Monday, October 13, 2008

Eating Well in Hard Times

CNN’s dubious news-you-can-use on Depression cuisine (via Mills) and Steve Almond’s “recession garden” (via Cathy) got me thinking back on my “year of eating historically.”

There weren’t any recipes for squirrel, but there are some lessons.

Not so long ago, most people prepared nearly every meal as though they were in a recession. Meat was expensive. Affordable produce was seasonal. People “put up” canned fruits and vegetables for the winter. There were a few staples that they bought in bulk. Way back in the ’80s — the 1980s — I remember playing in my grandma’s cellar. I loved picking at the little white sprouts that grew out of the potatoes she kept down there over the winter.

Nowadays, we have cheap meat and cheap bananas and expensive asparagus all year round. In many cases, we’re not paying the true cost of our food: the carbon footprint of growing it on factory farms and then transporting it many, many miles to our kitchens. And although the global economic markets might have our attention, the true crisis — the one we’ll be dealing with for the rest of our lives — is environmental.

So here are a few suggestions that might be cheaper and will definitely be better for the planet….

  • Nut Loaf: a substitute for meat loaf. It’s improbably delicious. I made a “classic” version, as well as one with squash, carrot, and ginger. Unfortunately, nuts are expensive, unless you buy them in bulk. But their impact on the planet is much smaller than meat — and that’s important whether the stock market is up or down.
  • Apple butter (or apple sauce): if you pick them yourself, you can get 20-25 pounds for $20 — or less, if you’re not in NYC. That’s more than enough for several jars of apple butter, which you can eat throughout the winter and give as very thoughtful, very inexpensive holiday gifts.
  • Shit on a Shingle: eggs, flour, butter, milk, bread — all (still) affordable. If it was good enough for American G.I.’s, you better believe it’s good enough for their coddled grandchildren.
  • Bake a cake: ‘Causecupcakes are a rip-off! How about a nut cake (if you can’t get those wonderful hickory nuts, try walnuts) or that 1966 classic, the Tunnel of Fudge cake?
  • Rice Pudding: the price of grains has soared, but if you buy a big bag, rice is still very inexpensive. This is one of the most comforting desserts I can imagine. There’s a bonus recipe — my extra-special Rice Krispie treats — which are, unfortunately, too expenisve to make these days. Boxed cereal is also a rip-off.
  • Beans!: they’re cheap, especially when you buy them dried and in bulk. How about some spicy moong dal, tasty “unbaked” black-eyed peas, or heart-warming lentil soup?
  • “Working Girl’s Tuna Burger”: I mixed expensive yellowfin tuna and inexpensive whitefish — delish.
  • Irish Potato Pudding: don’t make this recipe. I repeat: don’t make this recipe. It was awful. You’d have to be in the middle of a famine to appreciate it. BUT there is a lesson: potatoes are cheap. They’re filling. And we’re so over that dumb no-carb thing, so give ‘em a try again!
  • Lobster Dip: lobster during a recession? Remember, it’s about moderation, not suffering. This recipe makes a delicious spread that serves about six.
  • Chicken Chartreuse: like the lobster dip, this is a way to make a little bit of (ideally) farm-raised, hormone-free chicken feed a crowd.
  • Tripe: ‘cause nothing says hard times like offal!


Anonymous said...

i wish i live there ;)

rozydesouza said...

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samantha said...

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