It’s easy to forget how much we take for granted when it comes to variety concerning the food we eat. Supermarkets today have become multicultural juggernauts, carrying flavors from all over the world, and providing a greater selection than any of us are likely to sample over the course of our lifetimes. Food in general, as a market and as an industry has become so flooded with trends it can be nearly impossible to keep up with the latest health-kick. Ingredients become harder to pronounce by the day, scientists keep finding new things to make milk out of, we accept sketchy science that praises food products whose nutritional value remains a mystery… Maybe it’s time to simplify.
Michael Pollan, renowned author, New York Times bestseller, and lover of the natural world and all it has to offer — from earth to dinner plate — tells his readers in his 2008 book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food.” It’s a powerful image, one counterintuitive to this modern idea of progress; that we should always be striving to discover the next superfood or foolproof diet. And in the U.S. where obesity, heart disease, and diabetes continue to afflict considerable portions of Americans, maybe a return to form in the garden and in the kitchen wouldn’t be the worst idea.
The whole point of Spring Restaurant Week is to celebrate the local produce and protein that South Jersey has to offer. As Mr. Pollan would prefer, it’s a week full of dishes and plates that your great-grandmother can appreciate. No surprises. No gimmicks. Just good food that you could grow yourself if you wanted to. Chef Saul Cordova of La Esperanza, Mexican Restaurant and Bar in Lindenwold, shares his philosophy on the importance of buying and preparing local food, “I think it’s important to support our local farms and business. South Jersey produces some of the best fruits and vegetables and quality meats, which lets you put together a great menu and provide great meals for your customers, many of whom are also the producers.”
Mr. Cordova and La Esperanza have close ties to local markets in the community: Stella Farms in Berlin and Burlington Beef in Monroeville being two of such. It’s important to him that the menu complements a local theme; one that blends simple ingredients, with traditional home Mexican cooking. There can be no perception of authenticity without real foundation and Mr. Cordova, as well as the many chefs we’re privileged to be working with in anticipation of Spring Restaurant Week, have undoubtedly devoted themselves to upholding that standard.
When Michael Pollan said not to eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t eat, it wasn’t meant in strictly literal terms. The point is that she would be able to tell the difference between the whole and natural and the processed and artificial. Restaurants like La Esperanza hope to impress her by serving the two former.
Come celebrate Spring Restaurant Week with us from March 19th to the 24th! It’s fast approaching and is sure to be a great time. Check out the rest of the site to view all of the fabulous South Jersey eateries that will be represented and be sure to make a reservation! Come for the local produce and you’ll surely be inclined to stay for the irresistible food.