Genetically modified organisms, which are organisms whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering to add genes for traits that are not naturally occurring, are controversial, particularly in our food supply. Science has allowed us to create new breeds of food-producing plants, such as tomato plants with cold-tolerant genes from fish, or soybeans that can resist field applications of herbicides.

While there are some advantages to these modified plants securing our food supply, many people, including some scientists and consumers, question whether these modified foods should be entering our bodies and ecosystems. Many European countries have even banned the use of GMOs in their food, and the U.S. last year passed a law requiring mandatory labeling of food to show whether or not each product contains GMOs.

For those who wish to avoid GMOs in the kitchen, “The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook” offers recipes from local farms and chefs featuring Vermont-grown, non-GMO ingredients. The book, published in 2017 by Skyhorse Publishing, features local organic and non-GMO ingredients in mouth-watering recipes like avocado, jalapeno and cheddar cheese corn bread; oven roasted pulled pork sandwiches with spicy apple cider vinegar slaw; and grilled beef tenderloin with rutabaga purée. The recipes are interspersed with profiles of Vermont farmers and producers who grow and make organic and non- GMO foods and Vermont chefs who use them.

The book, by Vermont author Tracey Madeiros, has now been selected as a finalist for the Readable Feast Award in the Socially Conscious category. Additionally, as a finalist, the book is also a candidate for the People’s Choice Award, which may be voted on by anyone starting June 7. To vote, visit http://www.thereadablefeast.com/.

Madeiros has penned other popular farm-to-table cookbooks, including “Dishing Up Vermont, The Vermont Farm to Table Cookbook,” and “The Connecticut Farm to Table Cookbook,” among others. She is a freelance writer who contributes to several local publications and also regularly appears in print and on television preparing recipes that feature farmfresh local, organic and non-GMO foods.

A Massachusetts native. Madeiros grew up cooking and enjoying everything food-related. She chooses to cook with these ingredients “because it is of paramount importance for me to know what is in the food that I feed myself and my family,” she says from her home in Essex Junction.

Her favorite recipes from the book include honey-glazed pork bellies, on page 185. “These bellies have a succulent, melt-in-your-mouth texture and a wonderfully rich flavor,” she says. Her list of favorites from the book also includes the apple-raspberry pie, on page 307, which she describes as “a beautiful, rustic dessert,” and northern lake fish chowder, on page 65. “The sweet, crisp flavors of the hard apple cider provide the perfect counterpoint to the smoky flavor of the lake fish and smooth, velvety texture from the cream and fish stock.”

It’s important to her to eat non-GMO and organic food, for both her and her family’s health, as well as the well-being of our agricultural system. “What we eat affects our health and the world around us,” she says. “Food labeling and transparency is so important. In order to make informed decisions about what you eat, you must know what’s in your food.” Michelle Farrington, a mother who uses the cookbook for her own family, agrees with Madeiros’ sentiment. “As a parent of a special-needs child,” she says, “I am always looking for ways to improve his overall well-being. The quality of food he eats plays an important role in that.”

Farrington also loves the way the cookbook highlights farmers, producers, and chefs. “It draws attention to all the good work being done in the food industry across the state.”

Allison Lafferty, a manager at Natural Provisions, a market and deli in Williston, is also a fan of the book because avoiding GMOs in food is important to her personally, and also to many of her customers. She says her store doesn’t stock many books, but this one is continually in demand by their customers.

Lafferty’s favorite recipe from the book, though she points out she hasn’t tried them all yet, is the Haymakers Roast Pork. “It gets two thumbs up from the whole family.” But she adds that the book is more than just excellent recipes of the caliber she has come to expect from Madeiros. The profiles of farmers, producers, and chefs helps her feel more connected to her food, and further, the profiles of specific ingredients, such as lesser-known vegetables, can make them feel more approachable at the market and in the kitchen.

“This helps build connections to the foods you cook and where they come from. For example, if a recipe calls for kohlrabi, that can be intimidating if you’ve never used it, but page 149 talks about how to choose a ripe one, how to peel and prepare it, as well as what its growing season is.”

To purchase or order a copy of The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook, visit your local bookstore. For more information on Madeiros and all of her work, visit her website at www.traceymedeiros.com.

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