I remember growing up as child in post-war America that food seemed to be the center of life in the Henry household. Sunday was a family chicken dinner, Thursday spaghetti and meatballs, Friday was fresh bread and pizza and the other nights we had TV dinners on the sofa watching our favorite shows, or more like my father’s favorite shows. Although I can’t recall my mother cooking, other than our weekly chicken dinner, I do have vivid memories of Saturday morning shopping missions to the local Safeway supermarket in San Fernando.
Living in the shadow of nuclear war with the Russians, those “Godless commies” as my father would call them, we shopped as if we were shopping for the end of western-civilization. Eggs, bacon, breakfast cereal, milk, coffee, assorted fruits and a few vegetables and cans upon cans of Jolly Green Giant corn and peas, mother would rotate them from time to time…I remember years later, helping my parents to pack up the house for a move to New Hampshire finding cans of corn and peas in the pantry dating back to the Kennedy administration. And meat, we purchased and froze more meat than we could ever possible eat…again, I have no memory of ever defrosting anything, other than my dad drive down to the butcher for fresh steaks because the ones he had were still frozen and far from ready to barbeque.
The point of this jog down memory-lane is to point out that much of America’s shopping eating habits have changed very little since the 1950’s and I would go so far as to say that they have gotten far worse. Today we need to worry about everything from an increase of food-allergies to diabetes to how growth hormones, anti-biotics to genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) are directly related. It is time to rethink how we eat, what we eat and most importantly how we shop and prepare our meals.
For years I have been traveling back and forth to Europe for my work as a kitchen designer, and the opportunity presents its self I stay with friends instead of a hotel. It has always amazed me that the kitchen, like in the US is the hub of daily life…it seems as if the same care and thought went into each meal, but something was very different, every meal was a symphony of color, taste and texture. From the morning meal of eggs, cheese and assorted meats, juice and coffee to the evenings meal of fish or chicken, vegetables, bread and wine. For years I thought it was just the fact I was in a different environment than I was use to and that somehow made the experience different. And then it came to me.
In the middle of a lively debate, over after-dinner wine and cheese, in a friend’s home in the Italian countryside, we were discussing the merits of American verses European kitchen design when we happen upon the topic of refrigeration when the fundamental differences between European and American life hit me…the average American family was still living and buying food on a 1950’s model of corporate farming, industrial processing and packaging and national retail food distribution, all which encourages mass consummation and storage of food stuffs all pumped with additives for longer shelf life. And as when I was a child we still go out once a week and buy as if the world is about to end…hence the need for a huge, monolithic, stainless steel box we call a refrigerator.
On the other hand, our European cousins are living an almost utopian lifestyle when compared to ours. Thinking that the smaller, 60cm (24”) refrigerator was due to the smaller nature of European kitchens, it was quickly brought to my attention how wrong I was and the smaller fridge was reflective of the daily nature of meal preparation. Almost everything is purchased for that day’s consummation. Fresh bread from the corner bakery, fresh fish or poultry for the evening meal, eggs, milk from a local farm and fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables from the weekly farmers market or freshly picked from their own home garden.
The question is whether or not we can change our eating and buying habits for better health and nutrition. Dr Mark Hyman believes that modern health is flawed because it based upon the premise of treatment and not prevention. Dr Hyman believes that the future of healthcare will take place in the family kitchen and not the doctor’s office. Dr Hyman says “We ate ourselves into this problem, we can eat our way out”.
I have to agree with Dr. Hyman, I to believe we can eat our way back to a healthy lifestyle and I also believe it starts in the kitchen. I have given much thought to this and feel that we all can make a few minor changes in the way we approach the way we purchase, store ad prepare food. Here are my tips for a healthier and sustainable kitchen.
The Natural Kitchen:
1. Prepare your own food from scratch
2. Purchase locally from farmers who practice sustainable organic farming.
3. Purchase meat and dairy products from purveyors of humane animal care.
4. Eat Seasonal
5. Grow your own
6. Eat more fruit and vegetables
7. Eat less red meat
8. Use your leftovers
9. Store your food correctly for longer life
10. Use a larder for vegetables and certain dairy products
11. Use a convection oven for multi-layer cooking for energy efficiency.
12. Use an induction cooktop for maximum energy efficiently and safety.
13. Use a pressure cooker
14. Use an energy star dishwasher to save water and energy consumption.
15. Purchasing new appliances can save you up to 50% on your electricity use.
16. Purchase and store your food in glass containers to reduce spoilage.
17. Recycle and compost your kitchen waste.
18. Look for food products verified by the Non-GMO Project
19. Use natural lighting when possible, LED’s when necessary.
20. Live mindfully. Eat consciously. Choose as if it makes a difference.
Designer, writer, speaker, Kevin Henry is a recognized “thought-leader” to the kitchen industry for over 30 years and is sought out for his views and observations regarding market trends and industry direction. His blog, The Essential Kitchen (www.theessentialkitchen.blogspot.com), is followed world-wide by both consumers as well as industry and media leaders. Kevin is invited to speak internationally on a wide range of topics, including luxury branding, sustainable kitchen design and market trends. Mr Henry is the Director of Business Development at DACOR, a California based manufacturer of ultra-premium residential kitchen appliances. You can contact Kevin at firstname.lastname@example.org