Most of us have pretty predictable relationships with food. We choose what to purchase or grow and prepare based on a value system developed over time and geared to fit a particular set of circumstances.
Gourmet: This is the person who can ignore cost and health issues in search of the perfect meal. It matters not that the truffles came from France and cost the equivalent of a week’s supply of groceries for a poor family, if the recipe calls for truffles then truffles it is. The $100.00 bottle of wine, the fillet Mignon, the Hollendaise sauce will all be consumed in spite of the doctor’s warning. I know couple of gourmets and, while I like the occasional dinner invite from one, I shutter to think of their impact on the planet.
The Cheap Eater: The compulsively cheap eater considers boxed macaroni and cheese with a side of hot dogs a meal. A lot of these people end up overweight because cheap food is often starchy and calorie dense and the calories come from cheap fats and sugars. This is not a value judgement. If you have to feed your kids and you have been laid off for six months, eating cheap can become an art form. My mother could feed 6 of us three meals from one chicken. We ate the body of the chicken for day one, stretched with corn bread and potatoes. On day two, we got chicken and dumplings with very little chicken and a lot of gravy and dumplings. Day three was chicken soup. It had practically no chicken in it but a lot of rice and vegetables and there was always a bread of some sort. We also used to eat a lot of Puffed Rice. It came in huge bag and cost next to nothing. We called it Puffed Air.
The Convenience Cook: This cook never saw a just-add-water meal she didn’t love. Forget the salt, the fat and the cost, as long as she can get supper on the table in minutes, she’ll buy anything. Canned spaghetti and Ramen noodles feature heavily in this cook’s repetoir.
The Health Food Eater: If it came out that moldy leaves where good for you, he would eat them. Lots of tofu and sprouts make up a typical meal. Full fat vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce is the food of the devil. A lot of these people find that they do feel better on this diet but they have the unfortunate habit of boring companions to tears as they discuss every morsel consumed ad nauseum.
There are a lot of other kinds of eaters from fast food to regimented, vegetarian, vegan, omnivore, locavaor, live food, low carb, no carb, eating is as fad prone as clothing. In a world with looming food shortages our fussiness may be a luxury we can ill afford.
Last night we ate what I consider to be gourmet fare. I made a batch of pasta with pesto from my first basil. We also had a side salad with a bunch of garden greens, the last of the asparagus tips, some garbanzo beans and a bit of feta. I added some tiny beets and carrot curls for color. The pesto is easy to make. A handful of basil, some pine nuts, a few tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and a few cloves of garlic held together with olive oil, pesto takes only a couple of minutes from garden to plate. If you want to save time, make up a large batch when the basil peaks and freeze it in serving sized containers. Home made pasta does take time but there are several good varieties of pasta that can be prepared. I use Barilla Plus when I don’t make my own. I used canned garbanzo beans because I forgot to soak some dry beans but dry beans are a perfect food. Cheap, easy, storable, and a healthy, low fat protein source. They also taste great and can be adapted for an unlimited number of recipes. Who doesn’t love hummus?
What I’m getting at with my rambling (cut me some slack please-I am still sick) is that it is possible to eat as you like, cheap, easy, healthy and delicious if you have a garden or purchase from farmer’s markets. It does take some planning. You might need to spend an afternoon putting up tomato sauce or freezing a couple of dozen cartons of pesto but you will gain the ability to toss together a terrific dinner in very little time.
Pick 14 meals, 7 summer and 7 winter. Think about the ingredients and try to be sure you can get most of them locally. Obviously, some things like olive oil will need to be brought in but if the majority of your food is local, you can splurge on those things. If you love mac and cheese, do the research and come up with some local cheeses and whole grain pasta to replace the old orange stuff from a box. If 1/2 of your meals are vegetarian, so much the better. Include a couple of things where the ingredients are set out and people make their own meals. We like tacos and wraps for this. Flat bread with fillings like hummus, avocados, tomatoes, sprouts and cheese are so easy and so good. They have the added advantage of being something I can set out and have ready when we are all on different schedules. When you make a soup, stew or chili, make a double batch and put half in the freezer. Come up with a few crock pot meals and a least one good pizza dinner.
Teach your kids the fundementals of things like pizza crust and salads. My daughter is 15 and capable of putting together a meal with very little supervision. The goal is to save your health, your pocketbook, your waisteline and the planet while you enjoy excellent food. Don’t be afraid to experiment with some vagan fare and some raw foods. In the future, when much more of our food will have to be grown where we live, the ability to be flexible and to have some kitchen skills will be critical.
For all who have emailed me, I am feeling a lot better but no where near 100%. It’s so cold here that I am putting together a soup for dinner. I will toss it in the crock pot this morning and it will be ready by dinner. Karen is going to make some corn bread and cookies for dessert. Breakfast is yogurt over granola with some raspberries on top. Lunch will be hard boiled eggs, the left over salad and some bread and butter. I wont’ have to do much but we will eat like kings.