Micael and I have been buying jarred curry sauce at PCC for months now. It's simple, tastes good and we can put just about anything we want into it--beef, lamb, chickpeas, kale, carrots. But last trip to the store we checked the ingredients list and canola oil was right there at the top. Both canola and soybean oil are pretty hard to get away from--they've become the ubiquitous vegetable oil in most processed and prepared foods because they're cheap and abundant (Midwestern farmers are encouraged and paid by the government (and Monsanto) to grow soybeans and rapeseed). From my research on these oils, I've learned that the way they are processed leads them to go rancid quickly and also leads to many health problems when consumed. Soybeans are an anti-nutrient, can cause fertility issues in both men and women and can cause an over-abundance of estrogen for women, leading to hormonal issues, perhaps even cancer. The only way soy is safe to eat is when it has been naturally fermented (look for naturally fermented soy sauce). Canola oil comes from rapeseed, which has become such an abundant crop in our industrial food system that 80% of it is genetically modified to be disease and drought resistant. Hundreds of years ago, Europeans used rapeseed oil in their lamps and came to occasionally use it as a cooking oil. However it wasn't until the advent of steam technology that rapeseed really caught on, since it turns out to be an excellent lubricant. During World War II it was used to lubricate machinery. Recently developed industrial means of extracting the oil from rapeseed damage the nutrient properties and render it inferio r to other oils or fats for cooking, and the genetic modification of the plant is a red flag that this is not an ideal nutritional source. Canola oil stands in for other sources of oil or fat--such as butter, olive oil, coconut oil or lard (yes, lard! or duck fat) which are richer in the nutrients and enzymes our bodies need to be healthy and vibrant.
So, upshot of all of this is that we decided to make our own curry sauce. The recipe I found uses Canola oil, but I just replaced this with a mix of butter (from grass fed cows) and olive oil. I also mixed coconut milk (whole, not lite) in with the sauce to make it richer, tastier, and get all the good immune system boosting nutrients that coconut offers. This recipe has cumin, corriander, turmeric and chile powder, tomatoes, onion and chile pepper (we used jalapeno). We also added grass fed ground beef , carrots and purple kale to it. It was really good. I'm looking forward to eating it again tomorrow night after all the flavors have soaked together some more.
A final thought on all this food research and experimentation I/we have been doing (I include Micael because this really is a partner project). This takes a lot of life changes! I spent all afternoon reading, comparing, researching, just to understand how to prepare some of the building blocks of simple recipes--like sprouted grains, polenta, nut butter, and meat stock. In general, we're not trying any complicated, fancy recipes. It's taking enough effort just to get the basics because we're doing it all from scratch. But I'm having so much fun. Obviously the way I look at food is changing, as well as how I look at my kitchen, how I look at the people that grow and sell food, and how I look at people that cook food. I have so much respect for good chefs--especially those that are advocating for better food policy and food systems in the US (such as Sam Kass, chef for the Obamas). But also the way I look at how I organize my time and life is changing. I'm happily, eagerly spending time researching where food is coming from, what it does for our bodies, how people have used it for health, celebration, ritual and building community. I'm satisfied to spend a whole evening cooking one meal--feeling all the spices run through my fingers, chopping up shallots, carrots and kale, smelling browning butter while listening to some meringue or salsa (and if I'm lucky, seeing Micael dance).
I've been much more calm since we started cooking this way. I know this is because I'm getting more vitamins (like B vitamins) that help our bodies regulate stress. But it's also because my days, my life have become wrapped around food in such a way that it's the center of everything I do and it can't be rushed. Brown rice takes 7 hours to soak and 45 minutes to cook. I can't speed it up, I can't change it. No matter what, it will always take 7 hours to soak and 45 minutes to cook. So I relent. I allow food to become the conductor for my life and arrange the rhythms by which I live. It takes a lot of changes, but I know without a doubt that this is the way I want it to be.