Last week, Michael Pollan published an essay, “The Food Movement, Rising,” discussing the myriad of activities that, while operating separately, together create formidable dialogue and rationale around changing the state of our food system. The entire essay is thought-provoking, but the part I related to most is about purchasing food “beyond the bar code,” excerpted here:
“What is attracting so many people to the movement today (and young people in particular) is a much less conventional kind of politics, one that is about something more than food. The food movement is also about community, identity, pleasure… Though seldom articulated as such, the attempt to redefine, or escape, the traditional role of consumer has become an important aspiration of the food movement. In various ways it seeks to put the relationship between consumers and producers on a new, more neighborly footing, enriching the kinds of information exchanged in the transaction, and encouraging us to regard our food dollars as “votes” for a different kind of agriculture and, by implication, economy… suggesting that not just “good value” but ethical and political values should inform our buying decisions, and that we’ll get more satisfaction from our eating when they do.”
There are many tools and resources to help people make informed decisions about the food they buy, to “vote,” in Pollan’s words. In fact, a new report on pesticides on fruits and vegetables from the Environmental Working Group aims to do just that. The report establishes average amounts of chemical residue on produce using 100,000 pesticide reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. An article from CNN looks at the report’s “Dirty Dozen” (those with the highest pesticide residue) and the “Clean 15” (those that contain little or no pesticide residue) to help concerned consumers mitigate their intake (download the handy pocket guide here). While the government affirms that pesticide consumption in low amounts is not detrimental to health, long-term studies are not available and there’s a host of information that makes a strong case for avoiding these chemicals whenever possible. And just what is a low amount, anyway?
And then there’s the nutritional science that dictates consumer behavior that I particularly enjoy as a dietitian. A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that compared to cows fed with processed grains, grass-fed cows produce milk with five times higher concentrations of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA is an unsaturated fat that not only has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, but may protect against cancer and help the body fight fat. When it comes to one’s diet, animal-derived products deserve just as much attention as the animal meat itself. While J and I are not huge milk drinkers, I’m hoping to bake another round or two of muffins before packing up the ceramic mixing bowls and whisk.
So in Pollan’s spirit of community, identity, and pleasure, I exercised my vow to diversify my local purchases at the Rittenhouse Farmers Market over the weekend. Operated by Farm To City, Rittenhouse market is open year-round and dons a long row of white tents bursting with fresh produce, flowers, dairy products and baked goods. I picked up some milk and Monterey jack cheese from Hails Family Farm (pastured and grass-fed), zucchini from Rineer Family Farms (IPM methods), radish and cucumbers from Down to Earth Organics, and some red bibb lettuce from Rabbits’ Run Farm in Quakertown, PA (PA certified organic). I had a recipe in mind to create a fresh, light salad to bring down the shore to enjoy in the hot weather.
Without an apple in sight, I ended up at the Piazza Farmers Market in search of Fujis from Three Springs Fruit Farm (love their strawberries, too) as well as M&B Farview Farms who, in speaking with the farmer last week, had restocked their chicken breast supply for the holiday weekend. I also picked up some honey from Daniel’s Bee Farm at the Natural Meadows Farm stand to round out my muffin ingredients for later in the week.
This salad is a healthy accompaniment to a summer day, and the protein-packed beans provide staying power to keep hunger at bay. As the local food movement continues to rise, fresh dishes like this one makes it easy to realize why. Oh, and the basil in this recipe? That’s from my garden.
Sweet Summer Salad
Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen’s Veggie Le Crunch
* denotes locally-sourced food item
- 6-7 radishes, depending on size *
- 1 cup black beans, cooked and drained *
- 1 cucumber *
- 2 small zucchini *
- Handful of fresh basil *
- 2 cups bibb lettuce (or a green of your choice) *
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. honey *
- Juice of one lime
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lime, honey, and salt and pepper to combine.
- Slice the radishes and zucchini into thin rounds. Peel and halve the cucumber, scoop out the seeds and dice into small pieces. Chop the lettuce into strips to create 2 cups of greens.
- In a large bowl, combine the radish, cucumber, black beans, greens and a pinch of salt and pepper. Add desired amount of fresh basil (chopped or slivered).
- Pour the dressing over the vegetables and allow to marinate for an hour. You may not need to use all of the dressing, so bottle it up and save it for another salad 🙂