Ugly Fruit Campaign

My last blog post highlighted food waste within grocery stores. Last year, one campaign became viral and has been widely spread  around the internet: The inglorious fruits and vegetables or “the Ugly fruit campaign”.

The campaign was started by Intermarche, a large French supermarket chain. Intermarché is on a mission to make shoppers see the inner beauty in scarred, disfigured, or otherwise odd-shaped fruits and vegetables. Grist reports, “Now, you can eat five ‘inglorious’ fruits and vegetables a day. As good, but 30 percent cheaper,” says an Intermarché promotional video.( full video here)

The french company  bought “ugly” fruits and vegetables that farmers would otherwise not sell, and then sold them at discounted prices at supermarkets across France. To get people to look past cosmetic blemishes, Intermarche also distributed juices and soups made out of those same “ugly vegetables”.  Although people were skeptical at first,  the grocery store sold out of their ugly fruits within the first couple of days. The company also reported that there was an increased awareness of food waste among shoppers. Overall it was a great success, although not solving the problem completely, it is one step in the right direction. NPR reported that “Ugly fruit fever is spreading,” noting that other similar campaigns across the globe are making ugly fruit a hot commodity.

The advertising around this campaign was absolutely brilliant. It used very clean, simple images with simple text to showcase the produce’s deformities and why this doesn’t matter. I think the campaign was so successful because it targeted one very specific problem of grocery store retail food waste-produce. Everyone knows that fruits and vegetables are healthy, and so focusing on produce food waste was very effective.

Food Waste

Food waste is an increasing problem in the United States. It is not just one sector, but  has multiple contributing factors . It includes waste in restaurants, households, farms, and grocery stores. All of these factors combined equals an exorbitant amount of food wasted. According to National Geographic, 1/3 of America’s food is lost or wasted.

Animated graphic showing food waste in the United States.

“The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), estimates that one-third of food produced for human consumption worldwide is annually lost or wasted along the chain that stretches from farms to processing plants, marketplaces, retailers, food-service operations, and our collective kitchens.At 2.8 trillion pounds, that’s enough sustenance to feed three billion people. In the United States, the waste is even more egregious: More than 30 percent of our food, valued at $162 billion annually, isn’t eaten,” according to an article by the National Geographic.

This number is insane and surprised me. How are we letting all of this food go to waste when we have millions of people all of the world that are starving? At first glance It may seem like an easy problem/solution scenario: Don’t waste food or donate it to people who are hungry. However the issue of food waste, particularly in America,  is a much more complicated problem.

The problem that I find most fascinating is grocery store waste. Grocery stores waste a full 10 percent of the available food supply in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (USDA)

“And all those overstocked grocery stores full to bursting with milk, bags of salad mix, fruit, vegetables, and other items with cosmetic blemishes or surpassed sell-by dates are discarded en masse when they haven’t or can’t be–sold. then there are the rotisserie chickens and baked goods that are made in-house on a daily basis; those items are usually kept out for only one day. What doesn’t sell it thrown away that night, ” author Lindsey Blomberg of Wasted says.

There have been multiple studies and videos made on dumpster diving and the amount of waste grocery stores discard. Major chains and mass market retailers are culprits of this practice because of strict laws and regulations. Although it makes sense that these retailers don’t want customers to get sick from expired food, sometimes it is not expired but the look and feel of certain produce items.  An example of this is lumpy, non shiny apples.

If you think back on your last grocery store visit, imagine walking through the produce aisle. Were any of the apples dull or not perfectly polished? Were there any weird shaped bananas? Did you find any over-ripe avocados? Most likely the answer to all of these questions is no. As Blomberg says there are few “cosmetic blemishes” at grocery stores today. Everything is perfect and perfectly placed.  Although these shiny apples may look appeasing and are pretty stacked high, sometimes their taste is downright awful. And worst, once they become slightly bruised or unappealing to the eye, in the trash they go. This Business Insider article (Here) does a great job of explaining why grocery stores are overstocked, and the fear of expiration dates.

Next up: One solution to this problem.

Polenta 101

Not enough people know about polenta. I am constantly surprised that some people have never heard of the food, yet alone tasted it. It is by far one of my favorite foods to prepare and eat. It is buttery, extremely flavorful, versatile, and pairs well with a lot of different flavors. According to Wikipedia, polenta is  ” cornmeal boiled into a porridge, and eaten directly or baked, fried or grilled. The term is of Italian origin, derived from the Latin for hulled and crushed grain. It comes from the same base as “pollen”.

Overview:

Polenta is a cross between porridge and a side dish like rice, but with a corn flavor. Although there are a variety of ways to make and prepare polenta, it usually has a cheesy corn-like taste and  incorporates cheese and butter. When looking for it in a supermarket it is sold two ways. As a dry flour/meal that needs to be cooked or the grains are already cooked usually in a log or square. If buying corneal grains, it is usually found in the bulk section. It must be cooked using some type of liquid. Or you can buy it in the supermarkets already made. I like both for different reasons. Making polenta from the flour(whisking it into boiling water and vigorously whisking for 10 ish minutes) is the one I make most often. After adding cheese and/or butter it is effortlessly good. Buying it pre-prepared is easy and also very tasty. This variety is also best if you are frying or grilling the polenta and need it to hold its form. This eliminates the step of making it ahead of time and letting it set so that it has a stable/set consistency.

How to Prepare:

The grain version should always be prepared 1 part polenta to 4 parts liquid. In the past I have used chicken stock, water, milk, and even almond milk(gross not good). My favorite proportion is 2 cups of milk, 2 cups of water to 1 cup polenta. Bring the liquid to a boil and then slowly add the cornmeal grains. Reduce the heat, then whisk away. Do not leave the stove top vicinity;it tends to bubble and splatter so constant whisking is a must. You will know when it is done when it becomes very thick.

If using prepackaged polenta there are many different ways.This form is easy if you are in a time crunch or don’t want the extra step of preparing the polenta from the flour and then letting it set. One is to add it to a pot over low heat with a little bit of water to make it more of a mush with a fork. Another is to keep it in its form and slice it for grilling or baking. More on this below.

Best paired with:

The possibilities are really endless. Tomato based sauces are my go to, but other flavors are great options as well.

  • Tomato based sauces
  • Chicken
  • Red met
  • Mushrooms
  • Sage

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Best Recipes:

  1. These Chicken Tamale Bowls by Half Baked Harvest bring the heat
  2. From Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook Jerusalem, his Sweet Corn Polenta with Eggplant is egg-ceptional
  3. Mushroom and Herb Polenta, again from Yotam Ottolenghi
  4. Polenta Lasagna. Swap noodles for rounds of polenta in your favorite lasagna recipe or try this
  5. Grilled polenta is a must. Polenta Toasts with Balsamic onion, roasted peppers, feta, and thyme sounds heavenly

 

Best Fictional TV Restaurants

From Big salads, to endless amounts of bad coffee, to finger-licking ribs, our favorite fictional food establishments are not only memorable, but a crucial part of our TV shows. Food on these TV shows help establish the characters identity while creating the ultimate fictional eatery setting. Here are some of the best fictional eateries on TV that  I wish were real.

Gilmore Girls“Luke’s Diner”

You can not visit Stars Hollow and not have a famous cup of Joe from Luke’s diner. In a majority of episodes you can find both Lorelai and Rory debating, talking, and arguing over burgers, fries, pie, and of course coffee.

House of Cards-“Freddy’s BBQ Joint”

Even the ultimate manipulator doesn’t mind getting sticky with Freddy’s famous ribs.

Seinfeld“Monks restaurant”

Monks was the beginning of restaurant TV dining. This real-life diner is the classic location for the “show about nothing”. Monks is one of the most famous and recognizable Seinfeld spots.

New Girl-“the bar”

Although usually empty, the Bar provides a great backdrop for the roommates to venture outside of the loft. Scheming, pranks, and dates all happen on these bar stools.

Pretty Little Liars“The Brew”

Murder, psycho killers and coffee go together right? You might as well throw in a danish as well.

Breakfast of Champions

In the past, I was not a breakfast person. I did not enjoy the different savory and sweet options and would stick to mainly cereal. I don’t remember the exact moment I became a breakfast person, one who enjoys sunny side eggs, but I am never looking back. However because I am still a college student, breakfasts are usually pretty boring for me on weekdays. When I wake up late on a cold winter morning and am rushing to get out the door for my 9 am class, preparing a nutritious healthy breakfast is the last thing on my mind. However on the days I do take time to eat one of the following nutritional breakfasts, I feel stronger, more energized and ready to take on the day. Here are two of my favorite healthy breakfast options.

Overnight Oats

These oats are my absolute favorite breakfast meal. Usually I am not a hot oatmeal person. It takes too long to make, and am never impressed. I like the consistency better cold. However this oatmeal is packed with nutrients, and vitamins and is the ultimate grab and go breakfast. Make it the night before for the easiest, healthiest morning treat.

  • ½-mashed banana
  • ½ cup steel-cut oats
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1-tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1-teaspoon ground flax seeds
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons flavored Greek yogurt (this is the sweetener, if you use plain yogurt make sure to add some honey if you like)
  • Dash of cinnamon, vanilla extract, or pumpkin pie spice

In a cereal bowl mash the banana with a fork. Add everything but the almond milk and mix well. Add the almond milk and thoroughly mix. Cover with plastic wrap. Put in the fridge overnight or up to eight hours.

*TIP: try adding a spoonful of peanut butter or topping with freshly sliced strawberries or granola for crunch.

Avocado Toast

To say avacado-toasts are my new favorite snack/food group is an understatement. I have become obsessed with this easy breakfast inspired snack. This breakfast is more on the savory side and is very hearty. The sunny side up egg with a yolk that is slightly runny combined with creamy avocado is a great combination.  When in doubt-put an egg on it!

  • Whole wheat English muffin
  • ¼ avocado
  • Dash of salt and pepper
  • 1 egg

Toast whole-wheat muffin. While the english muffin is toasting add a small amount of butter to a hot fry pan that was on medium/high heat. When butter is hot. Crack an egg into the fry pan. When brown on the bottom, flip the egg onto the other side and turn off the heat. Leave on for 30 seconds so that the yolk is slightly cooked through, but still runny. To assemble take the toasted English muffin and mash the avocado and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with fried egg.

Bonus: slice the egg with a knife to let the yolk run. Voila

Culinary Tourism: Florence,Italy

While studying abroad in Italy, a couple of girls and I took our “spring break” in Florence. Florence was one of my favorite Italian cities. Not only for the amazing food, but also the beautiful architecture, nightlife, and cultural history. The energy in Florence was electric. During our stay in Florence, we decided to take a culinary cooking class. It was the spur of the moment decision but we all thought,”why not?”.2014-05-10 10.27.05What we didn’t notice is that “Cooking Class in Florence” really means honeymoon special. There were around 10 pairs of couples taking the class….and then us: college aged students who just really appreciates food. Apparently cooking with your recently married significant other screams romance.

The cooking class was 5 hours long and included a tasting in a famous market-Central Market. Along with the cooking  class, we got to enjoy and eat all of our hard work for lunch. Besides all the couples that were overly in love it was a fun experience.

2014-05-10 14.50.55Once the cooking portion began, The chefs were very friendly and made sure to throw in little stories about growing up in Italy or tips on how “their mama used to make it”. We learned how to make fresh pasta, tiramisu, tagliatelle, and a bolognese sauce.  Although very informative and we learned multiple useful techniques during the class, it felt very touristy. Every single person in the class was American and you could tell the class was geared toward Americans rather than being authentic. No matter what way you viewed it, we were outsiders trying to experience the “Italian culture” through food.

Culinary tourism such as the class I took is becoming more and more popular. On culinary tourism: “Italy a favorite destination of American travelers, especially those who consider themselves to be culinary tourists. Conflated with the Mediterranean diet, Tuscan food is very popular in America. This fuels interest in the region as a vacation spot…with its multitude of spas, cooking schools, and other health behavior related learning experiences, Tuscany has come to define well being to many potential travelers.” (chrzan)

2014-05-10 11.40.58Looking back on the experience, I am glad I did it, but would much rather have an authentic experience and one that didn’t seem so touristy. Forbes magazine highlights a new company Traveling Spoon that has people host guests in their homes around Asia: “Everyone is talking about connections, authenticity and experiences these days. We want to get real. Even if we have no intention of replicating any recipes, it’s far more memorable to be welcomed into a home than led into a gleaming professional-instruction kitchen.” (Forbes)

Eugene Eats: Membrillo Latin Cafe

I have always enjoyed trying new things as well as new foods.  I inherited the trait from my dad who would always encourage my brother and I to “try something new” when we were out to eat. My dad would always encourage us to never eat the same thing twice. At the time I would want to order my favorite dish, but now looking back, I’m grateful. Growing up, my family almost never ate at chains or “American” food restaurants. Instead my palette was exposed to exotic Indian curries or spicy Thai food dishes. I thought this was normal to be exposed to ethnic and international cuisines. That was until I moved to college where some of my friends had never even tried pad thai or ventured outside the land of burgers and fries. I am so lucky to have grown up in a “foodie family” and have been able to try new international cuisines.  I often think of my dad while out to eat and his “trying something new” phrase sticks in the back of my mind.

I am not that familiar with Latin American cuisines, but ever since watching the movie “Chef” I have wanted to try Cuban food.There has been a lot of hype around a new Latin cafe in Eugene called Membrillo. Yelp reviews rave of the unique menu options and deliciously prepared specialties. Today I went with my roommates for brunch and was blown away by the unique flavors and cozy ambiance.

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I ordered the Picadilla, which is a traditional Spanish and Latin American dish(see picture above). Membrillo described it as a Latin sloppy Joe. It is a “tomato braised ground beef sofrito and potato hash + two sunny eggs & toast”. I have never had anything like it before-it was mouth-watering.  The meat mixture had green olives, beef,  and a spicy chili flavor. When the waitress was describing it, I thought it would be a little heavy in the morning, but was surprised it was actually very light and was perfect drenched over a potato hash. The runny sunny side eggs on top were a great flavor combination.

I went with my roommates and everything from the steak and eggs, to the latin omelette, to the dulce de leche latte, was delicious. By far one of the most unique and flavor breakfast places in Eugene. The only down side was that there are only a few vegetarian breakfast options.

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Tortilla Espanola, Photo: Jenna Barasch

Membrillo was also a great experience because of the laid-back ambiance and friendly service. The chef and owner came out and greeted us once we were seated and gave us some menu recommendations as well as background on the restaurant. Never before have I had the chef of a restaurant come personally introduce himself. The chef, Cory, grew up in Miami where Cuban cuisine was, and still is, popular. After working at a local brewery-Falling Sky, he broke off to start Membrillo. Also all of the ingredients at Membrillo are fresh. While we were finishing up our meal we saw Cory, the chef, come back with a giant container of fresh vegetables from the farmers market that was happening across the street.

In addition to the traditional Latin fare, Membrillo has a very personal, cozy atmosphere, There are only a few tables and you are seated very close to the kitchen. It feels more like you are in someones dining room rather than a restaurant. It has the true “cafe” feel. The hand painted ceramic coffee cups, cute yellow quince logo, and small cozy atmosphere add up to a quirky Eugene hot spot.

Honestly, I can’t wait to go back and ‘try something new’!