Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Organic doesn't have to be a bad thing.

100% organic. Without many tools, I keep it simple and
decorate with melted chocolate.
I was recently asked to make a birthday cake for a friend's party. I baked a three layer butter cake with chocolate butter cream icing and decorated with melted chocolate. It wasn't anything fancy, but it was a labor of love. At the party, the cake came up in discussion, along with the facts that it was 100% organic, all-natural, and made from scratch. It was only after the cake had been served that I realized that some people might have been apprehensive about what that meant. One guest said that when she heard ‘organic' she wasn't sure, but that this was GOOD. This set me thinking about other statements I have heard along this line, and about a comment I read on an online forum where someone complained that a recipe wasn't organic (Several people explained that you make a recipe organic or not according to the ingredients that you use.). I am reminded of a the following dialog from the movie "The Princess Bride":

Inigo Montoya: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

How did ‘organic' and ‘all-natural' become dirty words? and how did the concept of organic food become so muddled?

Simply put, organic food is food that is produced without the aid of synthetic chemicals. If the food is cooked or baked, it has to be prepared using predominantly organic ingredients (95% in the US). In my experience organic ingredients often tastes better and are of higher quality than conventional ingredients, and I don't have any trouble using them to create dishes that we enjoy. There is no reason that using organic ingredients has to mean that a plate of food is bland and unappealing.

Yet the idea that organic food is bad had to come from somewhere. After much thought, I do remember when I used to buy prepackaged food. On several occasions I bought some organic cookie, or snack, and I remember thinking that the cardboard box probably tasted better than the contents. Even though the ingredients list didn't include sawdust, I would have sworn that it was in there. I can only conclude that:

1. The manufacturers are preparing packaged food while trying to apply some other ideas of healthy (no fat, no sugar, etc.), or they are having issues packaging food for extended shelf life.

2. The people that were apprehensive about an organic birthday cake had probably eaten some boxed and sealed version of ‘organic' in the past.

The truth is that food really is what you make it. If you bring high-quality ingredients to the pot, cook them with attention, love & know-how (either your own or by following a recipe), you stand a very good chance of creating a meal that surpasses what a restaurant would proudly place in front of you. Over time you learn how to alter recipes to suit your own palate, and you will find that you want to experiment with new combinations. I tend to use less salt than many people prefer, but that is easy to remedy. I also use a lot of onion, which makes some people (like my hubby) cheer, while others may not be doing cartwheels. I encourage you not to feel like a recipe is set in stone. When I blend spices, I use my sense of smell to tell me if I am headed in the right direction, but that doesn't mean that my way is true north. I have invited you along to read about my journey in the kitchen, but you may find that what I post sends you down a different path. If so, don't forget to write and 'have fun storming the castle'.* ;)


* "The Princess Bride" Miracle Max: "Have fun stormin' da castle." 


Showing on this day 2010: Acorn Squash Cookies


RebeccaMom said...

Absolutely true! Organic or chemical free does NOT have to taste bad. Now if you try organic, low fat, low sugar, low sodium, gluten free, low everything all at once... BLECK! I think that is what some of the commercially produced products try to do. They want to market to the most possible consumers, but end up with a disgusting product!

Kim said...

The cake looks beautiful to me! There is nothing wrong with the taste of organtic, it is always the price.

Heidi a/k/a Thistle said...

I agree, RebeccaMom. That is actually one issue that I have encountered in writing the blog: that people want me to write recipes for gluten-free, diabetic, etc. I did some real soul-searching about the idea, but I realized that I would have to spend massive amount of time researching each issue to give them their due. In the end I suspected that I would end up splitting my focus too much to do any good.

Heidi a/k/a Thistle said...

Thanks, Kim! The price of organic can be manageable, especially when you are buying raw ingredients. The most expensive items that we buy are the cheese and meat, but we offset that with other groceries. The last time that I did the math we were averaging between $3-5 per person per meal. That said, it takes time to learn how to shop organic (we're still learning)and get used to paying more for some items, buying others in bulk, where and when to buy what. You find what works for you and set your goals accordingly. :)