Weekly Photo Challenge: Fresh

The word “fresh” is ubiquitous, especially in food marketing.  But it’s overused.  Like many consumers, I am suspicious of my big chain grocery store, where they advertise “Fresh Produce,” but in a day or so that “vine ripe” tomato is shriveled and turning brown.  Their produce is a far cry from what you’d buy in markets in other countries, like Italy, or in farmers markets all over this country.

Fruit and vegetable market, Campo di Fiori

Fruit and vegetable market, Campo di Fiori

The rise in popularity of farmers markets and return to “slow food” are a wonderful and vital evolution from a culture that reveres “fast” and “easy.”  Like many in my generation, I grew up in a world where packaged food–like shrimp bottled in glass containers and soaking in cocktail sauce–was touted as superior to fresh fish caught that day or lettuce grown in the garden.  For breakfast, my mom sometimes gave us a powdered breakfast drink that was new and novel and (she believed) a perfectly good substitute for fresh scrambled eggs.  It was easier, no doubt, but was it better?   We’ve learned in the past few decades that it’s not.

As I grew wiser about food, I returned to my grandfather’s kitchen–where he showed me the value of fresh, homemade food.  Tomatoes ripe with flavor, pasta made by hand with eggs and flour and filled to bursting with cheese, and a loaf of bread hot from the oven that was so dense and crusty that I couldn’t stop with just one slice.  So, when it came time to cook for my son, I followed in his footsteps.

Arthur Schwartz's roasted tomatoes

Arthur Schwartz’s roasted tomatoes

Can you compare a sauce made from fresh roasted tomatoes to one out of a jar?  I don’t think so.   Can you compare a chocolate ganache cake made with love to one bought in the frozen food case?  I don’t think so.

Chocolate Ganache

Chocolate Ganache

Fresh is good, no doubt.  But like everything else, there’s a risk of taking it to the extreme.

Take veganism for an example.  It may be fresh and healthy, but is it good?  Can you really enjoy it?  So far, I haven’t found many dishes that I love.  I’ll keep trying!   But I prefer the Mediterranean diet, which features fresh, whole foods and meat in moderation.  Once, maybe twice a year, I eat barbecued ribs, like my friend Joyce pictured below at Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem.  Is it as healthy as steamed vegetables?  Hardly.  But I thoroughly enjoy them.

Stop being a vegan and start enjoying what you eat.–
Jamie Oliver

At Sylvia's Kitchen, Harlem

At Sylvia’s Kitchen, Harlem

There is a value in moderation.  Meat, dairy, sweets.  If prepared well, the taste is undeniably good.  The risk of course is overindulgence.   Let’s take for example, the latest food craze—frozen yogurt topped with a blizzard of fruit, candy, and crumbled cookies.  On a recent trip to New York as we walked down Broadway, we spotted dozens of yogurt shops and of course we had to stop and try some.  And it was good.  But there is a danger too.

Outside a Fro-Yo shop in Manhattan

Outside a Fro-Yo shop in Manhattan

In the excitement and zeal to embrace “healthy,” it’s easy to go overboard.  A recent article in The Huffington Post concludes that frozen yogurt is better for you than high fat ice cream.  (Even Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia?  Yes, and that makes me sad!)  However, there’s a warning:

It’s “reasonable” for treats to account for 10 percent of your daily caloric intake. Assuming you follow a 2,000-calorie diet, you don’t want more than 200 calories taken up by fro-yo. Bottom line: Watch your portions and take care with toppings.

I would suspect most people don’t.  It’s hard to do that when you’re standing in front of a smogasbord of crumbled Oreos and sprinkles.  Still, I’ll keep trying to navigate through the Scylla and Charbdis of toppings.  I remind myself of my motto.  “Enjoy wisely”–even during this heat wave!  What are your thoughts?  Are you overdoing the frozen yogurt this summer or are you sticking to ice cream?  Do you prefer “fresh” over “frozen” even though it takes more time to prepare?  As always, thanks for sharing!

Here are some great posts on this week’s theme–fresh:

9 replies »

  1. I find if I allow myself treats during vacations but not at home, I’m OK with it. Last week in Michigan I had ice cream every day for 7 days!!! It was heaven 🙂 But it’s not bothering me a bit not to have it since I got home. Just mindset I think. Anyway it works for me 🙂 Agree with you 100% on the fresh-made vs store-bought!

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  2. Hope you had a good time in Michigan. (That’s where I live!) I am looking forward to ice cream multiple times on my vacation too. Now I’ve got to restrain myself until then!

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