leah-lizarondo-shannon-brazen-kitchenLet me start by saying that this blog was spurred by something Tom Philpott* wrote. I know I’m probably not unique in being “spurred by something Tom Philpott wrote” but as I read about one of his best meals on the road, “It tasted healthy, but not in the way of banal “health food,” full of sprouts and Bragg’s amino acids…”

It hit me. Bam! An unexpected Emeril moment.

That’s it! Exactly. I hate that! The perception that the spectrum of plant-based, “health food” spans grilled vegetables with hummus on one end and on the other,­ Bragg’s-laced brown rice topped with tofu and sprouts. Neither of those are entirely objectionable but (1) its not what “we” eat every single day and (2) that is definitely not the gamut of gastronomic options we have. Don’t get me wrong. I use Bragg’s Amino Acids. I love Bragg’s Amino Acids. But I can only aspire to be Patricia Bragg ;)

So let me show you how vegetable epicuria can have as powerful pleasurable moan-inducing potential as the meat-centric kind. Let’s not forget that we are here on earth because Adam could not resist an apple. ;) An apple! Not a Baconator.

My passion for food is also informed by its role in our health. So YES, good food and good health are not mutually exclusive! While I will leave it up to you to decide what way of life contributes best to optimum health, one thing is inarguable: decreasing our current rate of animal product and processed food consumption and increasing our consumption of plants will only contribute to better health. Read: I am not saying “jump on the veganwagon”. I am saying “Eat more kale.”

Small steps. Eat more kale. It is delicious. Let’s start there.

I am also inspired by Mark Bittman’s own manifesto where he rightly identifies food policy as a public health issue. It cannot be more true. “Public health” is singularly focused, it seems, in acute incident control ­and in a recursive way as does our medical system, which works best within the same acute parameter but falls short in preventive care. At what point will the evidence against unhealthy food reach the same FDA acceptable definitive as smoking and have the same levies and controls imposed on it? It is tough to say no to a big hunk of cheeseburger if Mickey Mouse is on the box or if Padma Lakshmi’s Whopper-licking ads are unleashing all sorts of subliminal responses.

Meanwhile at the Loving Hut

But seriously. Have you ever tried one of Bryant Terry’s recipes? And cooking to a soundtrack? Get out! Or one of Fran Costigan’s desserts? Seal the deal. Talk about sexy.

So here I am. With my humble manifesto on what guides me.

1.     Form + Function. Modern, post-modern. The definition is fuzzy. I will echo though that we eat with all our senses. Design. Form. I will strive to feed all of yours. And surprise you at the same time that what you just had the pleasure of eating was actually…yep, good for you! Function.

2.     Time is of the essence. In two ways. I know time is at a premium and I am not just saying that (read: I have a day job, two kids, a husband, and a house that refuses to clean itself) so most of the recipes here consider that and have been tested (well, because if I was able to make it… :) But, corollary to that — to make an impact in your life — I ask you to consider that food and cooking deserve time. See: Slow Food.

3.     No frankenfood. All the ingredients that I use are “real” – that is, I do not use “soy protein isolates” or any other chemically processed meat or cheese substitutes.

4.     Flavor. Must. Have. Flavor. I favor strong spices – my favorite mixes are garam masala, berebere, adobo, anything with chilis – fuego! — and even when I cook macrobiotic-style, I tend to amp up one dimension so that it stands out.

5.     Education. While I hope to share recipes that need no “um, this is vegan” pre-qualification that will in turn hopefully inspire you to increase the presence of things that grow out of the ground on your plate, awareness is the foundation that will hold it all together — and I think the line that separates “diet” and lifestyle. A diet tries to control ephemeral desires and are often predicated on “don’ts” (or worse, calorie counting, complicated carb/fat exchanges, oh my). “Going on a diet” may very well be a beginning of something positive but I believe that it is information that impacts sustainability and education alleviates fear. That’s right. Fear – that you can’t do it, that you will be judged, that it takes too much time, too expensive or the fear that you cannot possibly change – take it from someone who grew up on Spam.

In the end we all develop our own philosophy of food and this blog is not meant to be a soapbox for veganism as the only way to go. I hesitate to claim such categorization myself. I would say, at best, I am a lapsed omnivore.

My hope is to inspire you to expand your palate, one vegetable at a time.

Read more about me here.

*Let’s get it out of the way that I’m a Philpott groupie! Was never into bands but equity researchers-turned-farmer-food policy writers, well that’s another story… ;)

Brazen Kitchen