Sundays with Friends: The Hungry Irishman

I know! I know! I know! I’ve been away for way too long, and my sincerest apologies to you, because I love you all dearly and have missed you! Don’t forget you can always keep up with me daily at my Facebook Page, The Onyx Plate. No telling what I will update next with on there (yesterday was my Bacon loving cat, Cinder).

Things have been absolutely fantastic here in the Food portion of my world with another magazine article published here in November, and another one on the way in December. (I’ll post the November article shortly for you on here.) I’ve bought new dishes to take photographs with (so excited!), and have been looking for newer recipes that have a healthy twist to put in them (it’s time). My two “Foodie” part-time jobs are going great as well! Did I mention I get to meet Curtis Stone Thursday??????????!!!@#$!%!#%!@#$!#$^#&???? *enormous smiles!!!* (I’ll post photos, no worries. *wink*)

With all of that going on (including meeting a handsome Aussie Chef on Thursday), the most important thing about today is introducing you to a Chef/Caterer/Blogger that has become a good friend of mine and a source of inspiration (who just happens to be quite the handsome Irish Chef). I always like to think that if someone can provide me inspiration in my own life, just by being themselves, then that is someone I want in my life. It’s time to share him with The Onyx Plate, and I’m so proud to feature his writing.

Thank you, Brandon, for all of the inspiration you have provided me, and for writing this thought provoking article for us. Take it away, Brandon….

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Hello everyone!

My name is Brandon O’Sullivan, and I run a catering company and food blog by the same name The Hungry Irishman.  My friend here at The Onyx Plate and I have been discussing guest posts for about 8 months now, and I finally got a concrete enough idea to share with you. But first I want to introduce myself a little more thoroughly. I have been working in kitchens for almost a decade, and started off as a dishwasher, have climbed the ladder at each restaurant, and moved on to bigger and better locations. My culinary career, though, really got its start, at Andiamo. This was the first “real” kitchen I worked for, and was lucky enough to be surrounded by such generous talent, and picked up my passion for food as an art form. I currently am working at The Toasted Oak, in Novi, Michigan, where my craft continues to grow under some excellent guidance. I started this catering company by accident, really, and it has led me to a job that I love and an opportunity to connect with some truly amazing people. We specialize in private dinners and wine tastings, which as some of you may know, draws a crowd of a different sort, like me and Jennifer here :).

There has been a lot of negative buzz going around lately, regarding genetically modified foods and all sorts of other things. I wanted to take the time to share some solutions and options that are readily available, for those who are concerned and wish to put the absolute best fuel in their bodies.

I want to start with the importance of eating fresh, local ingredients. If I go to an average run-o-the-mill grocery store, and buy a six dollar bag of spinach, in three days, it’s slimy and inedible. Or, I can go to a local farmers market, prices of course depend on where you go, but for example, I can go to Detroit’s Eastern Market, and get a larger bag of spinach, for four dollars, that will last a week to a week and a half before showing signs of spoil. Not only does local food last longer, but by supporting the few remaining farmers, who aren’t making their living specializing in massive crops such as corn or soy, you are helping your local economy, and perpetuating community. I don’t know if you have had the pleasure, but if not, try this: eat a tomato, grown industrially, harvested mechanically, and then eat a tomato grown by an individual, who put his life and energy into the nurturing, care, and harvest. Tell me there isn’t a very clear difference in taste and texture. Here is a great resource for finding local farmers markets in your area: Local Harvest.

There is also the very feasible option of gardening. Most people don’t have land they can till to put food on the table, but there has been a huge surge in popularity for Urban Farming. There are also plenty of community gardens, way more than one might think. Many churches and similar establishments have gardens you can rent plots from, or trade a little time for charity, or by helping clean up the community garden to pay for your space. And if even that is too much, grow some fresh herbs on a balcony or a windowsill. Fresh herbs are, in my opinion, a chef’s best arsenal. The right or wrong fresh herb absolutely can make or break the best of cuisines. Farm to Table is a great page with tons of information on getting your own project started. I am also a fan of the growing “farm to restaurant” community, where restaurants are joining forces with many local farmers, to provide the freshest ingredients possible and help support local business.

Some of you may be looking for a better way to utilize the food you do have, or will acquire, and I feel Sprouting and Preserving are some of the most cost effective and healthy ways of getting to most out of your food. Sprouting consists of germinating seeds and grains, and unlocking all the nutrients inherent within, and turning it all into a much easier to eat (and digest) vegetable. Preserving can mean anything from jarring, canning, pickling, curing, smoking, etc. but for today, we will just discuss the basics. I would like to start by saying that ANYTHING can be preserved. There are just different techniques and steps, whether its a fruit, vegetable, or protein. The above link has all the information you will need to get started. But imagine having, say, three jars in your fridge, one with jalapeño pickled garlic, one with your favorite bread and butter dills, or perhaps some balsamic pickled cippollini onions, to bust out the next time you are entertaining guests. Imagine their surprised faces when you tell them it’s all homemade! Also, I feel it goes without saying how great it is to have your own homemade jellies, preserves, apple butters, pumpkin butters, and whatever tasty condiments you can devise at your disposal.

The biggest part of a healthy diet is greens, dark, leafy, delicious greens. This is the hard detail for most to swallow, since the American philosophy on salads seems to be 10% lettuce, 75 % toppings and cheese, and 15% creamy dressings. Many studies have shown greens to be the most incremental part of your diet, and should make up the bulk of what you eat. The nutrients abundant in greens are also great for your Heart. Most people are intimidated by greens, some are bitter, tough, etc. so here is a very useful source on where to find greens and how to cook them.

And I feel this last section won’t be quite as far reaching, but deserves an honorable mention nonetheless, but for those of you who are starting to question your dietary habits, I urge you to look into incorporating Raw Foods into your diet bit by bit, as thousands of people have testified to its ability to dramatically increase energy levels, and help with all other manner of health concern. Here’s another website with some great Raw Recipe’s.

Another heated topic for most, is protein. We have millions of vegan and vegetarian humans on this planet, who are living happy, healthy, successful lives, but the biggest argument against these dietary choices is the misconception that your body requires animal proteins and byproducts to do what it has done so well since birth. We are the only mammals that consume milk after infancy, not to mention the only mammals consuming milk from another species. If milk is so good for you, and detrimental to your bones’ ability to fortify themselves with calcium, then why don’t we drink human milk our whole lives? If it was the best, most natural way to gain nutrients, it would be a part of the natural order of things, and to me, consuming milk formulated by nature for calfs, doesn’t seem very aligned with nature. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good ribeye or burger every now and then, but I prefer vegetables. I recently made a vegetarian Mushroom “Brie-ger”, that as a good friend of mine (an avid carnivore) said was the best burger he has ever had.

The point I’m trying to make, is everyone should be more open with their diet, see what feels right to you. But for those who are interested check out Happy Cow, a good resource, and a list of proteins that are non animal byproduct. I would also highly recommend the documentary Forks Over Knives. Keep in mind, an elephant is a vegetarian, how do you suppose he survives and nourishes all that mass without eating other animals? Then there is always the fact that the cattle industry, as it stands, produces a very large portion of the air and water pollution we are experiencing the effects of everyday…

But anyways, here’s a site with a few Lighter Cooking Techniques for those just looking to make small changes to their cooking habits to effect large health changes over time.

I hope some of this information has been helpful! Also, I must recommend the book that made me look at food as a livelihood, and not a compulsion, In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan.

Till next time,

The Hungry Irishman

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3 thoughts on “Sundays with Friends: The Hungry Irishman

  1. Jennifer, I hope you do get to talk to Curtis Stone on Thursday!

    Brandon, this is a very interesting post. We all need to clean up our diets and the mega farms that are producing much of the produce consumed, use too many chemicals. I work at a farm that grows naturally and around here, there are very few consumers who are willing to pay the extra premium for organic produce. The extra premium the farmer must pay to be certified organic, the extra cost of the organic fertilizer, the extra hours involved in tillage and cover crops, represent a higher dollar figure that the local farmer is having a hard time passing on to the consumer. The general public also does not understand or appreciate the overhead that a farmer has with employee taxes, worker’s compensation, insurance, equipment costs and maintenance, not to mention the human toil. We cannot grow a vegetable and compete with Wal Mart, Aldis, or the mega store down the road. It is passion that will grow, passion that will sell and passion that will buy for the health and well being of our bodies and families. I applaud your efforts in the locavore moment and the love that you obviously have for good food. May your life be enriched with good health and joy.

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