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#bGrateful for the Ingredients

We all have an emotional connection to the foods we eat. I could give you a list of 20+ foods that remind me of people, places, good experiences and bad experiences. This list could also give you a pretty clear picture of the culture I was raised in. {Pizza flavored Pringles, tuna rice casserole and meatloaf would be on the top of this list as I was growing up}

As a chef I have always made the connection between food and my personal experiences. In fact, I believe this is where most of my creativity in the kitchen comes from. For example: In my hometown of Lincoln, NE, chili and cinnamon rolls are always eaten together. It’s part of our food culture. {Don’t ask me why} So whenever I make chili here in #ATX, cinnamon is definitely an ingredient.

Food and culture is an exciting topic for a chef. After spending 2 ½ weeks in France last month, these aspects of dining have been on the front of my mind. What I realized right away is that this emotional connection lies within flavor and not necessarily the individual ingredients. {A nut-based "meatloaf" can hit the spot just like a traditional meatloaf}

Because of this realization...I realized something else:

I had been prioritizing flavor over quality of individual ingredients for a long time. Do you do the same?

Where did this ingredient come from? How was it grown or produced? What is the quality? How often do I eat it?

These are questions that I have always said needed to be answered…but practicing what you preach can be difficult at the end of a hard day when all you want is a big ass bowl of macaroni and cheese. If your mom used Velveta cheese...then you're probably reaching for the same.

Overall I want to live in a happy world full of delicious food. If we, as consumers, continue to neglect these questions about our ingredients, we will keep getting buried in highly processed food and misleading marketing.

So how do we shift focus from this emotional connection we have with flavor over to a connection with the ingredients themselves? I’ve been making this transition for a while now but have yet to truly jump in 100%. It’s harder than it seems…emotions are tricky.

To keep pushing forward in a positive way I have created two simple rules that help me #bGreateful for the ingredients:

#1 – Become a qualitarian

Quality for me is defined as the best ingredient you can find given your current circumstances. Having a high level of awareness while picking out your ingredients will help you connect with your food in a unique way. What available options are better than the others? Which option is the best? You truly vote with your cash when it comes to the food available in your market.

When it comes to meat: Knowing where it was raised and how it was processed is essential. Asking these questions to your butcher will continue to push them toward buying quality meat that the consumer wants.

When it comes to vegetables & fruit: Buy seasonal, local and organic whenever possible. It’s important to support farms that are doing it right.

When it comes to processed foods: Support producers that you believe in. Research their company, find their values and find out how they source their ingredients. {Last week I called a company while in the isle at Whole Foods.}

#2 – Almost everything in moderation

I say "almost" because you probably have an idea of the foods that make you feel good and the foods that don’t. Always listen to your body and never overdue it.

Wheat, corn & soy seem to sneak themselves into every processed food on the market. Keeping an eye on what you’re eating and the quantity you’re eating is SO important. Many of us have exposure to highly processed foods everyday.

Too much of one thing is never good.

In conclusion:

Putting the quality of your ingredients first will not only make you feel good, but in my experience you end up with an even tastier final product. Real food makes you feel real good.

So this year I encourage you to talk about where your food came from at the Thanksgiving table. Get the family involved in menu creation, grocery shopping, prep and cooking of the meal. Maybe your traditional dishes at the table will get an exciting ingredient upgrade.

When you take positive steps forward, you’ll be amazed at how great you feel.

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