Last week, a few friends and I went to see Fed Up at Amherst Cinema. This Sundance documentary, produced and narrated by veteran TV newswoman Katie Couric, tracks the rise of the American obesity epidemic over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries. The film adopts a downright cynical perspective on Congress and the Big Sugar lobby, narrowly managing to avoid a full-bore plummet into the Michael Moorean abyss of conspiracy theory. Couric and company chiefly blame processed and sugary foods for our country’s excess poundage. Imagine my guilt-laden mumblings as I walked by the mouthwateringly backlit Sour Patch Kids en route to Theater 2.
Would it have been so wrong to enjoy a notoriously processed, notoriously sugary and notoriously delicious candy while viewing this earnest call-to-toned-arms? Might consuming miniature sour companions in real time have inspired within me an ad hoc capacity for empathy, and thus for change? Alas, I took my seat empty-handed, and fantasized an elaborate come-to-Couric moment: midway through a tearjerking on-screen conversation between Michael Pollan and Michelle Obama, I stand up in mighty revelation, capturing the audience’s attention. Disgusted, I cast my half-eaten Sour Patch baggie into the aisle, inspiring widespread applause and admiration. This revelatory moment initiates a permanent change in my troublesome eating habits, and I go on to sweep the international triathlon circuit and co-author recyclable Paleolithic cookbooks. End of fantasy.
Instead, my stomach grumbled for the full 92 minutes, and I left with a consciously ephemeral sense of enlightenment. Some moments later, my friends and I found ourselves sitting in GoBerry, some three doors down, semi-ashamedly enjoying a post-enlightenment snack. Surrounding us were fellow documentary-goers, our Theater 2 compatriots, also chatting joyously over their tasty treats. For a moment, I grimaced a frustrated grimace, wondering why none of us appeared to have taken Fed Up and its apocalyptic entreaties seriously. Are we all sugar addicts to the point of myopic complacency? What was the point of paying to watch a documentary if not to inspire the sort of change I had fantasized? And with the next bite of frozen wonderment, my grimace faded.
The Paleolithic triathlete fantasy, of course, had been complete delirium. Few of us are able to adopt such strict dietary regimens as to avoid the occasional Sour Patch Kid or GoBerry session, and for good reason: sugary food is truly and thoroughly delicious. In general, I think of the old adage “all things in moderation” as an ever-reliable guiding principle: far from enacting a neo-alarmist sugar prohibition, we’d all be better off if we ate sweets less frequently than we do. Yet such a helpfully reductive adage does not quite capture an essential complexity: Sour Patch Kids and GoBerry froyo are not created equal. Fed Up might not have transformed me into a bodybuilding Übermensch, but it did force me to consider the inequality at hand: packaged, processed, sugary foods are about as unhealthy as unhealthy gets. While I’m willing to concede that enjoying sugary foods is a reasonable and important aspect of any “good life,” I’ve decided to challenge myself to eat simpler and more local sugary foods in a measured attempt to wean myself off Sour Patch Kids, a debilitating and longstanding addiction of mine.
GoBerry is an exceptional proxy, but there’s nothing more local than one’s own kitchen, and there’s nothing simpler than a fruit galette, which can be made from four ingredients: flour, butter, salt and fruit. For fun, I’ve chosen to spice things up a bit, including myself in the joy of free-form cooking. If you’ve never experimented with homemade pie crust, there’s no better time than now, in glorious summer, when heaps of fresh fruit are available daily. In my mind, a pie crust is but a flaky vessel for a fruity centerpiece. So in the spirit of summertime resolutions, of sharing, and of simple foods, I’ve included a peach galette recipe I developed (piecrust adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything) for your contemplation, if not your enjoyment (see recipe on followi ng page). Bon appetit!•
2 medium-sized peaches, ripe
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 cup flour, to thicken
1 Tbsp. whiskey of your choice
Juice of half a lemon, plus its zest
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1. Slice peaches as thinly and evenly as possible. After slicing, peel skins off if desired.
2. Add remaining ingredients, mix by hand, cover, and refrigerate.
Galette Crust (Adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything):
1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour, sifted twice: before and after measuring
1 stick (8 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, cubed first and then frozen
½ tsp. salt of your choice
3 Tbsps. very cold water
1 Tbsp. milk
Sprinkle of sugar
(Makes one large or two small crusts)
1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Mix flour and salt. Add butter. Pulse in food processor (or cut with pastry cutter) until pea-sized clumps form. Add very cold water, one-half tablespoon at a time, until dough holds together when pinched.
2. Remove dough from food processor. Place dough in bowl, and form into a hockey puck shape by hand. It should hold together on its own. Wrap in plastic, and place in freezer for about 10 minutes.
3. Remove puck from freezer, unwrap, and place onto floured surface. Roll out dough with a rolling pin (or equivalently-shaped object), and then fold in half as if you’re closing a book. Sprinkle additional flour onto surface if dough starts to feel sticky. After folding, roll out dough and fold in half once more. Repeat the folding and rolling process until dough is smooth, unified and no longer crumbly.
Reform dough into a symmetrical hockey puck in preparation for the final rollout.If you’re having trouble: re-form dough into a hockey puck shape, re-wrap in plastic, and replace in the freezer for a few minutes. Then repeat step 3. Do not proceed to step 4 until you have successfully completed step 3.
4. To make two crusts, gently split the symmetrical hockey puck in half, and re-form two smaller pucks. Follow the remaining directions for each smaller puck.
5. Roll out dough in all directions. You should be trying to form an even, thin, disc-like shape. Once formed, straighten out the disc’s edges with a sharp knife, slicing off misshapen bits of dough as you see fit. When complete, your dough should look like an irregular polygon: a house, a star, a square or a rectangle would all work nicely, for example.
6. Remove fruit from refrigerator, unwrap, and place neatly in the center of your doughy irregular polygon. The fruit should be about 2 inches away from the dough’s edges.
7. One at a time, fold up the segments of the dough’s edge, each of which should partially cover the fruit in the center. Start with a single segment, and proceed in a circular manner, segment by segment. It took me about five folds to form a functional galette. Refer to the included photograph for guidance.
Galettes are supposed to be free-form pastries, so don’t worry too much; as long as the dough contains the fruit like a fence, you’re in good shape.
8. Beat the egg and milk together, forming an egg wash. Brush the egg wash gently onto the unbaked galette’s crust. This will help the crust bake to a nice golden brown color.
9. Sprinkle lightly with sugar before baking. Sorry, Katie Couric.
10. Place the filled, formed, brushed and sprinkled galette onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake on the center rack at 375° F for 30 minutes. Enjoy hot or cool.•