She Might not Recognize a Mango, but She’d Sure Recognize Food!

Michael Pollan is quite quotable. He’s so quotable that I had to switch from the audio version of his new book “Cooked” to the print one so I could copy down some of the brilliant things he says. 

One of his early and best quotes comes from his book “In Defense of Food,” when he gives advice for shopping healthy at the grocery store. He recommends only shopping the perimeter of the store, where you’ll find the produce, dairy, meat and bread sections. And he recommends only buying things your great grandmother would recognize as food, as you can see quoted in the adorable photo at the right.

If we only followed those two pieces of advice, we’d be able to eat much healthier. Not necessarily local and in season, but healthier, because we’d avoid all of the processed “foods” and beverages that sit on shelves in the middle of the stores. 

Still, that’s only the first step. We will eat healthier, but we won’t necessarily move away from the industrial agriculture system we are currently sustained by and supporting. Shop the perimeter first, and only buy real food, but to really make a difference, be willing to buy locally grown, in-season food.

The other day this photo (and quote) was shared on Facebook, getting loads of likes and shares. Yet people made the darndest comments, saying things like their great grandmother wouldn’t recognize kale or bok choi or mangos, trying to make the point that there is real food those women wouldn’t recognize. 


Yes, your great grandmother would recognize those foods if she lived in a part of the world where they grew! If she grew up growing kale, or bok choi or mangos or whatever, she would be familiar with that food, obviously. 

Comments like those only underline the fact that we aren’t yet thinking local and in season. 

Plus don’t under-estimate the adaptability of cooks of old! Confronted with a mango when surrounded by midwest corn and beans, I bet one of my great grandmothers would have been able to make something of it, because she would have recognized it as food, and she would have had enough kitchen skills to figure out how to use it or serve it. 

There are no “yes buts” to this fabulous Michael Pollan quote. Only complete agreement. 

Now, get out there and shop like your great grandmother…but pretending she grew up in your current locale. :)

Why a Thinking Vegetarian Eats Chicken Stock…and the Other Is a Hypocrite

chicks on our farm, being raised for food, their first night outsideI’m going to warn you right now that unless you are an open-minded vegetarian, you probably won’t want to read what follows.

I will also tell you straight up that I was a vegetarian for 24 years and a vegan for part of that time. I had two children during my long vegetarian stint. Both pregnancies were easy and normal, and both children were born generous in size. (The first was 8 ½ pounds at birth, and the second 9 pounds.) I also breastfed both babies on my meatless diet, both for over a year, and both babies flourished.

And even though I started eating meat again about 5 years ago, I rarely eat it. If I do have meat, it is usually something I raised myself or something raised locally. That means when I go out to eat, I order vegetarian. And that means we often go without meats I haven’t been able to buy locally raised yet, like bacon.

I tell you all of that to give you some context, and to make it clear to you that I’m in no way a hardcore carnivore who thinks a vegetarian diet is anti-American. I fully support those who choose to be vegetarians when they are informed.

Those are my caveats and disclaimers. I hope I have set the stage so that those of you who are open-minded vegetarians will stay with me and keep reading, because what I’m going to say is important beyond your meatlessness.

Why might you not stay with me? Because I am about to say something you won’t like to read, or think about, or possibly even admit to.

Just eat the chicken stock already…
Friend, I know why you’re a vegetarian. During my two decades plus of not eating meat, as I kept learning more and more about vegetarianism, I added one reason after another to my list of reasons I’d made that dietary decision. From animal welfare to health issues to environmental concerns, I knew all of the reasons why I shouldn’t eat meat (and rarely eat it today). I can relate to your decision. I know why you made it and stick to it, I really do.

But, my vegetarian friend, I have to call you out on some hypocrisy.

I wish I had a dollar for every time a vegetarian companion refused to eat soup because it was made with chicken stock. Heck, sometimes I was that vegetarian companion! But now I know better because I’ve been figuring some things out, thinking some things through, and learning a lot about how we raise and eat food in this country.

And now the better informed me has to tell you that the right thing to do is to eat that stock. Seriously. Stop worrying about whether that soup was made with chicken stock or not, okay? It’s hypocritical.

Hypocritical?! Yes, if you eat cheese.

And here’s where I get really annoying: If you’re avoiding the soups with chicken stock but drinking milk and eating cheese, you’re not a vegetarian. You are causing the death of animals by consuming dairy. (I’ll explain that later.) But you are not causing the death of animals by consuming chicken stock. You’re actually doing a good thing.

Chicken stock is a byproduct of what other people are choosing to eat. No chicken was killed just to make that chicken stock that’s flavoring the minestrone. That would be ridiculously wasteful. Instead, making chicken stock is how we make even better use of the chicken, meaning it’s also ridiculously wasteful to toss a chicken carcass rather than make a flavorful stock from it.

So, dear vegetarian, what is the big deal about your soup being made with chicken stock? The chicken didn’t die for your sake. It’s an economical and judicious kitchen solution. If the chicken suffered, it was for the sake of some carnivorous character. You’re actually adding value to the chicken’s sacrifice by consuming the stock made after someone else ate the meat. What’s so bad about that?

Are you worried about food waste, starving people in third-world countries, and food deserts in urban areas? Then you should be eating the chicken-based stock and stop complaining, because perfectly good vegetables can be put to some other, more important use than stock making.

Now about the animals you are causing to die…
I continue to be shocked and amazed at the number of self-righteous vegetarians I meet who drink milk and eat cheese. I also continue to be shocked and amazed at how few people know how we get milk from cows. If you’re going to be a self-righteous vegetarian, at least be an educated one, okay? And by that, I don’t mean know how to do calculus.

Let’s talk about milk first, shall we?  

Apparently most people think cows give milk the way chickens lay eggs, with no prodding or effort on our part as the stewards of these animals.

Not so, dear friend. A cow only makes milk for one reason: to feed a calf. Where does a calf come from? A pregnancy. Oh, but wait. If the cow has a calf (which she has to do to make milk), then the calf gets the milk so then what? Well, that is why calves are taken away from their mamas soon after birth, so we can have the milk for our cereal in the morning.

But this milk supply, it doesn’t last forever. So that dairy cow, she has to be impregnated (artificially) so that she’ll have another calf and keep giving milk. This happens again and again and again. This is dairy, folks. For you to have milk, the cows have to have babies.

Now a girl calf (a heifer), she’s going to be all right. Sure, she got yanked from the comfort of her big, warm mama at a very young age, but she’ll get to grow up and have a life doing what her mama does: getting impregnated, giving birth, having her baby taken away, getting milked until she’s dry, and starting that process all over again.

The future ain’t so bright for the boy calves (the bulls). They have no purpose at a dairy unless they are going to be raised for breeding. (They’re not.) So where do bull calves end up? Veal.

I’ve been to the local sale barn and seen the bull calves too weak to stand. They are pulled off their mamas before they even get any colostrum. Just days old, they lie piled up in the pen in the small livestock barn, some with runny eyes and noses, to be sold for $10 a piece to someone who will raise them for veal. (Do you know how they raise veal? If you’re a vegetarian drinking milk, you should.)

If you’re drinking milk, you’re causing the death of those bull calves. Not directly, no, but you are.

And now for cheese…
OK, we’ve got that squared away, that your wanting milk means a cow has to have a calf which means a bull calf dies. Now, do you know the ingredient in hard cheese that makes it hard? It’s called rennet. Do you know what it is made of? The lining of calf’s stomach. Oh, so there’s another purpose for that unneeded calf, and another reason for it to die. There is vegetarian rennet, but most of the cheese you’re going to find at your local grocery store isn’t made with that because it’s more economical to use the lining of the calf you don’t need anyway. 

So if you’re both drinking milk and eating cheese, you’re causing the death of animals in more ways than one. Now how do you feel about chicken stock? Is it really that evil?

I’m not asking you to eat meat. I’m asking you to think
I am not going to tell you to start eating meat, no way no how. I hardly eat meat, so why would I ask you to give up your vegetarianism? I would never do that. I respect your choice, just as I hope you respect mine. Nor would I ask you to give up dairy.

What I am asking you to do is to stop and think. Why? Because our food system is so horribly messed up and ignorance is running rampant among us, which is only keeping our food system messed up and the “food” corporations powerful. Our societal ignorance leads to thinking avoiding chicken stock while eating cheese is “vegetarian” when it’s not, and that’s only small one example of how uninformed we are. 

You see, ultimately, I’m not even talking about chicken stock, cute little dairy calves, and whether or not you’re going to eat that pork chop. Ultimately, I’m talking about every food choice you make, every day.

My goal isn’t to create a nation of vegans. My goal is to create a nation of educated and aware eaters, whether they eat meat or not. My goal is to end the disconnect between us and our food–how it is raised, how it gets to us, how it’s cooked, how it’s eaten. Because it’s only by becoming aware that we can work together to fix what’s broken: our food supply, our society, our way of eating and even our way of living.

I’m starting with chicken stock. How about you? 

Get health benefitting olive oils and baked goods at your local farmers market!

As a health conscious individual and coach to boot, my clients and I are always looking for delicious food that provides the crucial health benefits we prioritize in our day to day. With that said, healthy fats are a must because they contribute to the taste of a meal and they are necessary for vitamin absorption, metabolism, cognitive function, immune system, and the list goes on.

With that said, many people love to cook their frozen organic food, organic vegetables, organic fish, and baked goods with olive oil. This past weekend at my local farmers market I knew I had to pick up this fantastic olive oil because 1) there was a 2 for $20 special,  2) they were local to my community in McCordsville, Indiana (Symphony of Oils and Bakery), 3) it was considered healthy (big WIN in my book) and 4) I was able to pick up some fresh baked french bread for my family where nothing stays around long if its tasty…and lets just say I came back 2 hours later and it was gone. 

As a time pressed person, I dont always get to do ALL my shopping at my farmers market, but knowing I can swoop in and atleast pick up something healthy, in a convenient matter, all while supporting my neighbors and community surely feels good. Its worth taking the extra 5-10 minutes to hang a right at the market versus saying to myself “I should do that next week…if only I had more time.”

In love and lettuce, Maria “Like the Lettuce” Romaine

Why Farmer’s Markets don’t need to be so complicated!

The average working person may feel overwhelmed when thinking of shopping for all of their dietary needs at their local farmers market. That leaves the pressure of squeezing the whole grocery list into one day, needing to know which farmers have which organic fish, vegetables, meat, eggs, etc, and bringing your baskets to carry all the goods back to your home in one trip. Its certainly not that complicated, but if you go from 0 to 180 in lifestyle, these very things might be the reasons one stays away from the market all together. This weekend I couldnt make getting all my goods a priority, so I promised myself to dabble in some things Id enjoy and would benefit my panty, all while shopping local. I ended up getting some local peaches, local coffee, and green iced tea. It wasnt everything I’ll need for the week but it was certainly better than not going at all. No need to complicate it. Make a point to get out there and get to know your neighbors and farmers, it’ll get that much easier each week and your basket may just get heavier and heavier.



First Name: HOLLY
Last Name: BURRITT
State: SC

Easy ways to throw in your locally farmed fruit

I know what I like, and chances are you do too. After enjoying my weekly shopping trip to the local farmers market, I was able to score these gorgeous blueberries to throw in my daily nutrient packed smoothie. Knowing that this was not only healthy, efficient, and now local to my community- it tasted extra smooth on my Saturday morning. I didnt have to find any fancy recipe to incorporate the local goodies, but it merely proved a fine addition to what I already had going on. When this happens, its always a win.


1 scoop Favorite protein powder (vanilla)

4 tbsp of powdered peanutbutter 

1/2 cup of your farmer’s market’s blueberries

Ice and water up to the 32 oz line (depends on your preference for texture)

and BLEND…voila!

Why the Farmers Markets’ Community Keeps You Coming

As I hit up the local farmers markets, I can tell that the value of down the street Joe knowing his friendly farmer Fred is a key component in continuing to come back to this community. There are clearly Starbucks down the street, and Panera’s around the corner, but its apparent that the neighbors come to their farmer’s markets not only for the freshest and tastiest local ingredients, but also to talk to the guy who raises their organic free range chicken, or the ladies in charge of their milk and cheese small dairy farms, or the young daughter that explains her family’s organic fish, or the aspiring young baker showing off their delicious pies made from organic flour, or the nature friendly juicers who’s fresh liquid veggies put a pep in your step.

Clearly people are passionate about what goes into their bodies, but people are equally, if not more passionate about connecting to their community. If youre a fan of putting your hard earned dollars towards small local businesses- don’t forget that if there were no farmers, there’d be no food. So join me in getting to know friendly farmer Fred- chances are we can eat wild, delicous grub and make friends with the people who make it happen and those that support them. 

How to Achieve GMO Labeling Success

Farmer Growning Non-GMO

Without getting hysterical, This is how to feed the world.  This is a sustainable system that has thrived for Thousands of years.   Industrial Corporate Ag wants this to end and replace it with their vision of “Feeding The World”.

We Feed The World


How can you help stop this?

I think one of the easiest ways is to stop these companies starts here in the United States with requiring GMO’s to be labeled.  By supporting GMO labels on food here, we can help turn the tide back towards a more sustainable future for our own country as well as stop the tide of industrial cheap food around the world.

it seems really simple.  Let’s help educate the consumer and let them make the choice.  We may be wrong and find out they don’t care, but at least they will be informed.     Please support GMO labeling on a state by state basis.  

Food Democracy Now has a commitment from two donors to each match $50,000 if you will help them with a bunch of small donations that build up to $50,000….that’s $150,000 to go towards the fight for food labeling in Washington State.  We win this one state at a time.   

Please Help Now….

Making Markets a Priority: Meet Maria!

As a health coach, my job is to help working women come up with a strategy to instill and maintain a healthy lifestyle that best works for them. Its not an easy task for anyone, and I absolutely can relate.  I work 40 hours at my day job, teach 5x a week, and run my health business, leaving little time to prepare, cook, and even eat healthy, fresh, local food. However these are some of the most important things to me and those I help (eating healthy, fresh, and local). We often default to going to local restaurants, who, if they do have healthy items, especially from local farms, we’re pleased… but its not necessarily a non-negotiable requirement i where we eat.  More commonly, we shop from our nearby grocery stores, seeking affordable health items that wont spoil as soon as we stock them in the fridge. I polled my current health challengers and asked them about the frequency in which they shop at their local farmers market, and unfortunately only one or two (out of 20) could claim they went somewhat regularly. They ALL love the idea of them and wanted to improve this about themselves, but began to give the reasons that get in the way. 

They mentioned:

1) “Saturday morning conflicts” (kids, workouts, waking up late due to working odd hours like a nurse or it being the first day they have a chance to sleep in). I know there are varying hours for markets, but many are Saturday mornings and that leaves a very specific window for people to prioritize when that may very well be filled by something else.

2) “Never have thought about it” (the overall lack of awareness of where to go, what to get there, and how it all works)

3) “Don’t they only take cash?” (one more step that gets in the way of a busy person who wants to pop into something quick, and convenient, where they can swipe their credit cards away)

4) “Weather” (when its nice, this option seems much more romantic and ideal versus the cold, rainy, inclement weather making the farmer’s market a big “to-do” versus an enjoyable relaxing experience, even social experience that it serves for many)

5) “Practicality” (Most people have their routines of meals they cook in a week, or preferred brands of peanut butter, honey, veggies that they dont normally need to eat only in season. Farmers markets might not provide what pops in someones mind and if they want green apples when none of the farms are bringing them, theyve made up their mind and are going to get them where they can and avoid the places they cant)

Knowing the importance of eating REAL, fresh, in season, nutrient dense, and LOCAL to your community food, its going to be a priority of mine to seek out:

1) WHY in the importance of going to one’s neighborhood farmers’ markets 

2) how it CAN be done.

Stay tuned, 

Maria “Like the Lettuce” Romaine