Sunday, June 29, 2008

Eating with a Smaller Mouthprint: Part Two

This is the second part of the class session on making eating more a matter of faith (as one of the women in the class put it). (Part One is here.)The list was given in a shorter form as a handout; this is my expanded version, but some of it's still in point form because I was just listing ideas as we went along.

A (Not-So-Standard) List of Things People Could Do

1. Co-operating: to ease the burden on our many small households, on older people and singles. Try co-operative shopping, cooking, sharing meals. Trade tools. Invite people to eat regularly with you. Cook a little extra and freeze small portions for older people you care for.

2. Reading: If you have children, read books that give insight into what people ate in other times. In some of our children’s books, it’s made plain that meals years ago were often quite different—for instance, in All of a Kind Family, a picnic at the beach consisted of bread and butter sandwiches, tomatoes, and eggs; and the girls were amazed to find that their mother had brought some small cakes as well. In On the Banks of Plum Creek, Ma left a lunch of milk, molasses and something called corn dodgers (like corn pones). You can also find food quotes in your own books. One that always reminds me to keep a positive attitude came from John Howard Griffin's Black Like Me, where a man was praising his wife and said something like: “If we have meat, she cooks it along with the beans; and if we don’t have meat, she just goes ahead and cooks the beans anyway.” I also saw something recently in the Little House Cookbook, that said that Laura never complained in later years about the monotony of pioneer food; only hunger was monotonous.

Look at older cookbooks for low-cost meal ideas, and MCC’s various global/justice-type cookbooks—nice gift idea too. Or you can read newer books such as The 100 Mile Diet.

3. Rethinking recipes—cutting back, using less; substituting, filling in with less expensive foods, cooking multiples, using shorter/simpler recipes; “gathering up the fragments.” Having one or two basic things to do with each food item, especially if it's something that you tend to have a lot of. Examples of this that I have used:

Hard pears—cut up and bake with a little apple juice, they’ll get soft in half an hour to forty minutes
Apples—core and bake two hours in the crockpot; make applesauce; slice for dessert
Canned pumpkin—add honey and spices, make pumpkin butter
Bananas—freeze whole & use for baking; freeze and put through the food processor
Sour cream—put in muffins.
Muffins—freeze them.
Canned pineapple—same dessert as bananas (can also use combination)
Piece of cabbage—shred and mix with favourite dressing
Canned/fresh green beans and/or other canned beans—mix with bean-salad dressing
Bits of barley or brown rice—cook overnight as hot cereal

4. Ignoring much of the mainstream shopping advice—such as not shopping with children, shopping only the periphery of the store, and shopping only according to a pre-written menu. (We briefly discussed the pros and cons of each of these ideas.)

5. Shopping with justice and the earth in mind. Consider the energy, transportation and pollution costs as well as supermarket prices; consider the time needed to shop, prepare, cook, clean up—energy costs make cooking even more expensive. Buy vegetable boxes that support local agriculture. You can get involved with fair-trade importing; you can lobby governments, represent those treated unjustly, fight for fair economic policies, food safety, and agricultural issues.

6. Limiting—creating margin around splurges. Maybe limit some foods to celebrations. Just something to think about.

7. Experimenting—have an experiment week. Eat what’s in the cupboard, or spend only an agreed-upon amount. Try new foods. Use your kitchen tools more creatively (use library books about slow cookers, pressure cookers, etc.). Use your freezer too.

At this point we will stop for a little entertainment:

You had for breakfast: two pounds bacon,
Three dozen eggs, one coffee cake, and
Then you had something really awful,
Four kippered herrings on a waffle.
Nine English muffins, one baked apple,
Boston cream pie, Philadelphia scrapple.
Seventeen bowls of Crispy Crunch.
Then you said, "What's for lunch?"—Allan Sherman

OK--back to work now.

8. Studying, working, volunteering— Think about all the ways that you could influence the world through work in chemistry, biology, improving food crops, food additive safety; selling food; even studying or teaching less-directly related subjects like law and urban planning. Those of you with home kitchen experience could run food teaching programs, food box programs (co-ordinating pickup of produce boxes), collective kitchens, breakfast programs, soup kitchen outreaches, seniors’ lunches—teach people to have more food awareness and confidence, feed their families better, depend less on food banks. I’m saying this especially to older people, those of you who are no longer raising families: many people grow up now without even basic kitchen skills; your creativity and patience are badly needed to teach nutrition and budgeting, gardening, preserving food. Let your experience teach the rest of us.

9. Backyard farming (and the kitchen food factory)—join the backyard-hen movement.

10. Budgeting and planning—Do the math and compare, because prices change. (Right now there's about a 20-cent difference here between a litre of fluid milk and the equivalent in store-brand powdered milk--not really enough to make us give up fluid milk, but just enough to make baking with powdered milk worthwhile. But that could change.) Check the unit prices (sometimes bulk is not cheaper). Keep a notebook of what different stores charge. (I noticed a $2/kg difference for yeast recently between two different stores. I know, who buys yeast by the kg?--but it's the principle of the thing.)

Also, use cheaper forms of food. Following Miss Maggie's directions, I bought 1 lb. of dried pinto beans for $1.50, added a few cents’ worth of seasonings, and for that price plus the cost of a few crockpot hours (and almost no effort), I had a whole crock full of refried beans, cheaper than canned.

11. Being realistic—Don’t insist, hard-and-fast, on always having to make everything from scratch. Sometimes it is a blessing to have a bag of cookies or a frozen pizza on hand. People didn’t always expect to have to make everything themselves—that’s why bakeries were invented.

12. Eating potatoes. And other simple foods, without needing to dress them up. (I told a story that I think came from the La Leche League book The Heart Has Its Own Reasons: a mother said that she had bought some berries and they were sitting on the counter. Her preschooler asked what they were for, and she said, in a patient Mommy-voice, "Mommy hasn't quite decided what to do with them yet." The boy asked, "Well, why can't we just eat them?" Duh, light goes on. So they did. )

13. TRUSTING—Many of us have health concerns now with what we will eat—worries about local and organic vs. imported food, contaminated tomatoes, allergy-related and other medical concerns, worrying about whether things are low fat, wholegrain, have additives—and at the same time we’re trying to eat economically and responsibly—sometimes it makes you want to throw up your hands and give up. But even if our situation seems unique, God can provide what we need. And again--nobody can do everything--but anybody can do something.

(If this post seems a little unfinished, it's because at this point I shut my mouth and let some other people talk. So it's your turn--comments?)

1 comment:

Birdie said...

Well said, as always!