Clean Eating: How the Sierra Foothills’ region shines

FORGET THE OLD ADAGE ABOUT cleaning your plate, which dates back to the Herbert Hoover era of the government’s “clean plate club” cam- paign. Clean eating refers to making what’s on your plate “clean”—or free of processed or refined foods.

The emphasis is on eating whole natural foods, including generous portions of fruits and vegetables and leaner proteins such as fish, free- range chicken and grass-fed beef. Clean eaters cook their meals from scratch, often choose organic foods, enjoy Greek yogurt, cage-free eggs, real cheese (not “cheese food”), brown rice, raw almonds, quinoa, raw chocolate and herbal teas.

Eating fresh food is preferred, but canning and home preserving is perfectly acceptable. This happens to be the prime season for home preserving too—from apples to tomatoes to squash and zucchini.

“Although ‘eating clean’ gained notoriety in the mid-1980s when Ralph Nader published a book called Eating Clean, its roots date back to the natu- ral health foods movement of the 1960s,” writes clean food expert Diane Welland in Prevention Magazine. “Today, driven by a variety of factors (not the least of which is the new-found passion for organic, natural and slow foods), clean eating is once again in vogue.”

Pioneers of clean eating include Michael Pollan and Alice Waters. In Food Rules, Pollan writes: “If it came from a plant, eat it; ifitwasmadeina plant, don’t.” Pollan spoke in Grass Valley in 2013.

In September, President Obama presented Waters with the National Humanities Medal at the White House. “As a chef, author and advocate, Ms. Waters champions a holistic approach to eating and health and celebrates integrating gardening, cooking and education, sparking inspiration in a new generation,” the citation reads.

Clean eating has reshaped America’s food culture—long known for fast food, Jell-O, TV dinners and “Big Food” (like “Big Oil”). It has given rise to casual fast food made with fresh ingredients, such as Chipotle Mexican Grill (with its campaign against “factory food”) and Panera; supermarkets such as Whole Foods Market; and food technology startups such as Hampton Creek, whose backers include Bill Gates.

In addition, the clean food movement is prompting the major processed-food companies to use less artificial ingredients. Kraft, for instance, recently announced it is removing synthetic colors from its iconic macaroni and cheese.

Our fresh, local food culture

In our region, clean food eating has long been a way of life, not just a trend, thanks to an abundance of fresh, local fruits, vegetables, meats and poultry. More than 175 farms span Placer and Nevada counties alone.

Our local food is sought after too. For example, the menu at Waters’ venerable Chez Panisse recently listed “grilled James Ranch lamb with currants and pine nuts, zucchini tian, fried squash blossom, and mesculin salad.” The lamb is from James Ranch in Penn Valley.

The fresh food is available at local farmers markets, such as the Foothill Farmers’ Markets in Placer County and farmers markets in Nevada County; farm stands such as Ikedas and Machado Orchards in Auburn and Bierwagen’s Donner Fruit Trail in Chicago Park; and organic grocery stores such as BriarPatch Co-op in Grass Valley and Tahoe Central Market in Kings Beach.

Local artisan products ranging from Cello Chocolate to Huck’s Hollow Farm Homemade Goods are made with organic, free trade or non-GMO ingredients. The Little Fish Company, an independent purveyor who is a fisherman, sells fresh line-caught fish at the local farmers markets.

Our restaurants, ranging from Summer Thyme’s Bakery & Deli in Grass Valley, Ike’s Quarter Cafe in Nevada City and Nectar Cafe in Auburn, feature health-conscious options with fresh local ingredients whenever possible.

Our cooking stores, such as Tess’ Kitchen Store and the Wooden Spoon, and Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply, all in Grass Valley, offer a wide range of supplies for canning and preserving food. Tess’ and the BriarPatch Cooking School also offer home-canning classes.

In addition, most of the purveyors, merchants and restaurants are locally owned and operated. This helps create a unique identity for our region; guarantees more choices for con- sumers; and recycles more money into the local economy, making it stronger.

Kings “EatLocal”
The Sacramento Kings are going local with their new arena, Golden 1 Center, when it comes to concession stand vendors. The team’s goal is to locally source 90 percent of the arena’s food. The restaurants have agreed to the plan for the Fall 2016 opening.

(Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters/Corbis)

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