I’m a Snob: Organic Breakfasts of Champions

| December 5, 2010

Now that Thanksgiving is over and I’m at least 8 pounds heavier, it’s time to…keep eating. One of the best parts of the holidays is the mornings after…and the hearty breakfasts that will last you through the morning without stuffing you like the turkey did. The mornings after the football games (did you see the triple header – Auburn win!! Oregon…and that Nevada!!), I like to prep breakfasts that are flavorful, simple, and celebrates local, organic ingredients.

Organic foods do not always had a good reputation. People have criticized the likes of Chef Ann Cooper and Alice Waters saying that they don’t understand “regular” people who cannot afford organic foods. It seems there may be a “cultural war,” as Washington Post’s Brent Cunningham and Jane Black write about.

True, organic foods tends to be more expensive. But is the “crusade against fast and processed food…an obsession of ‘elites’…and not ‘real Americans’?

The answer is no. Actually, those who try and make this a “crusade” are missing the entire point.

Does it make me un-American to support local American family farmers, prevent our American children from growing breasts prematurely, or raise awareness among our American neighbors that food is something to value and appreciate, not something that is conducted out of scientific laboratories for the dollar menu?

Does it make me an elitist to spend a little more on what goes into my body and into those for whom I cook? I don’t own $100 handbags. I carry a little bag that came free with a purchase. I don’t wear $500 shoes. I wear my shoes until the soles start to separate.

Yes, I was one of those who spent more money on an heirloom turkey and ham from local NC hogs. But when I start hearing about 7-year old girls developing breasts, and my own lip starts puffing up when I eat conventional apples (it took me years to realize it was the pesticides I was allergic to), I realize that my food purchases are at least something I have control over and I don’t see it as a cultural war, I see it as a way to watch my health, support my community and value food.

In the U.S., I know I’m fortunate to have the option to purchase organic foods. The organic industry isn’t this well developed in every country. Remember the cooking oil scandal in China where oil was recycled from sewers? That has prompted a movement in organic farming there, though it is not nearly as widespread as it is here.

Or as well developed as Canada, which has fairly sophisticated local food systems, like the Concordia Food Systems Project. Local food, like organic food, can be pricier than conventional foods, because the economies of scale are far smaller.

But local food supports local economies and tends to be provide fairer wages for farmers and producers. When we pay higher prices for local or organic foods, we forget that for the most part, we underpay for our food. Food has long been cheap, often due to the unfair wages paid to laborers. As I was making this super easy Tomato Mushroom Egg Bake (this photo series, recipe below), I was somewhat comforted by the fact that even though my tomato was $0.30 more per pound, I knew that the people who picked it were compensated fairly.

This is not always the case. The tomato industry, in particular, is notorious. Wages haven’t risen in 30 years. A person who can pick a TON a day, might make $50 a day. Of course, a ton a day doesn’t happen. This wage, of course, doesn’t include health care or other benefits.

So I am willing to pay more for local and/or organic foods. But I’m not a wealthy person (monetarily), so I try and make my dollar stretch just like the next person. Since I had already had eggs, milk tomatoes, etc. on hand for the Tomato Mushroom Egg Bake (photos above, recipe below), I figured I’d utilize as many of the same ingredients the next day for another hearty breakfast.

This Ham and Egg Pastry Pie (recipe below) allowed me to stretch the dozen eggs, the cheese, etc., so I only had to purchase a few additional ingredients. I plan a week in advance so that I make different – but similar enough – dishes together so I can maximize the purchase.

This way, I avoid the last minute – oh-it’d-be-cheaper-to-pick-up-fast-food-breakfast where the eggs aren’t really eggs and everything is processed.

As Tom Philpott, a financial journalist-turned-farmer who helps run Maverick Farms in North Carolina (an educational non-profit promoting sustainable agriculture and local community development) argues, it is possible to afford organic food. A lot has to change to change the food system – policies, personal choices – but we all too often forget the real cost of food is not just on the sticker price.

Call me an elitist if you want. If that’s what it means, I’m proud to be a snob.


Tomato Mushroom Egg Bake

Tomato Mushroom Egg Bake
2 English muffins
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 cup baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup gruyere, grated
Olive Oil
4 eggs
2 green onions, chopped
Salt
Pepper
1 TB dried basil, crushed
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 milk

1. In skillet, heat olive oil
2. Add chopped tomatoes and mushrooms and cook for about 10 minutes until soft. Season with salt and pepper
3. In bowl, whisk eggs, milk, basil, and garlic
4. When tomato/mushroom mix is ready, take off heat source and cool
5. In small casserole dish, place English muffin at bottom
6. Top with tomato/mushroom mix
7. Pour egg mix over everything
8. Wrap with cellophane and put in refrigerator overnight
9. The next day, take out and keep at room temperature for 45 minutes
10. Add gruyere cheese
11. Cook for 50 minutes at 375F


Ham and Egg Pastry Pie

Ham and Egg Pastry Pie
1 sheet puff pastry
5 eggs
1/2 pound ham
2 green onions, chopped
1 TB milk
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano

1. Cut puff pastry sheet in quarters
2. Put one quarter of the puff pastry in each small casserole dish (one of two) or ramekin
3. Add 1/4 of the ham in each dish
4. Crack two eggs in each dish – poke gently so eggs runs slightly
5. Add green onions
6. Layer the rest of the ham
7. Put top layer of puff pastry and press
8. Mix 1 egg, milk, and cheese in separate dish and use as wash over each pie
9. Bake for 20 minutes at 350F

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Category: Breakfast/Brunch, Featured Articles: Food Politics, Featured Articles: Health & Nutrition, Food Politics, Health & Nutrition, Recipe Vault

About the Author (Author Profile)

With a flair for spontaneity, pizzazz, creative excellence and her own unique sense of aesthetic grace and perspective, we have our very dear friend, Belinda (or B, to some of us). Although an incredibly accomplished professional and career woman, B’s down-to-earth approach and demeanor transcends all scenarios, communities and people. She manifests, in her day-to-day, the essence of the word “Zomppa” as demonstrated by her extraordinary commitment to creating sustainable and positive change for us and future generations to come. She’s asked for a dog every year since she was five. Check out Belinda’s work on global education research and coaching: www.hummingbirdrcc.com or more about her portfolio www.belindachiu.com.

Comments (39)

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  1. Kristen says:

    I would much rather have one of your breakfasts than a commercially made, preservative infested something. Both of them look so delicious, I can’t decide which I prefer.

  2. Patty says:

    Thanks, b, for discussing a topic that tends to be a sensitive one in many circles. This reminds me a lot of something Michael Pollan suggested – that some of us are more prepared to buy quality (expensive) shoes and less prepared to buy higher quality (expensive) food…. I understand this, but I think that much more of this decision making process relates to knowledge and understanding about our food system and the issues. Much of the info out there about the benefits of organic/local grown food still isn’t mainstream, so there is maybe less transparency to those making this decision??

  3. This looks WAY better than my breakfast

  4. Sommer says:

    Gorgeous dish! I’m with you, but I don’t think of it as snobbery, more like wisdom! You have to do what’s best for your family’s health–even if that means cutting back in other areas!

  5. sweetlife says:

    no sobbery, just a perfect way to live, think and feel…I would much rather pay a little more and feed my body a healthier meal, I love your breakfast and am sure your family thanks you…your far more richer in wisdom…

    sweetlife

  6. Sanura says:

    I buy organic when my budget allows it. Buying organic is not about showing off wealth, it’s a lifestyle investment.

  7. So beautifully put. I agree – I try to buy used whenever possible, I drive a used car – but I don’t think twice about the prices at the farmers’ market. I’ve read stuff by Joel Salatin of Polyface arguing that quality farmers deserve a white collar salary and that point has really stuck with me – if we want quality farmers doing quality work, we have to be willing to pay for it. (Here’s an article by Michael Pollan discussing it: http://michaelpollan.com/articles-archive/no-bar-code/)

  8. Jeanne says:

    Great post, Belinda! I don’t agree that organic food consumers should be labeled as “elitist”. While unemployed for five months, living on just a bit more than minimum wage, I have been able to maintain an almost-completely-organic diet. With a great deal of planning, budgeting, and shopping around it can definitely be done. I have had to forgo many other “luxuries” (clothing, shoes, entertainment, etc) but it’s definitely a choice that each of us can make. The only item that I have found cost prohibitive is organic, locally raised meat. When I can’t afford it, I go without. When I can afford it, I buy a whole chicken so that I can make it last as long as possible and use every bit of the bird that I can. Here’s hoping that our food system can continue moving in a sustainable direction!

  9. Organic ingredients is definitely the way to go! Those breakfast dishes are both gorgeous! I need to make that ham & egg pastry pie for my daughter asap!

  10. Kat says:

    I am so on board with this post. If organic is not always possible, you do at least want fresh and local! I am also in a phase of being conscious of what I put on my body as well as in it at the moment. Looking at ways of using more natural body and hair products which cut back on ridiculous chemical ingredients and excess packaging. Really getting into natural soap and shampoo bars along with body creams these days 🙂 I have yet to find a natural facial moisturizer that meets my needs as I have very sensitive skin although Mychelle products are pretty good.

  11. Melynda says:

    I look forward to the day we go back in time and stop giving our food source antibiotics and hormones. Our children are depending on it to happen, so they can happen. Great looking breakfasts, they would be a great dinner around here as well, we often work different shifts. Thanks.

  12. I am fortunate to live in California (forget the $$ probs of the state) where I can go to a farmer’s market near my home nearly 7 days a week. Most produce there is organic & when it’s not, at least it’s local.

    Great article Belinda.

  13. Belinda your post and recipes are great. I don’t think you are a snob nor an elitist. I think that for people that have the option to buy better and healthier food, they are lucky. And if the laborers benefit with a higher pay, this is something that needs to become more widespread for everyone’s benefit. I do buy organic products and I’m lucky that I have the option. Unfortunately the selection of organic produce is horrible at my organic shops, so I have to skip that option. I think the organic produce hasn’t really catched on here yet.

  14. Loren says:

    Excellent post, I enjoyed the way the images were interspersed with the images. Felt like having breakfast with a friend (except I didn’t get any actual breakfast :?( )

    While we aren’t hardcore about it, we tend to eat orgnic if we can, but local is equally important. As agribusiness moves into organic, I’d as soon have something produced locally and sustainabley. One of the “benefits” of massive monocultures is that they produce a lower cost product. That combined with massive marketing budgets make it no surprise that people embrace it and feel threatened when they start to see the cracks in their own worldview. Thanks for sharing
    ~Loren

  15. rebecca says:

    wow what an amazing breakfast

  16. Evan says:

    I love this post… you are so right about good food. I am more than willing to spend more money on better food.. you feel better when you eat it and not to mention it’s better for you in the long run! And both of these breakfasts look amazing!

  17. Monet says:

    I so enjoyed this post…not only did your breakfast dish look amazing, but I completely agreed with your perspective on food in America. Ryan and I are making VERY little money right now, but organic and local food is a priority for us. We don’t buy fancy clothes or go out very often because we know that what we put into our bodies is of the utmost importance. Thank you for sharing. I hope you have a lovely afternoon, my friend!

  18. I cannot agree with you more on eating right. However it is difficult for us to trust organic food in my country. Your breakfast dishes are delicious and healthy. Pictures are gorgeous as always. Oh, there is an Stylish Blogger Award to be claimed by you at my blog. It was given to me by Elisabeth and one of the rules is to pass on to other bloggers whom I think are fantastic and you are one of them in my list. Thanks again for sharing with us all the wonderful stories and recipes. HUGS!

  19. Good points and delicious breakfast food.

    -Brenda

  20. Jackie says:

    Great post! My husband and I are not wealthy by any means, and any disposable income goes directly to our mortgage. The answer to most request of our friends (concerts, vacations, all night bar trips, etc) is, “Sorry, can’t afford it right now.” BUT! We choose to spend money on organic food, local food, and healthy meat products (grass fed/pastured, from small farms, etc.)

    Does that make us a snob? Can a snob live in a tiny crooked 2BR country house?

  21. judee says:

    The mushroom bake looks really good. I like that it is made and served in an indiviudal baking dish. Great idea and looks very filling. Yum!

  22. Belinda, this is a great post! i love the photos of every cooking steps. The breakfast looks very yummy and hearty. I wish I have it for my breakfast now.

  23. April says:

    Your breakfasts look wonderful – and you raise some very important points in your post as well!

  24. Those are amazing recipes. I really love Gruyere…

  25. Sook says:

    What lovely pictures! The food looks so wonderful!

  26. They look great. I agree with your organic bits. Over in the UK I think we are really lucky to be able to choose to buy organic food. My mum has a similar problem with eating apples – I’ll mention that it might be pesticides to her. Might have the solution there!

  27. fooddreamer says:

    All very good points. We try to buy organic and local when we can, but it’s not always easy. I would never say to those who do that it is un-American or elitist, though. That’s ridiculous.
    The breakfast bakes look wonderful…I am now considering doing something like that for Xmas morning!

  28. I love this! Great idea to put the muffin on the bottom! You could add almost any leftover veggie to this and make a fantastic meal. This would be a good weeknight dinner too!

  29. girlichef says:

    Well, of course I don’t think it makes you sound like an elitist…just somebody who is conscious about what they feed their loved ones…and their self! I think everybody should open their eyes and their ears…and let their voices be heard…we should not have to eat the mass-produced junk. How scary about China’s “recycled” oil…I had not heard that. Your meal sounds wonderful…satisfying, delicious, and deliciously snobbish 😉 Thanks for sharing it w/ the hearth and soul hop!

  30. Christy says:

    I am so grateful I can be a food snob! I choose to spend more on food and less on other things. And I am glad that I have the choice. Your breakfasts look amazing – I like how you plan similar dishes using the same ingredients – I have never thought to do that – duh!! Thanks for sharing this with the Hearth and Soul Hop!

  31. alexa says:

    delicious

    greetings from Italy
    I care a blog on tourism in Tuscany know?

    http://tempoliberoblog.altervista.org/

  32. Juliana says:

    Wow, your baked eggs are awesome…love all the ingredients in it 🙂 and the baked egg with ham looks delicious..both are very hearty…great way to start a day!

  33. Liz says:

    Lovely and important piece that I think points out some reform issues for organic foods and the global economic marketplace. There are many many food systems in the world that are traditionally-based but are becoming compromised. I simply love the message you convey here of buying from your local farmers/neighbors, if possible, or growing your own food. There are farming movements increasingly near the cities by some genuine and good people trying to address access issues. For me, a few things are crucial: Increasing the status of farming in developing nations that is respectful to Indigenous cultures. The second is to be critical of organic food movements that are overly costly and as a result inaccessible. I think your piece highlights these issues well!

  34. denise says:

    Oh, the thoughts swirling in my head *sigh* My bugbear is whether or not the global population explosion that took place between the time eating organic was a matter of course, and not a lifestyle choice (in ended some time in the early eighties for me)and now, was really enough to justify the means taken to produce enough food to suppposedly keep up with the world’s rapidly growing population, and throw traditional (organic) farming out the window. Really? When so much food is wasted now?

    Eating organic is ideal but it still kills me when I pick up a single organic tomato and read the $3.50 price tag on it – I have 3 rapidly growing children to feed, and we are a single income household. What kills me is that I ate completely organic as a child cos that’s how everyone ate back then, but now, I can’t afford a truly organic diet for my children, apart from the occasional organic apple or carrot, when prices are not so prohibitive. It kills me to know that I may be slowly poisoning my children but at the moment, can’t really do much about it 🙁 And I have never been the type to splurge on bags or shoes or sofas…

    And no, your choices don’t make you a food snob, but they do make you fortunate and enviable.

  35. Devaki says:

    Dear Belinda – i love this post because you’re making a point and at the same time revealing this incredible food one step at a time.

    You have brought up some excellent points here and I think this is a tough one – I must say a lot of us are facing the issues as noted by Denise. I do think that ‘organic’ is becomign something of a racket in its commerial aspects. I am part of a local agro-coop that supports local farmers and that is the best I can do. I cannot afford to buy organic all the time so I stay away from processed, canned and packaged food and make everything from scratch.

    It’s my contribution to doing the best for my kids within our budget.

    I really enjoy your articles.

    Ciao, Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  36. Belinda says:

    Thank you all for your thoughtful and insightful comments. This can be so tricky, and I agree with many of you about going local as much as possible. I sometimes watch with envy at some foods (i.e. blueberries) that I wish I could just buy, but just too expensive! I would love to have a garden and grow more of my own food too, not just to cut costs, but also to celebrate local sustainability.

    Thanks again for all your perspectives – the more we talk about it, the more people will appreciate REAL food like you!

  37. Love this dish, and love the post!
    But I was more than willing to come off as a snob, lol
    I hope to see a day in the near future when real and whole food is available to everyone…

  38. Trix says:

    Well said! I think it’s so sad that supporting people who actually do things the old fashioned way – i.e., raise animals humanely on small farms, reject Monsanto seeds – is considered by some very ill-informed and mislead people to be un American. So sad.