This was another busy week which included seeing Michael Pollan on Thursday and spending the weekend in Harlan, KY. These were two vastly different experiences and provided an interesting juxtaposition. I’m going to spend a little time talking about both of those events – so if you want to get to the recipe, just skip below a few paragraphs.
Michael Pollan, who has written several books about problems with the industrial food movement in the U.S., spoke at Bellarmine University last Thursday. He advises: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” His lecture was engaging and he talked about the dangers of eating a totally western diet which includes too much processed food and not enough whole grains, fruit, and vegetables. The audience was a mix of college students, a lot of middle-aged adults, and some younger adults too, probably in their mid-20s to mid-30s, including me. The audience was not very diverse in the terms of race, and if I had to guess, income level. Having the ability and means to afford high-quality, healthful food is not easy, and that is a huge challenge that will have to be addressed before fixing the industrial food movement in this country. I do like Michael Pollan though – and I think his advice is down-to-earth and “doable”. He does not do enough, however, to address food affordability and, as my friend pointed out, the huge employment sector that is industrial food. I don’t know a lot about that topic, but I think it is one that should be addressed and considered.
Then I visited eastern Kentucky.
There are only two employees at the organization where I work who are new to Kentucky and have not traveled extensively around the state. I am one of them. One of my coworkers grew up in Harlan, KY and her parents live in a beautiful cabin in the Appalachian mounts. They invited the office to visit for the weekend. We had a great weekend with beautiful fall weather, and visited a coal mine (Portal 31), and Pine Mountain Settlement School. We saw a reclaimed strip-mining site and talked to a mother and son whose family has lived in the area for generations.
This part of the country is home to some of the poorest counties in the United States and many people are simply worried about getting enough to eat, and not whether that food has more than five ingredients or was sprayed with pesticides. These are issues I struggle with as I think about food and food policy.
None of this really has to do with the recipes I include in this post. I just wanted to share a bit about what I’ve been up to this week.
So, a couple had my boyfriend and me over for dinner last month and made delicious bison tacos. It was a great meal and I found myself craving the tacos a few weeks later. So I made these. You can substitute other meat for the bison or can use beans too. If you use beans – use about 2 cups of drained canned beans and saute the onion and peppers alone, then add the beans. This is a pretty easy – one-skillet recipe and tastes fresh and bright. The cilantro and lime juice help with this.
And I also included a pretty easy and healthful recipe for refried beans. These are delicious and flavorful. You should try them immediately.
Bison Tacos, adapted from the recipe for “Taco Filling” in Simply in Season by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert
1 lb. ground bison
3/4 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. chopped bell pepper, I used yello
1 chopped carrot
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. chopped cilantro
juice of 1/2 lime
1 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. salt
dash of cayenne pepper
In a large saute pan, saute onions, bell pepper, and bison meat until browned.
Add the rest of the ingredients and saute until garlic is cooked. Add a little water if needed so the meat can stew a bit and the flavors can blend.
Serve with taco shells or warmed tortillas and garnishes of your choice, like cheese, guacamole, sour cream, lettuce, salsa, etc. Refried beans make a tasty accompaniment too…
Refried Beans, by Ellie Krieger
1 T. olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. chili powder
1 15-oz. can pinto beans, preferably low-sodium, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup chicken broth, low-sodium (You could certainly substitute vegetable broth)
Salt and pepper
2 T. chopped cilantro
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and chili powder and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in the beans and chicken broth and cook until the beans are warmed through, about 5 minutes.
Mash the beans coarsely with the back of a wooden spoon, adding more chicken broth to moisten, if needed. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in the cilantro.
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