Comfort foods

September 10, 2009

Chicken ParmigianaAccording to a recent article in Marketing Daily, comfort foods choices differ depending on age.

While baby boomers say they find classic comfort foods such as braised meats, casseroles and ice cream soothing, Gen X-ers cite fast food hamburgers and burritos near the top of their lists. While this may seem discouraging, the good news is that Gen-Y-ers like burgers but also mention sushi and fruit as comfort foods.

For me, almost all food is comforting (seriously, I get quite uncomfortable at the first signs of hunger), but one of my favourite meal choices to massage away the tensions of a long day is veal Parmigiana with spaghetti and tomato sauce; homemade is ideal but I often settle quite happily for the take away version from Abruzzo Pizza. When I need some mental health food and I’m not actually hungry, coffee-flavoured Hagen Daz ice cream is my treat of choice.

I’m not quite a baby boomer by age (that age group cut off is 1964 and I was born in 1966) but as my comfort food choices attest, I’m more like the Boomers than the Gen X-ers. However, the fact that my choices are bought foods that I note by brand is distinctly like a Gen X-er. Confusing.

What foods do you find soothing? And, if you don’t mind sharing, what age group category best defines you?

The veal taboo

October 20, 2008

From foie gras bans in select areas to increased awareness about the folly of eating folk-lore inspired delicacies such as shark fin soup, chefs, retailers and consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of how food choices affect the well-being of not just other creatures but the planet. In fact, I learned last week from Cheryl’s blog that the issue is on the election roster for her and other Californians in November, too.

On the heels of research that shows that North American consumers are willing to pay 10% more for humanely raised meat, a new certification program in the US called American Humane Certified was launched to help responsible producers entice consumers to buy their products.

Despite such efforts, practices such as shark finning continues; foie gras is ubiquitous on most high end restaurant menus and suckling Berkshire or Du Breton piglet cause patrons to squeal with delight when it’s featured on a Toronto menu.

Why, then, does veal continue to be so very taboo? What makes a succulent grilled veal chop less enticing than a cracker topped with goose liver pate or a slab of tender, crispy skinned suckling pig? My only guess is that there’s no publicly acknowledged attraction: foie gras is a luxurious, status product; pork is the new hedonistic pleasure; and, shark fin soup is linked erroneously to virility. Veal, on the other hand, is seen as undernourished, incarcerated beef.

Interestingly, in the UK, there’s a movement to woo consumers to buy something called rosé veal by educating them about how uncrated, grass fed veal saves the lives of male dairy cattle who would otherwise be destroyed. The campaign launched earlier this year and as yet, I haven’t heard how successful it’s been.

I’m not entirely sure where my own feelings net out on this issue. I admit to behaving hypocritically: while I vehemently oppose shark finning and boycott restaurants that serve shark fin soup, I eat veal often and enjoy foie gras on occasion. Heck, I use eggs and cook chicken with abandon even after seeing pictures of battery hens living in conditions so cramped that they can’t take a step left or right. Somehow I turn off this knowledge in the kitchen.

How do you rationalize your food choices? Will a certification program like American Humane Certified entice you to spend more for meat, dairy and eggs to ensure animals are respected and treated better?