It might surprise you to know how many miles your food traveled to reach your plate.
Want to guess? 100 miles, 500 miles, 1,000 miles, how about 1,500 miles. That is the average, but many foods travel much further than that.
Processed foods accumulate a lot of miles, not surprising when you think about it. The processing plant might be in, let’s say Wisconsin. For making spaghetti sauce, the onions may come from Texas. By the way, the simple onion is the most traveled ingredient, averaging as many as 6,000 to 7,000 miles.
Now, to make our dish we need garlic, too, which comes from China, and tomatoes that travel from Florida. We also need herbs from Mexico and cheese from California. Starting to get the picture?
Yes, our food travels a great deal before it can be served on your plate at home. We all love fresh vegetables and fruit, but they are seasonal, so if we want them all the time, they have to travel to get to our plate. For example, pears may come from Argentina around 6,800 miles and asparagus from Peru travels 6,300 miles.
So, why am I sharing this information with you? One reason is to get you to buy local as much as possible and reduce the use of process foods. Fresh is so much better, but sometimes you can’t buy what you want locally fresh all the time.
Just think about the seasons and find out what is grown locally. There are many farm co-ops in the area that you can join to have access to fresh vegetables and fruit based on the seasons, a great way to buy really fresh food.
Another point to consider is when you see gas prices start to climb, expect food prices to go up accordingly. Now you know why. It’s not always the weather that affects food prices.
I hope this gives you a little idea of how our food distribution works, so next time you go to your local market and can’t find what you want, it could be it was held up in traffic somewhere.
Italian Style Chicken and Pasta Casserole
3 cups cooked pasta shells or rotelle pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4-6 ounces skinless chicken breast cut into strips
1 small red onion, sliced thin
1 small red pepper, seeded and sliced thin
8-10 cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup stuffed green olives
3-4 fresh basil leaves, sliced
Juice of half a fresh lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cups Parmesan or Romano cheese grated
Heat oil and butter in a stovetop/oven-safe casserole dish over medium-high heat. Cook and stir chicken strips until browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add onion, bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, olives, basil leaves, and lemon juice. Cook and stir until the onions have begun to look translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in the cooked pasta. Sprinkle cheese over the chicken pasta dish. Bake in 325-degree oven around 10 minutes or until cheese bubbles and melts. Let the casserole rest a couple of minutes before serving.
Costa Magoulas is dean of the Mori Hosseini College of Hospitality and Culinary Management at Daytona State College. Contact him at (386) 506-3578 or [email protected].