Eating Well: Oregon - #103

BURT WOLF: Oregon. It's been called “the most livable state in our country.” A land of extraordinary physical beauty. Majestic mountains... roaring rivers... and the pounding, picturesque surf of the Pacific Ocean. It's the place to take a look at some of the world's finest seafood, to find out why the caneberry is a food you can lean on for good health, and discover how an unusual recipe for waffles helped improve the performances of athletes all over the world. Join me, Burt Wolf, Eating Well in Oregon.

During the first half of the 1800's, the U.S. and the British jockeyed for power in the northwest. At the time, Thomas Jefferson was the president, and he wanted to strengthen his claim to the area. To do that he sent out an expedition to study and map the region. The leaders of the mission were two men... one named Lewis, the other Clark. When Lewis and Clark finished their work and returned to the east coast, their reports of the magnificent Eden of Oregon were widely reported in newspapers and magazines.

By the 1840's Oregon fever had spread across the east, and thousands of people were packing up everything they owned and heading west. The promise of getting a large piece of fertile land, and getting it free from the government was, quite frankly, an awesome idea. 

Now there's a theory that just the way birds of a feather flock together, so do people with similar ideas. When that happens, they form a community that has joint beliefs and a very similar character. People who feel the same way about things are attracted to that area. People who don't take a look at it and say, “not for me.”

The first U.S. settlers that came to Oregon from the east were educated young men, very respectable and very serious. And that was the type of person they wanted to have join them. Unprincipled and reckless adventurers were unwelcome. And the early Oregonians sent out that message in many ways. My favorite example of how they sent that signal is a story about a fork in the Oregon Trail that went from the east to the west right through these mountains. At one point the trail forked. On one side of it, there was a large pile of quartz gold. Everybody knew what that meant: “Take this side to the gold of California.” On the other side there was a carefully- lettered sign that said: “To Oregon.” The people that came here to Oregon? Those were the ones who could read.

The first settlers that came to the northwest arrived in the late fall. The growing season was over, and the trees and bushes were empty. So they didn't get to see all the wonderful foods that nature made available until the next spring. But when they did get a look at what was growing in their valley, they thought they had truly come to the Garden of Eden.

The Native American tribes that had been here for thousands of years already knew they were in Eden, and they had lots of stories about the natural foods in the area. They were particularly fascinated by the blueberry because of the five-pointed star at the top. They believed that the blueberries had been sent to them from heaven to help them through a particularly difficult time in their history.

Blueberries are still an important crop in the northwest. They're as convenient a food as you'll find -- just wash 'em and eat 'em. They're also easy to freeze. Put them into a container, seal it, and into a zero degree fahrenheit freezer, they'll last for up to two years. They're a good source of vitamin C, and have only about 90 calories in a cup. 

The only problem that the early settlers had with the blueberries came from the bears. Bears love blueberries and they will compete with farmers for the crop. And let me tell you, there's nothing like coming face to face with a 600-pound grizzly to give you a thrill on Blueberry Hill. (to “bear”) You wouldn't like me, I live on a low-fat diet. Honey, it's the next tree over. You'll love it.

And speaking of honey and blueberries, Greg Higgins of Portland's Heathman Hotel has a honey of a blueberry recipe, and he is unable to bear the thought of not sharing it. 

A half cup of all-purpose flour goes into a bowl. A quarter cup of sugar. A half cup of yellow cornmeal, and a tablespoon of baking powder. That gets mixed together. Then two-thirds of a cup of chilled butter gets crumbed together with the dry ingredients. You're really pinching the butter into the other ingredients to produce little pea-sized balls. Next a third of a cup of buttermilk is mixed in, and three-quarters of a cup of blueberries; at which point a little kneading is needed, but just a little. The dough is cut in half and shaped into disks about an inch thick. They go on to a buttered baking sheet where they get a light coating of eggwash. A deep X is cut into the top. Then into a 375 degree fahrenheit oven for twenty minutes. Out to cool, and they're ready to serve.

This is the Newport harbor on the coast of Oregon. For over a hundred years, Newport has been one of the most important fishing harbors on the west coast. The boats bring in salmon, sole, red snapper and shrimp. Shrimp is a ten-legged crustacean, and the most popular shellfish in the United States. We eat over 500 million pounds of them each year, and that's more than any other country on the planet. We know we've eaten shrimp in this country as far back as we have recorded information. Native American Indians, colonists, pioneers -- wherever we've had access to an ocean, shrimp has popped onto the local menu. Local is the key word there, because fresh shrimp don't last very long. So for centuries it was truly a local specialty. In 1917, however, we began putting refrigerators on the fishing boats, and in the 1950's, we began freezing shrimp for shipment.

One of my favorite shrimp dishes is sauteed shrimp served over fish fillets. A little vegetable oil goes into a pan to heat up. Meanwhile, fillets of Pacific whiting or rockfish are given a light dusting of flour, dipped into an egg wash, and coated with breadcrumbs. When the oil is hot, the fish goes in. Three minutes on each side. Out of the pan and onto the serving plate. Back in the same pan, a few tablespoons of your favorite seasonings. And in go the shrimp. Two minutes of cooking, then onto the fish, and it's time to eat.



Agricultural fairs have been part of farm life for almost as long as there's been agriculture. We had the first one in the colonies in 1810. A fair was a time when the entire community could get together. The harvest season had come to the end. People paid their debts, made new ones. Young men and women met and married. Ideas and techniques were exchanged.

When our colonies broke free of Great Britain at the end of the Revolutionary War, we gained a lot, but we also lost a lot. We lost our access to really good wool to make cloth, and we lost our access to the most recent technological information about advances in farming and agriculture. Guys like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were heads of state, but they were also farmers, and they felt that it was very important that we reestablish a system whereby we could spread out the most recent information about what was going on in farming from one farmer to another. Our state and county fairs became the vehicle for disseminating that information. 

At first the prime objective was to improve sheep-shearing so we could have good wool. But very soon every aspect of farm life was included.

Some form of public entertainment has been part of market and agricultural fairs since their beginning thousands of years ago. When the first Oregon State Fair was held in the 1860's, wandering musicians were there, and they still are. Today it's the Oak Ridge Boys.


Named after a town in Tennessee, where atomic energy was first developed, these guys are a powerhouse all by themselves. They have a strong background in gospel music, but they have also been described as the finest singing group in country music. They are extraordinary individual singers who have managed to blend their distinctive personalities and distinctive eating styles into a hit group.


Joe, you used to cook in Philadelphia.

JOE BONSALL: I don't know that you could hardly call it cooking. When I was a kid I grew up in Philadelphia, and...

DUANE ALLEN: Slinging hash.

JOE: Yeah...well, something like that. I worked at Betty Angelino's luncheonette, and for a couple of years, though, I made hamburgers and Philly cheese steaks. I still know how to make a real Philly cheese steak, the way it's supposed to be made.

WOLF: Tell us about it.

JOE: Well, you know, a lot of people, you know, you get to these restaurants, like we'll be in... in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and it says "Authentic Philly Cheese Steak". Nah, they don't know how to do it.


The secret's in the bread, first of all. You got to have the really good bread. You got to have the real thinly sliced cheese steak, you know, the steak. You put it on the hot grill. And the grill's important, you can't just cook it on any old... any old pan, you got to have it on the grill. You cook it, turn it over, mix in all the fried onions with it, put the cheese on top, and put the bun on top of....


JOE: So that...

DUANE: Yeah.

JOE: ... the aroma oozes up through the...


STEVE: Yeah, it's all in the bread.

JOE: Into the bread. 

DUANE: Yeah.

JOE: And then you go....

DUANE: Yeah.

JOE: Phoom, like that. See, I know how to make a cheese steak.

DUANE: (OVER) Seal it in there.

BURT WOLF: Do you cook at home now?

JOE: Uh, no.


JOE: Oh, we do a lot, I'm just kidding. We... I think all of us cook just a little bit at home. But fortunately, I'm married to a woman who does really know how to cook very well, and if she don't feel like cooking, sometimes I'll take it on. There's a few things I can make.

BURT WOLF: Duane, you do much cooking at home?

DUANE: As little as I can get by with and retain the family... you know, proprietorship there. I don't want to be kicked out. I like to cook outside.

BURT WOLF: What about you, Steve? What do you cook?

STEVE SANDERS: I just take stuff and start throwing it all together, and that... that's usually when I cook, I never cook any one thing the same. And....


But, yeah, I..I cook. I just make up stuff. Oh, yeah, there's a piece of chicken here, you know, throw in some spaghetti sauce, and who knows what I'll end up with. I just start off and then... I usually end up with edible things, you know, but....

JOE: That's why we never go to his house for dinner.


STEVE: Yeah .... you know, but.... (VOICE FADES)

BURT WOLF: Richard, I hear you're real serious about your diet, and that you teach everybody around here what they should be eating.

RICHARD STERBAN: I have a very unusual way of eating. I'm very particular about my diet. Uh... I'm on a very low-fat, very high-carbohydrate sort of diet. It's almost a vegetarian diet, but not quite. I do eat some seafood, some chicken occasionally. But very low fat in my diet. And try to keep the carbohydrates as high as possible.

BURT WOLF: How do you guys feel about your seriousness on cholesterol, and diet and fat?

DUANE: I ... I think I...I like to be next to a winner, and so I...


I take that position of being number two, and eat to succeed. I like to be close to success.

STEVE: Yes, right.


DUANE: So I stay as close to Richard as I can, and I watch him, and I try my best to eat everything he leaves. All right?


BURT WOLF: The desire of the Oak Ridge Boys for peak performance is something that is shared by Bill Bowermann. 


Bill Bowermann was a track coach at the University of Oregon. Bill Knight was a miler that Bowermann was training. Bowermann was pleased with Knight's showings, but not his shoes. As a matter of fact, Bowermann wasn't pleased with the shoes of any of his athletes. Bowermann had been experimenting with different sole patterns in the hope of getting better traction and better cushioning, but nothing seemed to work very well. Then in 1971... the faithful fork of the food fairy, who's been responsible for so much of life's progress, entered the story. Bowermann was looking at the breakfast waffle that his wife had just made for him. The food fairy touched him with the magic fork, and he had the idea -- the surface of the waffle could be the perfect surface for the sole of a running shoe. He took his wife's waffle iron, filled it with rubber, saw what came out, and there it was, the new running shoe.

Today, his company is called Nike, after the Greek goddess of victory, and it's located just outside of Portland in a town called Beaverton. Everyone who works here appears to be as interested in exercise as they are in business, and instead of coffee breaks, they prefer fast breaks. 

Carrie Withers is Nike's resident exercise specialist. Her job is to see that the company's employees get in shape and stay that way.

Carrie put me through their physical evaluation program, and I found out two interesting things about myself. First, I'm a full two inches shorter than I was 30 years ago, which appears to be part of the natural process of aging. And second, and probably more important, in spite of my new length, I've been able to get down to my ideal weight. And quite frankly, if I could reach my proper weight, I think that just about anybody can. So as they say around here, Just Do It.

When Nike says “there is no finish line,” they're suggesting that we find the way of life that is good for us and enjoyable, and live that way as much of the time as possible. They're talking about lifestyle. Nike's love of fitness extends to their kitchen. Today Nike chef Scott Hill is preparing Nike chicken salad. Let's run over and see how it's made.

Skinless, boneless chicken breasts. Marinate for at least 30 minutes in a mixture of a canola-based vegetable oil, paprika, white pepper, and chopped garlic. Then onto a grill to cook. Six minutes on each side. While the chicken's on the grill, the sauce is made by mixing together a cup and a half of non-fat plain yogurt, a quarter cup of honey, a tablespoon of cinnamon, and a cup of pureed blueberries. Pre-cooked pasta is given a light coating of the dressing, and we're ready to plate the dish. Lettuce goes on first. The pasta, melon, strawberries, grated swiss cheese. The chicken is removed from the grill, sliced lengthwise and put on the top. Then the dressing, and a few pecans.

Chef Hill is also in top nutritional shape when he is performing his stir-fried vegetables with pasta. Two tablespoons of sesame oil get heated in a saucepan. Then in go slices of carrots, broccoli, green onions, yellow and red peppers, yellow squash, zucchini and sprouts. A little bit of a homemade sauce is added. The ingredients in the sauce are hoisin sauce, which is a sweet commercially-made sauce that you can usually get in the part of your market that sells Asian ingredients; a little soy sauce, chopped ginger and garlic. Cooked pasta is added; everything is mixed together. Onto the plate, a few sesame seeds, and you're ready to go.

And if you're in Oregon, one of the things you definitely go for is Dungeness crab.

There's a food dictionary that describes a Dungeness crab as “a crustacean with a hard shell and five pairs of legs,” which is a little like describing a Rolls Royce as “a car with four wheels,” or Everest as “a mountain.”


You're kind of missing the essential point. A Rolls Royce, Mount Everest, and a Dungeness crab are at the top of their class. There are over 4000 different types of crabs, but when it comes to good taste, the Dungeness is unsurpassed.

We've been landing Dungeness crab on the Pacific coast since the 1880's. The clean, cold waters of the area offer up their harvest nearly all year round, and the fishermen have learned to cook and freeze their catch so it can be shipped throughout the world. In fact, recently they have even developed a system for shipping live crabs.

Dungeness make an ideal source of high-quality protein. They're low in saturated fat, low in calories, and they contain something called Omega-3, which appears to help protect us against heart disease. When you've got something that tastes as good as a Dungeness crab, and is naturally good for you, too, you want to choose a cooking technique that keeps the dish healthful. Your best bets are grilling, broiling, steaming, poaching, and boiling. And make sure the other ingredients in the recipe are low-fat, too.

Heathman chef Greg Higgins shows how that's done with his recipe for Dungeness Crab Chowder. A little vegetable oil goes into a hot saucepan to heat up. Add a cup of diced red bell pepper, a cup of diced green bell pepper, and four cups of corn kernels, either fresh or frozen. All that gets stirred and cooked together for a minute over high heat. And in goes some minced garlic, a little thyme, and tablespoon of ground cumin. A little more cooking and you add four cups of hot chicken stock, a cup of diced green onion, and a quarter cup of cornstarch mixed with a little cold water. Reduce the heat, and simmer for about two minutes. The chowder is seasoned with a little tabasco. Finally two cups of cooked Dungeness crabmeat. The chowder goes into bowls, a little green onion on top, a sprig of thyme, and it's ready to serve.

Portland is officially known as The City Of Roses, and it is home to the International Rose Test Garden, the country's oldest continuously operated scientific site of its kind. It has three terraces which contain over ten thousand individual bushes representing more than 400 different varieties of roses. Research scientists have uncovered and analyzed fossilized roses that date back over 40 million years. Throughout most of their history, roses have been a source of pleasure and fascination, with a particularly mystical quality.

The rose is the symbol of the Virgin Mary, and originally a rosary was 165 dried rose petals wound up tight and made into a chain. In medieval times, roses were used to make medicine and perfume, and love potions. They were dried and used to stuff pillows and make carpets and hats, and even umbrellas. Roses were a basic part of cooking, especially in Middle Eastern cuisine. In Europe and the United States, rose-flavored waters were a basic part of cooking to the middle of this century. You can still get rosewater in markets that have a Middle Eastern food section. It's a really nice flavoring agent. Just take a couple of tablespoons of rosewater, and substitute it for an equal amount of any of the other liquids that are in the recipe. It's especially good with baked goods like pastry. It's also good in sherbets and ice cream, and I really like it in rice.

Along with its official title of the City of Roses, Portland is unofficially known as the City Of Fountains. The seemingly endless supply of fresh water was extremely impressive to the first settlers arriving in the Oregon territory. Raining down from the western mountain ranges, and building up into extraordinary rivers, clean water was like liquid gold to the pioneers. That appreciation of fresh water is expressed in Portland by a series of public fountains. The Ira Keller Fountain was designed to echo the natural waters that surrounded the city. The Skidmore Fountain was put up in 1888 by a man who was impressed with the fountains of Europe. The twenty Benson Fountains, each with four spigots, were donated to the city in 1912 by lumber baron Simon Benson.

Legend has it that Benson put up all these fountains around town to discourage his loggers from drinking stronger stuff. 

You won't see it on any list of essential nutrients, but water is our most essential nutrient. You can go for weeks without food, but a couple of days without water, and you're on your way into big trouble.

Unfortunately our thirst is not a good criteria for our need for water. You can desperately need water and not be thirsty. That's why scientists tell us to work hard at getting six to eight cups of water into our diet every day. It's important to our health.

When the first wagon trains crossed the continent and finally arrived in the northwest, the farmers soon realized that they had come into one of the world's most unique agricultural environments. The soil is extremely fertile, but it also drains well. There are good spring rains that come at just the right time in the growing cycle. Warm summer days, but cool summer nights. It's an unusual collection of environmental factors, and it produces one of the few places on the planet where you can grow caneberries. Each year a caneberry plant will produce a long, leafy cane. The following year that cane will be covered with berries. The most common caneberries are raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries, loganberries, and marionberries. 

A cup of these berries have about 60 calories. They also have about 50 percent of the daily recommended allowance for vitamin C. And the raspberry has more fiber per calorie than any of our common foods. Quite frankly, the more research we see from the scientific community about the importance of fiber, the more we see how fiber is essential to our good health, and the caneberry is definitely a food you can lean on to get more fiber into your diet.

And a popular way to enjoy all of those caneberries is Jake's Three Berry Cobbler. Jake's Restaurant in downtown Portland was named after Jake Freeman, a deeply beloved waiter who worked here during the early years of this century. The place has a fascinating collection of memorabilia from its past, which began in 1892. The kitchen specializes in dishes prepared from the local products of the northwest. When it comes to desserts, their principal attraction is a three berry cobbler.

A saucepan goes over medium heat, and in goes one cup of strawberries, one cup of blueberries, a cup of raspberries, and three tablespoons of sugar. That gets mixed together and cooked down for about ten minutes. As that cooking goes on, you can see the juices of the berries coming out and mixing together. Two tablespoons of cornstarch blended into a little water is added in. And the juice of half a lemon. The berry mixture is ladled into serving bowls. A disk of your favorite pie dough is cut out and placed on top of the berries. Onto a baking sheet to catch any spills, and into a 350 degree fahrenheit oven for twenty minutes. Just before serving, the cobbler is topped off with whipped cream or ice cream or low-fat yogurt, depending on your relationship with your cardiologist.

Another northwest food that's popular in Portland, and becoming more and more popular throughout the U.S., is Pacific whiting.

Pacific whiting is a fish that is found off our coast from northern California to Washington state. In fact, more than half the fish swimming off the west coast are whiting. It's mild tasting with a flaky white meat that has a soft texture. Years ago it was all taken by the Soviet Union and other eastern bloc countries, previously known as the Communists. But these days U.S. fishermen make the catch. Last year we brought in over 200 thousand tons. Now that is a fish dinner.

Because the Pacific whiting is so delicate, it's a good idea to cook it the day you get it home. The ideal cooking methods are pan frying, baking, and microwaving. As a matter of fact, the Pacific whiting is the perfect fish for microwaving, and if you use a low-fat sauce, you're going to end up with an ideal nutritional package. It has top quality protein, it's low in fat, and it's low in calories.

A great place to enjoy a dish of Pacific whiting is the B. Moloch Heathman Bakery and Pub. B. Moloch was the name of a French caricaturist whose paintings decorate the walls of the restaurant. The kitchen has a ten-ton wood-burning oven, which produces over 20 thousand loaves of wholegrain bread each month, and hundreds of pizzas each day. The sous-chef, Ismael Kamara, was born in West Africa, but is perfectly at home in west Oregon. His recipe for Pacific whiting reflects his love of satisfying foods that are painless to prepare.

A piece of whiting with the skin on one side gets a light coating of flour. A little vegetable oil is heated in a pan, and the whiting goes in. Two minutes of cooking on one side, an easy flip, and two minutes of cooking on the other side.

While it's cooking, Ismael adds in two tablespoons of chopped garlic, a quarter cup of lemon juice, a quarter cup of sherry, or you can substitute some chicken stock or even water. It all cooks down for a moment. Then the whiting gets a light grating of Parmesan cheese on top, and into a 350 degree fahrenheit oven for five minutes. At that point, a few spears of cooked asparagus go into the pan, and back into the oven for a moment more to heat up. The asparagus goes on to a serving plate, the fish, a garnish of flowers, a little thyme, and a garlic and lemon juice sauce.

So what have we seen in Oregon in terms of eating well? First, we need six to eight glasses of water each day, and thirst is not a reliable signal. Just drink them. 

Dungeness crab, a good source of low-fat protein. They also contain Omega-3, which appears to help protect us against heart disease.

Caneberries in general, and especially raspberries, are a good source of fiber.

Oakridge Boy Richard Sturban’s healthful diet, low in fat, high in complex carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables is a good idea for all of us.

And finally from the goddess of victory, the thought that there is no finish line. Progress is really made by changing your lifestyle during the trip. Don't go on a diet. Instead try to make a permanent change in your eating style. And very important, exercise on a regular basis.

That's eating well in Oregon. Please join us next time as we travel around the world looking for something that tastes good and makes it easier to eat well. I'm Burt Wolf.