Real Food, What to Eat & Why

At the Red Apron, our values and guiding principles are both simple and complex. We believe that the ingredient is the key. Nutritional labels tell you what you are eating in the form of calories, fats, proteins, and carbs, but tells you nothing about where or how the food was grown, and who might have been exploited along the way. It provides a false sense of security and very little insight into how healthy the food you are about to eat is.

When Health Canada and the USDA found melamine in Baby Formula in 2008, that product had a nutritional label. Nutella lied about the sugar in their spread, and were sued. Both of these products had a Nutritional Label. My opinion about Nutritional Labels tell you one thing mainly – that the food was made in a factory, probably far away from the source of the ingredients, and the consumer.

Let’s look at an example. When the Red Apron makes Pizza for our Pop Up Pizza nights (next one scheduled for March 13, from 5pm – 8pm), we make our sourdough crust using ancient amber wheat from Against the Grain farms, and top it with items like Ontario Goat Cheese, Seed To Sausage Speck, Organic Le Coprin Mushrooms, etc. On a nutritional label, this pizza might look exactly like a fast food pizza in terms of fats, carbs, calories & proteins. But in your body, from a micro nutrient level, and in terms of the care and attention to growing, milling, curing and cooking – there is no comparison.

Preparing food for people to consume is a relationship of trust. When you grow, raise, cook food, and serve your customer directly, you have been entrusted with their health and well-being. The farther we get form the grower and producer of the food, the less trust we should have in the product

Micheal Pollan, in his revolutionary book ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’, (which I would encourage every person to read) said ‘Shake the Hand that Feeds You’. These are wise words to live by, and a principle that guides our business. Our relationship with our growers, producers, and suppliers is ‘tight’ and based on trust.

The creator of the Fogo Island Inn, Zita Cobb, a truly inspirational person, got it right when she created the Economic Nutrition Label. When you spend money at her Inn, she tells you how those dollars are impacting her community in terms of food, labour, etc and how those dollars are benefiting the local economy, her province, Canada, and the rest of the world. This is meaningful information that helps consumers make informed buying decisions.

We have just reordered a book that we thoroughly enjoy, called ‘Real Food, What to Eat & Why’. In this book, Nina Planck dives deep into the conversation about why you should care about where your food comes from. A huge supporter of local farmer’s markets, Nina explains how ancient foods like beef, grains and butter have been falsely accused, while industrial foods like corn syrup and soybean oil have created a triple epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

A rebuttal to dietary fads and a call for the return to old-fashioned foods, Real Food’s message is consistent with Red Apron’s guiding principles.

Since we are talking pizza, let’s build one right here. In our retail store we occasionally sell our house made sourdough ancient grain pizza dough – frozen. You can thaw and use this as your base. Some of our local bread bakers will sell you their dough frozen and unbaked. If you are feeling adventurous you can try your hand at making your own. There are so many beautiful grains to choose from including Almanac Grains heirloom varieties available at the Ottawa Farmer’s Markets. You can find lots of recipes on the internet. *NOTE: Sourdough breads are so much healthier than yeasted breads and crusts.

Pizza Toppings

There are so many to choose from and it really boils down to what you like. Our favourite are:

Tomato sauce, roasted mushrooms, goat cheese, mozzarella, truffle oil drizzle, fleur de sel

Cream (whipping), caramelized onions, arugula, shaved parmesan, ‘Seed to Sausage’ speck or prosciutto , olive oil drizzle, fleur de sel

Tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, olive oil, fleur de sel – a kids favourite

The important things to remember are 1) get your oven as hot as possible. Preheat to a temperature of at least 500 degrees. 2) stretch your dough carefully, using your fingers, and place it on a baking sheet or pizza pan on a base of cornmeal or flour so it doesn’t stick 3) don’t get too crazy with the toppings. A thin pizza needs thin toppings so a little goes a long way. If you overload on toppings you will have a soggy crust.

Cook your pizza for 7-10 minutes but keep your eyes on it. You want bubbly cheese and a charred crust for flavour. Let it sit for 1-2 minutes before cutting and serving so that the toppings can ‘set’ on the pizza and it’s cool enough to eat.

And if this sounds like too much work, join us on March 13 to kick off March Break. Dine in or call ahead to take out a delicious, nutritious, thin crust sourdough pizza made using ancient and nutrient dense grains and local toppings!