Food Visionaries Are Thinking of You

When I tossed the french fry cooker, there was no place to go but up.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the changes so many of us have made away from diets heavy on meat and processed foods to fresh organic greens. Two women led the way 42 years ago — practically ancient history if you were born after 1971.

That’s the year Frances Moore Lappé and Alice Waters came on the scene — Lappé with her book, Diet for a Small Planet, and Waters with her restaurant, Chez Panisse. Both of these visionaries had a big impact on how we think of healthy food today.

Food Politics Is Personal

Not too long ago meat-heavy meals were routine – and vegetables were not just side dishes. They were overcooked side dishes. That was before Lappé’s book.

One thing Lappé disclosed in Diet for a Small Planet is the fact that we grow enough food on this planet to feed every single person. But our production and distribution systems cause starvation.

She also made plant-based diets acceptable and public policy about food understandable. The brief time I was an intern at the San Francisco Bay Area headquarters of Food First, which Lappé co-founded, taught me that nutrition is not just what you eat – it’s also how that food is grown and distributed.

So Diet for a Small Planet was selling like organic hotcakes when Waters opened her restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Although it was many years before she became known beyond the Bay Area, her Edible Schoolyard project that connects children personally with the food they eat now has affiliates across the nation. The White House organic garden is a testament to her commitment (Waters first proposed it in the 1990s).

Other indications suggest changes in the right direction.

Shop Smart Today

Want to know how to shop smart in a supermarket? Find out in less than 2 minutes from UC Berkeley journalism professor Michael Pollan. You may have heard about his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Supermarket Secrets was first posted online in 2010. Recently it’s getting new life through the Nourish Life project.. Pollan, Waters, Lappe’s daughter Anna, and others are educating schools and communities about food and sustainability.

A second video, ” Michael Pollan’s Food Rules,” is good news, too. In 2012, Marija Jacimovic and Benoit Detalle won a special competition for their animated summary of Pollan’s 2010 talk to the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts in Britain. The RSA is the group who popularized those fast-paced whiteboard illustrations of popular speeches.

Then in 2012, Forbes Magazine reported on a study aptly titled, “Trouble in Aisle 5,” with tough news for supermarkets, confirming that the Millennial generation isn’t interested in food-like edible substances found in cans, boxes or other packaging. They want healthy food, choose organic and they’d rather buy their food from small stores or shops.

That’s good news.

The Four Principles of Good Food Hygiene

In the field of food safety and correct food handling there are four recognized principles by which the food industry regulates how it relates to all issues of food hygiene.

Together, these principles work to cover all critical areas where the contamination of food occurs.

By observing these principles we greatly minimise the hygiene risks involved in the handling of food and in the consequential contamination of food.

The four golden rules of food hygiene are:

Buy food from a safe source.
Prevent bacteria from entering your food.
Prevent the multiplication (or growth development) of bacteria in your food.
Destroy bacteria on food, utensils and work surfaces

Rule No.1)

Buy food from a safe source.

Make sure that you buy food only from a suppliers who are well known and reputable. It is important to check that all foods be within their expiry date and kept in appropriate conditions in the shop.

Serving counters should be kept spotlessly clean, likewise machines such as mincers, knives and slicing machines.

Freezers, fridges and chillers should display their temperatures and should be set at less than 5 degrees centigrade for chilled products and -18 degrees centigrade or less for frozen products.

All packaging should be original and not tampered with or forged. This would indicate that the product is not the original contents and has been produced by a fraudulent company. Do not buy these products under any circumstances because they threaten your health.

All reputable retail businesses that sell food should display up to date licences from all the required regulatory authorities as required by law. Check with your local authority to find out what licences a food shop or a supermarket must have to be open for business in your area.

Rule No.2)

Prevent bacteria from entering your food

Ok! This is the pace to tell you a little about bacteria and how they multiply.

All bacteria, when they have the right conditions begin to multiply. The conditions that they need are,

a) a temperature of above 10 degrees centigrade, (some say 5 degrees).

b) A food source. Bacteria break down all organic matter into sugars and use the basic food molecule which is mono- saccharide glucose for their metabolism.

Bacteria need only 20 minutes to adjust themselves to a new food source. For example, Supposing a bacteria was on a sugary food and suddenly found itself on fish, the transition the bacteria would need to be able to digest the new food source is twenty minutes.

c) A source of water.

On acquiring suitable conditions bacteria then commense to reproduce at a rate of one division of the whole colony every 20 minutes. E.G. If you had 1000 bacteria on a piece of food to begin with, you will have one million bacteria after 20 minutes. In the following 20 minutes the number would jump up to one million million bacteria. After that the numbers are simply astronomical!

Keeping bacteria from getting into your food is primarily down to prevention of cross contamination.

Cross contamination means the contact of any food source with any form of contamination from another source. This could be other food (raw or processed), Packaging, garbage, contaminated water or air, unclean or sick humans, animal life, or unclean tools and surfaces.

In good professional kitchens there are different fridges for different functions. For example, there is one fridge for dairy, another for cold fresh vegetables and another for food that has been cooked.

As home owners we do not usually have this luxury therefore it is advised to keep cooked foods at the top of the fridge and raw materials at the bottom in closed containers. This way the risk of contamination is greatly lessened.

Eggs, especially, should be kept in a closed container because they have many bacteria on their outer shells.

Remember to wash your hands and arms to the elbow before preparing food. Cut your salads first and then go onto the foods that are to be cooked making sure to thoroughly wash your board before moving on to different types of food.

Wash all surfaces before and after work with a good detergent. Put cloths into the wash after each usage. Always start with a clean cloth.

Rule No.3)

Prevent the multiplication of bacteria in your food.

As Stated above bacteria need the correct conditions to divide themselves. To do this they need A) the right temperature, B) Food and C) water.

It follows, then, that food should be stored at the lowest possible temperature to keep bacteria inactive. Also, do not allow your food to come into contact with water before you cook it. By thawing food in water we are giving the bacteria a heads start.

Cook your food at the earliest possible moment and after it is cooked keep it at a temperature of at least 70 degrees centigrade until it is served.

If you have to cool your food, do not put hot food in large containers into the fridge. Divide it up into smaller containers and do not stack them in such a way that air cannot circulate around the containers. Once cool freeze if possible.

When thawing food, do it in the fridge in a closed container. Remember, it’s better to plan a meal a couple of days ahead of time than to have have to take couple of sick days off work in bed.

Once thawed, cook the food as soon as possible.

The best way to destroy all bacteria is to cook your food in a pressure cooker. This way the combination of increased temperature and increased atmospheric pressure will completely sterilize the food.

Rule No. 4).

Destroy bacteria on food, utensils and work surfaces.

This rule speaks for itself. Do not let them develop in your kitchen.

Cook food as quickly as possible. Food that cannot be cooked should be frozen if it is not eaten within a short space of time.

Alternative forms of food preservation such as, dehydration, smoking, canning, sterilizing, concentrating and pickling are all alternative ways of preventing the development of and destroying bacteria in food.

The surroundings also constitute a source of food contamination, therefore, you should wash your work surfaces after each usage with hot water and detergent.

In professional kitchens, all working areas should be surfaced with stainless steel. This way, the surface may be cleaned with special grease and lime removing chemicals that have either a caustic soda base or a phosphoric acid base. For safety, remember never to mix chemicals; especially acids and alkalis like caustic soda and phosphoric acid.

Likewise wash all utensils in very hot water and washing up detergent. The water should be so hot that you need gloves to tolerate the heat.

Store pots, pans, plates, cutlery and other utensils in a clean and dry place. Make sure that they are dry before storing them away. Use a clean dish towel every time. Store them upside down. Keep all storage areas clean. Check reglarly for signs of vermin.

Heat crockery to 80 degrees centigrade before serving. This will prevent contamination even Further.

These are the four principles of good food hygiene. Follow them closely and the chances of you or you clients becoming sick are substantially lessened.

A Few Food Rules of Your Cocktail Party

When you host a cocktail party it is a very entertaining way to have so great time with your family and friends. But when you serve alcohol your guest are sure to appreciate a few bites of food. As you are thinking about what to serve you should also think about how many people so you can have an idea on how much food you will need. For cocktail food, usually six bites every hour per person. However depending on the guests I would calculate a bit more then that.

Food that is great for your cocktail party would be mostly finger foods. They can be prepared prior to the cocktail party and they require little clean up.

It is a wise choice to have some napkins or paper plates also. Your guests will have an opportunity to walk around and talk while they snack. And still not much clean up involved.

Appetizers as a rule are small in portion usually bite size. Good ideas would be mini cheesecakes, sausage rolls, dipped strawberries in chocolate are all great cocktail party foods. Martinis go great with caviar or smokes salmon. Or you may choose to go simply with cheese trays paired with wine.

You need to enjoy yourself so be sure that the cocktail party food that you choose is simple and will not require a lot of running back and forth from the kitchen. If the host can be no wheres to be found then some of the guests may begin to feel a bit uncomfortable. Make sure that you have chosen a food that you are familiar with, and a food that can be made ahead of time. The last thing that you need to be doing is slave in the kitchen when there is a fabulous cocktail party going on right on the other side of kitchen door.