Where's the Beef?

Several years ago, my hubby and I were strolling through Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington. It was his first time there so in the spirit of exploration, we truly wandered to every corner of that Market. Along the way, we found ourselves in a spice shop. It reminded me of something that you’d see in a movie. It was tucked way back in the corner and was packed so tightly with racks full of jars and tins that with just three people in the shop it felt crowded. It was kinda dusty looking — but not in a dirty way — it’s just that everything was brown, dingy yellow or rusty red, and it was dimly lit like it had secrets to hide. It was awesome.

We spent a good amount of time picking through jars, smelling and discovering all sorts of wonderful spices that we hadn’t known existed. But soon our noses gave out and signaled the end of our time there. As we made our way to the exit, I took note of the young, gangly dude who was apparently holding down the fort from behind a counter. Behind him there was a wall — literally counter to ceiling — of old-timey ‘period’ spice jars. So figuring he’s the guru of this hole in the wall, I lean over the counter and ask: “do you have any Natural Flavoring?” He blinks once and then twice, “Huh?”. Exactly! So I reiterate, “do you sell Natural Flavoring here? I see it listed as an ingredient on the back of packaged foods all the time and have always wondered where to buy it. Do you sell it?” Now I was just fooling around with the dude. But, I swear this marked the beginning of my questioning what passes my lips as food.

The next time that you’re in a conventional grocery store, look at the ingredients listed on the back of a loaf of ‘big brand’ bread. You’ll note there is more in that loaf than flour, water, and yeast. These fillers are added to the ‘food’ to fluff them out, make them look pretty, or extend their shelf life. To be fair sometimes these fillers are vitamins and minerals that have been stripped out during the process of making this loaf. But in general, to round the ingredients list out you’ll find preservatives, prescriptions, pesticides, or wood pulp. Ingredients should be simple. Simple enough for a child to read. Your body doesn’t need the added work of trying to process these “additives” back out of your system. There comes a point when that ‘food’ item has more filler than food. I call these options “food derivatives”. This is term that I picked up from another counter-guy at a Chili’s restaurant. But that’s another story.

Anyhoo, food derivatives are more prevalent than we’d like to think. The FDAs purpose is to identify and set a safe level of tolerance for substances within the food we are presented. Our job is to choose wisely. But this can be very tricky. And it only gets more slippery as the tolerance levels are adjusted by profit rather than ethics. I’m not saying there’s a conspiracy...but I do find it disheartening that the decline in American wellness seems so proportionally linked to the rise of food derivatives that have worked their way into our markets. I mean...have you heard about Pink Slime, yet? Read up and steer clear (pun intended).

In short, it’s about the quality of the foods you chose. Chose well and it will be easy to taste why my Basic House Burger ranks higher on the Wellness Scale than the burger derivative that’s being served for lunch at our public schools.



1lb organic ground beef, 85% lean/15% fat

1/4 cup worcestershire sauce

2 tsp black pepper, ground



2 avocados

2 tbl fresh cilantro, chopped

1 tsp red pepper flakes, crushed

salt to taste

juice of half a small lime


Welshire Farms Black Forest Thick-sliced Uncured Bacon (Now that’s a mouthful. And it’s worth it. Don’t skimp on bacon.) Cheddar, sliced (I’ve found that harvarti and swiss also go well on this Basic Burger) Simple bun (No random ingredients. Just flour, yeast, salt)

Makes 4 patties. Grill or broil. Toast buns. Place a large dollop of guacamole on the bottom bun. Remove patties from heat, top with a slice of cheese. Place on top of guacamole. Top with crisp bacon and then the top bun. Enjoy with a side of sweet potato fries/wedges or onion rings. If you don’t feel up to making your own fries or onion rings. Alexia offers a nice pre-packaged option in the freezer section.