Choose good food
Being a great cook is all about selecting the right ingredients
By Scott Commings
We live in a time of convenience. We can order anything from around the world and have it at your door within 24 hours. That access is a wonderful thing to have as a chef, but when do we begin to sacrifice the integrity of food by having things so readily available?
Through our restaurants and retailers, we have been taught that it is always possible to get that perfect red tomato for our salads in the middle of January. We can pick up ripe-like produce anytime of the year whether it is in season or not. What do we lose by this? We lose everything that ingredient was grown for, including, in many cases, nutrition. We lose flavor and natural sweetness in our vegetables. On average, the vegetables we consume are traveling over 1,500 miles to get to us. Produce is picked before it is ripe and full of nutrients. We need to look more toward seasonality to determine our daily menus.
At the Loyola University Ecology Campus, we are trying to fully grasp the farm-to-table relationship. With over five acres of growing space, we are able to supplement a good portion of our produce used in our facility. Also we work with local farmers as well to not only help us with products but support their efforts as well. We are lucky to be located in an area with abundance of growers and livestock farms.
I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of the local farmers in my area, thanks in part to my profession, but also to our community that supports and yearns for our local market. I have been able to develop wonderful relationships with the farms that are supporting our community.
Farmers just want to produce. They are the backbone to our food systems. These are the people that sow the seeds in the spring, tend and nurture the vines as they grow, pray for rain and then harvest the fruit that feeds our families. You can see the passion for their products as you walk through the market. You can see the hard work in their soil laced hands as they hold up their crops and show their excitement about the multi-colored carrots they just picked.
Everyone has heard the refrain, “Eat local!” It should really just say, “Choose good food.” Choose to eat foods that are grown in a way that maintains their nutritional qualities. Choose foods that aren’t processed and mishandled.
Everyone can be a great cook. All you have to do is pick great ingredients and let them stand for themselves.