Karen Gaudette is a journalist and food writer for PCC Natural Markets.
1. What is the most intrinsically complex – but ultimately rewarding – recipe that you’ve ever prepared?
Baking my husband a birthday cake from scratch (along with creating its frosting) was surprisingly challenging for me. Part of that was due to my cranky oven whose temperature changes at a whim (and if you bake, you know this is a very unfortunate thing, especially when it comes to cakes, which benefit from even temperature and heating to bake to a nice, even level of height and doneness). Part of that was due to my failure to anticipate how much time I’d need in advance to get my dairy ingredients (eggs, butter, buttermilk) up to room temperature before starting. My typically tidy kitchen soon looked a disaster with powdered sugar dust clinging to every surface and far too many mixing bowls piled up in my tiny sink. But the cake came out terrific, with a tender crumb and an airy lightness. Now that I’ve survived the process, I do look forward to baking it again.
2. There’s an increasing demand for premium produce and other grocery products. Would you say that PCC is more proactive or reactive when it comes to these trends?
PCC is incredibly proactive when it comes to anticipating consumer demand and in helping to create that demand by introducing shoppers to ingredients, items and food movements they may not have discovered otherwise. To name a few examples: more than 90 percent of the produce at PCC is certified organic, our entire seafood selection meets the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program’s sustainability standards, and we offer not only grass-fed beef but pastured lamb, chicken and eggs — all decisions that meet both our stringent standards as a natural foods co-op but also respond to consumer demand. In 2010 we were the first retailer in the nation endorsed by the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America (we carry more than 3,500 gluten-free foods and health and body care products). We also partnered with the Non-GMO Project to give priority to producers who can demonstrate their products are free of genetic engineering and modification. Both of these moves reflect a growing awareness on both our part and of our shoppers that the availability of these types of products is paramount to a growing number of people.
3. What are some attainable milestones that can be reached in educating people about sustainable food practices?
My fingers are crossed for better labeling. Consumers have a right to know exactly what they’re putting into their bodies, how it was produced and where it’s from. The more information they can readily get, the more questions they’ll ask, and the more change we’ll see in how food comes to market and its quality. Just look at the skyrocketing demand for organic dairy and meat from animals raised without antibiotics. People are slowly but surely making the connection between their diet and their health.
4. What do you find motivates people to adopt healthier ways of eating?
I’m a big believer in positive peer pressure. When I see people I like or admire taking up a new way of eating I can’t help but be intrigued, especially when I see the glow of their skin and their renewed vitality from fueling themselves with healthy foods.
5. If you could share only one food-related tip or factoid to everyone in the community, what would it be?
After years of hearing about the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids in wild salmon I was fascinated to learn on a trip to Argentina that grass-fed and pastured beef also offers omega-3s, which help brain development and protect the heart. That benefit largely is lost when cattle are fed corn, something nature did not design them to digest easily. If we are what we eat, we’re also what our meat eats, and what our salmon eats. It’s definitely food for thought!