Saturday, June 26, 2010

Thou shalt honor thy mother and thy father

In other words, don't let the TV-commercial drunk kids do your shopping for you. 

Of course they insist on buying radiated sugar crunchies—it has their favorite action figure on the box
Your job, as parent, is to be hated and despised for doing the right thing. Just kidding. This said, we're not in the 19th century either so compromise and negotiation are inevitable (ok for radiaactive sugar cruchies for dessert!).

 But remember: who's in control? You're in control!!

Going up against the entire TV junk food diabetes-ADD-and-cancer-inducing-crap-for-kids industry is not easy of course, (and even harder for divorced parents who are competing for affections), and we're not saying steamed broccoli should replace birthday cake, but if you weed out the most dangerous "so-called-food" items, you'll be reducing your child's chances of developing type two diabetes and sugar and additive induced hyperactivity as well as reducing costs.

 That's worth a few "But Jimmy's mom let him eat sugared shit" isn't it?

(photo of Cheetos covered with melted cheese from a school cafeteria, posted on Slow Food USA.)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hard Times Cooking: Thou shalt not keep up with the Joneses !

Keeping up with the Joneses

As unbelievable as it may seem, people still do that.

"Oh, I just experienced the most incredible thingamabog at Mrs. Joneses. She served pureed broccoli and feta in a little glass with a special spoon and napkin, then took that away and served a parfait of shrimp, eggplant and yogurt with cilantro in a different little glass with a different little spoon. It was amazing!" And so on.
People get a grip! 
If Mrs. Jones is hell-bent on lavishing such attention on her guest (and dishwasher) the thing to do is to get invited to Mrs. Jones, not to imitate her!
With the invention of labor-saving devices came, not paradise, but the creation of labor intensive fashions. A one-upsmanship contest of epic silliness.

So admire the Joneses. Pity the Joneses. Love the Jones. Envy (if you must) the Joneses.
But for heaven's sake, do yourself a favor and don't compete with the Joneses!

When you invite them to dinner, as you should and must, serve them a hearty family mean. With flowers and candles and pretty napkins. Perhaps a good bottle of wine. 
But be yourself. And enjoy!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

On Vegetables in Hard Times

Small children often fear vegetables, surviving on a diet of pasta, rice and ice cream. But this is just a normal developmental phase, which later gives way to curiosity and experimentation. Legumophobia in adults, however, is a serious condition. A threat to long term health, it also signals deep and unresolved trauma, extending far beyond the "overcooked Brussel sprouts" nightmare we all share.

Common Excuses for not eating vegetables
1. Vegetables are too expensive
2. Vegetables are hard to prepare
3. Vegetables make me fart
4. Hitler was a vegetarian.

1. Vegetables are too expensive.
This is a lie!
Vegetables are not expensive.
Fresh carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, winter squash, cabbages, potatoes, cauliflower and many other delicious and nutritious vegetables cost less per pound than just about any other food except rice or pasta. In season.

I suspect that the "vegetables are too expensive" mantra originated in the creative departments of advertisers of Tasty Hydroginated Chemical Sugar Craps. What better method than to convince people they have no choice! Or to make it a question of identity. Only top hat wearing rich exploiters consort with vegetables! These luxuries not for honest people!
And yet, pound per pound, veggies cost less than most items we all buy: A sixpack of diet coke? Nope? A bag of chips. A duo dingdongs. A bottle of vodka. A gallon of gas. A packet of cigarettes. A snort of cocaine.

The trick with vegetables is that price and quality fluctuate according to availability. Buy when fresh and cheap and eat immediately. It will cost less and taste better. And, what the heck, it's even good for you.
The more wonderful, easy recipes you have at you fingertips, the easier it is to take advantage of vegetables' changing prices. Brocoli too expensive this week? Buy cauliflower or carrots. Tomatoes just doubled? Switch to carrots or zucchini. Artichokes and avocados looking ratty and expensive? How about some sweet potatoes? Prices vary according to where you live, what the weather's like, transportation and distribution systems and, of course, the time of year.
Unless you're pregnant with insatiable cravings for a particular veggie which MUST be satisfied, you'll benefit by being flexible. If you can't find a recipe you like for it in this book, google it. You'll certainly find something on the internet. And you'll add great tastes and colors to your family meals. At very little cost.

2. Vegetables are hard to prepare.
Granted, eating dry cereal from an open box with your fingers is easier. As is popping a prepackaged thing for one person in the microwave. Ding!
But veggies aren't that much more complicated. And you can't beat the variety.
Vegetables can be served raw, steamed, fried, baked, mashed, pureed, in casseroles with cheese and sour cream, as a lasagne, in hot, mouthwatering soups, in cool refreshing drinks, in quiches, tarts and pies, with dips, on the side, as a main course or even, as with pumpkin pie, for dessert. Vegetables can even be dressed up to look like meats, (though I personally view this as a time-consuming perversion).
The point is, they're easy.

3. Vegetables make me fart.
Yes, well. I could tell you a tragic story about some particularly delicious cabbage piroshki that once got me banned from a library, but there are a couple of really fantastic cabbage recipes in this book that you really must try.* So do yourself a favor. Pace yourself. And share.

4. Hitler was a vegetarian.
This is, by the way, the only valid excuse for rejecting vegetables.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Save money and eat better

Waste not, want not.
That's good advice!

Open your fridge. Does it look like the closet where you hide the body?
Too many "economy" megajars and unidentifiables growing green fuzz? Is there anything in there that you meant to eat but never got around to and now looks like it might eat you?

This, my friend, is not only gross but expensive !

Wasted food is literally money down the garbage disposal. A study at the University of Arizona concluded that we throw out 600 dollars worth of food each year. The rotting hamburger, the shriveled vegetables, the forgotten easy-reheat dinner. The left-left-left overs. But mostly, veggies. (We mean well but then "forget" to eat them.)

Now ask yourself three questions:

1. What in the world is this stuff?
2. Why is there so much of it?
3. How much does the bad stuff cost?

If you're like most Americans you are throwing out a goodly portion of the food you buy. That's money, folk!

The answer is not to say: well, that's the problem with fresh food! From now on only canned or frozen for me! No!

The answer is to buy less! And only what you need.

for more see:

10 Ways to Save Money on Food Shopping

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thoughts on leftovers-- and a terrific recipe for curry

First, there was the word: left-over.

Left-handed, left-footed, left-for-dead, left-at-the-alter, left behind.

Ooooheeeeh! With such associations, how could left-overs not inspire disgust?

Except, and here's a secret: some things—think wine, oak trees, two-year-olds in diapers and certain investments--improve with age. (And benefit from amortization).

Likewise with food. Many soups, stews, ragouts, my special lentils, and Lea's potato salad actually taste better on the second day. Then there's the cold pizza, lasagne or quiche that vast swathes of our population love in the morning. And cooled meats served with pickles, mustard, thick bread and a beer can't be beat. These delicacies fit more in the category of "doggie bags" from fine restaurants and should be thought of that way: easy, delicious and already paid for (cost: zero!)

Here's a favorite -- and highly flexible --recipe for a delicious curry using leftover cooked meat.

In a little oil, fry two onions and two garlic cloves; add meat cut in cubes (cooked chicken, turkey, pork, beef ); mix and sprinkle on 1 TBS curry; 1 TBS turmeric); 1 TBS flour, stir well, add coconut milk OR a little liquid cream; salt pepper; cover on lowest heat for 15 minutes. Serve with steamed rice.

Now, this recipe can be adapted. I made it with pork, but you can use leftover beef from a stew, chicken or turkey if you like. Substitute Patak's curry paste for dry spices and (I love this) add frozen peas -- Anne Marie

ps: The pretty orange pieces are cantalope, which were selling for 50 cents a piece and juicy as can be. It made a simple and healthy desert!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ten dollars for a great family meal? For four people? With fresh vegetables?

Why, that's less than the cost of 1/2 Happy Meal per person! Or seven cigarettes each! A couple of gallons of gas or about a two mile drive in a Hummer. Or, my personal favorite, one hundred millionth of the 2007 bonus of an AIG executive who drove his company to bankruptcy.
Ten dollars? But how? If only there were some easy commandments to follow...

The Seven and a Half Commandments

Thou shalt ignore food fads, food advertising, new food medical findings, and any hint of food political correctness like the spawn of hell !

Two: Thou shalt invest a few bucks to stock your kitchen with basic spices and one amazing device that will change your life forever: the French soup blender (otherwise known as the propeller on a stick).

Three: Thou shalt drink tap water. (unless it's really unsafe in your area)

Four: Thou shalt not keep up with the Joneses or otherwise compete, show off with, or define who you are with food.

Five: Thou shalt honor thy vegetables; including the ones you always hated until now on account of they were overcooked to disgusting, evil smelling mush in your childhood.

Six: Thou shalt not waste. (Seriously. You'll save a lot of money.)

Seven: Thou shalt learn to plan ahead. (ditto!)

Seven and a... Oh, heck, just buy what's fresh and cheap!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Celebrating great cooking in reduced circumstances.

This blog owes its existence to two delightfully contrary inspirations: the image of Scarlette O'Hara shaking a dirty turnip at a menacing sky vowing "never to go hungry again!" and a US newspaper headline proclaiming. "Veggies too expensive! Americans doomed to eat junk!"

Even in hard times, occasionally you just have to laugh.

Some of the best food ever invented has come, not from the fancy kitchens of the rich (obsessed with figuring out how to stuff humming birds into quails into chickens into peacocks into ostriches like a grotesque feathered nesting doll), but from impoverished peasants forced to get creative to feed their families, with, for example, turnips.
Like hardy Australian plants that bloom only after a devastating fire, we Americans tend show our best selves under pressure of adversity. This is true also, we believe, of our food.