Saturday, April 24, 2010

Food politics

I watched Food, Inc. the other night on PBS. Even though I didn’t learn much that I hadn’t already come across in other places, it was still pretty horrifying and depressing. And at the moment I feel revulsed by the idea of buying anything that can be classed as a product of the “food industry.” I’m not going to make any drastic pronouncements (yet). But I’ve been experimenting for a while with making things myself that I had previously only bought ready-made, and I feel more strongly than ever that that’s the direction in which I want to be going. There’s the health aspect of knowing what’s in my food, which is certainly important; but right now I feel as though the political statement I can make, by buying as many single-ingredient items as I can, is even more so. The filmmakers reminded me that we as food consumers send a message with every purchase that we make. They pointed out that Wal-Mart switched a while back to buying only hormone-free milk in response to customer demand—a significant decision considering both the size of Wal-Mart’s market share and its reputation as the premier outlet of industrially produced food.



I’m not pure in my food choices, or even always particularly consistent. But I spend a pretty fair amount of money on food, and I try to remember how lucky I am that I have the option to do that. So, since I can, I’m going to keep exploring how to spend my food budget in ways that are consistent with my principles and beliefs.

Homemade mayonnaise
Adapted slightly from Ratio by Mark Ruhlman
This is a bit labor-intensive with a balloon whisk, which is all I have available at the moment, but I’m expecting that it will be a cinch with a hand mixer. The hardest part is not adding the oil too fast. It is considerably cheaper and infinitely better, than store-bought mayonnaise, and even DP, formerly a diehard fan of Miracle Whip, has been converted. (The coup will be if I can pull that off with homemade ketchup. Watch this space.)

1 large egg yolk
½ tsp salt
1 tsp water
2 tsp lemon juice*
¾ - 1 cup oil (mostly vegetable, but with a good splash of olive)

Anchor a good-sized bowl on the counter by twisting a tea towel around the base; or wetting it, folding it in half, and putting the bowl on top. Place the first four ingredients in the bowl, and whisk to combine. Add the oil very slowly**, a few drops at a time, and whisk in thoroughly before adding the next few drops. When you see the mixture start to thicken, you can add the oil in larger amounts, but still go carefully so as to avoid breaking the emulsion. (If it starts to look liquid or curdled, it has broken.***) Continue adding the oil slowly and steadily, whisking all the while, until you have a thick, gloopy, pale yellow mayonnaise.

Put in a jar and keep in the fridge for about a week. Use to make Caesar salad dressing, tuna salad, and anything else you can think of that would benefit from some tasty mayonnaise.****

* I add another good squeeze of lemon juice at the end, plus a healthy pinch of cayenne pepper.
** Various recipes I have consulted suggest using a cup with a pouring spout, the pusher part of the Cuisinart with the little hole in it, etc. I have none of those things available, and have managed fine, if messily, by trickling it out of a 1-cup measuring cup.
*** If it does break, start over with the egg etc. step, and whisk the broken mayonnaise in bit by bit.
**** And I used to not even really like mayonnaise.

N.B. See here for an explanation of the high five.

9 comments:

Cheryl Arkison said... Best Blogger Tips

Good for you! Ketchup was not successful in this house. I loved it, but no one else did.

Mayo? I always want to try that, but in truth I don't eat it and most of ours goes in Hubby's cottage cheese (don't ask).

dana said... Best Blogger Tips

YES! a couple minutes ago, while watching jamie's food revolution, i saw a commercial for mayo, and thought how easy it is to make at home, yet no one i know ever bothers to do it. growing up there was no alternative to making our own, and there's at least four recipes i've tried over time. i always do it by hand, sometimes using a fork, but most often a wooden spoon. it's very easy if you can cork your oil bottle with one of those easy-pour spouts. beginners who are worried about the emulsion breaking can add one boiled yolk to the raw one. this will yield precisely the same silky mayo, but will be a bit more stable. i find it also helps if you add the water and lemon juice once it has thickened some. i wish more people would give it a go. it's so much better than anything you could ever buy at the store.

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

Cheryl - I have never been a big fan of mayo, but I like homemade a LOT better in the few things I use it in. Although cottage cheese is not one of them....

Dana - thanks for the tips on making mayo--I appreciate the voice of experience! And it is absolutely vastly superior to the mass-produced stuff.

C. said... Best Blogger Tips

Speaking for the allergic community, there are other issues to consider. You know I can no longer eat mayo because of my egg allergy, but as I enter Month 3 of stripping gluten out of my diet, I've been amazed at how much contamination of things there is. And yes, I've really come to think of it as contamination. Because what good reason is there for wheat to be in soy sauce? Or ketchup? Or mustard? Traditionally, there's no good reason at all. Industrially, it's been thrown in there as an extender, a way of making more product, with no regard to the consequences on health, etc. And yeah, maybe those were unknown, unintended consequences, but ... the end result is still the same. It's amazing to me how many things must be avoided because they've been tinkered with in ways that pretty much ensure that if I want a condiment, I'm going to either have to make it myself, or pay through the nose to get a mass-produced version of the simple, original recipe.

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

Excellent points, C.--I wonder if this is a contributing factor to the increase in food allergies and intolerances? I did think of you when I was making this; I was wondering if you could eat it, given that it uses yolks only?

C. said... Best Blogger Tips

You aren't the only ones who are wondering about the cross-contamination issue. People are pondering it, and studying it, the same way that they're looking at HFCS and its potential intersections with rising rates of diabetes and obesity. So, I guess we'll wait and see, no? Logically, it seems to me that screwing around with the foodchain, even in that way, has consequences. Moving cows from grass to grainfed, adding offal to that mix and stir, and you get BSE, among other things. Unintended consequences add up.

Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial said... Best Blogger Tips

Nancy, you know we're so with you on this thinking! I'm not saying we don't put chemicals into our bodies. With two boys who are asthmatic and various other illnesses, we're pretty behind modern medicine and what it provides.

But the control freak in me wants to know exactly what we're ingesting, so that I can make informed decisions. As always, I come back to beating the drum for eating with awareness - reading labels, understanding what's in the food and making informed choices. Nothing pisses me off more than hidden ingredients, particularly ones that I feel are unnecessary, but which are there purely to extend marketability. I've found that a natural consequence of this is that we now try to make as much of our food from first principles as we possibly can. And like you, we always try to remember to be grateful for the time and resources to do so.

Cheers, Celia

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips
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Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

Thanks for your comments, Celia. It's the feeling pissed off that I am struck by at the moment: normally I am motivated by health concerns, chemical-free food, and all that good stuff, but after watching that film I don't want to give a food megacorp one red cent of my money if I can possibly avoid it. Their practices are ruthless, voracious, and generally despicable, and there's no way I want to support that.

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