Fresh start vs. fresh-baked goods

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 11.09.48 PMGoing into the new year, I am at the age where I tend to just reinforce my past resolutions. More exercise, less TV, more family board games, and of course, eating healthier. When I order my Something Gud weekly delivery, it’s the result of last year’s resolution, to eat real, local food. I tend toward the The Pescatarian Box of the Week or the Paleo Box of the Week, which pushes me to create meals heavy on the organic/sustainable foods, and pushes me away from takeout and processed foods. And away from the bakery.400X267_mouslin-tart

Baked goods have been a little too attached to these hips, so I was going at a good gluten-free pace until a couple of weeks ago, when my son got hungry. He’s 11, and because he seems to be growing an inch a week, so, yeah, he’s always hungry, but on a Saturday morning, we found ourselves in Allston, and like a good Hobbit, he wanted second breakfast. And I knew that  Swissbakers was serving its fantastic brunch.

I like Swissbakers, because it’s a place that makes baked goods with hamswisscroissantquality ingredients. The Swiss family Stohr — Thomas and Helene, and their two sons — bake with organic and locally sourced ingredients in Reading as well as Allston. Thomas grew up in a Swiss bakery, and he and Helene started making bread for their young sons, who, he said, had lost the taste for bread until their parents introduced them to crunchy Swiss breads and rolls. The family opened the Reading bakery four years ago, and became favorite fixtures at area farmers markets, as well as suppliers to area markets … and Something Gud. In 2012 it received the Green Business Award.The Swiss Family Stohr

The Allston bakery on Western Avenue looks like the former car dealership it was, except with a red cow named Lucerne on its roof, and a small children’s playground on the side. One window lists “guest-hugging” hours.

Inside, it’s all sunny windows, hightops and wooden tables that a few families have rearranged to gather for a leisurely brunch. Two clocks on the wall tell  American and Swiss time. There are several stations staffed by super-friendly workers willing to get you items placed at various counters, or you can go from counter to counter to collect your meal, for takeout or table service.

The specials counter, with typical egg and bacon items as well as a Swiss-style garden salad with items such as beets and celery root. veggiequicheDuring the week are specials such as roesti and salmon with sour cream, and a vegetarian soup of the day.

Next is the bread counter, with a wide variety of freshly baked bread. There’s a sandwich station, then a baked-goods counter with rolls, croissants and quiches. Here’s where you can also choose your beverage, including coffee beans roasted by local coffee connoisseur George Howell. Finish up with the last case, filled with cakes and cookies.

“You won’t get scones here,” said Thomas. “This is a Swiss bakery.”

What’s special about this place, in addition to just how good everything is, is that everything is preservative-free, using local and swisslinzersorganic ingredients when possible. The ingredients are whole foods, sometimes organic, with no preservatives or artificial anything. Ingredients like cage-free eggs, organic sugar and unsalted butter, sea salt, and of course, Swiss chocolate.

The food is freshly made every day. “People have to get used to total freshness, which means we sell out of things,” said Thomas. almondcroissant1“Everything is a couple of hours old. Everything with almonds go quickly.”

The items that need reheating are done with fast ovens, not microwaves. They understand vegetarians, but don’t do gluten-free save for macaroons and salad. “Everything should be grandchild-sustainable,” he said.

On the entrance window is written “guest-hugginminiswirl1g” hours; when asked what that meant, Thomas explained it was more of a mental rather than physical hug. “We want to say ‘Thank you,’ because we know you have a thousand options for food. We want you to feel great.”

We decided on the brunch, which was unlimited amounts of quiche, eggs, bacon, roesti (Swiss hash browns), a creamy swiss muesli with shredded apples and berries, challah weekend-brunchFrench toast, ham and cheese croissants, cheese, fruit, and coffee. The food was delicious, although it did launch my ubercarb spiral into the holidays. Even this week, when I pulled into Something Gud headquarters, there was a box of Swissbakers. (Something Gud offers more than a dozen choices of Swissbakers treats.) These were soft and salty, and huge. Could. Not. Resist.

It’s resolutions time, and so I’m gearing up for a stronger Paleo/Whole 30 resolve. But it’s nice to remember that an occasional (and awesomely tasty) slip does not a failed resolution make. Or next time my family indulges at Swissbakers, I’ll just enjoy the coffee, some soup and salad perhaps. Maybe a few slabs of bacon. And try not to look at the pretzel rolls.

SwissbakersScreen Shot 2015-01-07 at 11.08.53 PM
168 Western Ave. Allston, MA

32 Lincoln St., Reading


Welcome to Something GUD

Our team, surrounded by our GUDs.

Our team, surrounded by our GUDs.

We are a group of friends who just want to do Something GUD: promote sustainability by connecting area farmers and food artisans with people wishing for a convenient way to get high-quality, locally sourced food. In June 2013, we launched Something GUD as an online version of a farmers’ market. We’re your connection for a variety of local food and beverages: seasonal produce, organic chicken and meats, fresh fish, organic granola, Greek yogurt, handcrafted cheeses, smoothies, natural soda, salsas and tortillas, pasta, sauces, herbs, candy, breads, pastries, and we keep adding more.

We deliver for free within the I-95 belt around Boston. Pickup is also available at our Somerville warehouse.

“We’re just trying to make things easier for the farmer and the consumer,” says Colin Davis, cofounder and company president.

We are a Massachusetts Benefit Corporation with the intention of improving the food distribution system in a way that is good for the consumer, the producer, and the environment. To do this: we find the most responsibly made local food, attempt to make it as convenient as possible to get that food from the producer to the consumer, and do so with the smallest environmental footprint we can.

We’re targeting a cross-section of customers. The foodies. Farmers’ marketgoers. Those looking to stock the pantries of their kids, grandparents, and office kitchens. Michael Pollan fans trying to eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Neighborhoods starved of fresh produce. The car-free types. The time-deprived.

Something GUD understands that most people are creatures of habit: if a customer can sign up for weekly deliveries of a bag of curated groceries, they will get into the habit of welcoming fruit such as crunchy apples, vegetables such as lush bushes of kale and swiss chard, eggs from area chicken and ducks, grass-fed milk, hormone-free meat. There’s no long-term obligation, and it’s easy to adjust deliveries as needed.

You can order just one item; mix and match what you need; or leave it up to us to make up a bag of items: vegetarian, pescatarian, paleo, and other combos.

Prices are in the farmers’ market/Whole Foods range. The curated bags are a good deal; add on a few items and you may be set for the week, for about $50-$75. There’s prepared whole-foods items like fresh pasta and sauces, soups, and meals. For even busier customers, there’s the grab-and-go boxes, with items that don’t even need to be cooked. Some treats aren’t made with local ingredients, but are created locally, such as our local chocolate makers.

What also comes with each bag of food is a direct connection to the food source. Said Davis to The Somerville Beat, “Distance in all its forms decreases our ability to act humanely. If you make people feel less distance and more connected, they will make better decisions.”

Thank you for thinking globally by eating locally.

Don’t Worry, Be Merry!

Did you know? Today is the International Day of Happiness!

In case you should be feeling the opposite of happy: stop right here. Take a break, calm down. Breathe. Think. What would make you happy?

Then go and do something about it. Pick one thing. It can be tiny. But it might make all the difference and kickstart your feel-good mood.

It’s all up to you, you know. As Aristotle said: “Happiness depends upon ourselves.”

Make Your Own Urban Spring Garden

Winter has been fun, but it had its time now and we’re impatient for longer days, warm sunlight, and fresh bursts of green.

There is something we can do while anticipating balmier days: get ready with our own small garden!

Gardening is often said to be elaborate, time consuming, and expensive. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The simplest garden can be achieved with a few seeds, a tiny bit of soil, and a small pot, repurposed mason jar, or tin can put on the windowsill. While you may want to work up to a serious English rose garden, or a full-fledged urban veggie farm, you can start with a single peppermint or oregano plant, or a flower, and work your way up gently. Oh, and don’t forget the watering!

This video by Dominique Lutz is a great inspiration, illustrating just how much a little life makes a grey concrete and steel city instantly better livable, and a little magical.

Recipes to deplete your root cellar reserve in one week (or at least try…)

Need new inspiration for winter veggies? Here you go!

Adventures in Local Food

The reality of being a twenty something these days is that things often tend to be fairly up in the air, “lets see what happens”, non-committal.  Some might (and do) call this being a big ol’ flake, but reality is it can be hard to plan ahead and make commitments when even where you’ll be living in a few months is uncertain.

Recently I celebrated my one year anniversary of being in my current house. The first time I’d accomplished such a feat in almost 10 years. This was pretty good. Feeling pretty confident it my new-found settledness, I took the next logical step. I joined the EAC’s community root cellar. Because, well, the idea of having a root cellar is pretty damn cool.

Soring carrotssquash

In the fall, as part of the root cellar group, I ordered apples, leeks, potatoes, beets, carrots parsnips, squashes, and onions. Not really knowing how…

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Nitrate, Nitrite, Nitrosamines

At Something GUD we take customer concerns about the health of the products we sell very seriously. One of you brought up sodium nitrite in cured meat products, such as Lilac Hedge Farm’s bacon, and related health concerns. Thank you – we always appreciate your questions!

We spent hours researching the topic, and here is what we learned.

First, we called Lilac Hedge Farm, and talked to Ryan MacKay – one of the two owners – and asked why they use nitrites. He said that he had no choice – there is not a single smoke house in the state of Massachusetts that cures meat products without the use of synthesized nitrites. They have zero other options besides throwing out their bacon. Curing, by the way, prevents the growth of harmful bacteria, for example Clostridium botulinum, which produces the extremely potent and lethal botulinum toxin. Whether you buy bacon from Lilac Hedge Farm or any other farm in the state, you will find yourself in the same boat.

It also turns out that the label ‘nitrite free’ is a misnomer. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has decided that ‘naturally occurring’ sources of sodium nitrite can be used to cure meat and be marked ‘nitrite free’. These meat products don’t necessarily contain any less nitrite on average than meats cured with synthetic sodium nitrite. The difference is that the nitrite is being derived from a source like celery juice. This farm in North Carolina did a good job of explaining their decision to be ‘nitrite free’ and what it means in practice. So if you do want to genuinely cut down on nitrites in your meat, your only choice may be to avoid cured meat products altogether.

However, it all isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds.

There are three reasons.

  1. About 80% – 85% of the nitrate and nitrite we consume comes from leafy green vegetables and root vegetables. They contain up to more than 200 times more nitrite per pound than cured meats (see graphic below).
  2. Our body itself produces both nitrate and nitrite. The amount of nitrate and nitrite ingested from cured meat pales in comparison to the amounts synthesized daily in the human body. A 150-220 lbs person produces about 70-100 mg of nitrite a day, whereas a cooked hot dog contains about 0.5-1.0 mg.
  3. Nitrate and nitrite serve vital purposes in our body. For one, there is substantial evidence that metabolized forms are critical for cardiovascular health, such as the reduction of hypertension. Another example: nitrite may be converted to nitrous oxide in the body, a process that, when defective, is most often the cause for erectile dysfunction. In fact, our bodies have evolved a system that minimizes loss of nitrate. An active transport mechanism in the kidney pumps nitrate from the urine back into the blood. About 80% of nitrate contained in the urine is recovered in that way.

But what about the health concernsWhile nitrate itself is not toxic, it is converted to nitrite in the body. Nitrite can react with degradation products of amino acids and form nitrosamines. The majority of nitrosamines have indeed carcinogenic properties. The study which caused an outcry over a link between nitrites and cancer was published in 1970. Panic mongering prompted parents to drive to their children’s schools to extract hot dogs from their lunches, and Ralph Nader famously called the hot dog “among America’s deadliest missiles”.  However, it was found to be flawed. The rats used in the study were fed an amount of nitrite that would be comparable to you eating 1,586 lbs of bacon a day, every day, for half of your life.

So how come we don’t get sick from our leafy greens? Nitrosamine formation happens all the time in our gastrointestinal system, whether we eat meat or not. Also in 1970, it was discovered that vitamin C very potently inhibits nitrosamine formation, and in 1996 it was shown that vitamin E has the same function. Other antioxidants found in plants may have a similar effect. So while you may ingest quite a bit of nitrate naturally found in some of your vegetables, they at the same time deliver the molecules that neutralize the toxic nitrosamine metabolic by-products.

The conclusion: eat healthy and diverse, and don’t forget your veggies with your bacon!