Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Cook Naked

This was the theme of a post in honor of this article, which sheds a little more light and awareness on food sensitivities.  Although I must say, the title and the article weren't as developed as I expected.  The concept rings true.
I find with food allergies, my goal is simplicity.  Simple flavors.  Texture.  Few ingredients.  I don't have a lot to work with, and the more we use at one time, the more risk there seems to be.
Spices, the salt of life, are still limited here.  After all, the best way to stop them from clumping is to add corn starch.  And some of them, of their own accord, bite back.
Sauces...a common and easy way to spice up just about anything old and boring are a powerhouse of hidden gluten, corn, preservatives and artificial colors.  Not to mention other possible allergens.
New ingredients, new flavors, bring new fears.  Anything can cause a reaction and when you have confirmed food intolerance, your food fears are founded in experience and have little to nothing to do with taste buds.
So for us, when I think of cooking with food allergies, "cook naked" makes perfect sense.  It's not about avoiding specific ingredients, because only a person who is allergic to an ingredient truly understands their own level of tolerance.  Some people with Celiac Disease only eat certified gluten free products.  Others simply read the label. 
For me, "cooking naked" means cooking simply, transparently.  Enjoying the full flavor of foods, without having to disguise them.  It's peas, simmered and dressed with a bit of oil (or the table) and salt.  It's sweet potatoes, roasted in their own juices and a touch of approved oil.  It's brown rice parboiled in water or homemade broth.  And broth that is made with just carrots, celery and boillion cubes or MSG or autolyzed yeast extract.  It's what you see is what you get. 
Cooking naked is all about letting food speak for itself.  Several months ago, a child was spending an afternoon with Bumblebee and they clamored for a snack.  I offered celery or apples.  The child looked at the celery and said "That looks like a PLANT!"  To which I agreed it still had the leaves at the end.  Her eyes got wide before she said "My mom will not be happy if I come home and say I ate a plant!"  
Penguin felt immensely sorry for the child as soon as the statement was spoken, and has mentioned the incident several times since.  I think shame (of our abnormal diet) and horror that the child didn't realize that vegetables and plants are one and the same are equally disturbing to her. 
And that, perhaps, to me is the heart of cooking naked.  As much as I want Bumblebee and Penguin to fit in...I want them to know what real food is and where it comes from.  And so, we will continue to have celery in it's natural state, attempt to grow a few fruits and veggies in our yard, eat undressed sweet potatoes and place more value on the nutritional value of food than on it's looks. 
Maybe, if we didn't have food allergies, we wouldn't have thought so much about what we eat, and what's in what we eat.  But that just means that food allergies has done us a favor by making us more aware, not just of the content of our food supply, but of the nutritional content (and lack thereof).  It's made us want to know what's in our food, so we can appreciate it more. 
Besides, the simpler our meals, the less time we have to spend preparing them.  

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