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The conscious lunch

(post, Marjorie Taylor)


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Author's note: Hi, I am Marjorie Taylor and am the proprietor of The Cook's Atelier where I write about cooking and food from my tiny home in Burgundy, France.

We read something almost everyday about the potential risks associated with our industrial food system and the animal abuse that takes place on factory farms.  However, I don’t think that the average consumer makes the connection of how his food choices are connected to this growing problem.  Something as simple as lunch can be a perfect opportunity to stand up for what you believe in. 

Almost everyone is aware that egg-laying hens on large corporate farms do not have the best lives.  But many might not realize just how horrible it is.  Factory farms are all about cheap food and big profits and give no regard to the well being of the animals or the surrounding community.  To make it even more confusing for the consumer, the labeling on the egg cartons makes you feel like you are purchasing eggs that have come from “happy hens”.  Don’t be fooled by the marketing gimmicks.

Thankfully, there is a growing interest in getting reconnected to the food we eat and a greater understanding of how our food choices contribute to the overall health of our communities.  Even in our urban areas, there is a growing number of people who are interested in raising their own backyard chickens for fresh eggs. If you are used to purchasing your eggs from the grocery store, you might not realize that the simple farm egg is also a seasonal food and spring is the perfect time to gather eggs from your backyard coop, farmers’ market or local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).

Even if you don’t want to raise the hens yourself, make a choice to visit your local farmers’ market, or join a CSA, and purchase certified organic eggs from pasture raised hens from farmers you know.  This means they have been fed organic feed, but they also have access to the outside where they eat bugs and grass whenever they want.  In short, it allows them to be chickens.  Fresh eggs are amazingly flavorful with bright yellow yolks and have no resemblance to the commercial variety.

As a consumer, it is very important to realize that the simple act of purchasing a dozen eggs is an opportunity to put value back in your food. Seek out the best real eggs you can find from backyard coops or farmers’ markets.  Remember the old saying, “you get what you pay for”?  You might be paying a little more for the eggs that you purchase at your local farmers’ market, but you’ll be doing your part by helping to support your local farmers during these tough economic times.

I think there just might be a lesson or two in these current economic times.  More and more people are beginning to realize that good food is not just a luxury for the wealthy.  For me, good food represents a conscious choice about the way we choose to live and an opportunity to rethink our priorities. It is a chance for us to strengthen our commitment to support our local farmers’ markets, family farms and our communities.

I purchase my fresh eggs from a local woman at the Saturday market in Beaune.  Her market table is simple, with just her eggs and, if you’re lucky, a basket of fresh garden greens and a bag of walnuts from the tree in her yard. Her eggs come in beautiful shades of cream and soft brown and they are the freshest eggs I’ve ever tasted.  I feel good when I purchase them because I know, that in some small way, I am standing up for the values that are important to me.

The simple egg represents a new life and a new beginning.  Let’s work together to make a stand for what we believe in and support those who contribute to the nourishment of our families and the strength of our communities.

Farm eggs and garden greens

This salad captures the essence of spring.  A poached farm egg is nestled in baby bitter greens and drizzled with lemon shallot vinaigrette.

4 handfuls of mixed baby greens such as arugula, beet shoots, and frisée
1/2 cup assorted herbs such as parsley, chervil, tarragon, thyme, mint, and chives
1/2 cup croutons, toasted
1/2 cup shelled walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup lemon shallot vinaigrette (recipe follows)
4 farm eggs, poached

For the vinaigrette

In a screw-top jar combine 1 tablespoon of chopped shallot, 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil with 1/3 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard.  Cover and shake well.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

In a large bowl, toss the greens, herbs, croutons and walnuts.  Drizzle with just enough of the vinaigrette to coat and toss gently. 

Divide the salad among individual salad plates and top with the warm poached egg and serve immediately.  Pass the remaining vinaigrette or save it for another use.

Makes 4 servings

Note:  

The key to perfectly poached eggs is the freshness of the egg.  Fresh eggs poach better because the yolk and whites are thicker and more cohesive.  A little vinegar in the water will help the whites to set faster.