tofulabelI have a new obsession: Nutrition labels.

I became a chef to learn about how food goes together, what foods work with each other. I had the humble beginnings from my grandmother’s garden, and her fresh baked breads, and later in life, I began my culinary career.

Now that I’ve learned the different combinations along with ingredients, and all the beautiful ways food can be put together, coupled with the pantheon of herbs and spices, I need to learn about what I am putting in my body.

I began building my own data base of food nutrition labels in my house. I started before I found And learned that I was doing it exactly the way they did. I also learned that you can find a good amount of nutrition labels on their website, and download them.

There seems to be a problem in this wild world of labels, I eat primarily vegan. The products that my partner and I consume are mainly legumes, grains, vegetables and fruits. The brands we buy, if they aren’t Whole foods, Trader Joe’s, or the local produce market, don’t seem to be plugged into a database. You try searching for the nutritional value of urad dal.

Yes, I normally would pull nv’s off the label from the package, but, alas, the urad dal I purchased actually came from India, thus, no label. I found one website that lists nv’s of Indian cuisine. Brilliant I tell you.

We also buy in bulk. Most of my nuts, grains and legumes come from a bin, and if it’s not in a database somewhere online, I fear I am going to have to take cellphone pictures off the bins in the food market, bring it home, and input it that way.

Unless some one out there has a better idea of how to find the nutritional value of foods vegans eat.

I found one site that does a pretty good job. It started off as The Daily Plate, which then got swallowed up by, a product of Lance Armstrong’s foundation. I can track a lot of my calories, and find TJ and WF brands there. I’m still building my own database, but at least the information is there, and I can find it fast, when I need it.

Now, I don’t know why nutrition labels have become an obsession. Maybe I miss the kitchen so much that I’ve got to do something that is food-related. I’ve got three more weeks before I return to work. I’ve been cooking at home, more so than when we first moved here, and I’m cooking better food, but still, I’m not sure this explains the obsession.

It isn’t about tracking calories, or eating less, or making sure I’m getting the right amounts of iron and calcium. I eat a balanced enough diet. It is about the kind of food I do put in my body, and, I think I’m just very interested in the process of the label itself.

Thank you FDA.