Ethics got in the way today

Today was our last day of cooking for the semester; we’re still in the “cook whatever you want” phase, leading up to the holidays as Chef tries his best to clear the walk-in, freezer and pantry before vacation. I still can’t believe I’ll be graduating come April. Finally. I get emotional thinking about it; happy and sad to be done.

Our final portfolios were due today which required 26 recipes with photos. Chef wrote me a touching note and tucked it into my portfolio with my grade; I got a gold star, and he recommended I start publishing my school recipes into a cookbook. An intriguiging idea, for sure.

My photos have really come a long way – I’m so proud of them. So much so that I mustered up the courage to ask if I could take on a full photo shoot at work. I had to develop a cheese recipe for a client the other day, for which we’ll need a photo taken. Our company spends thousands of dollars per photo, and because we write thousands of recipes and food articles for dozens of clients all year, it adds up. Long story short, they said yes to my proposal, and I’ll be cooking, styling and shooting the in-house photo shoot.

As I mentioned, I do quite a bit of food article writing in addition to the recipe writing at work, and today I hit an ethical snag. I knew it would happen at some point, and today was the day. I’m supposed to be writing articles for a 24-page book about healthy eating and nutrition. The book has food sponsors that need to be worked into the copy; when I was handed the sponsor names, I just about fell over. Three companies with some of the worst reputations for junk food had to be somehow written into my healthy stories. I went through several stages of death-like emotions, mourning my hard work…denial, anger, bargaining.

Before I reacted out loud though, I did a little bit of homework to see if there might be a glimmer of hope; perhaps there was something, anything these companies manufactured without GMOs, high fructose corn syrup, or inulin, modified food starch or chemical glutamates. Yuck! I managed to find at least one product from each company — it didn’t make me like them any better, but I could at least live with myself and not feel like I encouraged anyone to eat poorly at the hands of my employer.

And there lies the ethical dilemma for me – I want to write about food, but not just about any food. And when I work for someone else, I’m not allowed to pick and choose. I didn’t go down without a fight today. Well, it wasn’t really a fight, but rather a gentle request of “can we highlight this product instead of the other one that contains an enormous chain of polysaccharides and red #40?”

We’ll see what the jury delivers tomorrow; hopefully a victory for healthy food writing.

Speaking of healthy food writing, The Flexitarian Cookbook, which features several of my recipes, is now available at Amazon.com. The launch party is this weekend at Deep Creek Ranch - come on by to support Slow Food, and sample recipes from the book — I’ll be cooking from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

I have two articles and a recipe in Edible Orlando Magazine this month, which you can check out online, and I have partnered with Publix Supermarkets and the Orange County Library to bring a free cooking series to the community. The first class is January 22nd at the Windermere Library, 11 a.m. – we’re making pizza from scratch, come on by!

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