Organic Cooking: Interview with Myra Goodman

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Myra Goodman of Earthbound Farm.

Food to Live By is much more than a book about organic cooking. An interview with Myra Goodman, co-founder of Earthbound Farm is very enlightening and her story is fascinating. Her book is a must-read for anyone interested in organic foods and their benefits.

Humble Beginnings

Earthbound Farm has grown from its humble beginnings in 1984. At that time the farm was a mere two and a half acres being cultivated by a young couple who just wanted to get ready for graduate school. They had no idea that their lives would take such a wonderful and unexpected turn.

This book tells the story of how Myra and her husband began, as well as how their little farm stand grew into a thriving business that continues to set the bar for green businesses everywhere. The recipes included are a tribute to a life dedicated to organic living.

Food to Live By

This book is divided into 10 mouthwatering chapters. Don't shy away thinking this is a vegetarian book about organic cooking. Chapter four is dedicated to organic meat and poultry. Chapter five is a collection of fish and seafood recipes. Breakfast and Brunch is the title of chapter eight, where you'll find some great ways to begin your day.

More than a collection of organic recipes, this book is stuffed with notes, sidebars and boxes that will teach you everything you need to know about a particular food or recipe. There are also guides to help you identify foods that you may not be familiar with. For example, A Field Guide to Great-Tasting Tomatoes shows full color photos of eight heirloom tomatoes that you may have never seen before, as well as helpful descriptions of each.

Speaking of photos, don't start this book on an empty stomach. You won't make it through the first chapter before the mouthwatering full-page photos have you running to the kitchen to throw something together. Food to Live By is sure to become a classic for food lovers everywhere and is a true inspiration for those who love organic cooking. LoveToKnow recently talked to Myra Goodman follows about her book and Earthbound Farm as a company.

The Organic Business

LoveToKnow: What kind of challenges do you face running an organic farm?

Myra Goodman: Organic farmers have no silver bullets to deal with pest infestations, and we can't blast our plants with nitrogen fertilizers to help hurry them along. Yet, our wholesale customers expect the same day in/day out supply consistency that they get with conventional growers.

Also, since our biggest strategy to deal with peat and disease damage is avoidance, we need to plant our crops in many locations in case problems arise in certain areas. We face much higher crop loss than conventional growers, which is a big part of why organic produce costs more.

LTK: Do you see the farming industry as a whole moving toward organic practices?

MG: The higher prices that organic foods command are a big initial incentive for farmers to convert to organic, as well as increased demand from consumers, and, thus, retailers.

Once growers have farmed organically for a while, they start to see how healthy their soil becomes and how rewarding it is to grow food without synthetic chemicals. Most conventional farmers we've met had never considered, until recently, that there is a viable alternative to reliance on toxic agricultural chemicals.

LTK: Every aspect of your business is earth friendly. What would you like to improve?

MG: The amount of packaging we use is a huge area of frustration for me. The irony is that organic produce often needs even more packaging than conventional foods in order to differentiate itself from conventional in supermarkets where organic sales are typically only five percent of all produce sales, as well as to protect its organic integrity. We've looked at corn-based plastics, and don't believe they are much, if any, of an improvement over the #1 plastic we use that is the most easily recyclable type. We are constantly looking at this issue.

Also, even though we plant trees to offset our carbon emissions, our operations use a lot of fuels. We are looking at ways to become energy independent and reduce our reliance of fossil fuels as much as possible.

LTK: Why should consumers choose organic products?

MG: So many reasons! Organic food is produced without the use of synthetic chemicals, so on the farm it keeps these chemicals out of the air, soil and water, as well as our food supply. It's healthier for the environment, for consumers, farm workers and neighboring homes and schools.

Also, when you buy organic food you can be sure there are no trans fats, no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, no antibiotics or growth hormones (in animal products) and no genetically modified organisms.

The Cookbook

LTK: What prompted you to write a cookbook?

MG: The motivation was to share our story, our passion for organic food and some great recipes with our customers around the country. We started as a road-side stand, meeting everyone who bought our food. The cookbook seemed like a good way to achieve a little more intimacy with people now that we've grown so large.

LTK:Why did you choose the title Food to Live By?

MG: Food to Live By has been our tag line for years. We love it because it captures the wisdom of choosing healthy, organic foods.

LTK: How long did it take you to put the book together?

MG: Two and a half years!

LTK: Where did the recipes come from?

MG: About 40 recipes are mine, from my house. Many are from our Farm Stand's organic kitchen (one of only a handful of certified organic eateries), and the balance we created to round off the cookbook.

Going Organic

LTK: Was it challenging to raise your children to eat organic?

MG: When you feed your kids produce picked at the peak of freshness, they usually adore it. It's that mealy peach or mushy canned string bean that makes kids think they don't like veggies. Having your own garden really helps. It is so miraculous, satisfying and delicious to eat food that you have grown. As long as I take the time to prepare the produce and make it easy for them to reach instead of processed food, they love it. They have also developed a taste (dare I say "preference"?) for whole grains-whole wheat bread, brown rice-versus white. You'll notice that in my cookbook, most of my baked goods use whole wheat pastry flour instead of white flour, which I think makes them even more flavorful and delicious, but not at all heavy.

My kids are teenagers now and they are both athletes who are concerned about being healthy and strong. They both read ingredients labels of all supermarket products to make sure anything they buy doesn't have trans fats, and they do their best to avoid high fructose corn syrup. I'm no longer the police. They do it themselves!

LTK: Have you noticed a change in your health since going organic?

MG: That's hard to say since I was 22 then and you usually feel good at that age! I really started eating more completely healthy when I was pregnant with my first child at 26, and now I feel tortured when I can't eat my huge, healthy salads and dense, whole grain breads, etc.

LTK: Any plans for a second book?

MG: Not yet, but I am keeping a binder of new recipes and ones that I wish, in hindsight, I had included.

Sample Recipe: Raspberry Corn Muffins

Makes 12 standard-size muffins.

Ingredients:

  • Butter for greasing the muffin cups (unless using cupcake liners)
  • 11/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 half-pint (about 11/4 cups) fresh raspberries or frozen (unthawed) unsweetened raspberries

Directions:

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Butter 12 standard-size muffin cups or line them with cupcake liners.
  2. Place the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl and whisk to combine well.
  3. Place the eggs, honey, sugar, buttermilk, and melted butter in a small bowl and whisk to combine well. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Gently fold in the raspberries. Do not over mix the batter or the muffins will be tough. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them almost to the brim.
  4. Bake the muffins until they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.
  5. Place the muffin pan on a wire rack and let the muffins cool for about 10 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan and serve warm. The muffins taste best the day they are made but, if necessary, they can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Reheat them in a microwave for about 10 seconds or in a preheated 350°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

Final Notes

Once you read Food to Live By, you'll be hoping Myra's binder fills quickly so you can read volume two. Until then, you can enjoy this organic cooking book as well as the company's Earthbound Farm website, where you can learn more about the products and the company.

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Organic Cooking: Interview with Myra Goodman