Natural, revisited

Carrie and I have talked about “just what makes something natural?”.  I wrote an earlier post but really, it could turn into a book.  The gist of my earlier comments was that for the most part, you can label a food product “natural” and there is little government oversight regulating what you say.

Dave and I headed for “the hills” today for a day hike. It’s a holiday weekend, and we considered going up camping at Mt. Rainier National Park, but thought that the campsites would be filled.  So a dayhike sounded like a good compromise.  It was cool in Selah when we were packing, which was probably good as it reminded us to pack jackets.  We drove up Chinook Pass to the entrance to Mt. Rainier National Pass, and took a favorite hike of ours along the Pacific Crest Trail to Sheep Lake and Sourdough Gap.  I wore both a fleece jacket and a rain jacket, and was glad for both layers.  I forgot to bring gloves and had numb fingers (oh, that darn Raynaud’s Syndrome!)  for awhile, but I was happy to be out hiking.  We made it to the Gap, and had a nice talk with a father and his teen aged son and pre-teen daughter who had been backpacking the last few days and had been caught in bad weather all morning.  I walked from the Chinook Pass side of Sourdough Gap to the other side, and immediately realized what they were talking about as there was a cold wind coming from the north.  They were fun to talk with and I eventually pieced together that they have the goal of eventually hiking all of the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington state- breaking it down into backpacking trips over the course of many summers.  I was impressed.

I am getting sidetracked.  On our way up to the mountains, we stopped at a store for some snacks.  I am not sure why we feel that we get permission to revert to bad eating on a holiday weekend, but that seems to be the case.   And this is the part about blogs I don’t like.  Honesty seems required to a certain degree, even though I would rather have the world think I NEVER eat any junk food.  We bought a bag of potato chips, which basically exited from our house when Erin went away to college.  I was amused to read the “romance” language on the package.  There was a very nice photograph of potatoes (that seemed to say:  see — you are eating REAL vegetables!) and there was a statement that they used “all natural vegetable oils”.  So, what kind of oil would I expect?  Motor oil?  Synthetics?   Even coconut or palm oil would be considered “natural’, but certainly not my top choice.   Oh wait, I get it.  It’s not trans-fatty acids, which aren’t natural.  And I am all for removing trans-fatty acids from my diet.   Hurrah!  I can now eat Lay’s potato chips!  Oh, wait again.  If you’re eating food that doesn’t contribute to a healthy, wholesome diet, is there really any point in trying to delude yourself that it’s OK by claims of “natural”?    This is just all too confusing.  No wonder the American public at times just wants to give up and say “hey, pass the cheetos”.

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more lavender dreams

Dave and I took a short vacation last week.  I had some vacation time that had to be used up by the middle of September or lost.  I am NOT going to lose vacation time so, of course, we planned a vacation.  We have done lots of driving this past year, so I wanted to go to some place not too far away.  And we’ve spent way more money on vacations than budgeted, so I also wanted to do something inexpensive.  Camping on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington seemed to fit the bill.  We headed off to the Sequim area of Washington state.   We traveled through a lot of rain getting there, and headed to the Dungeness Recreation Area County Park.  We’ve been there before, and I really like the campground as it’s in a nice setting, fairly close to other outdoor areas (like Olympic National Park) or, if the rain doesn’t stop, easy access to places like Victoria, British Columbia for things like museums and shops, and it has showers (always a plus in my view!).  After setting up our tent, we took a drive around the area, stopping at a lavender farm.  I liked the old aged sign on their barn.

Dungeness Sequim area

Dungeness Sequim area

But what I really liked were the huge fields of lavender.  Acres and acres.   

fields of lavender

fields of lavender

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some had already been harvested, but there were still lots of blooms on some plants.  My (four) plants in Selah are long past blooming.

lavender fields

Sue wondering why these aren't her lavender fields

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, even more than the lavender, I really love the poppy fields.  While they were well past full bloom, I could imagine just how beautiful they are when all the poppies are blossoming.  I have tried, year after year, to grow poppies.  No luck.  Ever.  I think this will be my continuing quest and continuing failure.  I will keep trying.  While I might dream of lavender fields, when I look at poppy fields, I think about peaceful sleep.  Like some vision from The Wizard of Oz, I envision a place that draws me in and lulls me into sleep.  I just don’t want the Wicked Witch of the West to intrude in my dreams.  

poppy fields

poppy fields

Kathy’s Lefse Kitchen

Lefse is a Norwegian type of flatbread.  The kind I know about is made with potatoes.  I was surprised when we were in Norway a few years ago and discovered the lefse our relatives served us did not have any potatoes in it.   I grew up enjoying eating lefse on special occasions, like Christmas Eve.  My father’s family has its roots in Norway.  My mother’s background is not Norwegian, but she has spent many years now making lefse, both at home and with a group at church.   When we recently had a family reunion in celebration of my mother’s 80th birthday, we included an afternoon of making lefse.  It gave the younger generation a chance to learn  how to make lefse.  My sister Becky made us all aprons with this design.

We had 21 people  – my parents, all my brothers and sisters, their spouses and kids.  And we all helped with the lefse.  The 10 month old baby wasn’t very helpful with making it, but he did pitch in to eat it, so that counts.  His 3 year old brother was very enthusiastic and amazed us all with his abilities with a rolling pin.  

So, if you ever are planning a family reunion and are looking for interesting activities, this certainly provided a fun afternoon for us.  Granted, we were able to use my parent’s church basement, which was well stocked with the supplies needed.  But still, the general idea holds.  Find an ethnic food that your family has enjoyed for special occasions (or even a non-ethnic food – just choose something), and get together all the generations to learn how to make it.    We had far more fun than I’d ever have imagined.

Here is the recipe we used.

Lefse

 5 well packed cups riced potatoes

½ cup margarine (not the low fat kind), or butter

1 ½ Tbsp. powdered sugar

2 cups flour

1 tsp. salt

Use russet potatoes.  Boil, then mash and rice potatoes.  Add margarine while potatoes are still warm.  Cool until room temperature.  Add powdered sugar, flour and salt.  Mix with your hands.  Knead well, measure into 1/3 cup portions and make a round ball of each portion. 

Al, Kathy and Reed preparing balls of lefse dough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balls of lefse ready to be rolled out. Wait - what is that one shaped like a head doing on the plate? My nephew Jake suggested it was a Munch (famous Norwegian painter) head, and he demonstrated how it turned into The Scream by stretching it slowly. Perhaps you had to be there to fully appreciate this....

Press the lefse ball down by hand and it will be easier to keep round while rolling out. Dust the large canvas-like cloth lefse board with flour.  Press dough down, turn over and press down again.  Roll as thin as possible with a rolling pin with a pastry sleeve into large 14 inch circles to fit lefse griddle (or roll to fit whatever shape your griddle is).  

 

Carrie rolling out lefse as Robb watches

Carrie rolling out lefse as Robb watches

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alexander (not quite 4 years old) rolling out lefse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Becky and Erica getting lefse rolled out

Becky and Erica getting lefse rolled out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

lefse rolling pin and "sock", ready to be put on

 

The secret of making thin lefse is using a covered rolling pin. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lefse rolling pin, covered with sock, ready to use



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Erin ready to transfer lefse to grill with lefse stick

Erin ready to transfer lefse to grill with lefse stick

 

Use a lefse stick and roll dough on stick and transfer to lefse grill.  You must use a lefse stick or holes will be made in the dough. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Britta turning lefse on the grill

 

 

Bake on hot grill or griddle.  Bake a minute or two, then turn with lefse stick.  Turn when bubbles and brown spots appear.   

 

 

 

 

 

Fold each lefse in half and cool between towels. After they have cooled, fold into desired size and store in plastic bag.  Refrigerate.  Makes 18.  When ready to serve, cut into quarters, spread with butter, add sugar if desired, roll up and eat.

Oliver trying out some lefse.  You're never too young or old to enjoy it!

Oliver trying out some lefse. You're never too young or old to enjoy a piece. Vaer Sa God!

 

For the special kitchen tools (lefse stick, cloth, etc.) there are lots of places on the internet, such as Lefse Time. My dad made my lefse stick and if you’re handy with wood working, you could also make your own. At home, I don’t have the special lefse grills that we used with my family but just use a regular grill. Not as good, but the lefse still tastes great.

Where there is smoke……

I recently wrote a post about the Zuni Cafe Cookbook.  Oddly enough, I had made the red onion pickles and shared the recipe.  I say oddly as I am not normally a pickle maker and it’s hard to figure out why that is the first recipe I chose to try from the cookbook. They were good to taste, and especially good to look at.  I liked the pretty pink color they turned.   But they really filled the house with a strong vinegar smell, much to the displeasure of our noses.  Next I tried their recipe for roast chicken.  The bird is heavily salted well ahead of time, with herbs stuck inside the skin also, then roasted at a very high temperature.  Again, it was good (very good) but filled the house this time with lots of smoke.  We had to open all the doors and windows and it still took awhile to clear out the house.  So today my mother tried the same recipe.   She also reported that the chicken tasted really good, but said she wouldn’t make it again.  Just way too much smoke.  And smoke detectors set off.  My father is hard of hearing so he was spared that part of the cooking experience.  Here’s the recipe if you want to duplicate our efforts!   Be forewarned.

zuni cafe roast chicken

Perhaps it should have been named Three Alarm Roast Chicken?  Still, Becky made the Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes from the cookbook, and had favorable reviews of the recipe, so I’ll provide it as a suggestion for an alternative to smoking up your kitchen.  

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes (from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook)

For about 3 cups (4 servings)

1 – 1/4 pound peeled potatoes (scant 1 – 1/2 pounds whole), preferably Yellow Finnish, Bintje, or German Butterballs (but russets are fine as well),cut into  rough 1 – 1/2 in chunks
salt
2 to 3 Tablespoons milk, half and half or heavy cream, heated until hot
2 to 3 Tablespoons buttermilk, at room temperature
About 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, just melted and still warm

Place potato chunks in a 2 to 4 quart saucepan and add cold water to cover by an inch or so.  Stir in salt until you can just taste it clearly (I use a scant teaspoon sea salt per quart or water).  Bring the potatoes to a boil, uncovered, and cook until very tender, 8 to 15 minutes, depending on the variety.

Drain and rice or mash while the potatoes are piping hot, then beat in the hot milk, half – and – half, or cream, and then the buttermilk.  Finish with the butter.  (Warming the enrichments is a restaurant necessity, so they won’t cool the large batch of mashed potatoes, which would be a lot of trouble to get really hot again with scorching.  Since it works just as well at home, I suggest it.  But don’t heat the buttermilk – it will separate).  Whip vigorously, taste for salt, and serve immediately, or keep warm, covered, in a double boiler, up to 30 minutes.

Note:  Generally, I don’t encourage making extra anything with potatoes.  Leftover cooked potatoes usually don’t improve in flavor, tending instead to pick up a mineraly or musty taste in the refrigerator.  However, the buttermilk in this recipe seems to stall their demise, and I find the mashed potatoes to be delicious baked atop leftover beef stew, a la shepherd’s pie, or thinned with rich chicken stock to make a simple soup.

The Bounty of the Season

It’s getting to be late summer, when the Yakima Valley becomes a delightful place to gorge on fresh fruits and vegetables.  This semi-arid landscape, parched dry and brown, is saved by irrigation that literally makes the desert bloom.   Peaches are now ripe, and truly luscious.  We bought several pounds at the farmer’s market on Sunday, and have been greedily gobbling them up.  I combined them tonight with some of the huckleberries I splurged on from the Farmer’s Market to make peach berry shortcakes.  Very yummy.  Of course, having real real whipped cream with them didn’t hurt.  But most exciting of all is the harvest beginning in our back yard as our heirloom tomatoes are starting to ripen.  The photo on the left is of Green Zebras from our garden.  The other photo is of cut up, ripe tomatoes from our garden.  The green ones on the right side are the Green Zebras.  They taste great, but I am also a amazed by the brilliant neon green color on the inside.  Isn’t it almost absurd?  The other tomatoes in the photo are Tigerellas (the red ones in the middle) and Gold Nugget. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is what I’ve learned about them.  “Green Zebra is a tomato cultivar with characteristic dark green and yellow stripes, although there are newer variations that blush a reddish color instead of yellow when ripe. It is slightly more tart than regular tomatoes, and it is an unusually early breed.  Green Zebra was bred by Tom Wagner of Everett, Washington, and first introduced in his Tater-Mater Seed Catalog in 1983. Given its recent origins, it is not an heirloom tomato, despite often being mistakenly designated as one.”   Oh, so here I thought we were growing all these “heirloom” tomatoes.  Since the first Green Zebras have been so good, I’ll still consider them “heirloom” in terms of what my “Pocket Heirlooms” seed container said:  “grow tomatoes from a time when a sweet delicious taste was all that mattered”.  

“Tigerella is a bi-colored tomato cultivar, relatively small, 2 to 4 ounces, and early (59 days). Its fruit is, upon maturity, red with yellow stripes, and looks essentially the same as Green Zebra, except is red instead of green, and has a sweeter flavor. ”  Hmm.  So I think that Green Zebras and Tigerellas are meant to be companions – garden friends of sorts.

So, looking at my colorful tomatoes got me to thinking about choosing foods that look pretty.  I know people have written books about this subject.  There is more to good nutrition than a balanced color palette, but it certainly helps.  We recently watched the movie “King Corn”.  It emphasized a point also made by Michael Pollan about how much of our diet comes from corn -either directly (corn meal, corn chips, high fructose corn syrup), or as feed for animals.   In the movie they clipped a piece of hair from one of the filmmakers and did a chemical analysis that showed how much of the hair had its origin in corn (answer:  a lot).  I honestly wondered what my hair would show?  I mean, besides that looks terrible and is in crummy shape from being overprocessed from coloring it to cover my grey.  

Perhaps I should look at Carrie’s idea of tracking consumption, but from the standpoint of corn.   Today was a good day – from a “negative corn day” perspective, or so I think.  Breakfast was oatmeal with peaches and huckleberries and pecans.  With milk…  Oh, I guess corn comes in here to feed to cow that was milked.  Lunch was tomato soup and whole wheat toast (with butter – again, from corn fed cows, I am sure.  And the tomato soup had milk in it, again, I am sure from corn fed cows).  Dinner was fish sticks (wild alaskan pollack, Trident brand.  But alas, I went to read the list of ingredients and there is corn in the coating), little red potatoes roasted with herbs from the garden, and tomatoes (pictured above).   So, perhaps not heavily laden with corn, but still, popping up here and there.  

Corn helps feed the masses.  Food is expensive and corn keeps the cost down.  But I sure am glad that we also have tomatoes and peaches and wheat and potatoes and berries and on and on.  I’ll raise my glass of grapes (in the form of wine) to diversity!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Zuni Cafe Cookbook

I don’t get out to eat in “nice” restaurants that much.  It’s partly a matter of where we live, but mostly a matter of expenses.  I like to cook, though, so I think it’s fun to dine out vicariously by checking out cookbooks from renowned restaurants from the library and browsing through them for ideas.   I currently have out a cookbook called “The Zuni Cafe Cookbook – A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco’s Beloved Restaurant”.  I like the title.  A “beloved” restaurant’s cookbook that includes cooking lessons sounded like good reading to me.  So I started paging through it and originally was rather put off by it.  It seemed to have a lot of unfamiliar ingredients, things that I couldn’t imagine buying in Selah, Washington and things I had never eaten.  But I continued reading, and discovered I might like this cookbook after all.  As I was reading, I found this passage:  “I err when I take casual changes on unfamiliar ingredients, combinations, or methods, or foolishly, all three at once.  When I cook with what I know, I make the best food, which leads to the underlying requirement:  as you decide what to buy and then how to cook it, take stock of what you know and build on that.  Don’t shop for lots of things you’ve never bought or tasted, much less cooked.  In general, it makes sense to build meals around ingredients or dishes you know and know you love; then enjoy learning about unfamiliar ingredients and techniques at the fringes of the menu, or in the optional areas.  …. If you really like apples or lamb or olive oil or rice, then buy that product regularly, trying different varieties, cuts or vintages, until you are confident you know what you like best and, eventually, how to choose it.  For example, make simple dishes using every variety of rice you can find- or start with every brand of Carnaroli you can find, then expand to include other risotta rices, then other Italian rices, and then branch into the plump Spanish rices you might have hard about by now, since you are paying attention to Mediterranean rice….. The same can be said for recipes.  Making even a simple dish three times in two weeks can teach you more about cooking than trying three different dishes in the same period of time. Pay attention to the process of making it, and to the small and large differences in the results.  Then take what you have learned about those ingredients and techniques and apply them to other dishes.”  It reminds me of good advice Carrie gave me several years ago about reading.  She suggested taking an author I liked (in this case – Wallace Stegner) and reading all, or many, or his works, rather than just poking around here and there between various authors.

So I have tried to use this idea as I ventured further into this cookbook.  There were recipes for interesting pickles – something I have not made, but was interested in trying.  So I tried the red onion pickles.  I like red onions.  I like pickles.  And they really looked pretty in the photos.  The recipe originally sounded too fussy, but it really wasn’t after all, and other than ending up with the entire house reeking of vinegar, it was easy to make. I confess that while they are too sour to eat by themselves, they really do add a nice jazzy touch to a burger with all the spices used.  Here’s the recipe:

Red Onion Pickles

Cooking notes: You’ll want to prepare these in a stainless steel pot and use stainless steel tongs or a wooden spoon. Aluminum cookware can leave the onions with an off color and deny you the gorgeous hot pink hue that you want.

Ingredients for about 2 pints

1 lb firm red onions (about 2 medium onions, although you can add more and increase quantity)

for the brine:

3 cups distilled white vinegar

1 1/2 cups sugar

a cinnamon stick, broken into pieces

a few whole cloves

a few allspice berries

a small dried chili

a star anise pod (Zuni recipe says it’s optional, so I skipped it as I didn’t have any.  I’ll add it the next time I make them though, as I think it would add a great flavor!)

2 bay leaves

a few whole black peppercorns

Method:

1. Combine the vinegar, sugar, and all the spices in the stainless steel pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and let stand to allow the spices to infuse the brine.

2. Peel the onions, trim the ends and slice 3/8 inch thick. Separate the slices into rings, discarding any skin and tough bits.

3. Uncover the brine and bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately add about 1/3 of the onion rings and stir them under. They will turn hot pink almost instantly. As soon as the brine begins to simmer around the edges, about 20 seconds, stir them under again and slide the pot off the heat. Immediately remove the onions with a slotted spoon, skimmer, or tongs and spread on a platter or cookie sheet to cool completely. The onions will still be firm. Repeat with the remaining onions, in two batches.

4. Once the onions have cooled (you can stick them in the fridge to cool them quickly), repeat the entire process, again in three batches, two more times, always adding the onions to boiling brine, pulling them promptly as the brine begins to simmer again, and cooling them completely after each bath. After the third round of blanching, thoroughly chill the brine, then add the pickled onions. This slightly tedious process saturates the onions with the fragrant brine without really cooking them, a process that leaves them crunchy. Zuni notes that without this process you’re left with dull, regularly colored onion rings.

5. Place in jars, cover and store refrigerated.

red onion pickles on a burger (with homemade bun)

red onion pickles on a burger (with homemade bun)

OK.  A success with that one.  Plus they keep refrigerated indefinitely, which sounds good to me.  So then I moved on to the roasted chicken recipe.  I’ve roasted lots of chickens but am always open to new ideas. The main thing with this recipe is a technique pushed throughout the book of “salting early.”  The day before roasting, you wash and dry off the chicken really well, then salt it generously (and stick fresh herbs under the skin), and stick it in the refrigerator.  The next day, it gets roasted at a high temperature (475F).  Yes.  It works.   The chicken looked lovely and was juicy and good tasting.  It also filled the house with smoke, but that quickly dissapated once I set up a fan in the doorway.  I guess what both recipes had in common was the lingering effect they had on the air quality in the house.

This was served with green beans from our garden, which we enjoyed (as did our garden “pets” who have also been busy nibbling on them.  Isn’t it a nice feeling to know that we are keeping some of the small creatures of the land well nourished with home grown fare?).   So, two for two with the recipes tried,  which is probably as good as I expect from a cookbook.   I’ll still probably try some more, but pass on fixing any rabbit, quail or squab.

I did notice the author’s interesting comment in her introduction to the buttermilk mashed potatoes:  “I am almost afraid to run these mashed potatoes at Zuni, because whatever I pair them with will outsell all other main courses four to one, roast chicken included.”    Next on my list of recipes to try…..

So, just what is “natural” food?

Carrie asked in a recent post: “natural”—what the hell does that mean? I know what it implies, but I feel like as a label it’s more of a gimmic.”

Interesting question.  Even more interesting answer, in my mind.  According to the FDA, the goverment agency that regulates (quite rigidly) just what labels must say, can say, and can’t say, declines to offer any definition.  http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/news/ng.asp?n=82347-fda-sugar-association-sara-lee-natural.  While I might have my own personal definition, perhaps something like “it’s ingredients extracted directly from plants or animals rather than manufactured sythetically”, the government regulating body remains mum.

In a lazy, ready for a break mindset, we bought a pack of hot dogs last weekend.  (This is truly the downside of blogs – actually putting into writing things you’d rather keep quiet about).  I found it a new twist to find that Oscar Meyer was calling these specific hot dogs “natural” in BOLD letters on the front of the package.  I guess it’s because they hadn’t pumped them full of nitrates and nitrites.  And here I thought that was the fuel used by the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile (which I really did see in Portland once), and not just some unnatural ingredients!  (OK, just kidding…. in case you absolutely weren’t sure about me).

So, you have strict regulations on labeling organic foods.  Yes, it can be confusing for a consumer still to figure out what is 100% or 95% or some other fraction organic, but still, it’s regulated.  Labeling something as natural might as well be Carole King singing “you make me feel like a natural woman” for all the information it carries.

Food Apartheid

Carrie pointed this article out to me:  http://www.slate.com/id/2196397/

(I can’t insert it property as a hyperlink from home so bear with me).  

 Apparently, the LA city council has passed an ordinance (yet to be signed into law by the mayor) restricting the construction of new fast food restaurants in a large, low income neighborhood.  And, according to the article, it’s because of concern about the growing problem of obesity.  

What’s my take?  This one has left me pondering for many hours.  There really are many issues that need to be discussed, all worthy of far more study than I am putting into this blog.  

I recognize and appreciate the value of zoning.   Zoning for economic, environmental, even aesthetics has a long history.  I think it’s good to know that my neighborhood of single family homes won’t suddenly also be home to a large industrial plant.   But restrictions because of health concerns?  I voted yes, with the majority, to prohibit smoking in public places in Washington state.  People who don’t smoke should be able to work and do business without second hand smoke affecting their health.  And I applaud efforts to restrict pollutants in the air and water.  But placing restrictions on new fast food restaurants?  Not so sure I can agree.  In fact, I am sure I disagree.  It’s just harder to explain why.  And it’s certainly not because I am any kind of a fan of fast food joints.   The aim seems to be to create more healthy food choices by bringing in full service grocery stores, sit down restaurants and other healthy alternatives.   

So, this leads to both the question of whether limiting fast food outlets helps keep people slimmer, and whether restricting fast food outlets leads to the (magical?) creation of better alternatives.

If the aim is to improve the food choices available to people, then why not have an ordinance that specifically addressed this?  Perhaps financial incentives for “full service” grocery stores to locate in these neighborhoods?   I do think that all people should have easy access to good, affordable food.

If the aim is to combat obesity, I applaud the thought, but shudder at the method.  Is there ANY evidence that reducing (or even — eliminating) fast food places leads to less obesity?  While I am very aware, and entertained, by  anecdotal stories (and movies), that really isn’t evidence.  Just a way of expressing your views (and let me repeat — I am NOT a fan of fast food).

Well, think about it.  (full disclosure – what follows is my own anecdotal story).  I sometimes visit small eastern Washington towns that have NO fast food places but do have good grocery stores.  I’ve shopped at them, and find lots of fresh produce and “healthy” foods.   (Hello, Safeway in Grand Coulee!)  While I wasn’t able to do a statistically valid study, my general observation while shopping (and left as a thought only in my head but unsaid) was that “gee, there sure are a lot of fat people here”.    No fast food.  Really.  Lots of good (and very reasonably priced) healthy food in the grocery store.   And also lots of very trashy ( but great tasting and cheap) food like potato chips.  

So – removing fast food restaurants doesn’t seem the answer to me.  Even providing good, affordable food in grocery stores (much as they are necessary) still doesn’t seem to solve the problem.   

I am very concerned when I read reports on obesity in America.  I would love to work on changes that returned us to a healthier population.   Certainly I’m a fan of introducing people to good nutrition through school lunch programs (the potential is there but not used) and WIC (Women, Infants, Children) program.  Both, though, are captive type programs where in return for financial help, a person has restrictions on the food available.   How do you make sweeping changes to the population.  I just don’t think ordinances like this one do anything but let government get into places it doesn’t belong.

Let’s ban the sale of cigarettes first….. (just throwing in a different health topic).   Or create “car free” zones where those able bodied have to walk.   Include physical activity, nutrition education and cooking skills as part of all schooling.  But let’s not just thrash around for a solution to obesity by ignoring the multitude of cultural issues involved.