As children, we constantly put dirt in our mouth and as adults we are going back to our roots and now we “eat dirt” as the raw, vegan and foraging movements evolve. Mary Ruebush, author of Why Dirt Is Good, suggests that dirt is good because when a child puts things in his/her mouth it “allows for ‘practice’ of immune responses, which will be necessary for protection, but it also plays a critical role in teaching the immature immune response what is best ignored.” The subject of the importance of dirt in our diets recently appeared in the New York Times Dirtying Up Our Diets Op-ed article by Jeff D. Leach in June 2012.
Go Ahead Eat Dirt: Dirt has even inspired cocktails, desserts and restaurant concepts. Seattle mixologist Cale Green of Needle and Thread crafted the Dirt ‘n’ Diesel drink while Dirt Cake, which highlights crumbled Oreo cookies as the foundation, is a novel, party favorite among kids and adults alike. A notable vegetarian restaurant in New York City is named Dirt Candy. Chef and owner Amanda Cohen defines “dirt candy as vegetables, of course. When you eat a vegetable you’re eating little more than dirt that’s been transformed by plenty of sunshine and rain into something that’s full of flavor.” Dirt has even been a movie theme. Dirt! The Movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009 and won numerous awards. DVDs, screenings, and educational material about dirt are available on their website (www.thedirtmovie.org).
Compost is the newest evolution of the dirt concept. Because of the green and eco-friendly lifestyle trend, home composting is gaining popularity. This has lead to a logical transition for manufacturers to design compostable packaging for consumer products. Now, we see pastry chefs pushing the envelope and capitalizing on the compost concept. They’re marketing “compost” confections. At first, it seems to be a disconnect, but it plays on the idea of a mash-up of ingredients.
New York pastry chef Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar, is best known for her Compost Cookie, which combines pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, butterscotch, and chocolate chips into an interestingly textured cookie. Cupcake Royale in Seattle, Washington features a Compost Cupcake with morsels of coconut, coffee, oats, chocolate chips, vanilla cake crumble and Tim’s Original potato chips into chocolate cake. Brooklyn based The Good Batch offers a Compost Bar made with five layers of ingredients – Layer 1: Cocoa waffle cookie scraps, Layer 2: Chunky peanut butter, Layer 3: Crispy rice cereal, Layer 4: Dark chocolate and Layer 5: Sea salt. Disney Family Fun’s magazine is on trend and showcased a Compost Cake recipe, which they describe as “do like the worms do, and dine on a decomposing pile of garbage!”
The green and eco-friendly trend will continue to inspire unique and sustainable products and technologies such as FreshPaper, described as “a dryer sheet for produce,” which organically keeps fruits and veggies fresh for 2- 4 times longer. It is “infused with organic ingredients that inhibit bacterial and fungal growth, as well as enzymes that cause over-ripening.” Another noteworthy food packaging technology is WikiCells, “which imitate natural packaging by enclosing food and liquid in an edible membrane,” and could eliminate the need for plastic packaging. Expect to see this technology launch in 2013.
Add a little dirt to your diet and make way for new green and sustainable products and technologies.