Your Guide to Reading Between the Tines

About the Simple Spoonful

Let’s start here: I don’t like things to be complicated.

I can handle complex, sure. Nuanced and variable? No problem. I like layers to things (like lasagna, or chocolate-raspberry cake, for starters). However, I cannot get behind a big hairy mess. Hence the name of this website.

When it comes to food, I agree with Michael Pollan: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Food shouldn’t be complicated. Fats, carbs, high vs. low protein, organic vs. non—this should not be complicated. Hold out your hand. I’ve got five points for you to remember. You with me, people? Check ‘em off. Here we go.

  1. Food should be food. Buy items that are recognizable as food: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, oils from actual food crop plants, and eggs and dairy. If it comes in a cardboard box or plastic bag, chances increase that it’s not really food—unless, of course, you’re buying a bag of lentils or something. If it has more than five ingredients, including anything you can’t pronounce (think butylated hydroxytoluene, or BHT) or don’t recognize (autolyzed yeast, anyone?) as an actual food item, leave it out of your cart.
  2. Food should be delicious. Oh, baby. Savory and succulent, sweet and tart, rich and smooth, chewy and satisfying, all the wonderful things that make eating both nourishing and satisfying.
  3. Food should make you feel good. Everyone is different and will need slightly different combinations of foods to feel their best. If you feel terrible when you eat dairy, don’t eat it—no matter how good some say it’s supposed to be for you. If you feel tense on a mostly raw diet or sluggish and bloated when you eat wheat—don’t eat those things! Listen to your body and take into account the specific dietary needs of the people you are feeding when you prepare food. Seriously. I am not a doctor—be smart and pay attention to what your body tells you.
  4. The food you feed your family shouldn’t drain your brain or your wallet. It should be affordable and easy. However, you may have to spend more for some organic products than for their conventional counterparts. I realize that can pinch, but I look at it as health insurance. Likewise, agave nectar is more expensive than sugar, but if it allows you to get off diabetes meds, I’d say you’re coming out ahead—in a lot of ways.
  5. Food should come from home, or close to it. Fresh, local, organic foods should make up the cornerstone of your diet. Know the people who are producing your food whenever possible. Grow your own herbs and some veggies if you have space, even if it’s just a windowsill. If you have a yard, consider planting a fruit tree, some raspberries, or some grape vines. The fresher your food is and the healthier the soil is where it’s grown, the tastier it is (hello—raspberries right off the vine?) and the more nutritional bang you’ll get for your buck. Plus you get to invest your money in your own community, which is just smart.

That’s the Simple Spoonful: an intersection of healthy recipes, food facts, and food politics designed to help you “read between the tines” and make food choices that are healthy in the broadest sense of the word.  More information on my food philosophy and how to keep it simple is available around the site, and you can always e-mail me with your questions at laurel (at) simplespoonful (dot) com. Who doesn’t like getting mail? If it takes me some time to get back to you, don’t fret. It just means I’m probably in the kitchen, cooking up something delicious.

About Laurel

Laurel is a curriculum designer, freelance writer, and generally many-hatted individual based near Madison, WI. Once upon a time, she taught junior high for several years. She has also led school tours about the stunning Sonoran Desert at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix and served as lead designer on several specialized curriculum projects in Spanish and language arts. Every now and again, she writes a poem or story that finds its way into a journal. She has been vegetarian since 2001 and married to the extraordinary Unicyclist since 2007. While she loves to cook nutritious dishes, she is neither a chef nor a doctor. That is, in fact, a key point of the Simple Spoonful: ordinary people can get into the kitchen and figure out how to make fresh, delicious, healthy, real food. They don’t need specialized training—they need support, ideas, and information. That’s what the Simple Spoonful aims to serve up.

Pull up a chair, audience. Dinner is served.


14 Comments so far

  1. [...] depend on a diverse, whole foods diet, not on a boxed macaroni and cheese diet. Remember Rule #1: Food Should be Food. Powdered cheese with thickening agents and “natural flavor” ≠ [...]

  2. Jessica October 13th, 2008 3:50 pm

    Yay Laurel for your new website! This a wonderful idea and I cannot wait to read more.

  3. mere October 13th, 2008 5:32 pm

    i like simple. i like food. go veggie go, whoo hoo!

  4. Valerie October 13th, 2008 8:34 pm

    I love your new site. I was just talking to a friend today about granola and how do I make my own. Welllllll lucky me, it’s here on your website.
    I know this is a place I’ll be visiting often. I’m so thankful the Simple Spoonful is here to feed us such valuable information in such a lighthearted serious manner. Thanks!

  5. EJ Hurst October 20th, 2008 11:11 am

    Would you be interested in being added to our review list for books on food security and food politics? Please visit our website to see the kind of titles we publish. Thank you.
    EJ Hurst
    Marketing Coordinator
    New Society Publishers

  6. meera December 7th, 2008 4:46 pm

    dear Laurel,

    i just discovered your site…but importantly i discovered a wholesome, healthy, good humoured happy human. seriously i cannot do without food, but more than that i cannot do without your kind of human being.
    god bless you girl…spread it out…you are amazingly infectious!

  7. Alice December 14th, 2008 11:38 am

    Hi, I’ve just discovered your website, and I really like it! I’ll definitely be visiting often.



  8. heather January 7th, 2009 6:08 pm

    great “About Simple Spoonful” section! Those 5 points are golden. Great work here, I’ll be dropping by often to check out your recipes and posts!

  9. jen burke ikens January 8th, 2009 2:12 pm

    hello laurel! remember me? i used to teach in az, too! i’m enjoying your blog, and i’m happy to hear you are doing so well. all of my best to you and this great endeavor!

  10. keri January 20th, 2009 11:28 am

    thank you so much for the wonderful book on vegetarianism (and your note!)…made my day.
    i am looking forward to making a number of recipes from your book-yum!
    by the way, just made your new moon cookies on sunday; delish.
    thanks for a lovely site.
    warm regards,
    keri ‘kale’ harmicar

  11. Peter Felker March 2nd, 2009 5:56 pm

    Good evening Laurel
    It was really nice of you to try the mesquite flour. It may make things a bit denser but for me the flavor and aroma is worth it. There is some research underway that mesquite may have much higher vitamin C levels than anyone ever imagined. The bread sounds great.

    I agree with you on the essentials of food. I think it is odd that some very strict eaters (organics and non organic eaters) will put ranch dressing on vegetables with all those crazy names on the ingredients rather than olive oil, grated fresh garlic, freshly ground pepper, salt and cilantro.


  12. emily long June 21st, 2009 12:36 pm

    Hi Laurel,
    I stumbled upon your wonderful website trying to find info about I’itol’s onions. A friend gave me some and they are delicious. I’m going to save some bulbs to plant. I met you soewhere – “Connections” meeting (which I organize) or maybe through Sharon Saloman???Anyway, I recognized your name and photo and wanted to congratulate you on your very wonderful, thoroughly informative website!!!
    Best wishes, Emily

  13. marlene in miami March 23rd, 2010 4:26 pm

    Absolutely love your website! Can you shed more light on agave nectar? I’ve heard mixed reviews on this product. BTW, thanks so much for your comments on carageenan!! I found your website while searching for information on this controversial ingredient. Will start making homemade almond milk tomorrow… MnM

  14. Kay January 8th, 2012 4:36 pm

    Really great website! I like your general philosophy. I will be making the New Moon Cookies soon.

    I will visit your site again soon, and will spread the word.

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