I am now entirely off of the conventional food grid – everything I eat is organic. Once the decision was made to embark on this journey, it was time to restock our pantry and our fridge for all-organic cooking.
Don’t get the impression that most of my meals are homemade feasts. We lead busy lives, so most of my meals at home are small and simple — maybe just a crisp organic apple and some Raw Sharp Cheddar Cheese slices, or organic walnuts and green beans, or organic almonds and yogurt. But my wife Cheryl is an amazing cook, and I have fun trying things in the kitchen, so we average about one full homemade meal a day, many of them breakfasts or brunches.
One of the best early finds on my all-organic adventure was a book by Jesse Ziff Cool called Your Organic Kitchen – The Essential Guide to Selecting and Cooking Organic Foods. Jesse has an amazing restaurant, The Cool CafÃ©that’s located on the campus of Stanford University. Everything there is delicious, as well as local, seasonal, sustainable, and/or organic. It’s a campus hotspot for people who love great food, whether they are thinking about organic or not. When I saw Jesse’s cookbook I knew it would be a great roadmap for my home organic dining experience. It’s packed with simple, delicious recipes arranged according to what ingredients are fresh and in-season throughout the calendar.
But when I set out to cook, I discovered how much I really needed to change out in our family pantry and fridge. The milk, cheese, yogurt, and eggs we got were already organic, except for a few artisan cheeses. Most of the fresh produce at home was already organic as well. But many of the prepared and frozen foods, as well as sauces, dressings, condiments, beans, breads, nuts, dried fruits, mixes, and flours needed to be replaced.
There were a lot of last-minute trips to the market in those first weeks, as each time I tackled a new recipe I found myself running to the store to pick up an item or two I had taken for granted. For one thing, I realized that very few of the herbs, spices, and extracts in my pantry were organic. None of the nearby stores had a complete selection, so I’ve now got a hodgepodge in the pantry: organic black peppercorns from Simply Organic, organic cayenne pepper from Frontier Culinary Spices, organic rubbed sage from Morton and Bassett Spices, organic vanilla extract from Flavorganics, and organic thyme leaves from McCormick Gourmet Collection. I even bought my first-ever basil plant! It took some time, but the re-spicing of my life is pretty complete.
In the first week , I made a yogurt mistake. I picked up a yogurt from a well-known organic yogurt companies, and enjoyed it heartily – only to notice on closer inspection that it was all natural – not organic. I felt horrible, but I learned from my mistake. I’ve become a much closer reader of labels than I ever was. So have my kids, who point out, .Dad, those crackers are made with organic wheat flour – they’re not certified organic. Put them down!. I’ve learned to look for the USDA Certified Organic seal, or the Oregon Tilth seal. And I’ve come to trust a few brands that are ‘all-organic, all-the-time.’
I can’t remember having such a great time eating at home. Our pantry and fridge have made the transition. We’re sharing a bounty of wonderful, organic whole foods . Some meals are elaborate; most are simple; all leave me feeling better than I have in years. But we’ll talk about the surprising effects on my mind and body next time.