This article is sponsored by Half Your Plate.
Not too much.
- by Michael Pollan
Most of us by now are familiar with Michael Pollan's often quoted seven words. Seven words that really do sum things up pretty succinctly
Last month FBC attended the Canadian Produce Marketing Association's annual trade show in Toronto. We, along with 4 FBC members, were guests of the CMPA and the Half Your Plate program. We spent 2 days learning about the latest trends in produce and produce marketing, touring the trade show floor and meeting 100s of produce growers, grower-co-ops, farms and distributors.
We had the opportunity to listen to key note speaker Matthew Corin, CEO of Freshii, speak about the process of bringing healthy vegetarian food to the mainstream fast food market. And, interestingly, we saw that some of the biggest trends predicted for 2017 were actually trends that food bloggers have been on top of for a while now: edible sea plants and...the smoothie bowl (they're not going anywhere this year folks!).
We were also invited to take part in the many workshops that were happening over the two day period, including some fascinating insights into the future of on-line grocery shopping - specifically produce. There could be some very unique and interesting opportunities there for food bloggers partnering up with on-line grocery retailers in the future. Wouldn't it be great to give your readers the opportunity to purchase all their produce for your BIG Salad recipe directly from your site by using a local grocery store's portal? (I'm just thinking out loud here!).
But perhaps the seminar that stood out most to us was the Dietitians' workshop and the address that Chef Michael Smith gave to an intimate crowd of GTA Dietitians and 6 FBCers.
Chef Michael Smith and Real Food
Chef Smith is a big presence in any room he's in just by the sheer nature of his stature. But he equally matches, or rather exceeds, his height with his passion for food - simple, healthy, deliciously prepared food - and getting it into the tummies of all Canadians - preferably by preparing it with their own hands. He wants us to show them that making their own good, healthy food, does not have to be complicated.
Chef Smith brought up the Michael Pollan quote, and it had been a while since I'd heard it but, it really is that simple.
Eat food - not food that comes in a box full of ingredients. Just food - where the only ingredient is the item in your hand.
Not too much - self-explanatory, really. Food is fuel - we don't need to overfill the tank. Just make what you put in the tank delicious and enjoyable.
Mostly plants - it doesn't have to be all plants, just mostly plants.
And that was the basis for his talk. Food, and preparing food, does not have to be complicated.
As he pointed out, it is only in the last 30-40 years that people seem to have forgotten how to cook and have turned it into this overwhelmingly difficult task that they can't do. And yet, our parents cooked, our grandparents cooked... pretty much everyone has figured out how to cook since humans discovered fire... except for us. (well not us... we're food bloggers, we've got this. But you know what I mean!)
Embrace Your Purple Whisk
He pulled out a bag of tricks - all the tools that we, as humans, need to cook. And guess what? There were no fancy waffle makers, rice cookers or insta-pots... there were a few pots and pans, a few good knives, a zester, some utensils, a cutting board and... my personal favourite, the one and only cookbook you need. Was it a Chef Michael Smith cookbook? Nope. It was The Joy of Cooking. I have my mom's old copy and it's still my go-to cookbook when I want to try something new. It makes cooking simple.
He also produced his daughter's little purple toy whisk from his bag of kitchen tricks and told us how it's a terrible whisk but it's also the most important whisk. Because his daughter uses it every weekend to make pancakes with him.
Make Food Inclusive
There was more. He talked about how we need to make food inclusive, not exclusive. How labels don't necessarily help. He mentioned a chef friend of his who had opened a restaurant recently that only served plant based meals. But the restaurant doesn't market itself as a vegetarian restaurant. It's just a restaurant. With good food. There just doesn't happen to be any meat on the menu. And he talked about how dietitians could be agents of change and can lead by example by showing their clients how to cook at home and bring their children into the process.
Listening to him speak, and in some cases get pretty animated and riled up, got me thinking about the influence that we, as food bloggers have to make this happen too.
Use Your Creative Abilities to Influence For Good
We have the power to influence so why not do it in a way that includes people rather than excludes?
Pay less attention to the labels we give our blogs and put more emphasis on showing people that good food is good food. Period. Full stop. Yes, you can be a vegan blogger or a gluten-free blogger or a paleo blogger but instead of focusing on the label focus on the food. Fill half your plates with mostly plants or all plants and make everyone feel welcome.
Recipes aren't enough. We can focus on showing people cooking techniques and how easy it can be to sauté some greens or bake some chicken and zest a lemon. We can show them how their kids can help. Even if their purple toy whisk is more of a hindrance than a help!
Embrace Simplicity In Your Blog
Sometimes, as food bloggers we feel the need to constantly come up with something new - and sometimes newer can mean more complicated, more ingredients, more steps. And in the constant desire to up our photography we make our imagery even more perfect, more precious... more intimidating to the home cook, the beginner cook. We forget that not everyone is us, in the kitchen every day experimenting and cooking.
So let's take a page from Chef Smith and think about how we can show people how to make and eat food. That's right... not too much. And mostly plants. Embrace simplicity in your blog. Let's invite everyone into our kitchens and give them a task and then let's all sit down and share something delicious together! Even if it's virtually!