ColumnForget the trendy foods, we need all the boring real foods back in our lives.
Pro tip: if you want to eat well you do not need to buy all of the trendy health foods at the store. Sparkly probiotic drinks, omega 3-antioxidant infused vegan ice creams, supercharged gluten-free miracle cookies? You need none of it. You need real food. The boring stuff. The stuff that doesn’t have a marketing campaign behind it, or its own blog or Twitter feed.
We’ve come to a day and age where food trends win out over real foods, even in the health food department, and in turn we put some foods on a pedestal and forget a whole lot of other ones. That’s a shame, because there’s a lot of good food out there. A lot of good real food that’s easy to prepare and good for the budget.
I keep thinking of my friend Amy and her tried and true cookbook “Ecological Cooking” that has been on her shelf for years. With recipes like Carrot Rice Loaf, you could say that the book is the definition of simple, budget-friendly foods that are sort of boring and unfashionable.
But that’s exactly what we need.
We do not need the new cupcake. We need a resurrection of the foods that are good for us, and easy to cook. And not all of them are sexy, or cool or trendy. That’s ok. Eat them anyway.
Black beans, pinto beans, navy beans; who cares as long as you are eating legumes. Ok, so black beans are sort of popular because of tacos, but for the most part beans are definitely in the boring real food category. But white beans make for an easy dip, and you can in fact make brownies out of black beans.
No, it’s not a grain, buckwheat is actually a seed, which means that it’s gluten-free. You can use it to make hot cereals and you can grind buckwheat down into a flour, that’s got an earthy, nutty flavor to it, perfect for dense breads.
Kale is hot, cabbage is not. Which is weird considering they are in the same damn family. Ferment it, grate it, cook it, steam it, use it to wrap things. Become the cabbage lover you always wanted to be.
Embrace the flaxseeds. Love the flaxseeds. Grind them up and add a little warm water and you get a vegan egg replacement. Grind up even more and you can use flaxseed meal as a replacement for flour. Who knew seeds could be so versatile?
Most people equate millet with birdseed, but it’s actually a very nutritious grain that’s drought tolerant and can compete with the best of the trendy grains, like quinoa. You can even pop it like popcorn. Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks even uses raw millet thrown into a muffin recipe to add a little extra crunch. I can get behind that.
Oatmeal is not the sexiest of breakfasts. Unless of course you make a savory one with pesto and put a poached egg on top. But while oats are on the bottom of the list of exciting grains, they deserve some respect. You can grind oats into flour, and even make milk out of them. And who doesn’t love a good berry oat crumble or a classic oatmeal cookie?
I grew up with sandwiches that had sprouts hanging out the edges. I was of course slightly embarrassed, but ate them anyway. And thank god my mother fed me sprouts, they’re healthy and easy to make at home. Lentils, chickpeas, alfalfa, mung beans – they can all be turned into sprouts, and to do so it’s as easy as growing them in a jar. How much simpler does it get?
Of all the root vegetables, I think turnips don’t get a whole lot of love. Maybe simply because we don’t know what to do with them. But it has been used for human consumption since prehistoric times, so it has to have something going for it. You can roast them, and you can even sauté up the greens, which makes for whole vegetable cooking. Or you can turn it into a soup or a creative mash.
No, not the cute packaged version that’s full of “fruit.” (Hint: it’s not fruit, it’s sugar.) I mean good old plain yogurt. It’s a fermented food, so it’s full of probiotics. You can cook with it. You can make sauces out of it. You can eat it with homemade granola.
Yes, water. Not coconut water. Not an overly priced raw juice. Just water. From the tap. Into your reusable bottle. It’s free and nutritious!
Now, with our boring pantries stocked, let’s start the real food revolution.
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This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’ weekly column at EcoSalon: Foodie Underground, an exploration of what’s new and different in the underground movement, and how we make the topic of good food more accessible to everyone. More musings on the topic can be found at www.foodieunderground.com.
Image: Nick Saltmarsh