Does Blackberry Pear Crisp qualify for the American food revolution?

Posted on March 27, 2011

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Is it just me, or is everyone talking about food?

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution is much talked about, along with Michelle Obama’s White House garden and crusade to improve school lunchs. Obesity is a number one health issue, and with the series of Hollywood movies berating the American “fast food” culture (Super Size Me (2004), Fast Food Nation (2006), Food Inc. (2008), etc.), I have been hearing more praise for the Slow Food Movement and Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), as well as Farmer’s Markets (find one near you here!).

What is motivating all this chitter chatter about what we eat?

Have the isolated values of “foodies” and vegetarians seeped into mainstream culture? Is the newfound interest a reaction to our nation’s declining health? Are renewed efforts to protect the environment motivating us to change our ways in face of impending doom? Is rapid globalization and resulting increase in cross-cultural interaction leading Americans to seek new food experiences?

I think we are being influenced by one and all of these. We are in the midst of a cultural paradigm shift. A new sense of our relationship to food seems to have dawned on the American consciousness: good food comes from the earth — not the grocery store shelf.

There a few interesting iterations of this new sense. First, nearly every packaged food has been stamped with a badge of courage proclaiming it is “all natural” or “100% whole wheat” or “made with real ingredients.” The esteem of any item tagged “organic” often warrants a doubling of its price tag. Fast food chains are coming up with healthy alternatives to greasy french fries and fatty burgers. Google has devised a new recipe search tool that allows home cooks to search for dishes by ingredient, cooking time, and calories.

Yet, how much of this is just marketing? How much is just a means of assuaging our guilt about eating food that is unhealthy for our bodies and for the earth? How much is just enabling our need for convenience? For example, the Google recipe search tool is drawing much criticism from home cooking bloggers (see Amanda Hesser at Food 52 and Craig Goldwyn at the Huffington Post) because it allows big name “quick-and-easy” recipe sites, like AllRecipes.com and Food.com, to eclipse the amazing content of self-hosted food blogs (which will henceforth be cast in the shadows of page 5 results), and thus encourages the stagnation of a true food revolution.

So how much change is really taking place?

I am going to be my own guage. I have embarked on a course of self-education towards this end. I am right now reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, which is serving as great inspiration since I have plans to start my first vegetable garden this season. I am also learning all sorts of interesting food-related news from Good.com’s Food feed, and of course I continue to follow quite a number of food blogs, where I found the recipe for this delicious Blackberry Pear Crisp.

I have somewhat jumped the gun here, but using ingredients in season is one of my food revolution goals… and I have created tags here for Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter to help organize my recipes in this manner. This dessert formula is recommended to food revolution compatriots at the height of summer when any number of fresh fruit combinations could be created (blackberries with nectarines is one combination I have tried before with great success!).

What other resources do you use that have encouraged you to change your eating habits? How are you participating in the American food revolution?

Blackberry Pear Crisp

2-3 large ripe pears, peeled and sliced lengthwise (I happened to have Bosc pears on hand, but these wouldn’t be my first baking choice; next time, I would use juicier Bartletts.)
1 cup blackberries
4 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt
almonds, walnuts, or pecans (optional) (I used sliced almonds here.)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add the blackberries to a 1-quart baking dish, and sprinkle with half the sugar. Place the chopped pears in a medium pan and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Cook pears over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until softened and juicy, then combine with blackberries in baking dish.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and nuts if using. Cut in butter, and mix using hands until topping is coarse and crumbly. Sprinkle topping evenly over fruit in baking dish.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until juices are bubbling and top is golden.

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