Frank Food: Dal for the Ages

| January 3, 2011

Welcome, 2011!

Can you believe it? I can’t.

Over the last several years, the issue of what is real, authentic food has surfaced, oftentimes loudly with great passion on all sides. I loved the discussion y’all brought on about my post about being a snob and eating organically. It definitely isn’t easy, and sometimes, just too expensive for me. But as some of you raised, even the food industry has corrupted that word – labels sometimes show up that says organic, but is not.

A U.K. food company director was jailed for fraud – he stuck “organic” labels on food that was pumped of synthetic additives.

Organic foods from China are not always what they seem, according to a Public Radio International report. But the organic food industry is a $26 billion one in the U.S. Lots of money to be had.

The Cornucopia Institute, an advocacy group promoting family-scale farming, filed formal complaints against Target in 2009 that some of its products labeled organic were not really organic. According to the complaints, some of the companies that sell through Target, like Dean Foods, quietly shifted away from organic ingredients taking advantage of consumer confusion of “organic” and “natural” labels.

Meanwhile, many local, small-scale family farms may grow and harvest everything organically and according to the guidelines of the Organic Trade Association, but don’t want to or have the resources to go through the hoops and costs of getting the pretty little certified organic label.

Yet everywhere we turn, we see “REAL FOOD,” “PURE,” “NATURAL,” “AUTHENTIC,” “ORGANIC.” What does it all really mean? Kelly the Kitchen Kop just raised a most fascinating discussion about whether Qorn and other “meatless meat” products are real food.

How do you define food versus foodstuffs?

What I do know is that I’m confused and wary of what’s out there.

I’m not obsessive – I do like my Bojangles once or twice a year, and I won’t say no to the peanut M&Ms at the movie theatre. But I find myself having a hard time sometimes describing how I want to eat – food that my great-grandmother would recognize, food that tastes right because it hasn’t been invented in a test tube, food that I don’t have to wonder will give any children I have two heads or an extra finger (though that COULD come in handy in some cases, the finger, not the head). I want plums that don’t make my lip to swell up anymore because it was washed in “good for me” pesticides. I want beef jerky made with nothing but beef and spices, and not that beef stick stuff you find in roadside convenient stores.

I want good food, but since I can’t seem to call this food, “real” or “authentic” or “pure” anymore, as these words have been corrupted, I’m making up a new word.

I’m calling the food I want frank food.

Why frank food? Frank means: forthright, honest, blunt, truthful, candid, aboveboard. Frank foods by definition cannot be adulterated. It is aboveboard. Frank food unabashedly tells you what it is, and it will tell you truthfully when you’re lying.

Frank food is a real, goodness apple that is guileless, unadulterated and uncorrupted with pesticides. Frank food is butter, made with frank milk, free of rBGH and hormones – not margarine or Crisco or something else created out of a laboratory. Frank food is the grass-fed, free-range roadmeat that Hunger and Thirst harvests, fresh and local.

Frank food is what our dear friend at Eat Well, Eat Cheap raised as a great new year’s resolution, inspired by Salon’s Francis Lam who vows to no longer eat “cheap chicken.” Instead, frank chicken is well, frankly, chicken. Nothing added. Since frank chicken costs more, for me, that also means less chicken and meat, which is not a bad thing.

Another frank food is dal, a traditional thick stew usually of lentils or or beans, found in many South Asian cuisines. This Dal is courtesy of Zomppa Tsering, a recipe passed down for generations in the Indo-Tibet region. This frank food is also fairly inexpensive to prepare – hooray! The measurements may be a bit off, I tend to be very generous with my spices – I throw them in until I like the color and keep adding. This dish is chock full of protein, healthy, easy, and can last for days – just freeze any leftovers. I made this in my fancy new Christmas present!

Truly, a frank food without much pretense. It is what it is, and what it always has been.

Zomppa’s Dal with Spinach

Dal with Spinach (courtesy of Zomppa Tsering)
1 cup dry red lentils (soak for at least an hour)
1 red onion, chopped
2 TB ground ginger
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 TB turmeric
2 TB cumin powder
1/2 tsp chili powder or chili flakes (optional)
2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
1 bag baby spinach
3 cups water, chicken or vegetable stock

1. In large pot, saute onions in 2 TB oil until translucent
2. Add garlic and ginger, saute for 30 seconds
3. Add turmeric for 30 seconds – do not burn
4. Add tomatoes and saute until well mixed and soft
5. Add cumin
6. Add lentils and combine well, add additional spices if so desired, constantly stir for 2-3 minutes – do not burn
7. Add water or stock. Adjust according to thickness desired (lentils will soak up liquid)
8. Salt to taste
9. Cook over medium heat until lentils are soft (about 20 minutes)
10. Add baby spinach in last 5 minutes of cooking

Check us out on Hearth n Soul Hop, Simple Lives Thursday, Tip Day Thursday, and Full Plate Thursday!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: Food Politics, Health & Nutrition, Main Dish - Vegetarian, 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: or more about her portfolio

Comments (37)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Yum! I love dal and all its many incarnations. Great post on frank food. The truth is very hard to get at even for a conscious consumer like myself so dialogue like this is important!

  2. Loved your write up on frank food! And this dal sounds so wonderfully flavorful!

  3. Biren says:

    I like frank foods too and use it whenever I can. They do get expensive though and that can be hard on the budget. Your dal with spinach looks very tasty and very “frank”. BTW, your Christmas present is gorgeous!

  4. JUliana says:

    Wow, this vegetarian dish looks delicious, specially because I want to add more vegetables in my diet. Thanks for the information about frank food 🙂

  5. Simply Life says:

    oh I’d love a big dish of this!

  6. Loooove your new Christmas present. I am totally on board with your frank food philosophy. How sad that we need a rallying cry for something as supposedly simple as real food! (And I cannot resist peanut m&ms either … just thinking about them now is like a mild form of torture.)

  7. Jeanne says:

    “Frank food” is a great term! I often struggle to describe the way I eat and I’ll definitely be using that phrase. This dal looks fabulous, lentils are one of my favorites and I just love making a huge pot of lentil soup to last through the week! And what a beautiful Christmas present you got. 🙂

  8. sweetlife says:

    a great post, we as a family are going to focus more on our food this year and make better your dal is a perfect way to begin the new year!

  9. rebecca says:

    great post Belinda love the word Frank food and dal is a staple in our home

    Happy new year


  10. Take back our language! I’m with you — I’m tired of the food industry hijacking words and manipulating their meaning. Frank Food it is! A bit close to Franken Food (my term for over-processed non-food), but I like it…Theresa

  11. Ruby says:

    Brava! Frank is a great word for it. You also echoed my sentiments about not eating cheap meat, and if that means eating meat less then all the better. Great post and great-looking dal. Happy new Year!

  12. Tsering says:

    zomppab… i love the term frank food… an amazing dal receipe (giggle!) thank you once again for making us realize what food is and should be!

  13. Emily says:

    The number 1 important thing is: that your spoon rest is freaking adorable.
    Number 2: this dish looks incredible.

  14. Jason says:

    Excellent post! Love the full-flavor, extra strength dialogue you throw out there. Speaking of full flavor…I’ll bet that dal has more than enough to go around!

    Thanks for sharing with the Hearth and Soul hop this week.

  15. Great post…love the name Frank Food 🙂
    Your recipe looks delicious and I like my food spiced up a bit on the heaver side 🙂

  16. The dal looks really great belinda. I have to eat more “frank food” this year 🙂 Happy New Year. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Frank food it is! I subscribe your post. Whatever they call it, we just want the food to be real, recognizable and not produced in a laboratory.
    Cheers to a New Year full of good trustful food!

  18. this reminds me of a dish my aunt used to me for us. i really love it:) thank you for sharing this and have a great day.

  19. Frank food sounds like a great plan to me. The whole organic thing gives me a headache. I work in the UK food industry and we manufacture organic and non-organic foods (I’m also proud to say that it is food your great-grandmother would recognize). All the work that goes into getting a tiny picture on the side of the product is madness.
    Having said that, I know now that having that mark is also a mark of quality (there can be no lying or trickery) and animal welfare standards above and beyond even the most generous of free-range standards.
    At the moment, I think it’s all just a mine field!

  20. Anna says:

    Thanks for sharing “Frank food” with us!

  21. Gera says:

    How important is natural food without colorants, or preservatives.

    The Dal with spinach is outstanding 🙂

    Have a Great 2011!


  22. christina says:

    I asked for and was gifted the exact same Le Creuset pan for Christmas. I love it and will definitely try your Dal with Spinach. Mine is blue….

  23. denise says:

    Belinda – I think you summed up it perfectly with “food my great grandmother would recognise”!

    Yay for frank food and yay for lentils, any which way!

  24. denise says:

    oops!! LOVE your Christmas prezzie and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

  25. MaryMoh says:

    Totally agree with you that the food industry is making us very confused. I think the trick is that a confused and fearful mind is very easy to be led astray…which means more profit for them. The best would still be home cooked, using simple ingredients that are as close to nature as possible. Love your lentil dish. Looks haelthy and delicious.

  26. Yes, Frank Food sounds good. The local meat we buy in the fall, the local eggs we get year round, my garden and all the canned, frozen and dehydrated food that produces are all naturally raised or grown, however, none of them are certified organic. That label costs lots of money and is not always as organic as they say. Seems best to me to know your food and its producer as often as is possible, then I feel good about eating the food.

    Your Dal looks delicious!


  27. Monet says:

    Frank food…I love it! I have also become confused/discouraged with our food system. I want frank food too! And I also want some of this dal. Dal and naan are two of my most favorite foods! Thank you for sharing, my friend.

  28. Miz Helen says:

    Hi Belinda,
    I am so happy that you brought your Dal over to Full Plate Thursday. It looks like a delicious bowl of goodness. I really like your post about Frank Food. I think that is what I will call my garden food this year. We have a huge garden we can and preserve vegetables all summer and fall, and in the winter we have fresh greens and some root vegetables and it is all just like my grandmothers and her mothers. Thank you so much for coming over today and please come back!

  29. What a great post…love this dish, the pan is fabulous!

  30. Lyndsey says:

    Interesting post. It’s a shame that they have to go through so much just to be “certified organic” which in turn we pay for, but then again we know it really organic. I have noticed the difference in better chicken though, it’s also worth it when you do notice a difference. I love dal recipes and this one looks good, you must of added enough spices to get the color right! 😀

  31. Belinda I love your post, you always bring up good points and open our minds to so much. I like your “Frank Food” term and that is how I like my food. Though I may not always buy organics I try to do my best to avoid processed foods. Hopefully in the future we will all go back to Frank Foods and live healthier lives. Dal, is one of the best foods in the world! Your family recipe sounds so warming and delicious. I like to add baby spinach too and wondered if it was authentic or not:) Can’t wait to try your recipe, thanks for sharing.

  32. Anna says:

    Great post Belinda, very informative. The Dal looks delicious.

  33. fooddreamer says:

    Frank food, honest food. I like that. I am still struggling between my frugality and my desire for a healthier planet and a healthier life. Sometimes one wins, sometimes the other. But slowly I creep more and more towards healthier life and planet.

    Love this recipe!

  34. Heather says:

    I like it! I think you’ve coined a new term that makes sense…because it is all so confusing. Basically I try to eat the way you do…not sacrificing a few of my favorite goodies now and again…but I definitely want to recognize my food…and want my granny to recognize it, as well. I shall now refer to it as “frank” food. Oh, and your Dal—- YUUUUUM! Thanks for sharing this great post w/ the hearth and soul hop this week 😀