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I wanted to really know where the food I was eating comes from. REALLY comes from. No surprise, I'm finding that the better the food, the easier it is to trace. Here's my account of how I'm doing it, who is growing it, making it and selling it and what that all means in the big picture of the world...

Heather Carlucci | Chef | Advocate | Mom |


Just one condiment and one small rant

So.  I think I left off last week with the word "condiments".
I had big plans. Big, big plans.
But as someone with a job and a family and the usually ups and downs of everyday modern life (like just being tired), I didn't come to the computer today with  The Joy of Condiments in my back pocket.
I did make my own ketchup.
If you make your own ketchup will it taste like Heinz? No. Not in the least.
All the sweeteners in the world will not create the texture, color, flavor that is Heinz ketchup.
It is very nice, though to have a little something in the refrigerator that you don't have to worry about.  I roasted some potatoes, cut like steak fries, tossed with squash oil and salt before
putting them in the oven and served them with the ketchup.
Had some people over. No one complained.
Here's the recipe:
  • 8 large tomatoes, chopped-
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil  
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar (made from wine turned to vinegar)


Purée tomatoes with juice in a blender until smooth. Cook onion until dark brown. Add garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 8 minutes. Add spices and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring frequently, 1 minute. Add tomato purée,  maple syrup, and vinegar and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until very thick, 45 to 55 minutes (stir more frequently toward end of cooking to prevent scorching).

End-of-season tomatoes that have no clue they're on their way to the ketchup factory...

Purée ketchup in blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). Chill at least 2 hours (for flavors to develop).

***When I caramelize onions, I let them go quite dark from years of Indian cooking.  I highly recommend doing so for this recipe as it gives it an amazingly deep flavor. Even a little scorch on the bottom of the pan in the beginning  is okay.
Notice the scorch. A reason for any french chef to cry but a joy for any Indian mom.
On a side note, I've been eating bread this week from Bobolink Dairy and Bakehouse. They're at my local farmer's markets many days a week and we filmed some footage there as well.
The bread I've been eating is their Flaxseed Armadillo. It is leavened with starter only (no commercial yeast) and at Bobolink, they know where all of their flour is from. All of it. Usually, I can't eat bread. Love it but I always feel crappy afterwards.  Get puffy, even. Not with this bread.
Which brought me and Johanna to have a conversation about "Round Up Ready".
And man, it's freaking scary. In a nutshell---and I urge you to google this---Monsanto created an herbicide that kills everything around the GMO wheat.  Obviously, the chemical called Round Up is left behind and the wheat flour most used is contaminated by it.  Okay'd by the FDA, Round Up is shown to cause miscarriges in all animals it was tested on.
I feel fine eating Bobolink bread.
First major find on my thirty days of traceability.

Bringing up a few topics

A few things to note. I'm realizing that I'll be hitting the farmer's market quite often. More often than I would have thought. Even cooking ahead, freezing and storing dry goods in the cabinets still don't hold you long. As I'm having no food on the fly, I'm having to think ahead as I do at work.
So here's the newest assortment of what I picked up yesterday minus the chicken and eggs in the fridge. 
Which brings me to another point I'll be talking about.  Price.
Where having my veg add up to considerably cheaper, the chicken cost me a whopping $18. Not easy for everybody.  As a matter of fact, that's a tough price for most. Even a chef working in NYC, seemingly doing well.  (Let's not even touch the subject of NY rents) Price is a big topic among those struggling to keep healthy and yes, prices seem much higher than regular chain supermarkets.
But with shopping traceably, you must cook.  And cooking brings us to left-overs and freezing and preserving. The most cost-conscious thing you can do.  No one-meal situations.  You can take a $20 purchase at a farmers' market can feasibly cover you for 5 days of eating. With my $18 chicken (which is hard for me to fathom), I did make 3 quarts of chicken soup, chicken stock for future soups and dinner for my daughter and I.
Let's talk about the health benefits of doing so. The big turning point for me and good eating was a visit years ago to a homeopath. Known as Dr. E, he helped many friends of mine cure themselves of lots of ailments western doctors couldn't pin point. Needless to say, a few months later my health did a 360.  Pains, exhaustion and pounds went away. Recently, after returning to pastry (I'd left for 5 years to open an Indian restaurant), many of my health problems have returned.  And I'm tired of knowing why and not doing anything about it.
An $18 chicken can play a part in avoiding thousands of dollars of medical bills later on. Think about that.
Studies have come out lately that show that 80% of our packaged foods already contain GMOs. In most countries other than the US, there are rigid laws about the labeling of such foods.Even in Japan, a country that has taken packed foods to a whole other level, they have more discretion and, dare I say, respect for their consumers than we do.
I'll stop my rant.
Officially, my 30 days starts tomorrow (which I just realized is the first annual Food Day. Go know.) but I'm already in full swing.
This evening I'll be at a dinner for the winner of the Glynwood Harvest Awards ( It is the mecca for keeping sustainable farming alive in America.  I've been honored to be on the nominee board this year. As I'm quick to point out, I won't have to think twice at dinner this evening.
Tomorrow, on my way to work, I'll be stopping by the Food Day Eat-In in Times SquareEllie Krieger will be there. I think she's in charge of the food for the event. Ellie and I met recently as we were inducted into Les Dames D'Escoffier. She has a show called 'Healthy Appetite' on the Food Network. I'm not a big proponent of the Food Network but she and I have talked food and we definitely have the same view of the health and food connection.  And she's a fantastic woman. If you're in the area, check out her tent and tell her I said hello!
Sherwin, our producer, has said I need more photos and interesting content. I'm new at this blog thing but I'll be piling it on thick starting with my next post on making my own condiments...just to keep traceable exciting.
(this is also my way of introducing Sherwin).
See you next post and think "ketchup".


Getting Ready

It occured to both Johanna and I that this 30 traceable day project would take some prep in the food planning and buying department. Fact is, our world right now is not designed to have easily accessable, traceable food. Lucky for me, I live in NYC and strangely, in this city of cities it is easier to get tracable food in a pinch that it is in the middle of the country. 
People, things gotta change.
So for the last 72 hours, I've started being very aware of the food I'm eating as well as slowly filling my kitchen with traceable food. Officially, I'm starting this 30 day stretch on Monday.  But a slow start is best with any eating change and this one really requires focus.
And I'm documenting this and don't want to look like I'm cutting corners.
On the health bend, the good food is easily traceable.  Bad food is not.
Fast food, M&Ms and other such items...I have no idea where they come from.
Go to the farmer's market and everything there, aside from a few baked sweets, is traceable and good for you.
I don't have to think too much and for this challenge, a lot of thinking will have to be done.
So, both Johanna and I hit the farmer's market today and as a word to the wise, please remember that shopping at the farmer's market is both a great thing to do for you and the community but it also a heavy commitment. And by heavy, I mean weight. I had in my shoulder bag what Johanna bought for me in the AM and then I went in the PM for some extras and it was no easy feat lugging that stuff around while I met my friend for cocktails at (and here comes our first traceable restaurant) Back Forty. Best to take care of shopping in the AM or on the way home.  Food shopping is not for evenings out.  Just indulgent jewelry shopping is.
Note made this evening:  All good wine is very traceable. Just read the label.  Another reason to love good wine.
Please see photo of my first drygoods haul to fill the cabinets of my house:
Stone Ground Oats
All-purpose flour
Table crackers
Peach Spread
Goat Feta (whoops. just realized I don't know where the olive oil is from)
Tomatoes--I figured I'd make ketchup out of it with Catskill Provisions maple syrup.
I don't cook extensively at home. Just often.  Roast a chicken, make sure there are some veggies around. I don't usually step up to the plate and make polenta at home.  I keep things like that at work. A dear friend used to say that the best thing you can do for yourself is cook for yourself.  Looks like I'll be quite good to myself in the coming days.


The decision for 30 Traceable days

I've decided, probably with my better judgement though it might be a little sticky every once in a while, to document 30 days of eating as traceably as possible. This means I'll be making sure that I can trace all the food I eat to the source of where it's made and grown.
Johanna and I will be coming up with guidelines for me to go by.
She'll also be in charge of helping me find the ingredients I need.
I do realize that not everyone has the luxury of having a forager next to them 8 hours a day but we're here to share the information with you. We'll be documeting what I call the "replacement items". Finding completely tracable pasta, olive oil, salt and then highlighting the artisans, farmers, miners and how she went about finding them. I'll have a little leeway with item like spices but there will also be entries on what we're doing to
find tracable pepper, turmeric, paprika.
This should be as educational for us as it may be for you.
I'll also have a list of restauarants in our area that have been staff approved for me. They'll have to be at least 45% traceable.
Yup, we've found traceable, local vodka.
Holy cow.
So check in and watch me tackle yet another thing other than work, toddler and my own random stuff.


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