Thursday, October 2, 2008

Rethinking our Food Supply

Every day the news is filled with new stories of foods recalled worldwide because of the Chinese milk scandal - powdered tea mix, chocolate, cookies, cheese etc.

Given the popularity of pre-prepared foods and the overly processed fast food American diet, do we really know what is in the foods we eat or where they came from?

In the quest for "shareholder value", you can bet that the large food processing companies in the US are using raw materials imported from China.

Food recalls, tales of poisoning, and the rise of "frankenfoods" (genetically modified, overly processed foods that your Grandmother would not have consumed in her lifetime), have motivated many people to rethink the foods they eat. Instead of purchasing pre-prepared meals or buying produce from South America, they are buying regionally from small farmers and producers, as I described recently in my Locavore blog.

To take this one step further, some people are even making their own foods from local raw materials. This week, my family and I started making our own soymilk and tofu from soy beans.

A SoyQuick appliance includes a grinder, a heating element and computer control to transform soaked soybeans and water into soymilk in under 20 minutes. We select the soybeans (organic) and the water (our local well water, filtered), so we know that the finished soy milk is unadulterated with any chemical and is very fresh.

Once you have fresh soymilk, making tofu is easy. Unlike cheese, tofu is not a cultured product, it's just the curds of coagulated soymilk, pressed and drained. We simply add 2 teaspoons of Nigari (Magnesium Chloride produced from seawater after the sodium chloride has been removed, and the water evaporated.) to a batch of soymilk, wait 20 minutes, then press the curds through cheesecloth.

Soy Yogurt is easy to make as well. Just incubate soymilk with non-dairy yogurt culture for 12 hours, and strain (you can use the remaining whey in recipes). Also, Greek-style yogurt (labneh) or yogurt cheese/ can be made from soy yogurt .

In the technological world we live in, it's amazing that many people I know are striving for a simpler life with simpler foods. In my lifetime, we've gone from the ultimate processed foods such as Twinkies and TV dinners, back to making your own tofu from raw soy beans. Hopefully, we'll all live longer and be healthier because of it.

4 comments:

Club Unlocal said...

John,

Great topic! Safety enters the story at so many levels. In addition to all the acute safety issues with our food supply, there are endless chronic issues, from the obvious to the subtle. All of these ultimately burden our entire society (with poorer overall health and more pressure on our health care dollars).

By the time it reaches our table, so much of our food supply has been drained of its fundamental nutritional value. As is too often the case, marketing trumps value and the picture on the box or the prize inside is more important than the food itself. Ouch!

A wonderful book on our (broken) relationship with our food supply is "The Omnivores Dilemma" by Michael Pollan.

Cheers,
Marc L Kessler, PhD

John Halamka said...

Agreed! Pollan is one of my favorite authors and I've linked to the Omnivore's Dilemma in my Blogger profile.

Thomas Ponco said...

I think he would also turn commodity products other than their own also harm other countries that have been using or consuming goods from the Chinese. thank your friends would have been useful to share info

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