Words and photos by Frank Mack
I will admit that I have not eaten it all, but it is not for lack of trying. Some 60 years ago, my life began in the Midwest just outside of Chicago, right smack dab in the middle of America’s breadbasket. I was born into a restaurant family supported by fine dining and a very full bar. That environment provided a high standard of cooking equal to great food on any continent or any culture.
To make it even more exceptional we had a 100-acre family farm that produced amazing things, which were eaten fresh when available and canned for winter months. The beef we ate came from the neighboring farm. So my food sources were within arm’s reach and that to me was normal but it did not stay that way forever.
The Simplicity Of Life
Life itself is pretty simple. While we’re not given an instruction manual, it’s pretty easy to figure out that eating healthy, getting simple regular exercise and treating people with kindness will lead to a long productive life.
“Trust me, I know. I’m a dad. But I tell my patients that not everyone needs to run a marathon,” said Dr. Nathan Kaller, of WellStar Medical Group. “Just 30 to 60 minutes of activity… a walk around the neighborhood a few times a week can change your future.”
Does that sound hard? All of those things are extremely doable for everyone reading this but practically none of us take the easy road. We make it hard on ourselves and this is the time of year we see a multitude of articles on “eating fresh,” “exercising right,” blah, blah, blah.
Our old notions of dieting have gone bye-bye. Obsession with calorie counting is out and we’re moving to a greater “lifestyle” approach. This isn’t just about eating right it is also about doing right. The way I was raised was just normal to me, it was never preached as a way of life, it was just life. I’m not claiming this to be research but rather first-hand testimony. I’ve seen our food patterns come full circle. I witnessed the birth of fast food and the very first frozen dinners. Now doing the right thing, eating wise, is a choice—something we have to work on. Let’s just not make it so hard.
Most of the food served by our major corporations is downright bad. My hometown had one of the first McDonald’s right on the main drag. I remember it fondly and I also remember a huge difference… the experience today is nothing like it was back then. I know everyone picks on McDonald’s but they’re the standard bearer for corporate food and to be clear they are all the same. I confess though, I raised kids on chicken nuggets, grease, and fries. So that makes me a sinner too.
Our grocery stores can tell the same story as our corporate restaurants. Over time they grew and became obsessed with structure and scale of growth while forgetting about the quality of product of the shelves. Once small local businesses selling mainly locally fresh food turned into 10,000 square foot behemoths packed full of mostly junk. Look at the rise of disease and obesity running parallel to corporate food growth. Simple choices at the market can be transformative. There is now a body of evidence that fats—especially those from whole foods such as nuts, seeds, avocado and fish and healthy oils—are good for our nutritional well-being, benefiting our heart health, blood sugar, and weight, to name a few.
“When it comes to what we eat, if it’s a plant, eat it! If a box claims it comes from a plant, better to leave it on the shelf. Things in boxes are usually pretty highly processed and don’t help us reach our health goals,” said Dr. Kaller. “I like to recommend the Mediterranean diet. It consists of heavy vegetables, fruits, nuts, moderate protein, like seafood, and good fats. Eating this way lowers our chances of heart attack, diabetes and more.”
See it’s not just me.
Spreading Good Food Karma
Things are cycling back to fresh these days. Our culinary lexicon is filled with buzzwords like “farm-to-table,” “organic,” “non-GMO”—you get it. Now to some degree this marketing is getting rather silly but we do have a multitude of choices and the right choice in eating is becoming easier by the day. So let’s do 2018 the easy way.
Look for local. If it’s Georgia grown it means you just got healthier and it benefits a neighbor who tills the soil for a living. I’ll call it good food karma, and it’s all around.
We’re surrounded by food co-ops and local farmer’s markets and for many of you they are even within walking distance. They need our support to survive. They literally represent a new era of small business…I mean how much smaller can you get than a stall at a market. That’s a biblical era business model, folks.
Even beyond the farmers markets we have a multitude of options in grocery buying. No longer do just one or two stores dominate us but rather we have a multitude of options each with varying models. But to be clear, there are good options out there.
This reasoning also applies to our restaurant industry. We have choices and there are very clear differences. If you look around you’ll see a generational difference in today’s restaurant industry. We have a new generation of very talented folks doing downright brilliant things with food. They are giving us options.
These are restaurateurs like Ryan Pernice of Table and Main, Mel Toledo at Foundation Social Eatery, Micah and Katie Pfister of The Butcher, The Baker… I could go on and on but the simple point is these places are locally owned and at every turn they try to source as much local food as possible. The shorter the distribution points to the restaurant the fresher the food. Simple.
Not all is generational mind you. A guy like Bill Greenwood, featured on the cover, is the king of local restaurateurs. He has been doing fresh for decades at Greenwood’s on Green Street in Roswell. The man has a garden on the side of his restaurant. His model is not farm-to-table it’s almost literally table-in-garden. Unfortunately we’re losing his talents as Bill recently announced the sale of his restaurants. The man is riding into the retirement sunset and he is more than deserving of a standing ovation.
Let me also point out that this is not just about eating lots of fresh fruits and veggies. Mr. Greenwood served some wicked good fried chicken and there are a multitude of fantastic burgers around. Many of which are made from cattle just a stone’s throw away. Indulge on occasion but indulge right. A fresh burger from a local place like Table and Main represents a huge difference from a place with a drive through. So we need not turn into some vegan robots. You can eat good bad food. I did mention I was a sinner, right?
What I’m preaching here is not new and I’m sure you’ve heard it before but have you acted on it? Let’s make 2018 about completing the circle of food. Local is better, the right choices have never been easier. This new food era is more than a blessing so lets be as thankful as possible and take advantage of these choices. We have evolved by making smart ones; let’s not reverse that trend.
I would like to wish you all the happiest New Year and my resolution this year is to live simple and fresh. I’m also going to keep nagging about it!