Making food that makes sense

The argument for a healthy eating model with a few, simple, local ingredients made by expert craftsmen

By Kieran Folliard

Everyone is aware that low-cost food has a price, whether it’s on the environment, the local economy or our bodies. What people don’t talk about is the opportunity that each of us has to change the world when we pick foods that are real, sustain resources and treat people well. As in other parts of the world, we can return to food that tastes so good that the quality and satisfaction of a wee amount can fully satisfy despite the smaller quantity.

Tasting your food is the number-one way to find out how much you like it, but seeing it made is the best way to decide how good you feel about buying it. We know that films about food-processing change buying habits (and are said to cause bad dreams about large chickens chasing people down the street). What we don’t know is how soon consumers can or will cause the tipping point to effect change in the way that we create food, and — as a result — mind our resources, put people first and eat better ourselves.

If we feed our livestock cheaply and flood their systems with antibiotics or hormones, not only do we create resistance to antibiotics and increase the risk of unwanted growth (like cancers), but we get less of the good from our food. If we “let the fat be the fat,” then we get the benefits of satiety, which creates fullness, and a little goes a long way. Our food supply is leading us to too many ingredients and too much choice, and not enough real food or real flavor. This creates confusion, too many and too much of everything, and not enough satisfaction to know when to stop. The model for healthy eating is few, simple, clean, fresh, local ingredients and craftspeople who artfully make it as delicious as scientifically possible.

When real, whole foods create a feeling of satisfaction, the brain says, ‘Right! I’m done. That did the trick.’ Take foundational foods that have been found throughout history — created by farmers and makers and through processes that pre-date convenience and cheapness as top priority — and just eat a reasonable amount. Flavorful salami in a small quantity with some pickled (fermented is ideal) vegetables, a thin slice of aged cheese and some whole grain bread made with a natural starter (which reduces gluten content, for whomever that’s considered valuable) and stone milled grain, which means that all the nutrients stay in there, and you’re on your way.

So, what will it take to choose sustainable food systems and surpass the cheapest? If I know I can get a loaf of bread for two or three dollars, or ham for the same amount for a few ounces as I can get for a pound from X company, or a large block of cheese at a two-for-one, then what’s in it for me? In offering the best-tasting products that you can watch being made, we demonstrate the context of food choice changing from, ‘What’s in it for me?’ to ‘What’s in it?’

As far as putting people first, it’s important that farmers get paid fairly, the crafters/makers are valued and rewarded, and that the consumers get a product that not alone is tasty, satisfying and beautiful, but that it contributes toward a more sustainable and ultimately more interesting food culture. Building the community of farmers and makers who continue to create for us is a goal. The opportunity that each of us has to eat extraordinary food that puts people first makes craft food about more than good taste, it just makes sense.