Hey fellow foodies! This last year has truly been an epiphany for me and I have undergone a tremendous paradigm shift.. Even though I haven't yet fully crossed over to the 100% socially, ethically, and health conscious side (and I may never), I have made a small leap. It may not be too apparent in my Instagram food posts, but I assure you, changes are happening behind the scenes. The food we now eat has become incredibly controversial... and for good reason. Not only is obesity the leading epidemic and cause of death in our nation, the overall treatment of animals used to produce the majority of our food borders on sadistic. Herein lies the conundrum. How can we foodies, still live our glorious lives of indulging our culinary desires, without perpetuating rapid heart disease, poisoning our bodies, and the disdainful inhumane slaughter of some of God's most beloved creatures?
I started to make some changes for several reasons. The first was when my sister, Kristin Rizzo, became so impassioned with a feature documentary on animal rights she directed with her best friend, Katie Cleary, who created and produced the film called Give Me Shelter. It's a ground breaking film that opened my eyes to many current issues in the animal world I was previously ignorant to. I then wanted to learn more...I watched, horrified, (over and over) documentaries such as Food Inc. and Earthlings. If you can get through these films and not change your life, at least a little, then.... well.... no comment.
With other documentaries I've watched, and books I've read, I've realized that 90% of the crap I was consuming was poison. Diet soda (or diet anything) for example, is just a huge serving of toxic chemicals. Diet soda actually increases formaldehyde production in your brain. Um, no thanks! I have cut ALL of this out of my diet. It's much better to have the actual sugar along with the calories, than Soylent Green. Processed food is killing America, and even though i'll have my occasional gummy bear (my vice), if it's processed or has any preservatives or is unnatural in any way....I'm doing my best to steer clear.
But how can we foodies eat all the deliciousness that is available to us without eating meat? Well I guess it's possible... but I'm not ready to take that step yet. I cannot go full vegetarian or vegan, nor do I want to. What I AM doing is making smart and deliberate choices in order to be as socially conscious as I can, without giving up all meat, and enjoying my foodie lifestyle.
1. I try hard not to eat meat at fast food places anymore. If I must go to McDonald's or Subway (very rare...I know... a BIG change for me) I'll get the Filet O' Fish (don't knock it until ya tried it) or Tuna Salad. Here and there I will still get food from my cherished Portillo's, come on, I'm only human!!!
2. I try to only get meat (beef, pork, lamb...I no longer order veal) at restaurants where I know they source their meat from local and sustainable farms where the animals are treated as well as possible while alive and slaughtered as humanely as possible (oxymoronic, I'm aware). I filmed an episode of my previous show, Food Junkie: Chicago, at Slagel Family Farm (watch it HERE). I have seen first hand the difference between an old fashioned family farming operation, and the factory/commercial feedlots and slaughterhouses. They are worlds apart. Even though, yes, animals are still being killed for our consumption, this is by far the best way to ensure that at least you aren't contributing to the filth and evil that exists at the large corporate farms.
3. I buy mostly all organic produce and dairy. It's more expensive, but it's worth it. ESPECIALLY the dairy. You want milk and eggs from happy cows and chickens who are being treated well and raised in a healthy environment and without hormones and antibiotics. Don't just go after "free range". That is a bullshit title. Go for "Organic".
4. I eat a TON of seafood. This is hardly a sacrifice. A foodie can survive off of oysters, lobster rolls, escargot, hamachi sashimi, tuna poke, blackened catfish, BBQ salmon, and miso glazed chilean sea bass. Pastas are also our indulgent friend. This is where being Italian comes in handy :)
I'm definitely not perfect, nor will I ever be. We all occasionally get hungover and have cheat days. Or we just HAVE to try that new burger at that new hot spot. If you invite me to your house and you grill chicken or hot dogs or make me some Hamburger Helper, I'll gladly and thankfully eat it. I'll never be the pretentious diva in your home to ask "Excuse me where is that meat from? Um noooo thank you then." But I may view it as an opportunity to share some of my findings with you. It's undeniable Americans should agree that we need to make some changes. Fortunately for foodies, these can be attainable, realistic, and delicious changes!