Love, Loss and Southern Food

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Sometimes life seems to come at you all at once.  Ups and downs are a constant of life but sometimes we get gobsmacked by both of them at the same time. Last weekend I had the absolute pleasure of welcoming a daughter into the family as my oldest son (and frequent GMD guest chef), Eric, got married in Charleston, SC.  I was filled with such joy that I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. Only another parent could understand the pride and pleasure that my husband and I derived from watching our son and his lovely new wife exchange their vows in an old 1706 stone church, and seal their union with the traditional breaking of the glass followed by the birdseed ‘gauntlet’ to the get away car. We danced all night in celebration and witnessed the bride and groom depart late at night through an incredible tunnel of Sparklers!   I have three wonderful sons but I knew if I waited long enough I would finally get a daughter (hopefully eventually there will be three).  Eric could not have made a better choice.  Hannah Grace is beautiful inside and out.  My heart was full.

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The following day, my Mother passed away in Seattle just shy of her 88th birthday.  I had been planning on taking the new bride up to Seattle right after the honeymoon to meet Mom, Dad and my rather large family and celebrate their new marriage.  As one of eleven children, I realize that this would be intimidating for anyone under the best of circumstances. Now, instead we will be going to say goodbye.  I am deeply sad that my Mom won’t get to meet Hannah Grace, a fellow educator and advocate for children and those in need, but even more so that HG won’t get to meet the person that had such an influence on who I am today and who also helped to shape the man with whom she chose to spend the rest of her life.  I have to remind myself that I am lucky that I got to know Mom for part of her life. She was fearless and selfless in so many ways and not afraid to get her hands dirty. She and my Dad took in dozens of foster children, including an entire family that escaped from Cuba in the 60’s.  She raised chickens and had an organic garden before they were trendy.  She was definitely ahead of her time, although she was incredibly humble and would be the last to call herself beautiful or a leader, yet she was both. It is from my Mom that I have the passion for gardening and experimenting with healthy food. Most likely without her wealth of knowledge and hands on experience, there would be no goodmotherdiet.  It’s hard to believe she is gone; that I can’t pick up the phone to chat about what to plant next to my kale this Fall or how to make her famous Oatmeal Waffles with Strawberry Goop.

My friend, Del, sent me a card that poses the idea; “Perhaps they are not Stars, but rather openings in Heaven where the Love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are Happy“. I find a small measure of comfort in this theory.  Although I bounce between sorrow and joy and back again, I am grateful that I am blessed with a loving family and I hope Mom is watching from her opening in Heaven as the newlyweds begin their life together. I know I will forevermore smile at the stars.

So what does this have to do with Southern Food?

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Alas, I realize that this is actually a food blog, so steer myself away from Memory Lane for a bit to think about food and how it might relate. It is known that food can make us happy.  You have no doubt heard of comfort food which is often food that reminds us of our childhood or happier times, or at least makes our bellies feel happy and satisfied. I tend to go for a big bowl of buttered (non-GMO of course) popcorn cooked on the stovetop just like Mom used to make.  For Southerners, like my new daughter in law, Cheesy Grits might be your go to dish.  As I continue to bask in the glow of the Charleston wedding, with thoughts of my Mom tucked safely away in my heart, I have compiled several blog posts of delicious Southern specialties that I made after my pre-wedding trip to Charleston last spring, like Charred Okra and Tomatoes, Shrimp and Cheesy Grits, Fried Catfish and the famous Fried Green Tomatoes (which could be the perfect solution for those unripe tomatoes still on the vine when the weather gets cold).  There is a reason why some of these are classic dishes! Click through the links below for the full recipes. I will get back to cooking soon, but I’m taking a bit of a break right now to spend time with my family.  Thanks for reading…Joyce

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Charred Okra with Tomatoes – Even those who are not fans of okra may change their minds with this one which combines smokey okra, charred onion and garlic, along with sweet wilted tomato and a sprinkling of fresh herbs and lemon zest.  You just may be pleasantly surprised!

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Grilled Shrimp and Cheesy Grits – Need I say more?  Creamy grits with sharp white cheddar and parmesan topped with grilled shrimp with a honey, black pepper glaze and topped with loads of fresh herbs and lemon zest.

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Fried Green Tomatoes with Buttermilk Lime Sauce – This is the recipe from Fanny Flagg and her novel, “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe”,that made ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ famous around the whole country and not just in the South.  Yum!  This is the perfect answer for what to do with the last green tomatoes of the season as the cold weather sets in…

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Fried Catfish Over Napa Corn Slaw-We’re talking Southern style fried fish (wheat and gluten free) over a light and spicy slaw.  Delicious!

 

 

It’s My Blogaversary – A Year Without Meat

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It’s my Blogaversary!

Wow, Goodmotherdiet is One! I can’t believe how fast that year went. It has been so much fun! I have learned a lot and not just technical stuff like how to make recipes print or create a photo mosaic (my newest accomplishment). I have learned a lot about Me. They say life is a journey and we learn as we go. I started this blog as a fun way to keep myself busy and because I had this little germ of an idea that cute little animals were my friends, not my dinner and maybe I should choose lentils over lamb. Well Goodmotherdiet has definitely kept me busy.

My favorite thing about this blog has been connecting with friends, both old and new, from my little town of Mill Valley, CA to Canada, UK, Australia and Sri Lanka (to name only a few of the 98 countries you come from). Thank you to all of you for reading and for your support. I especially love when readers send me photos of the GMD recipes they have made for my “You Made It!” page, so keep those coming along with your comments!

In lieu of a recipe, I thought it appropriate to recap my year. So how did it go?

June of 2013 I hatched a crazy plan to not eat meat for a year, partly as an experiment but mostly to see how it felt to take a moral stand. I specifically chose to not eat mammals, who give live birth and nurse their young, because I strongly identify with them as mothers (hence goodmotherdiet). Being a mother is the most important job I’ve ever had and when I watch wild and domestic animals try to care for their babies, I’m struck with the realization that we are all trying to do the same job.

November of 2013 my son, Eric, sent me a link to WordPress.com. I created a domain name, picked a background and goodmotherdiet.com was born. I published my first blog post on November 25th.  I thought it would stretch my culinary repertoire to create recipes for Meatless Monday and Wheatless Wednesday, and it certainly has. What I wasn’t expecting though, was the profound change it would have in my thinking.

An interesting thing happened at about the one year mark, a time when, in theory, this experiment could be over. Instead of diving into a juicy burger,  I also stopped eating chicken and other winged creatures. It just didn’t feel right so I followed my gut. (pun intended)

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Here is what I have come away with in the year but first I want to point out that I ate meat for over 50 years so this is a reflection of my journey and not a condemnation of anyone else’s choices.

  • Eating organic and as close to the earth is the way to go – better nutrition, better for the environment, less chemicals.
  • Forget the food chain. Our practices towards animals don’t make any sense. We pamper our pet animals and we are outraged when people abuse their pet cat or leave their dog in a hot car but we turn a blind eye to our domestic animals like cows, pigs, sheep and chickens (to name only a few) the vast majority of which, live horrific lives in cruel and inhumane conditions, ending in brutal slaughter, or even worse, being skinned or boiled alive, all in the name of profit. I have learned that cows have best friends. Pigs are social animals and have the intelligence of a 3 year old while the average dog is as smart as a 2 year old (and I love my dog). Like I said, it makes no sense.
  • Remember when we were all up in arms and boycotting the veal industry because of the cruelty of the living conditions and small cages?  Well, unfortunately all factory farmed animals (which are the great majority)  are raised like that now, spending their entire lives in extremely confined spaces, barely able to turn around or in some cases, barely able to move at all. There is a reason this is all done behind closed doors.
  • Labels like ‘Cage Free’, ‘Free Range’ and ‘Natural’ are almost meaningless and intentionally misleading. The industry knows that people are compassionate and want to buy the kinder, more healthy option. Unfortunately, it’s mostly marketing.  ‘Pasture Raised’ animals are the only ones that really have any access to green pastures so the picture of the ‘cage free’ chicken pecking away in the garden – may not be what you think.
  • I realize that not everyone is ready to give up meat and I would not be as averse to eating meat if the animals were allowed to live a more natural life and they were treated humanely, even in death, as much as that is possible. Animals deserve better. Luckily, we get to decide. We vote with our pocketbooks every day in the market. Buy ‘pasture raised’ and avoid the CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation or factory farmed meat). It’s better for us and the environment but mostly it’s the more compassionate choice for the animals.
  • Meatless Monday is a great start.  It’s a small step with a great impact.
  • Even though I don’t buy meat, I do buy animal products like eggs, milk and cheese from pasture raised hens and cows.  I am a big proponent of supporting local small farmers who are making the effort to raise animals the ‘right’ way. If it is profitable for them, maybe more will follow and prices will go down as a result.
  • I actually like eating mostly vegetarian food.  It’s more interesting and certainly more colorful. (My skin loves it too.)  I didn’t go meatless for any health reasons, although extensive studies show a meat free diet to be healthier.  I also like feeling good about my choices.

People often ask me if I will ever eat meat again. I honestly don’t know. The reality is that once your eyes are opened they can’t be unopened. They can be closed but that is really just a choice to not see. The book, “The Fault in Our Stars” is filled with wonderful thought provoking quotes but the one that really stuck with me was Hazel Grace’s explanation for why she is vegetarian. “I want to minimize the number of deaths I am responsible for.”

Climbing down off my soapbox now.  Thanks for a great year!  More delicious recipes to come…

-J

Weedkiller10

Sources:

http://www.farmsanctuary.org/learn/factory-farming/ (Factory Farming)

http://thenontoxiclife.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/factory-farming-or-everything-is-now-a-veal/ (Factory Farming)

http://www.wisegeek.com/has-it-been-proven-that-a-vegetarian-diet-is-really-healthier.htm#didyouknowout (Vegetarianism)

http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Science/story?id=771414&page=1 (Is Your Meat Smarter Than Your Pet?)

http://www.meatlessmonday.com/about-us/why-meatless/ (Meatless Monday)

 

 

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Epiphany From a Veggie Burger

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Epiphany from a Veggie Burger

I am six months in to the Good Mother Diet, about half way through this experimental year (although less than two months into the blogging world).  I promised myself when I started gmd last June, not to form judgments or make any permanent decisions until the full year was up. Rather this is supposed to be a fun, exploration into the food world, one healthy meal at a time.  That is still my plan, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this road I’m travelling only goes in one direction.  I wasn’t planning to make New Year’s Resolutions, however, today’s lunch gave me pause and take a moment to reflect.  I certainly feel better about my decision to stop eating meat. That feels right to me.   I used to love a good ribeye steak or a double double at In and Out, so I’ve been surprised that I don’t miss meat at all. Perhaps it’s because I have been having so much fun trying new food combinations and maybe I’ll get bored when I’ve lost my enthusiasm for my new mandolin.

Now, back to my lunch.  I really like veggie burgers (cheddar cheese, no bun) and I often have them for lunch. Today, I tried a new brand that promises to taste like a regular hamburger.  Now generally I don’t like food that ‘pretends’ to be like something else.  I like my veggie burgers to taste like veggie burgers.  One bite into this burger and I knew they had not falsely advertised. In no way do I want to knock Morning Star.  It’s probably to their credit that they made a veggie burger that tastes so much like a hamburger.  Those of you who don’t like veggie burgers but like hamburgers might really like these.  What was surprising was my reaction to the taste of ‘beef’.  I would have thought I would be thrilled to ‘have my cake and eat it too’ so to speak but that was not the case.  My stomach and my brain revolted.  I ran back to the freezer to check the label on the box just to be sure – textured soy protein, the ultimate pretender.  I was very surprised at my response.  I once gave up canola oil, sole, kidney beans, wheat and a few other foods for a year to test out a food allergy theory and had no problems when I added them back in my diet. So why did my stomach lurch at this ‘textured soy protein’ pretending so well to be beef? Why can’t I get the taste of hamburger out of my mouth?  I always considered that if I chose to eat meat again when this year is done, I might feel bad or guilty but never really considered the mind/body connection.  Maybe this is a one time experience.  Who knows?

So what is my big epiphany? Good Mother Diet has changed me (and not just the five pounds I’ve lost).  It’s not just about having fun with food, although that is what gmd blog is mostly about.  If you want to know more about how Good Mother Diet came to be, click on the ‘About’ tab.  On some devices you have to click on ‘Menu’ for the tabs to pop up.  I’m just going to let the year play out and see what happens.  Happy New Year!


 [J1]