Sunday, June 8, 2008

Tin cans are made of plastic????

Since my decision to become a flexitarian a while back, I've been cooking slightly differently. We're still eating fish and seafood, but no more meat purchased for cooking at home. I’m so grossed out by what I read in Fast Food Nation that I frankly have no desire to buy, touch, cook, or eat meat anytime soon anyway.

The result, for the most part, has been great. I’ve made delicious eggplant parmesan, a spicy vegetarian chili, and this week, some wonderful tacos.

Part of the challenge for me has not been simply not eating meat, but what to eat in its place. I really don’t like tofu, or any of those other soy fake meat products. They hurt my stomach, for one thing. I never feel good after eating that stuff. Ever. Maybe I have some sort of intolerance, who knows? I also don’t care for the textures, or for the most part, the tastes. Beyond that, they just don’t seem like real food to me. I know lots of people really enjoy them, but for me, it’s just not a good option.

So I wanted tacos this week. Obviously ground meat was out. I considered fish, but didn’t really want the battery stuff with all the oil and fat involved. There’s fake taco meat out there (I think it’s called Smart Round or something), but that’s one of the worst on my stomach, so no way. That basically left beans – which is totally fine, except for now I’ve been reading about how cans may actually pose a danger to us because of the plastic (?!) lining, which contains potentially hazardous levels of BPA. BPA is the chemical you’ve probably heard of that can leach into your drinking water if you use plastic bottles. Bad news folks…it can also apparently leach into your food from tin cans! What’s really scary is that according to one site, one of the food items that is almost always guaranteed to contain BPA in the can linings? Baby formula. Scary isn’t it? See this article for more on BPA. It sort of makes me think that any health benefits of eating organic canned foods are probably cancelled out.

So anyway, I didn’t have any canned refried beans for making tacos, and I didn’t really want to go out and buy any after all I’ve been reading. I’ve also been trying to buy less canned food and more bulk items for environmental reasons - less packaging, less energy to transport, less waste. Cooked beans actually freeze pretty well, and although they take a while to cook, it’s easy to do large batches all at the same time.

Assorted varieties of beans account for probably 2/3 of the canned items I use. I’m a bit of a food snob, so I refuse to eat canned mushrooms, peas, carrots, etc. I do occasionally buy canned beets to throw in salads. I’ve been trying to get away from that, but this one is more of a pain. It takes what seems like forever to cook them, and it really heats up the house. The end result is a fair bit better, but I’m concerned about the energy costs of doing it this way. More research would be needed.

The other items that I eat canned are artichoke hearts, corn, and tomatoes. I’m not sure that there are any easy solutions other than a radical change in what I cook. I go through a fair amount of artichoke hearts in a year. I froze some from my CSA this spring, but it won’t be enough to get me through the year. Tomatoes will be the same issue. I use probably a can a week in sauces, soups, curries, etc. Unfortunately, according to Organic Grace, there is virtually no brand guaranteed to be BPA free. I’ll keep looking – does anybody know of any guaranteed BPA free brands out there? I know glass is a reasonable alternative for items that aren't sold in bulk. Although the lid may contain BPA as well, if the jars are stored upright, the lid shouldn't actually be touching the food, and it's a much smaller area than the entire container.

In the meantime, I’ll be avoiding canned items as much as possible. For my tacos (which were Delicious!) I made the following, super easy refried bean substitute:

1 C. (approx.) cooked chick peas
½ onion, chopped
1 T. (approx.) chopped fresh cilantro
½ t. red chili powder
½ t. cumin powder
½ t. coriander powder
½ t. salt
Olive oil for sautéing

Saute onions until just starting to get soft. Add beans, heat until warm. Add spices except fresh cilantro. Mix, and mash the peas a bit using a fork. Add water about 1 T at a time until desired consistency is reached. Add fresh cilantro just before serving.

This was barely enough for the two of us, they were that good! Next time I’m going to try making a double batch and freezing some for an even easier meal when I’m pressed for time.

I had previously tried making my own tortillas as well, but that was less of a success, so this time I just stuck with a pack of the pre-made from Whole Foods. One cooking adventure at a time!


Heather @ SGF said...

How do you feel about local meat? I have been flexitarian long before it had a name. For the most part, I don't really like the taste of meat unless you cover it in sauce, which I think is silly. If you don't like the taste of something, why drown it in something else just so that it is palatable?

Anyway, every once in awhile, I will eat some meat but I'm super picky. For some reason, while I dislike everything else, I do like meatballs, sausage, chicken salad (the only way I'll eat chicken) and the occasional piece of REAL ham, but after reading a few books, I (like you) completely backed off all meat. "Yuk! I'm not putting THAT in MY mouth"

As a result, I've been a veggie for almost a year now. But yesterday, I was out at the farm where we get our milk and cheese and they had samples of their sausage. Oh good heavens, it was soooo good! And it was something I could feel good about eating. You might check around for a place close by where you can get meat. Ours has beef, pork, chicken, turkey, and ham.

In the meantime I eat tons of beans, eggs, milk, and cheese for my protien.

Debbie said...

As you know I also just finished reading 'Fast Food Nation' and just thinking about meat still makes me gag but I do agree with Heather about local meat. Last week I bought turkey cutlets at the Concord Co-op (the turkeys had been raised in Weare) and they were delicious. I still remember the time we raised our own chickens and the meat doesn't compare to anything you would buy at Shaw's or Hannafords. Just a thought. Make sure you get enough protein please - once a mom, always a mom ;)