Corn has become the hot topic on a lot of my email lists. As you may suspect, most of them are food lists and even the ones that aren't directly related to food attract people who feel strongly about their food. On my gardening and homesteading lists, people are talking about GMO and what, to quote one poster, "Monsatan" is doing to corn, among other foods that have previously been safe for most peoplekind to eat. On my allergen/intolerance lists, we're talking about corn's ubiquity...and iniquity. Most of us agree that corn is even more evil than gluten because of the limitless ways that industrial agriculture has found to manipulate this bumper crop into countless food additives. The non-food applications may even be worse, since one proceeds through life not expecting to be whammied by the paper towel that she reels off the roll in someone's kitchen. Or licking that stamp. Or expect your sweet little baby to get snaked by those nifty fingerpaints. Yeah. Gotcha.
Corn is also more particularly evil since it isn't included on the top allergen list, being considered a "rare" allergy in the IgE sense. Some in the corn-sensitive community may take exception to being classified as a rare breed, but that's the medical and marketing communities parsing words with a paring knife for you. At any rate, corn in all of its gloriously mutated permutations currently escapes declaration on labels. Imagine how simple it would be to pick up a labeled item and read, "Item contains corn" just as folk sensitive to the other eight now finally enjoy the right to simple and clear information about their particular enemy. But, no. The corn-sensitive must doggedly persist through the phone merry-go-round until reaching the receiver in the cracking unit where the R&D geeks reside to hear them confess that, yes, ma'am, the original food source is corn. The caller is then to be dazzled by the sparkling promise that because of the convoluted nature of what they, the chem gods, have done, the corn has now forgotten its corn-ness. Only the most sensitive will react to this final product. Huh. Well, that's us. The corn canaries.
In fairness, I'm much appreciative of some very sympathetic, generous, and informative specialists who have helped me to understand what the particular ingredient does for the product, the fractionation processes, and what each stage of processing does to corn. Then there was the one woman who even cried on the phone along with me when I learned that my children's favorite hot dog was now out of reach because the company had begun adding a lactic acid starter culture from corn. The individual people are so compassionate. The Machine is not.
One of my foodie friends lamented that she didn't even want to try to wrap her brain around going corn-free because it seemed so impossible. "How does one eliminate it all?" And given the above, it's an understandable lament. I didn't have an eloquent and sophisticated strategy to outline for her. It's pretty simple. Not easy, but simple. No commercially processed foods. And those four words open the door to a totally revolutionized way of living. Because now necessity demands that everything, or as near as makes it everything, be made from scratch. And with the advent of corn as the basis for packaging even vegetables, then the ramifications are even more far-reaching.
The very first face of the corn enemy....okay, the second after high fructose corn syrup....that stared back at me when I started weeding out was citric acid. It can be made from other substances. Sago palm, for example. But, no, corn is cheap and so corn it is, most of the time. So here's my middler who has been dubbed Hugga-bug by his doting grandmother and who adores pizza. When we were grain-free, I even came up with the idea of "pizza leather," just so he could get the taste of a pizza without the problem of flour. The pizza leather was the easy part. The hard part was finding pizza sauce without citric acid from corn. Despite searching through all my available organics, naturals, and "grandma's own recipe" kinds of brands, I was never able to find a safe pizza sauce, though there may have been a maverick brand emerge since then. That was when I gave up looking and decided that it was time to garden.
My favorite mom n' pop nursery mentioned that they always start their tomato seedlings on St. Patrick's Day. So the arrival of St. Patrick's Day this year has found me armed with Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening chapter on seed starting and the graciously shared wisdom and experience of farming veteran, J. from The L. P. Farm. This year I'm starting my tomatoes from seed. Organic. Heirloom. Based on a consensus of knowledgeable pioneers, I ordered my seeds from the Baker Creek Seed Company. After scrolling through pages of amazing choices, I finally settled on Amish Paste and Beefsteak for my maiden voyage. Now these seeds sit, softening in the sprouting mix soil, under a bright afternoon sunshine that gets stronger daily now. We may have gotten a blizzard two days ago, but I'm taking Spring on faith. My tomatoes have begun.
The last of last year's tomatoes, canned into tomato sauce, sit down in my basement, waiting for their turn to be called into action. I've made pizza proper, or spread it on that delicious Almost Everything Free Sourdough for pizza bread, and made pizza leather. It also makes a great spaghetti sauce when diluted with some homemade chicken broth and served over spaghetti squash or Tinkyada Pasta.
The backbone of this recipe came from, for me, an unexpected source, given that we can only shop the outer aisles of the grocery store and we're Breatharians and all. In one of my more masochistic moments I was watching Food Network of all things and, lo, Alton "God Bless Him!" Brown actually aired a recipe that I could use! I still had to tweak it for our purposes, but it's become a staple in our pantry.
Bug hovers over my soon-to-be seedlings in anticipation. He can't wait for spring either.
Easy Tomato Sauce
20 Roma Tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Real Salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup minced Vidalia Onions
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon each of chopped oregano and thyme leaves
Or simply dump all of the ingredients except tomatoes into your food processor and whir until well processed.
Preheat oven 350*
Halve tomatoes and remove all of the seeds. This yields a thicker tomato sauce. If you want a thinner sauce, then simply half the tomatoes and place them face up into two 13x9 pans. Spoon seasoning mix over the face of the tomatoes. Bake for two hours. Check tomatoes after an hour and turn down if they are browning too quickly. When baked, remove, allow to cool and run through the food processor to thoroughly incorporate.
If the sauce is too thin for your preference, it can be thickened with a Contadina tomato paste or similar paste made with tomatoes as the sole ingredient.