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Dining with Miss Lil: You Are What You Eat

By Lil Nickelson

One Saturday morning in March I picked up the March/April 2011 edition of Edible Manhattan, The Good Meat Issue on the Greenmarkets information table at the Isham Street Farmer’s Market (a year round market located up in the Inwood section of Manhattan).

I almost missed my stop coming back to Harlem on the A train because I was so mesmerized by the articles. I have attached two links for this issue.

First, so you can read it for yourself here , and second, so you can receive that issue as a free trial subscription as I did here.

Reading about how meat production was industrialized in the 1970s and the negative impact it has had on the animals, us humans and our environment was a call to action for me. Since reading this issue of Edible Manhattan I decided that I could no longer afford to eat “factory produced meats, fruits and vegetables.” I had an “aha” moment and realized that it’s so true; you are what you eat.

My food bill may have been less, but then I look at my health care costs for being overweight and diabetic. The visits to my primary health care doctor, gynecologist, podiatrist, ophthalmologist, nutritionist, blood tests every 3 months, monthly prescription medicine costs for diabetes and high cholesterol, and the over the counter diabetes supplies like test strips, lancets, and alcohol swaps. It’s expensive and these drugs are meant for me to take for the rest of my life; they want to maintain my disease and a steady stream of money from me to the drug companies. The drug companies give away the blood glucose meters for free because they are making their money on the over the counter supplies.

No disrespect to those who chose surgical methods to lose weight, but I’m trying to lose the excess weight as it came on me, slowly, and over time. I want to see if the weight loss will reverse my diabetes too. My efforts have paid off; I’m down 1 to 2 sizes and I have much more energy and stamina then before. Now I am examining on the quality of the food I eat.

Over the past 7 weekends have I gone to the Union Square Farmer’s Market and purchased locally grown food: grass fed meats, seafood caught in the wild, and in season fruits and vegetables harvested by farmers that do not use pesticides. The most amazing thing is every meat and seafood item that I have purchased has tasted like I was eating it for the first time. Nothing tastes the same as the “mass produced” versions. The chicken, beef and pork don’t have as much fat on them. The shells on the lobster are harder, and don’t contain as much waste because they purge more often to stay agile as they swim in the water.

I go early in the morning, and I mean early; arrive by 7:15 am and home by 9 am. Go early to get the best pick of their offerings, as well as have time to talk with the vendors before the crowds arrive. This early you also run into some chefs from area restaurants that are so willing to educate you and share how they prepare different vegetables I have never seen or heard of before. A chef that works at Gramercy Tavern told me how to cook the purple haze carrots.

I go when I have $150 to spend right after my bi monthly payday, and I go with $30 to spend the week before payday. They accept EBT cards at the two farmer’s markets cited above as well. For those with limited funds I would buy my fruits & vegetables, and select wild caught seafood here. The price of fresh mussels and fresh porgies are comparable to the local fish markets, and the lobsters cost less per pound. I am teaching myself how to filet fish as well and when I take my time I do an excellent job. Black sea bass cleaned, but whole cost $7.50 per pound. When they filet it the price goes up by $10 per pound, and that’s the case whether you go to the fish or farmer’s market. Thank the Lord my mother taught me how to cut up a chicken (which cost much less than buying specific parts). I’m supporting local farms, fishers and food artisans, as I learn to shop and eat with my conscious on quality instead of quantity.

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