French Toast with Crumbled Potato Chips, Beer Battered Hotdogs and Saltine Marshmallow Toffee were three of the published recipes I judged recently for a culinary contest. All I could think about as I critiqued them was how differently I eat from most people around the country.
Don’t get me wrong, I love regional cuisine. One of the primary reasons I travel is to try shrimp and grits in South Carolina or mole in Mexico, but I certainly don’t dabble in what I call carnival dishes using processed foods as ingredients. While I’m certain that many of these foods are delicious and have countless fans, the thought of eating them makes my arteries cling. In fact, according to a recent study, unhealthy eating habits are responsible for more deaths than tobacco and high blood pressure per year.[i]
We have an obesity epidemic in this country and we need to put aside our willful ignorance about food, as the Brooklyn Borough President accurately called it at a symposium I recently went to[ii] , and start reading food labels, shopping outside the inner aisles of the supermarket where all the junk food is located, and educate ourselves about taking changes in our diet instead of just buying everything Big Food pushes in our faces.
Forget the Keto diet, the Paleo diet or whatever else is the trend of the day. The healthiest diet is a whole foods diet. Skip the doritos, the donuts and the bleached white flour and put aside a little time each week to prepare food that uses fresh ingredients. Tweak your grandmother’s apple pie recipe - cut back on the sugar in it and definitely don’t add potato chips for crunch if you really want to eat healthier. (Nuts and oatmeal, for example, are natural foods and are healthier ways to add crunch.)
And don’t forget to eat seasonally. Right now, the alliums (onions, garlic, scallions, shallots, leeks, and chives) and asparagus are coming into season on the east coast. So start by adding some asparagus to your diet. Asparagus is high in vitamin K, folate, copper, vitamin B1, selenium, vitamin B2, vitamin C and vitamin E.[iii]
Growing up, it was fashionable in my house to cook them standing up in a tall asparagus pot and steam them to death. Of course, this killed all the nutrients, too. No wonder we all hated asparagus then. The rule of thumb when cooking asparagus is that they start out bright green and should end up bright green. (In other words, don’t overcook them!)
Here are ten simple and delicious ways you can prepare asparagus:
-Asparagus Soup (Add some spring peas!)
-Asparagus goat cheese tart
-Asparagus grain bowl
-Poached and served with grated hard-boiled egg
-Shaved in a coleslaw
-Asparagus with pasta, lemons and tomatoes
-Poached salmon and asparagus