My love affair with food is an evolution. As a kid I scoured the cereal aisle for the ever elusive Boo Berry which, by some General Mills marketing ploy, only seemed to appear in a blue moon compared to its Count Dracula and Franken Berry cousins. Lunch involved white bread schmeared with Miracle Whip topped off with a glob of cured meat and a rubbery square of American cheese, complete with a side of Zingers, Twinkies or Ding Dongs. As an afterthought, I might have taken two bites out of a mealy apple before throwing the remains of my lunch in the garbage – but only after slugging down eight ounces of chocolate milk and devouring a sizable portion of corn chips or cheese balls.
Contrastingly, memories of childhood eats also involve a giant garden my parents planted every year on over half an acre of land, outlined by bright yellow and orange marigolds to keep unwanted critters away. I helped my mom shuck peas, snap the ends of green beans and pull carrots. In addition to the garden, my parents bought high quality beef and pastured pork from local farmers – a significant benefit of living in the midwest. We foraged for morel mushrooms in the spring, cut wild asparagus on the roadside, and my brother and I would pick every last wild raspberry we could find in the woods in the summertime to top homemade vanilla ice cream for dessert.
I always thought my family ate pretty well despite our reliance upon Big Agra until my sister-in-law stayed with us at our cabin in the summer of 2013. During that visit she shared her recent experiment with the “Whole30.” Curious, I asked her more about it. She talked about how for 30 days, she and her fiance ate nothing but nutrient-dense vegetables, high quality meat, fish, fruit, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats. Intrigued, I read up on the Whole30, the Paleo lifestyle, and started a campaign trail to get my people committed. My kids readily agreed, but the husband dug his heels in on the temporary no alcohol rule. Finally he caved and agreed to go along with the program.
Changing our diet was the single greatest step we ever took toward better health. We rarely fall ill, our skin glows, we sleep better and feel great. Energy is at an all time high, regardless of the time of day, even for the teenagers. We all lost weight on the program, and feel better for it.
Some of the recipes you’ll see on this website are Paleo inspired. But not all of them. We aren’t perfect eaters, and there are certain things in which we will indulge. And what better day to splurge than a Friday evening as you unwind from the work week? Even still there are a few self-imposed rules that we stick to:
1. If we’re going to consume bread it’s going to be darned good and freshly baked. You’ll never see me create something from the bagged sandwich bread section from the grocery store – I can barely stand to even walk down that aisle anymore as the smells alone engage my gag reflux. The only exceptions to that rule are flour tortillas and English Muffins. You will always find a bag of each in my refrigerator for Tomato Bread, Tuna Melts or a certain teenaged boy’s weekday breakfast and lunch.
2. Pizza. It is impossible to give up pizza, especially when you hail from Chicagoland, where arguably you’ll find the best pizza on the face of the earth. It’s the only takeout I will eat, but I prefer to make it at home. Well, actually I prefer Mr. Musky to make it for me at home.
3. Certain dairy products. Some Paleo followers swear it off like the plague citing it isn’t natural to ingest food intended for a newborn calf. I get their point; however, I’m a cheese whore. I was raised that way by my dad, and will always crave a cracker and a hunk of cheese, especially when I’m drinking gin or wine. The difference now is that my cheese must be superb, varied and devoid of any processed junk. Italian gouda laced with truffle is a favorite, as is Spanish manchego or gorgonzola drizzled with honey. We also consume high quality heavy cream, grass fed butter, greek yogurt, sour cream, ghee and cream cheese – all great sources of healthy fat.
4. Minimal processed food. While you’ll never see a blue box promising cheesey macaroni goodness in our pantry, we do imbibe in the occasional rice cracker, gluten free pasta, corn chips and jarred marinara or pasta sauce.
Over time, we all curbed our sweet tooth so I rarely make sweet treats for my family. I typically have Talenti Gelato and dark chocolate on hand, so either does it for the occasional sweet indulgence. As a result you won’t see very many desserts on this blog – we are definitely into the savory around here, especially when it comes to pairing food with a well balanced cocktail. When I do get crazy and make something sweet, I get rave reviews from all around as the best baker in town. They flatter.
Given all that, my food tastes and desires continue to to evolve. Last week I tried the latest fad – butter in my coffee in lieu of breakfast. I’ll try anything once, and most things twice. Except for liver of any kind. I just can’t.
Thanks for checking out the what and why behind the food recipes on Apéritif Friday. I invite you to stick around and see what happens next.