To your health: We are what we eat

By Alfred Casale - To Your Health | December 13th, 2016 6:00 am

I’ve written often over the years about the benefits of eating relatively unprocessed food; buying raw stuff and preparing or cooking it at home as opposed to eating canned peas, deli meats and Twinkies.

There are so many experts advising us to avoid the chemicals and compounds used in many food products during processing, packaging and as preservatives. Organic products are pushed as “safer” alternatives and livestock raised with standard techniques that depend on pesticides, hormones and other production aids.

In addition, a “locavore” movement encourages us to eat food that’s produced close to home. This strategy not only supports our regional economy, provides us with better tasting, fresher food, and reduces the environmental impact of shipping and transportation of products.

I remember in Baltimore, during college and med school, Mary and I would go on occasion to “the co-op.” This was a rather loosely connected group of people who would source food items in bulk from who-knows-where, show up in a store front with sacks of beans, piles of carrots and boxes of generic soap bars. We’d divvy them up, pay ridiculously little for them and go home trying to figure out what to do with four pounds of rutabagas, a bag of turmeric and 13 candles. From that to Sam’s club in less than a generation. Ah! America.

Mary and I are excited that in our own community here in NEPA there are some spectacular options for sourcing carefully grown and raised ingredients and there are restaurants that use these local products in their cooking.

Our good friend Liza Rolland joined Will Whitlock in opening Tilling Point Farm in Shavertown as an organic “Community Supported Agriculture” enterprise or CSA. CSAs are businesses in which a group of subscribers commit to and pre-pay for a share of a season’s output from a farm. The proprietors grow, pick and pack a box of whatever is ready, usually weekly, and the subscribers pick up their week’s bounty and have fresh, local products to use for their family’s meals. Some farms, like Tilling Point raise livestock and provide eggs, dairy and meat as well. Fresh flowers are available by subscription and, for some of us, are a reliable way of scoring “husband” points throughout the season! The result is a supply of wonderfully nutritious food, a stake in the area and the knowledge that you’re doing something very right! Isabella restaurant, in Wilkes-Barre on Route 315, uses many of the products from the farm and the magical results are certainly worth seeking out.

I’m embarrassed to say Mary and I only recently found another terrific local resource, Old Tioga Farm, in Stillwater. It is a CSA and more. Justin and Dillon Naylor and their two boys work a farm established around 1831. They produce beautiful, curated vegetables like Liza and Will but Justin cooks.

Every Friday and Saturday night, Grandma takes the boys, Justin cooks, Dillon serves and 16 remarkably fortunate people have a marvelous experience eating out-of-this-world dishes, with an Italian flair, in the Naylor’s country home. Trust me, there’s not a more satisfying meal in a more romantic setting anywhere. And the food is good for you! Reservations are tough to get but absolutely worth the trouble.

And as if I’ve not had my “fresh food” consciousness raised enough by these two local farms, a patient of mine and I were chatting after we got tired of talking about his upcoming bypass operation. He told me that he grows odd Asian vegetables on an acre in Shavertown for several local Indian families who long for fresh, quality reminders of home. It seems NEPA’s climate, at least with his green thumb, works just fine for growing exotic treats.

So try something healthy. Buy raw stuff and cook it. Get it locally. Treat yourself to a special meal out. You deserve it.

Alfred Casale To Your Health Casale To Your Health

By Alfred Casale

To Your Health

Dr. Alfred Casale is chairman of surgery for the Geisinger Heart Institute, co-director of the Cardiovascular Service Line for the Geisinger Health System and Associate Chief Medical Officer of the Geisinger Health System and Chair of the Geisinger Heart Institute. Readers may write to him via [email protected]