A Quick Meal with Meggs
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!
The day in question, Meggs was traveling, staying with friends in Philadelphia.
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.