Israelis come from a variety of countries and their diets tend toward the eclectic. My own culinary heritage is staunchly eastern European. But while my mother rendered chicken fat from time to time, she preferred adapting traditional foods to make them lighter.
Alternet‘s Terence McNally interviewed Michael Pollan, ecological food expert and best-selling author of In Defense of Food, who expressed concern about the loss of food’s cultural connotations. Marketers and researchers devalue our intuition, leading us to suspect the foods we were raised on:
Michael Pollan (MP): I remember my mother dutifully giving us all margarine instead of butter. She would say, “Some day they’re going to figure out that butter is actually better for you than margarine,” and we thought she was nuts. In fact, it turned out that margarine was lethal and butter is fine.
Terence McNally (TMN): She was still feeding it to you suspecting that would happen…?
MP: The authority of mothers was essentially destroyed by the food industry. The $32 billion a year in marketing muscle out there has undercut culture’s role in determining what we eat, and culture is a fancy word for your mom.
TMN: Just to emphasize that number, that’s not the food industry, that’s the food marketing industry.
Of course many eastern European staples are healthy. Think of soups rich with legumes and vegetables, stuffed cabbage and chopped liver that “stretch” meat (even if the cabbage is overcooked), and lots of fresh vegetables straight from the garden.
I have rejected my own mother’s copious use of Crisco, a tasteless, pareve (meaning meat nor dairy, thus neutral for a kosher kitchen) shortening heavily marketed by corporate giant Procter and Gamble. Instead I bake with whole wheat flour and canola oil, and serve humus and eggplant salad along with potato kugel and matzah balls.
How have you adjusted your culinary traditions to eat more healthily?