Spring Turnip, Bok Choy Blossom and Pork Stew

I've been wanting to write this post for some time now.  However, when the idea first popped into my head about a year ago I immediately shot it down, deciding, "I couldn't possibly!"  (Insert British accent here.)  Every few months it would appear like an excited puppy asking to be played with.  "Now?", it asked.  "How about now?  Can we play now?"  "NO!", was my swift and curt response.   Yet with my answer came a tingle of guilt.  "Why not share the love and tell people what's been going on?", I asked. "Because I'm embarrassed, shameful and worried people will judge me!", I shot back.  WTF!?!?!  I certainly wasn't expecting THAT answer and had no idea I harbored such feelings about this tiny little post.  We all care what people think about us however, no-one's words are as hurtful to us as our own.  And I was saying some really nasty things to myself about this yet written post.  Turns out, I was judging the heck out of myself which instigated my feelings of shame and embarrassment.  No one had made me feel this way...I was doing it to myself!  And with that revelation, I present to you THE PORK POST!!

I love pork!  I do, I do, I do.  It is a beautiful meat with such versatility no wonder it's the apple of every chefs eye.  Entire events are dedicated to the purity and wonder that is the piggy.  However, as a nice Jewish girl we aren't allowed to talk about the fact that the smell of bacon speaks to the heart and carnitas are as close to heaven in a tortilla as you are gonna get.  Yet growing up, the only thing I knew about pork was that it was BAD.  It was unhealthy, unclean and something other, severely misinformed people ate.   (Yes my judgement ran deep.)  Pork was simply a cursed meat, in my estimation.  I reasoned it could have no redeeming value because if it did, everyone would embrace it with open arms.  And as fat phobic child, I was never drawn to pork because the only porky product I'd ever encountered was bacon.  I knew it smelled good but there was no way I was about to let those lard-lacquered strips into my mouth.  Before I move on let me just say that in certain Jewish circles (Reformed, of course), bacon is perfectly acceptable.  Pork shoulder, pork chop, ham....no way!  But after watching my father sneak bacon when out to brunch on more than a few occasions, it was quite clear bacon got a hall pass.

Fast forward to 2 years ago when I started eating meat again.  (My twenties were a vegetarian/vegan bubble.)  I easily brought in pasture-raised beef, goat, lamb, chicken, and turkey and my body loved it.  I was wild with meat possibilities and excitedly dove into recipes and preparations that looked unique and exciting.  Then one day I stumbled upon a Chinese 5-spice pork shoulder recipe from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall (best name ever!) and I was dumb struck.  I probably could have avoided it had the damn picture not literally called my name.  That was that.  I had to make it!  I went to the butcher shop at 1 pm, knowing it unlikely I would run into anyone I knew and covertly bought the pork shoulder.  Since that first pork adventure I've been hooked and look for new pork explorations every chance I get.

Now before you get on the "pork is fatty and fat isn't healthy" kick, let me rock your world for a sec.  Your body needs fat!  In fact, your brain is 60% fat and needs to be fed fat to work properly.  That's why we were all insane during the fat-free craze of the early nineties.  However, as with everything else, not all fat is created equal.   There is a big difference between fat from a commercially-raised animal and fat from an animal organic and pasture-raised.  Synthetic hormones, chemical byproducts and antibiotics store themselves in fat cells, so the fat on non-organic animals is literally loaded with toxins and therefore toxic to us.  However, high-quality fat (both saturated and monounsaturated) coming from organically, humanely raised animals is the type of fat you want in your diet.  Lastly pork, just like our beloved olive oil, walnuts and avocados, is high in monounsaturated fat, a fat that has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and create stabilized energy throughout the day.  What the WHAT!!  I know, crazy right?  For a more in depth look at fats, read this.

I feel lighter already, having divulged my big bad secret.  And isn't that how it always goes?  Once we choose to reveal and share, whatever we were holding on to so tight loosens, softens and changes shape.  I could be mad at myself for keeping my porky love affair a secret.  I could berate myself for not being strong sooner, telling my anxiety and judgement to f**k off.  But I'm not.  Because in some way, my secret was serving me.  It kept me safe as the girl I used to be, a girl I thought people wanted to see.  And it wasn't until I was ready to reveal the changed me, that it felt safe to do so.

So here is what I want to know.  What secret have you been keeping that you are ready to reveal?  What are you holding on to that is no longer serving you, that you are totally over and ready to release?

I'm opening up the forum for you to be free and honest so let it all hang out, sweetie!  I can't wait to hear what you have to say.  In the meantime, enjoy this kick-ass recipe and eat your pasture-raised pork with pride!

Spring Turnip, Bok Choy Blossom and Pork Stew

This is a stew inspired by a dish I had at Ippuku in Berkeley.  They prepare it with ground chicken which you can certainly use here.  The turnips soak up the sweet, salty broth beautifully and the bok choy blossoms add a bit of much appreciated toothiness.  If you can't find boy choy blossoms, kale, regular bok choy or cabbage work well.

Serves 2 with leftovers

Two 2-inch pieces fresh ginger, peeled

2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

1 cup water

1/4 cup mirin (Japanese cooking wine)

1 tablespoon tamari

Dash of fish sauce

4-5 medium sized turnips, peeled and quartered

1 pound ground pork (or chicken)

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

touch of sea salt

1/2 pound bok choy blossoms (about 2 handfuls)

Add the ginger, garlic, water, mirin, tamari, fish sauce and turnips to a medium sized pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, until the turnips are soft.

In a saute pan, add the pork, ground ginger and salt.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the meat is cooked through.  Add the meat and bok choy blossoms to the turnips, cover, and cook for another 5 minutes until the blossoms are bright green.  You may need to add an extra bit of water here if the stew seems too thin.  Adjust seasoning to taste and enjoy!

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Personal Growth, Recipesjamie