This is a transcript of “Pyramid on a Plate #3: Healthy Italian Food Exposed,” dated May 20, 2008.
Boy it’s hot back here.
Chef: You know what they say. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
I’m out of here. I can’t stand it!
Nina: Hi, this is Nina Simonds for Spices of Life. I’m thrilled to say we’re here for Gail and Walter Willett. We’re eating the pyramid, Italian style. We’ve ordered what are usually no-nos.
Walter Willett: Right. Ordinarily people are told to stay away from fried foods. But, frying isn’t really good or bad per se, it’s really what type of oil is used. We’ve checked this out with the kitchen, and the calamari is fried in non-hydrogenated canola oil. So this will be fun for us. I’m sure this will reduce your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Nina: Very often, what we do with this is give tips. So I think one of the first tips is ‘Ask Questions,’ right?
Walter: Absolutely. And one of the first things that you want to know if you’re going to eat something that is prepared with any kind of oil, is what kind of oil they use. I’m pretty aggressive about it. If they don’t know, I go to the back of the kitchen and ask to see the labels.
Nina: You? Aggressive?
Gail: Walter will actually ask if he can go in the kitchen and look at their labels. And they will sometimes look at him like “I’m not sure.’ But he’ll stand up and go.
Walter: This is an educational opportunity for the restaurant staff too. Everybody learns, and I make sure I’m going to have a healthy meal that way.
Nina: Second tip, is that we’re going to eat according to your wonderful pyramid. So we’ve ordered lots of vegetables, a fish and some chicken. We ordered some grilled vegetables with balsalmic vinegar and fresh herbs, which will be delicious. One of the things we try to do at Spices of Life is to show people how eating healthy can be delicious.
Walter: You can’t go wrong here.
Nina: I think that’s the message we need to give people that “healthy” is not a four-letter or five-letter or six-letter word. It really can be as enjoyable an experience as eating the other way.
Walter: In fact, it’s usually better. The less healthy foods – fast-food, that kind of stuff – are usually monotonous in flavor, bland, quite salty. Here we’re going to have tremendous variety. Whole grains have more texture, more flavor. This is going to be a better meal, than you would get eating unhealthily.
Nina: Another tip that Eleanor, the manager, said, is to ask about the source of the food, which is a really great idea. At many good restaurants the chef will develop relationships with local growers, or with very good beef and chicken places. I think that is the sign of a really great restaurant, if they know where the food comes from.
Walter: And it’s almost sure to be fresher and more flavorful if that is the situation.
Nina: Look at that! Isn’t that gorgeous? It’s beautiful!
Walter: Do you know where your vegetables are from?
Eleanor (Vice President of Operations): Yes. Most of them come from Sid Waner, who is a provider here in Massachusetts, that has all natural, organic farmers that are co-oped into helping them out. Then we also have Eva, who is a wonderful woman, down in Darmouth, MA, that does all organic herbs and all sorts of fabulous things. So a lot of those are coming from there. And Equinox Farms, which is also does organic farming in Massachusetts.
Nina: Fabulous. It’s gorgeous.
Walter: We want to hear about the source of the chicken.
Steve Brown (Co-head Chef): We bring this up through Cambridge Meatpacking, they call it FreeBird now, it’s in Amish country. A lot of the farms down there are organically raising their chickens. We found this was the most flavorful. We’re going for – it’s prime, it’s flavor, it’s tenderness. There is so much going on. And people are happy. We’re happy. We did all of the blind taste-testing, you know.
Nina: Oh you did? Wow. Blind taste-testing. So you guys are serious!
Steve: Oh we’re serious. So now we’ve reached where we want to be and other people are coming – try this, try that.
Nina: Here we have our next extraordinarily beautiful dish. This is the grilled scallops with whole wheat pasta and garlic chives. It’s an amazingly plentiful portion. How many scallops would you say, Walter? Would you take half of this?
Walter: That’s a whole big meal in itself. Oftentimes we might order two appetizers and one entrée and share the entrée.
Nina: Another tip!
Gail: Another thing you could do is take half of this home and have it for lunch the next day.
Nina: Exactly! So you don’t have to cook. Gail and I think in the same direction! This is Nina Simonds from Spices of Life. Thank you to the Willetts for eating the pyramid Italian-style. I think we did it in grand style, wouldn’t you say?
Walter: I was going to say this was a huge sacrifice.
Nina: And how do you say bon a petit in Italian?
Walter: Ciao! Bon a petito!