Endangered Spices

The table is ready

The table is ready

One of the amazing perks of working at Bi-Rite, is being connected to their non-profit, 18 Reasons, which offers courses relating to food education and empowerment. I am trying to take advantage of the amazing classes offered at this 18th Street venue which are fun and powerful opportunities to learn about food’s impact on our health, the environment, and our communities. The first workshop I attended at 18 Reasons was titled “Endangered Spices: Experiences Flavors Beyond Salt”. The session was led by a dynamic woman, Jessica Goldman Foung. As a consequence of health complications starting in her young adult life, she learned to add flavor to home-cooked dishes without just adding salt. In this evening’s meet up she taught us some of her tricks, which she also shares in her flood blog, Sodium Girl.

In general, people (especially in America) eat way to much sodium. The Institute of Medicine recommends 1500 mg of sodium per day, but most American go way beyond that, usually unintentionally. The biggest culprits responsible for high sodium intake are packaged foods and food served in restaurants. High sodium is one of the main causes for high blood pressure. It’s no coincidence that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US.

So while there is the problem of over-consumption of sodium, there is another “crisis” occurring. Using salt as the primary seasoning for foods, we seem to have diverged away from using basic and healthy ingredients as food flavorings. Jessica introduced us to just a few of these ingredients that pique the five flavor senses: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and unami.

We started the evening in front of a “Seder plate” arrangement of six different ingredients used to awaken the different gustatory perceptions.

Seder plate of the six flavors

Seder plate of the six flavors

Some of the other courses of the evening which used atypical ingredients to add flavor included:

a. Radishes- Used in a minted radish and pea salad.

all veggie, non-alcoholic, bloody mary

all veggie, bloody mary

b. Red beets- Bright in color and naturally salty, this is the perfect base for a low-sodium (and non-alcoholic) bloody mary. For more dimension, we added fennel, carrots, horseradish, and lemon.

c. Blueberry- Perfect for creating a dynamic, sweet and savory sauce. We paired this with a juicy brisket.

d. Tomato- Used in a slow cooker, the natural flavor intensifies, making it perfect for fire-roasted salsa.

e. Mushroom- Brings out that unami (savory or “meaty”) flavor!

These are just a few of the many ways to add flavor. I am looking forward to experimenting more.

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