This coming Friday, America celebrates National Food Day. Or at the very least, they ought to. The nationwide campaign promotes “eating real” and being conscious of the food we put into our bodies three times every day. With obesity remaining a prominent health issue that costs Americans upwards of $150 million annually, considering the food system and ingredients that contribute to our bulging bodies might be just what we need as a country. In addition to supporting “whole food” diets, which involve reducing processed sugars and other detrimental additives, this year’s annual event will hone in on the issues of food accessibility regardless of income level as well as justice for workers within the food production and farming industries.
In the week leading up to Food Day, UCSB joined other University of California campuses and held a series of events related to food politics and healthy eating, beginning with a vegan picnic and the Gaucho Farmers Market. The final event, “Learn at Lunch” is a panel that will include talks from the UCSB Greenhouse and Garden Project and the A.S. Food Bank as well as two lectures on balancing our planet and food justice.
At OTM, we could not let an event like this one slip away unnoticed like the peas we refused to eat as kids. We joined the national movement a little early to bring you stories and recipes to inspire eating real and eating right. I think we can agree that it’s about time we skipped the packaged junk and “it’s time for UCSB to eat real!” –Allison Wright, On The Menu Editor
by Marisa Ratchford
It makes sense that in honor of National Food Day, UCSB would host a vegan potluck to celebrate. The potluck was held on Monday, Oct. 20, hence the meatless aspect of the festivity to correlate with the campus policy of Meatless Mondays. The potluck was from 12-1 p.m. on the lawn between Cheadle Hall and Coral Tree Café. People were encouraged to bring their own vegan food — dishes without any meat, eggs, dairy, butter or even honey — and to enjoy the other recipes brought in by the attending guests.
The potluck was blessed with a beautiful day: sunny clear skies and a light cool breeze to keep the sun’s rays from overheating the feast-goers or melting the mouth-watering vegan cupcakes they munched on. The community of veg-heads is a close-knit group who come from a variety of different backgrounds. With its participants’ variance in reasoning, knowledge and commitment, events such as the Vegan Potluck are enlightening for the partakers to learn other perspectives. The potluck was not just intended for the vegans, but also for the curious and adventurous people willing to learn about the meat-free culture and its benefits. As a vegetarian myself, not unfamiliar with the boredom of salads and veggie burgers, it was illuminating to find new and exciting recipes to try.
Of course, I could not show up to the potluck empty handed. The meat-free diet can be challenging, but learning delicious new ways to flavor food with a complete lack of animal products is an experience I encourage. Vegan baked goods, usually replacing eggs with avocado or black beans, are just as moist and fluffy as any other delectable treat. How could a pasta be made without gooey mozzarella or parmesan? Well, with the help of properly cooked and seasoned vegetables, one would not even notice the lack of lactose on their plate. I brought tofu ceviche to the vegan meetup, a tasty and easy-to-make dish that anyone with a plastic knife and Tupperware can create.
1 package of extra firm tofu
2 medium sized tomatoes
½ a red onion
½ a cucumber
Seasoned salt for taste
Dice the tofu, tomatoes, onion and cucumber and mix in a bowl. Add chopped cilantro to the dish. Extract the juice from the lemon and lime (careful to avoid the seeds) and pour straight onto the dish. Add a dash of seasoned salt for taste. Let sit overnight in the fridge. Serve with salted crackers or tortilla chips. Enjoy!
It was a unique experience to be able to try all these interesting dishes without having to break the budget. If you feel as if you missed out on Monday’s potluck, join the Vegan Santa Barbara Meetup for an updated event calendar on meat-free events in the local area.
Wake Up with Water Spinach
by Kelsey Tang
Driving back home to L.A. from Santa Barbara elicits the fondest memories of simple homemade foods, devoid of any unfamiliar ingredients. I take this break to indulge in my mother’s Asian cuisine thoughtfully prepared for the health-conscious individual. A favorite of mine is a nameless Chinese dish that consists of two primary ingredients: water spinach, also known as morning glory or swamp cabbage, and fermented soy beans. It’s easy enough for an elementary chef as well as healthy enough for those looking to get away from a heavy, starchy diet.
Some advantages the water spinach offers include cholesterol reduction, constipation alleviation and even anti-aging benefits! It’s no wonder most Asians consistently appear ten years younger.
450 g water spinach
2 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, diced
2 tbsp fermented soy beans (salted or sweetened; you pick!)
2 tsp sugar
Wash the water spinach. Cut the spinach into 4 cm lengths, or you can easily snap them with your fingers (for those of you prohibited by residence hall policy to bring kitchen knives). Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a pan. Pour in the diced garlic and stir until light brown. Add handfuls of water spinach and fry for about a minute. Avoid overcooking to maintain the vegetable’s crunchy texture. Drop 2 tbsp fermented soy beans, then 2 tsp sugar. As the water spinach begins to shrink, turn off the heat. Serve on a plate, white rice optional.
Even if healthy foods repulse you, this recipe still succeeds in delighting your taste buds by creating a dewy, nutty and softly crackling goodness. The dish will make you full, but never regretful; light, but never bloated. Rather than inducing the infamous food coma, this recipe will likely provoke a motivation to begin a healthier diet!
Moroccan Couscous with Vegetables
by Lisa Maillard
A beneficial “whole food” craze is sweeping across America. Words like “vegan,” “gluten free” and “organic” are being used to describe this fast-advancing culinary revolution. And yet, there seems to be the threat of restricted tastes when one conjures up images of a “vegan” or “gluten free” meal. What in the world tastes good without butter? And what do you mean pizza isn’t a vegetable? Thankfully for you, my health-conscious gastromaniacs, not everything “whole foods” has to taste healthy. Many global cultures have found ways to truly combine the terms delicious and nutritious. Today, we will be focusing on the Moroccan dish known as Couscous with Vegetables. Couscous is almost like what pasta and quinoa’s baby would be if that were a thing, i.e., yummy. And as this recipe proves, vegetables can be fun, too.
For a little background, I grew up in a family of French people. I am French. My parents are French. My grandparents are French and most of my great-grandparents are French. Unfortunately, France has a long history of colonization in places where they are not welcome, such as Morocco. However, some good did come out of this — at least for the French — and we absorbed some Moroccan culture before we were rightfully kicked out. Couscous is one of my favorite home-cooked meals.
For the Vegetables: 1 can of chickpeas (my mother would like me to stress the importance of the chickpeas), 1/3 cup oil, 1 onion, finely chopped, 1 eggplant for the eggplant lover, 1/2 for the eggplant liker, diced, 3 medium-sized carrots, sliced, 2 potatoes, diced, 1 yellow squash, diced, a pinch of quatre-épices (cloves, nutmeg, ground pepper and ginger), 3 teaspoons harissa sauce*, 2 cups boiling water, 3 oz. green beans, cut 2 inches in length, 2 zucchini, sliced, 1 tomato, cut in eighths, one tiny pinch of cinnamon
For the Couscous:
1 cup couscous, 3/4 cup boiling water, 2 teaspoons butter, or vegetable oil if you want to go vegan
For the vegetables:
Heat oil in a large pot. Cook onion on low for 10 minutes. Add eggplant, carrots and potatoes. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Add squash, quatre-épices and harissa sauce and then green beans and zucchini. Add tomato and chickpeas last. Add the 2 cups of boiling water, cover and let stew for another 20-30 minutes. End with the tiny pinch of cinnamon.
For the couscous:
Pour boiling water on couscous in a deep dish. Add butter (or oil for a vegan option) and let sit for 10 minutes covered.
Serve with vegetables.
*Harissa sauce is a pepper-based concoction popular in Northern African cuisines. It often combines other flavors such as cumin, garlic, coriander and even lemon juice. For all the spicy-food-lovers out there who don’t have a jar of harissa, add Tabasco sauce to the vegetables after serving. Dose at your own peril.
This story originally appeared on page 21 of October 23, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.