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A Pointed Look at the Pyramid

March 18th, 2011 - By Lari Robling

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We’ve been advised to follow the Food Guide Pyramid, based on the Mediterranean Diet. Turns out, many of those ingredients had to wait until Columbus discovered America. Gina Stipo looks at old world and new world influences on a healthy diet especially olive oil.

Let the buyer beware! Recent reports show some oils labeled Extra Virgin are not. Find out more here »


We’ve all been told the Mediterranean diet is a nutritious way to eat — olive oil, lots of seasonal vegetables, whole grains and smaller portions of meat. Italian cuisine fits right in there too. Although surprisingly, the ingredients we think are Italian came from the New World.

Gina Stipo

“Any of the bell peppers, hot peppers, a lot of the beans and green beans those all came from the Americas, South Central, North America and they really changed the Italian diet in the last two hundred years.” That’s Gina Stipo she grew up in an Italian American home and spent her early school years in Verona, Italy. Today, she has a cooking school in Tuscany but I met up with her stateside at a cooking class she was teaching in New Jersey.

She says a hallmark of Italian cooking that adds to the healthful properties is eating seasonally. As anyone who shops farmers markets knows, it’s also delicious. “In this country we’ve gotten so far away from what’s seasonal that we don’t even understand that seasonal asparagus is a springtime vegetable we get it all year long now. But it tastes the best when you get in the springtime, and the same goes for zucchini and tomatoes in the summer. They are summertime vegetables and in Italy that’s when we eat them.” Of course, one of the common healthy Italian ingredients that did originate in the Mediterranean is olive oil.

Food Guide Pyramid

“The very fresh pure cold pressed new olive oil has a component in it. It has a peppery part that actually is a chemical that they use in ibuprofen, which means it is a natural anti-inflammatory, and so it helps the body fight disease.” But Stipo points out that while all olives are created equal they are not processed equally. To get those healthful properties you need to shop smartly, “it’s important to ask if you can taste it. I look for something from Tuscany that says cold pressed extra virgin if you.

Gina Stipo’s class is about to begin so she leaves us with these words: “Mangia col estione esse ti in forma, esse ti salute.”

“Eat seasonally and be Fit.”

Here’s a tip be careful that your olive oil dollars are well spent. Recent reports show some oils labeled Extra Virgin are not. Find out more here »

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Move Over, Kale Chips! Kale Buds Are Here

By Lari Robling - April 18th, 2012

High Tunnel farming caught my eye because its extended growing season adds to the amount of local produce we get. While farm manager Aviva Asher was tidying up the winter crop to make way for spring, I discovered another benefit of local growing: use what you’ve got.

More wisdom »

December 2014
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