From California foodies like Michael Pollan to New York Times columnists Mark Bittman, from NPR's Splendid Table program to half the blogs in the blogosphere, it seems like everyone is rethinking American food culture, striving to move away from the packaged laboratory creations on grocery store shelves to fresh, minimally processed fare.
But just what does this movement look like? Just what, exactly, is "real food," anyway?
There are as many answers as there are eaters.
You can go vegetarian or vegan or paleo or gluten free or grain free. Do you insist on organic? Local? Do you ban corn, or food dye, or artificial sweeteners, or all of the above? Are you a purist and an absolutest, or are you willing to let your rules slide?
You can drive yourself crazy just trying to make dinner.
Never fear. You can eat food--real food--without spending hours making lavender-infused biscuits. You can do it without giving up foods you enjoy. You can do it without breaking your budget or taking out a second mortgage to pay for food.
You just need to follow three simple rules:
- Relax. Your kid won't get cancer from eating Valentine's candy. You won't go to hell for stopping at McDonald's once in awhile. Take a deep breath. Stop and smell the marinara. Don't worry so much about food.
- Moderation is key. Decide what's important to you, and make the appropriate adjustments--to your schedule, your meal plans, your portion size, your budget. Remember that this is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Do what you can with what you have, and refer to Rule #1 for the rest.
- Brush up on the basics. Here's the truth. You don't need to have a lot of fancy equipment or superstar chef skillz to make real food meals. But you need to be able to boil water, use the stove and the oven (and the microwave, if you haven't banned them from the premises), wield a knife without losing any limbs (or at most just the occasional finger). Unless you can afford to eat at the best foodie restaurants three meals a day, you need to know some basic cooking techniques if you want to escape the tyranny of the microwave meal or the fast food drive-thru. But refer to Rule #1 and I promise--it's easy.
- We post recipes with clear instructions and reasonable ingredients.
- We try to include alternative suggestions to help you learn how to substitute what you have for what a recipe calls for.
- We cover basic kitchen skills with tips and techniques for the amateur (since that's what we are, too!).
- We do fancy stuff, too--especially if it's something fancy that turns out to be super simple.
- We mess up and move on and share our mistakes so we're not the only ones who learn from them.
Relax. And let's get cooking.