I listened to the interview with Dan Barber on Onbeing this morning. He discussed how the food movement is an elite and expensive way of living. I lived many years in Mexico and found Mexicans very creative in making economical meals using local foods. Often, the basis of some of the most interesting recipes comes from trying to stretch few resources to feed many mouths. In Mexico this is accomplished by using intense flavor spread on inexpensive staples, such as corn and beans. The variety in preparations of tortilla based dough in Mexico is phenomenal, tortillas, tamales, tlacoyos, chilaquiles, tostadas, dobladitas, quesadillas, gorditas, sopes to mention only a few. The recipes for these are all corn based dough combining beans and an almost infinite array of flavors using inexpensive but nutritious cheeses, meats or vegetables and spices, whatever is available locally. Many of the vegetables used are available, but unappreciated in the U.S. Zucchini flowers, corn smut, pigweed, fava beans, stink weed and a variety of peppers, hot or not. These foods are, however, labor intensive. In Mexico, it is common for a family to supplement its income by preparing foods from home and selling them directly to clients or through a local grocery store. In the U.S., food safety requirements restrict such cottage food industries, but they could be developed, with nutrition and flavor in mind. Local schools, for example, could employ cooks instead of buying prepared menus, this is happening in some progressive schools across the country. Because schools have strict requirements on food preparation, it might be possible to keep those employees making tamales all day and selling or freezing them at night or offering take home "fast food" dinners for busy families. Recipes could be developed in accordance with local food preferences, but with the same goals of freshness, nutrition, flavor, ecology and education. When students are exposed to healthy food at school, they will seek it out at home. Food preparation and eating habits need to undergo this "hedonist" reformation at a democratic level, public schools might just be a start.
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