Here's some recent work I did for Townshend's Tea Company. Hope you enjoy!
I'm bewitched with eating outdoors. Every year around this time, I get an itch - call it cabin fever - to go outside regardles off the fickle weather. It feels very European to me to have a meal outside. I always picture myself at the seaside in the South of Wales, or roaming the hills of Provence when I eat outdoors.
Alongside my cabin fever, I've had a serious case of wanderlust - a fortunate side effect of the books I've been reading recently on the culinary culture of France. Today, I turned on some French cafe music and made a Croque Monsieur and a Croque Madame.
CROQUE MONSIEUR [Adapted from Jody William's recipe]
2 Tablespoons unsalted European-style butter
1/8 cup white whole wheat flour (*all-purpose flour can also be used)
3/4 cup whole milk
1 Tablespoon mustard
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
4 slices of fresh artisan country bread
3 oz. pastured ham
3 oz. Gruyere, grated
Salt & pepper to taste
Melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat until foamy. Add flour and cook, stirring, until mixture is pale and foamy, about 3 minutes. Gradually add milk until mixture is smooth. Cook, stirring, until sauce is thick and somewhat elastic, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in mustard and nutmeg; season with salt to taste. Note: Bechamel can be made 1 day ahead.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread bread slices with bechamel sauce on one side, dividing evenly and extending all the way to the edges. Place bread slices bechamel side up on a parchment-lined baking sheet; top with ham and half of cheese. Add additional bread slices on top of the ham & cheese. Sprinke remaining cheese and salt & pepper on top of sandwich. Bake until cheese is brown and bubbling, 10-15 minutes.
To make a Croque Madame: add 1 tablespoon of butter to a medium skilletover medium heat. Once the butter is melted and starting to bubble crack an egg directly into the pan. Wait until you see the bottom of the egg start to turn opaque then cover the skillet with a lid. Check on the egg frequently until all the white of the egg is opaque but the yolk is still raw then top the sandwich with the egg.
*I use white whole wheat or spelt flour in all my recipes. White whole wheat flour has the same healthy benefits as whole wheat flour without the extra dense baking results.
Exploring the Principles of a Traditional Diet
We all have a food story - why we love food, what we love about food, and what we believe about food. In fact, if you think about, it everyone subscribes to a food belief system whether it’s a deliberate decision or one that’s unconsciously made. And let’s face it. We all have to eat, so we all have things we believe about food: food is pleasure, food is fuel, food is culture, food is adventure, etc.
Traditional food is mine. I’ll be writing about it a lot, and since nearly all of my recipes are based around a traditional diet I thought it’d be good to explain what a traditional diet is and why I think it makes sense.
So what is Traditional Food? Traditional food refers to foods that have been consumed by primitive, non-industrialized cultures for centuries; they are whole, nutrient-dense, high-quality foods that have not been refined, denatured, pasteurized, homogenized, or infused with artificial colors, or additives. In other words, food as it was before industrialization.
Here’s a quick overview of the basic principles of a traditional diet.
- Animal meat, organs, skin, fat, cartilage, and bones from from pastured animals, including eggs and poultry.
- Wild-caught fish and shellfish
- Raw, whole milk dairy products from pastured animals.
- Bone broth made from pastured animals.
- Grains, legumes, and nuts: whole grain baked goods properly prepared to neutralize anti-nutrients and improve digestibility.
- Fruits & Veggies: Organic, locally grown and eaten either fresh, frozen, cooked in soups and stews, or lacto-fermented.
- Fats & Oils: Unrefined saturated and unsaturated fats such as grass-fed butter, lard from pastured pigs, animal fats, palm & extra-virgin coconut oils, Icelandic cod liver oil for vitamin A & D.
- Natural sweeteners in moderation: organic raw honey, organic maple syrup, organic raw cane sugar, organic stevia powder.
- Unrefined sea salt.
- Filtered water for cooking and drinking
- Organic herbal teas and coffee in moderation
Now, I realize there are a million different ways of eating out there. We’re constantly inundated with new studies and new rules, and trust me, I have read most of them. Here’s why I think this one makes the most sense.
First and foremost, it’s time tested. Our ancestors have eaten this way for centuries. Only in the last century, have we drastically changed the way we grow and process food. And it’s well-known and well-documented that the modern diet is not the best, to say the least. It’s also widely known that rural peoples that have not been influenced by the modern diet and still eat the way their ancestors did before them are some of the healthiest people on the earth.
Secondly, the traditional diet is cross-cultural. Each culture has its own beautiful, unique take on the principles, of course, but the principles themselves are universal. I’ll use lacto-fermentation as an example: in Japan they ferment soybeans to make tofu and miso, the Koreans make kimchi, Scandinavian cultures make lutefisk, in Tanzania gruel called togwa is a popular dish...you get the drift.
Third, it does not villainize a single food group. I think most of us know that the body needs varying degrees of carbs, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals to properly function. There is constant research being done on exactly how much the body needs of each of these different categories, and that is dependent on several factors: height, age, weight, body type, sex, to name a few. But it’s agreed our bodies do need all the categories to function properly. Therefore, any diet that makes one of these subjects out to be the enemy (or the hero) raises a red flag in my mind.
The traditional diet avoids extremes and encourages balanced eating. I believe in a whole body, whole being approach to food. So any diet that claims you can have 10 cups of coffee and be fine is another red flag. Now, I would LOVE to have 10 cups of coffee a day and remain unaffected but let’s be honest - a habit of drinking 10 cups of coffee a day over a sustained period of time is just crazy. If that is you, you need to check yourself into a center. Caffeine Anonymous 1-800-777-9999. Yup, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. All in moderation, peeps.
It takes into account the well-being of animals and the environment. You may be thinking, “How can you say it takes into account the well-being of animals if it recommends eating them?” That’s a really good question and definitely worth some serious thought. Animal welfare is certainly high on my priority list. I’ll be writing about that at length in a separate post, but for now, I think it’s important to say this diet promotes healthy-raising and treatment of animals by giving them the space they need to roam and the food they need to thrive and live happily. It also cares for the land by promoting an organic, biodynamic way of farming that avoids pesticides and, or other chemicals, and promotes sustainable agriculture. You can read more on biodynamic farming here http://bit.ly/1GNjSNF.
The benefits of traditional diets across cultures have been scientifically proven through extensive studies as some of the healthiest diets on earth. The Weston A. Price Foundation is a great resource for extensive studies that have been done regarding the eating habits of pre-modernized cultures.
I’ll be writing more about each of these principles over the course of the year. In the meanwhile, if you want to read more about the reasoning and research behind these principles you can learn more at:
I think it’s good to note that I don’t have a finite handle on the truth. I’m not a doctor, or a farmer, or a scientist (most of us aren’t) but I am a well-educated, intelligent, critical- thinking human being capable of making informed decisions. None of us can be an expert at everything, and there is always something we won’t know. That’s the beauty of life - there’s always something to learn, something new to explore; all we can do is continue to seek the truth in all aspects of our lives. That’s why I created Mayfair - to pursue truth. And I think that’s important to do that alongside others so please, tell me your thoughts! I’m excited to pursue this together.
I used to take citrus for granted. Growing up in California, oranges were everywhere. Nearly every home in the neighborhood had some type of citrus tree growing in the back yard - orange trees, lemon trees, limes, you name it. Freshly squeezed orange juice was a staple at breakfast and served as the standard base for almost every smoothie bar in town. At the beach, if the heat became too intense, you could walk up to one of the local juice huts and order a citrus cooler. But I rarely did. Citrus was boring! I wanted the more exotic fruits that weren't as readily available, like berries.
Now that I'm in Portland (where berries are plentiful, thankfully!), citrus is my new winter fav. When my cat, London, yowls at me at the crack of dawn on cold, dark mornings, citrus is my comfort and motivation for getting out of bed. Along with coffee (duh). It gives me the kick in the butt I need to function and get going for the day.
Marmlade on toast (or, you know, straight from the jar) is my favorite, but I also love to add zest to muffins or pancakes, dry the peels and use them in granola, or eat it fresh in yogurt. Orange slices are amazing dunked in dark chocolate with your coffee. And let's be honest...getting doped up on vitamin C in the winter is never a bad thing!