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There is no love sincerer than the love of food. — Shaw

Yim and I talk about food a lot.  After all, he is the Food Vigilante.  We talk about the foods we love, the foods we are growing, the foods we grew up eating, and the junk we see people consuming everyday.  We talk about the home cooked meals we were raised on, prepared by frugal mothers with cooking skills.  There was no microwave in our kitchen.  We talk about the slender stature of nearly everyone when we were young, particularly the men.  In all of the old photos, the men were skinny relative to today’s standard male.  Today, I can sit on a park bench and watch the masses go by and wonder at their health.  They hobble along, lumbering on their swollen ankles.  They smoke with one hand and drink a 12 ounce can of corn syrup with the other.  Their bellies lead the way and there is no baby due.

These days, I feel lucky to have been raised by a family with farming sense.  For them, farming sense translated to food sense, which translates to health.  And though health is the ultimate objective, the bonus is that whole foods taste so much better than anything you could possible concoct in a laboratory, and they are a pleasure to work with.  You just have to learn how to prepare them, because it’s not as simple as peeling the top off of a Styrofoam bowl, adding water and popping it in the microwave for 3 minutes.  I happen to love the process of cooking from beginning to end.  When I am in the kitchen cooking, I always consider how wonderful the colors of the vegetables are (that’s my sense of vision kicking in).  I consider how everything feels; the weight of the vegetables or fruit, the grains of rice, the dry beans, the fleshy meat or fish.  Whatever it is, I consider the feel of it (there’s my sense of touch).  I consider the smell; the crisp smell of a cucumber or bell pepper when you slice it, the pungency of an onion, the oils released from the garlic.  All of my senses begin to engage and prepare my body to eat and absorb everything it can in the way of nutrition from these whole foods that are from the same planet as I am from.  Unfortunately, for people who don’t cook, life can find a way even when it’s fed on junk.  Furthermore, it seems that the body adapts to whatever it is fed regularly and begins to send warning signals to the brain when changes are detected by the senses.  For instance, so many children have become picky eaters because their brains go haywire when healthy food is placed on the tongue.  You can see the repulsion on their little faces.  They don’t know what to do besides cry and spit – surely they won’t swallow – because their receptors are getting high on vitamins and minerals absorbed through the tongue and it’s a shock to the system every time because they are accustomed to eating melted cardboard for dinner.  Seriously, try putting cardboard in their mouths and you’ll get no reaction.  So these picky eaters potentially become adults – some you may know – who refuse to eat anything different.  Green vegetables?  NO WAY!  Nothing green other than iceberg lettuce.  Medium rare steak?  You must be nuts; they want it burnt.  Sushi?  What are you, crazy?  Listen, folks; I have tasted green vegetables and they are better than corn!  I have had my steak both well-done and medium rare and guess what?  Medium rare is a lot tastier, not to mention easier to chew.  And sushi?  Sushi tastes less like fish than cooked fish!  It is fresh and clean tasting.  Could 128 million Japanese people be wong?  I mean, wrong?  Why wouldn’t you try it?

In light of these sentiments and in the style of the Pioneer Woman, I’d like to share with you a series of photos I took while cooking dinner the other night.  This is typical of the meals I like, which is to say that they nearly always involve chopped vegetables sautéed in olive oil.  I only cook with First Cold Press Extra Virgin Olive Oil and I use onions and garlic in almost every dish.

This meal started with these organic chicken sausages that were in my refrigerator.  I’d gotten them on sale, because otherwise they are too damn expensive, and realized at the last minute that day that they were still in my refrigerator and needed to be used or thrown out.

I decided to make a sausage, onion and pepper saute, which I would then serve with red beans and rice.  Yim and I had the best red beans and rice in Puerto Rico and have made them frequently since that trip.

Preparing the red beans (kidney beans) and rice was a little more detailed.  First, since I didn’t do an overnight soak for these dry beans, I had to bring them to a boil and simmer them for almost 2 hours.

I chopped up about 5 pieces of bacon and started it in a cold pan.

Once the bacon was crispy and the fat had been rendered, I threw in chopped onions, garlic and red bell pepper.

I mixed the spices; salt, cumin, and Spanish smoked paprika, with bay leaves and tomato paste.  ZP brought this tube of tomato paste from Italy for me, so don’t try to find it at the Piggly Wiggly.  Those bay leaves are also from Italy, but you can get them anywhere.

Somehow I missed the shot of the spices and the brown rice added to the saute pan, but that is what I did.  I let it cook for a few minutes and then added hot water.  I brought it to a boil, then reduced to a simmer and covered to cook for about an hour and a half.  The brown rice takes a bit longer than the white.  The point is just to get all of the liquid absorbed.

And voila!  Dinner is served and it is made entirely from fresh, whole, nutritious ingredients.  I hope that I have inspired you to eat better, cook from scratch more often and to try new things.

The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of man than the discovery of a star. — Brillat-Savarin

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