How to Have Your Health Food and Love It, Too

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Warm tofu and fresh soybeans cooked in salted French butter and celery-seed gastrique.

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Gentl and Hyers for The New York Times. Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero. Prop stylist: Amy Wilson.

At some point in the ’70s my mom bought her first pair of bluejeans. She didn’t suddenly throw away all her tailored wool skirts and silk scarves, or dump all the cashmere sweaters from the dresser drawers into bags destined for the Salvation Army, but there they were, in rotation: A pair of soft bluejeans, modestly flared at the ankle, with two flat front pockets, that she wore, if I may say, with exceptional and enviable style.

And then, around this same time, you opened the fridge one day and found she had glass jars lying on their sides, cheesecloth held with rubber bands over their mouths, alfalfa sprouts growing inside. And there on the kitchen ­counter, nestled like a flock of broken fledglings fallen too early from the nest, were eight little glass jars wrapped in kitchen towels and set on an electric medical heating pad meant for sore back muscles, incubating her homemade cultured yogurt. Which turned out tangy and creamy and expert.

My mother was dispositionally unwilling to sacrifice pleasure for politics, or style for trends, enough so that I did not mind the dialed-down frequency of her customary brown-butter sauces, ripe, oozing full-fat cheeses and visits to the butchers. And I welcomed the open-faced avocado sandwiches on pumpernickel with cream cheese, red onion and alfalfa sprouts (hers were clean and fresh and lively) and fruit preserves stirred into yogurt for dessert and shopping trips to the memorably dirty health-food store. There the bulk jugs of tamari and tahini and separated almond butter under an inch of rancid oil had crud on their spouts, and the bulk bins of oats and millet and whole-grain flours were lively with meal moths. This was as fascinating to me as the whole sides of bloody animals hanging from hooks in the refrigerated walk-in at the Italian butcher we used.

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Credit
Gentl and Hyers for The New York Times. Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero. Prop stylist: Amy Wilson.

I thought it was just as miraculous and cool to see her making her own yogurt and granola, and sprouting her own sprouts, as I did watching her make Irish soda bread or…

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