s a strong term but when one considers how many ways it can mess up the body without giving back anything in return except calories (all too readily available elsewhere in our circumstances) then it doesn’t seem so far-fetched. The biggest problem I have with sugar is that it feels addictive to me. The more I eat it, generally the more I want to eat it. Your fresh lettuce sounds delicious. Jeff long ago banned iceberg lettuce for salads, and loves the other varieties of green lettuce such as the ones you mention, but sadly since his multiple surgeries and ongoing chemo, he has a hard time eating it anymore. Maybe he will be able to eat it again someday.

    • Hey, this must be what Bob was talking about in his earlier comment. Here is one of the videos that I found at the site you linked there:

  12. Michael

    Yea that is the one and you can drop a load of cash at this particular fish market, which I think jacks up prices a little for benefit of the tourists. Whidbey Island is beautiful. Navy base Whidbey is there. He would also like the Flight museum at Boeing field which houses the original Boeing building and now has a Space Shuttle simulator.

    • We really will have to plan a west coast trip as soon as our life gets a bit more manageable. I am just praying Jeff and I will be able to visit together. I know he really wants to go back to many places on the Pacific coast; he has mentioned it frequently in the past couple of years.

  13. Michael

    Also if Matt loves pigs, there are several of these bronze pig statues around town- the most famous in the center of the market- named Hilda -I believe.

    • That is so cool! Why pigs in Seattle? Are there hog farms nearby? I don’t know of anyplace that has those type of statues, not even “razorback country” (Arkansas). I will have to find a way to photograph all of them! Maybe we can take Matt on a “pig hunt.” 😀

  14. Michael

    If you come to Seattle you can also take the Victoria clipper – a high speed Catamaran-up to Victoria, Canada. There are many tea rooms there and of course the world famous- deservedly so- Bouchart Garden. You can go up for the day or do an overnight package for a very reasonable amount. I sound like a tour guide.

    • Michael, I was just telling Jeff today that if we take a trip to Seattle (which we would both like to do) we could rent a car & go to Vancouver to catch the ferry to Victoria (which is how we got there before, I think? But I could be remembering it wrong) but the Catamaran sounds even better. We LOVED Victoria but somehow got away without seeing Butchart Gardens — I can’t remember why; it may have been weather related as I think it rained while we were there. But I have been wanting to go back there ever since. I don’t blame you for sounding like a tour guide – if I lived there I would too, and I am always talking like a tour guide about Virginia.

  15. Michael

    I have never done the Clipper but it is on my list. Of course, Vancouver is great too. By the way, Both of my wife’s nephews are in Virginia now-Kanus in Norfolk and Clement in Richmond.

    • Are they living here, or visiting here? Our York home is about halfway between Norfolk and Richmond (actually much closer to Norfolk, but there’s the bridge traffic to contend with, so it seems equidistant sometimes) and of course Richmond is about halfway between York and DC. So we are frequently at or near one or the other. We did enjoy Vancouver, but we liked Victoria better, even without Butchart Gardens.

  16. Michael

    I forgot about this one, but Kanus has been working at the Navy Base for 4 or five years as some kind of engineer and Clement has a business- roofing I think in Richmond-“called Hammerstone.” Bot grew up in San Francisco area.

    • Norfolk is definitely a Navy town. I think it has the largest concentration of Navy personnel anywhere, and there are also lots of Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard bases around – plus the Marine base at Quantico, which is huge. So this is a great place for military folks to retire since pretty much all the health care providers take Tricare insurance. If y’all ever come visiting either of them, you’ll have to look us up!

  17. Michael

    Someday we will be out visiting and we will have to stop by. Is this the place you mentioned earlier?

    large catering and to-go business.

    Po Folks in Atlanta, Georgia with Reviews & Ratings – YP.com

    http://www.yellowpages.com/atlanta-ga/po-folks Cached

    (770) 898-1408 – 1605 Highway 20 W, McDonough,, – Find 23 listings related to Po Folks in Atlanta on YP.com. See reviews, photos, directions, phone numbers and more for Po Folks locations in Atlanta, GA.

    • Michael, that was not the one we used to go to – it was in Tennessee — but seeing that listing I got curious and found that the chain re-opened in Florida (see http://www.pofolks.com/ ) after closing in 1988 – there is more info on it at Wikipedia which details the history. Now I am wondering whether the Atlanta link you found may be a part of the Florida operation.

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