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A Quick Meal with Meggs

August 15, 2011

The MeggsReport is cooking up a storm.

We’ve been encouraged to self-report on personal cooking theory and practice; “not many people cook like you do.” Part chemist/alchemist, part traditional foods enthusiast (especially merging Chinese food theory with more universal traditions), this might seem a bit odd to most in the USA.

So as a first glimpse, let’s take a quick look at a quick recent meal, noteworthy as it was made while traveling, yet adheres to principles usually used at home.

Watch as Meggs magically transmogrifies available goodies into a pile of tasty sustenance, in short order, each element cooked to perfection yet in the same pot, served hot with not a BTU of energy wasted. Colorful and tasty, prepared with a select combination of health and sustainability guidelines. All with a minimum of clean-up!

Fifteen minutes from first thought to table; Voilà!

Meggs prepared this dish in under 15 minutes, following principles of health and sustainability.

Voilà, a quick meal with Meggs! Meggs prepared this dish in under 15 minutes, following principles of health and sustainability.Meggs prepared this dish in under 15 minutes, following principles of health and sustainability.

The day in question, Meggs was traveling, staying with friends in Philadelphia.

Principles followed:

1) Sourcing. Goal of eating whole foods. Organic/local/free range/live/sprouted/traditional foods. Minimize processing including cooking; cooked (or not) as appropriate for the type of food and the needs of the individual.  Sprouted grains possible thanks to specialty breads (e.g., Ezekiel, and other(s)) available in freezers at many stores. (At home, sprouted grains such as brown rice would be used.)

2) Cooking order and cooking intensity.  Stalks and dense/root vegetables cut smaller and cooked first and longer, in a minimum of water (so material on bottom boils, material on top steams).  Ginger was used for its health benefits and flavor, added first to cook longest, finely chopped. Leaves of greens tossed on top at the end as a secondary lid to absorb heat and retain heat, as the flame was reduced or turned off, so they cooked least; lightly cooked. Egg added for nutrient density and animal proteins and fats, placed directly onto cooking vegetables when almost done. Egg yolk is important to eat raw. Whites one might minimally cook to destroy avidin (that reduces uptake of biotin, a B vitamin) so some would say the ideal is soft poaching, although others say the biotin in egg yolks make up for the avidin, and cooking destroys important complex nutrients. But here a partial cooking: the whites cook from the hot water a bit similar to egg drop soup but no stirring. Stirring destroys complex proteins.  The vegetables were cut in the order of cooking, added as they were ready, so cooking/cutting times closely corresponded.

3) Energy savings (“Not a BTU wasted”). Bowl for eating first used as lid, warming it up, so bowl will not sap heat when soup is served (eating hot food is a goal too, and a cold soup is a let-down). Bread thawed/warmed in lid (serving bowl used as lid for pot) while food cooks, and/or placed around edges to steam thaw. (Toasting avoided due to acrylamide and nutrient destruction.) Bread placed at bottom of bowl when serving to ensure not frozen, and also thus made softer and easier to eat by absorbing the liquid. The liquid contains important extracts (e.g., vitamins and minerals) essential not to be wasted. Not to mention, that just in time cutting method.

For additional flavor, spices and garlic can be added as appropriate. Garlic would be added near end to prevent cooking out healing properties. For saltiness and more fermented content, miso can be stirred in after boiling. To minimize disruption to the layered mix, pour off some hot liquid into the hot bowl, smash the miso with a spoon, then add the rest on top. Cayenne increases circulation and aids respiration, and good for certain conditions.

Served in one motion by sliding out of the pan into the hot waiting bowl, preserving the pile; thus the presentation in the photo.

Philosophy stems from numerous sources:

Guidance from Chinese Medicine, particularly Paul Pitchford’s book, Healing with Whole Foods, and a nod to emerging trends: certainly the Traditional Foods Movement, public health issues (consideration for those intolerance to gluten and milk; diabetes epidemic; carcinogenicity of pesticides and some packaging and processing; strong association of processed foods with degenerative diseases; etc.); healthy and more sustainable sourcing (pesticide free/Bio/Organic, homegrown or local if possible, etc.). And of course, the Pollan-ization.

“Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” –Michael Pollan, a Berkeley southpaw of note. :p

Not mentioned: the ease of sprouting while on the go, even while backpacking.

Problems, anyone? :)

Knowing that vegans may find the Mmm-eggs photo objectionable, apologies; in another tale I might discuss my own history with veganism and vegetarianism. (An interesting broader inquiry, for this Report or another news venue, would be: why so many longtime vegans and vegetarians, including outspoken organizers, in the San Francisco Bay Area/Berkeley (an epicenter) have quietly or not so quietly given up that practice.) Vegetarians as well as vegans may have issues with the Traditional Food movement, and related emerging trends like the Paleolithic Diet.

An excellent resource for vegans and vegetarians which attempts to harmonize veg practices with traditional foods principles is found here.

Surely some will also question raw eggs. The risk of salmonella, while real, I understand is extremely low if organic/pastured eggs are used, and even quite low if the riskiest, factory-farmed-torture-swill eggs are used. Two commercial sources that seem good on why raw eggs are highly beneficial to eat this one and this one.

Thanks! We hope this is helpful. Your Meggsychef hopes to share more on dietary examples and perspectives in the future. Remember, everyone is different, there’s loads of info out there, and quite a lot of conflicting advice and opinions. This information is provided here to help you make better choices, not to tell you what to do. More sharing planned for the future on the Meggs Report.

Updated October 11, 2012 due to changing information in the wiggly web world: folic acid reduction from uncooked egg whites no longer appears to be a concern, however now finding that biotin is said to be at least partially cancelled by avidin when whites are not cooked, e.g., here.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Just a girl in Italy permalink
    September 29, 2011 2:41 pm

    I’m impressed at how much thought you put into how you make your food, but you didn’t say anything about how it tasted!

    In Italy, we like to have fun with our food.

  2. October 5, 2011 11:20 pm

    Ah, the taste! How could I forget? :p

    Well, I like to think good food tastes good!

    I haven’t yet tried cockroaches or grasshoppers, though. :p

    I did enjoy the meal although I don’t promise others would. Maybe if they understand the principles and can feel the benefits, and get used to it, they would like it even more than I do. Mmm mmm, a little flavor from miso, ginger, and garlic. Sweet chunky chard stalks. Complexity of tumbling mix of sprouted grains. Hot broth full of nutrients and some fire. Delectable goodness of fresh sunny egg yolk.

    But on the topic of Italy, and food fun…

    One of the most interesting things about moving to Italy has been the total inversion of certain fundamental principles I have learned about food timing and food combining.

    While of course the Mediterranean Diet is world-famous, and in particular I’d like to know more about the “farmer’s diet” (or, “cucina povera“, “diet of the poor”?), what stood out to me the most so far is that instead of:

    a) Eat fruit at least 30 minutes before a meal
    b) Eat proteins first
    c) Eat starches last

    Here the exact opposite is done, with regularity and attention:

    a) Eat starches first (primo, a pasta)
    b) Eat proteins second (secondo, usually a meat)
    c) Eat fruit for desert!

    Of course being consistent is generally good, having cultural support is very very good, and the body adapts to many things, and there could be some good chemical reasons why both orders work, but to have the exact opposite of what I have read (in a synthesis of western nutrition and chinese food/medicine theory) really makes me wonder and wanna know more…

    Meanwhile, veggies and anyone trying to reduce their animal product intake will be happy to know about this diet and especially pulses like cicerchie, “a small, angular pulse, particular to” a village with unusually long life, Campodimele, discussed in this article in The Telegraph, UK. “Known in Italy as la carne dei poveri, the meat of the poor.”

    Yum yum stumblebums!
    Ciao caio, chow chow, for now now, brown cow!


    This comment is dedicated to Steve Jobs, an exceptionally triangulated outlier and cultural buoyancy factor of pre- and sub-cultural splendor.

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