17 Mar 2010

Eatin' of the Greens

Posted by annmcolford

Breakfast egg and toast

Forgot it was St. Paddy’s Day until I typed the date. Whaddaya know. Guess I’d better go pull out the green turtleneck.

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood this morning—sun, high thin clouds, mid-40s so far. Perhaps I’ll take a walk later today to de-stress from the rant I feel building.

The seed for my rant comes from an article in today’s New York Times about the latest in consumer gadgets for the kitchen—“small kitchen electrics,” as they’re called in industry jargon. Sales of these products actually increased between 2008 and 2009, according to the article, in contrast to the declining sales in most other categories including housewares. (Non-electric kitchen stuff like knives, pots and pans fall into this category.) Seems that as Americans cut back on meals eaten away from home, we are needing some assistance in the kitchen—like appliances that will cook our meals (frozen or other convenience foods) at the touch of a button. Reporting from the International Home and Housewares show in Chicago, the article’s writer, Kim Severson, does a fine job treading the line between straight reporting and snark: As she puts it, “We are a nation that cooks with an index finger.”

Now I’ll be the first to confess that I’ve sometimes employed a single finger in the kitchen—at moments of high frustration, in a performance-art kind of rhetorical flourish—but it’s never been the index finger. (Copping the style of my friend Jani Cabani, I’ll sometimes wave my pinkie in those moments when, as she says, “you don’t care to send the very best.”) I’m just not big on push-button meals.

The obvious problem is that such meals rely on highly processed foods filled with salt, preservatives and goodness knows what else. These foods are manufactured, not grown (or raised or baked). And while I’m happy to do my part to create jobs for hard-working Americans in the food sector, I’d rather not consume all of the additives that are necessary to make most processed foods palatable. Like writer Michael Pollan, I don’t want to eat “edible food-like substances”; I want to eat food. Good food. Healthy food. Food that nourishes me body and soul, rather than simply filling an empty space quickly.

But Americans are notoriously pressed for time (and in love with gadgets), thus creating the demand for items that can help get dinner on the table fast. And frozen pizza is such a fixture in the American home-dining landscape that many of the countertop ovens (microwave, toaster and convection varieties) now feature what’s called a “pizza bump.” That’s a little bulge, either in front or in back, that allows a 12-inch frozen pizza to fit inside without being squished. It occurs to me that perhaps food manufacturers should have offered rectangular pizzas, rather than requiring a whole new class of appliances, but that’s just me. It also occurs to me that many of us suffer from our own version of the pizza bump—God knows I’ve been trying to get rid of mine for years—and we don’t need appliances that make it easier for us to eat more the stuff that contributes to our own un-health. But then I’ve always been something of a heretic.

The coup de grace for me was the gleaming appliance featured in the accompanying photo: Quoting the caption, it’s “a toaster from West Bend that can make toast and an egg at the same time.” The photo shows a swooping, curving stainless-steel device, with two wide slots at the top for the toast and small round covered dish for egg poaching attached to the front. It’s an odd mating that brings to mind early sci-fi robots (or what would happen if an old-style domed breadbox crashed sideways into small saucepan). But at least it doesn’t rely on processed food.

Still, setting aside for a moment the limitations inherent in the design—What if I only want one piece of toast but two eggs? What if I’m cooking for more than just me?—I’m thinking that the cleanup on this puppy would erase any time savings from its push-button operation. Crumbs and egg bits? In something that’s big and not submersible?

Since I prepare some variation on the egg-and-toast theme for breakfast nearly every day, I’d like to go head to head with someone operating one of these machines and see who can crank out breakfast faster. My version generally has some veggies added in, too, so I’d get bonus points for vitamins and fiber (not to mention appearance).

For example, this morning, I put my small skillet on the stove to preheat while chopping up a giant leaf of Swiss chard. (I’ve also used kale or baby spinach to make this dish; cooking time varies, but otherwise there’s not much difference.) I put some olive oil in the skillet, added the chopped chard, sprinkled on some dehydrated onions (there’s a timesaver) and covered the pan. I let it cook down for a few minutes while I got the cat’s breakfast ready. Then I added just a splash of water (hot green tea, actually), stirred it all around, and dropped an egg in the center. I covered the pan again and turned the heat down a notch. Then I popped a piece of bread in the toaster oven (yes, I own a toaster oven, but it has no pizza bump; and I don’t own a toaster) and pressed a couple of buttons (with my index finger). The toasting cycle is four minutes long, so that’s how I time my egg. I cleared the counter, grabbed a plate, buttered the toast when it was done, then slid the egg-and-greens combo onto the plate. I splashed on a little bit of Frank’s Red Hot sauce (cuz I’m addicted to the stuff) and sat down to a deluxe breakfast. Total prep time from start to finish was maybe 12 minutes (and included feeding the cat). And cleanup from cooking was a breeze: I rinsed the skillet, swished some soapy warm water around in it, rinsed it again, and I was done.

(For those who want to know such details: My toast was a slice of my homemade whole-grain artisan bread; as a spread, I used real butter, unsalted, maybe a teaspoon-plus. This batch of chard came from the Main Market and was grown organically in California; the last batch came from C&S Hydro-Huts, a local hydroponic grower—I bought it at Rocket Market. The eggs are Huckleberry’s store brand organic free-range. My olive oil for cooking comes from Western Family, and the dried onions are Safeway’s store brand. Today’s tea is Numi’s Gen Mai Cha. The cat food is from Royal Canin, with a little grated organic carrot added for good measure.)

OK, today’s rant is complete. Now for that walk.

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3 Responses to “Eatin' of the Greens”

  1. Lookin’ good Sister! What have you been eating since March?


    MC Paul

  2. HTML, FTP and Cyberduck, with a side order of Google Analytics. :-) But watch for a new post this week, all about the relationship turkey and soul gravy soup…



  3. Soul Gravy©
    Soul Gravy Soup©



    M.C. paul

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