Live Well
March 2018

The Responsibilities of Being an Enlightened Eater

This year, the main theme of the Edible Education 101 course is how to become an enlightened eater. This is something I have been writing and thinking about for some time and wanted to explore the idea a bit further in this month’s blog post.

Enlightenment means to be knowledgeable and wise. In Buddhism, enlightenment also means to have knowledge but also “infinite compassion.” So, it’s not enough just to have knowledge, with that knowledge, one must try to alleviate suffering. This raises a follow-up question: How can we apply this to food? I think that when it comes to food, being an enlightened eater means being aware and mindful of where our food is coming from while also exhibiting compassion for the origins of the food. In other words, we need to consider the land, the animals, the workers in addition to ourselves when purchasing or eating food.

Some questions that we need to ask ourselves every time we step into a grocery store, or look at a plate of food:

  • How does the growing or farming of that food impact the soil, water and other ecosystems? According to research from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, “An average of 10 times as much soil erodes from American agricultural fields as is replaced by natural soil formation processes. Because it takes up to 300 years for 1 inch of agricultural topsoil to form, soil that is lost is essentially irreplaceable.” (psep.cce.cornell.edu/facts-slides-self/facts/mod-ag-grw85.aspx). Are we okay knowing that the food choices we make may make the land less fertile for future generations?
  • Am I supporting a system that takes into account an animal’s welfare? Factory-farmed animals are raised in crowded, unsanitary conditions that prevent them from engaging in their natural behavior patterns. In addition, slaughterhouses are highly dangerous work environments in which workers – often undocumented – get severely injured. Are these conditions that I am inadvertently supporting through my purchases?
  • How does my purchase affect the workers who harvested, slaughtered or served me the food I am eating? According to Saru Jayaraman of the Restaurant Opportunities Center, the food industry is the largest industry in the United States. It is also the lowest paying industry. Is this something that, as consumers, we are comfortable with?
  • What does the food I waste say about my respect for the earth, the farmers, animals, and fellow human beings?

While we may think that food is food and we shouldn’t have to go to such great lengths when making decisions of what to eat, it’s no longer enough to be oblivious to the impact of our choices. We need to be informed about where our food is coming from and how it was produced, and we must also do what we can to ensure that we are making good decisions when it comes to what we choose. This is what being an enlightened eater is all about.

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My-Grandmothers-Apple-Tart

My Grandmother’s Apple Tart

My aunt recently gave me the recipe for my grandmother’s apple tart
(which could just as easily be made with pears). It’s kind of like a
sweet apple quiche and it’s delicious served warm!

Serves 6-8

For the Crust
7 ounces all-purpose flour
5 1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons cold water
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 400 Degrees. Butter a 10-12” round tart pan with a removable bottom.
  2. 2. Mix flour and salt in a medium bowl. Cut butter in with your fingers so the mixture looks crumbly.
  3. 3. Add water and mix until the dough comes together. Flatten the dough into a disc and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. 4. On a lightly-floured surface, roll the dough out until it is about 1/8” thick. Place it in the cake pan.
  5. 5. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork and cover with parchment and baking beans*.
  6. 6. Parbake the crust for 15-20 minutes.
For the Tart
4 sweet apples (I like to use Fuji or Honeycrisp)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
1/2 cup Sucanat
  1. 1. Peel, core and slice the apples into 1/4” wedges. Place in a bowl and mix with lemon juice.
  2. 2. Combine heavy cream, eggs and sugar in another bowl. Mix until sugar is fully dissolved.
  3. 3. Lay the apple slices in concentric circles in the parbaked crust then cover with the cream mixture.
  4. 4. Bake in the lowest rung of the oven for 30 minutes, until the top is browned and the custard is set.
  5. 5. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork and cover with parchment and baking beans*.
  6. 6. Bake in the lowest rung of the oven for 30 minutes, until the top is browned and the custard is set.

* You can purchase ceramic baking beans in most specialty cooking stores, or you can just use dried beans.

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Articles of Interest:

This is an interesting article about carbon farming. It is possible to farm carbon and put it back into the soil, rather than the air, using such methods as: composting, planting cover crops, reducing tillage, leaving crop residues on the land, and managing grazing. READ ARTICLE

I completely agree with the author of this article: rather than telling people to forego meat eating, we should focus on eating meat that helps support our grasslands and maintain the balance of ecosystems. READ ARTICLE

The Farm Bill never makes for light reading. Here is a quick summary and an interesting analysis of its implications by Marion Nestle, who is the Paulette Goddard Professor, of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, Emerita, at New York University. READ ARTICLE

Lest we forget how addictive and harmful sugar is, here is a good reminder. READ ARTICLE