Thursday, August 9, 2007

Thursday, August 8: Day 8

What did we eat today?

For Breakfast: Toast with butter and/or peanut butter and Raspberry Yogurt smoothie from Sugar River Dairy (probably a bit of a cheat as I think it has sugar in it, but it was a gift from a very supportive friend)

For Lunch: Grilled cheese (hooray, the king is back!) with tomatoes from the driveway.

Dinner: Leftover roast chicken, sweet corn, boiled potatoes with herb butter, green beans sauteed with tomato sauce, shallots, and some other goodies (they were getting a bit old), and Jen's signature beet slaw (grated beets sauteed with jalapenos and shallots). They were chiogga beets, which is why they look sort of putty-colored in the photo. Fresh they are spectacular. If you cut one it reveals concentric rings of white and bright pink.

As you can see, we now have sandwich bread, which Jen and Evie are thrilled about. I myself have turned into the bread grinch. I think it is too crumbly and both too bitter and too sweet at the same time. Instead of rising and doming in the pans, as soon as it cleared the top it oozed over the side so I had to flop it back in. I'm glad my family is happy with it, but truly there is no accounting for some people's taste.

Now for the lecture. . .

Someone asked recently what we normally eat. I think that the underlying question is, how much of a departure is this for us, really?

In terms of menu, in a typical week (where we are home all 7 nights), I would guess that 1 or 2 nights we make something super-fast because we have to be someplace. Examples would be grilled cheese or breakfast-for-dinner (pancakes, french toast, or scrambled egg sandwiches). Basically something with zero prep. Then we have a bunch of "routine" meals that we make so often that they go together quickly, such as pizza (we know how to time it so well that even homemade crust seems quick), stir fry, burgers or sausage on the grill, any of several noodle dishes, etc. These cover us for probably 4 nights a week. Then once or twice in a week we'll have something more elaborate. Often it's something new we saw on a cooking show, sometimes it is an old favorite that takes a lot of elbow grease. Mexican flavors are a favorite, roast chicken or turkey, onion soup gratinee, and any number of dumplings (dumplings are something of a specialty of mine), such as potstickers, latkes, meatballs, samosas, steamed pork buns, pan-fried gnocchi, and some others. Not that the finished meals are always elaborate--they seldom are--but I like to fuss over things in the kitchen, and if you've ever made samosas, you understand the time commitment.

In terms of the substance of what we eat, there are some things that are off the table with a 100 mile radius in effect. The list of kitchen staples I normally rely on but am currently without is a bit grim—olive oil (how about "all of" oil, as I have no liquid fats at all), black pepper, balsamic vinegar, curry powder, cumin, coriander (could probably get this if I could figure out how to harvest it from a cilantro plant), white and brown sugar, citrus, and on and on. As Jen noted previously, at this time of year there is so much in season that you can eat fresh and do just fine--but this project does give an increased understanding of where the stuff in all those little bottles comes from. The modern kitchen is like a United Nations in a cupboard. I guess there's a reason people were willing to pay someone to sail around the world and collect the stuff for them as far back as the 1600s (1500s?).

But back to the question. Most of the mass of what we eat is normally procured from local sources--the meat, eggs, milk, cheese, and vegetables in season. Dry goods are the big exception--sugar and flour (and man, do we go through flour). For most of the year, we have 3 food shopping destinations—a farmers market, our natural foods co-op (the excellent Willy Street Co-op) and a mainstream grocery store. This felt weird to me, but I just heard a story on NPR that it has become typical for Americans to hit 2 or 3 stores to get everything they want, so I guess at least in this respect we are somewhat typical. At the grocery store we normally get some dairy (still local!), stuff like orange juice, and some prepared items like crackers, plus household supplies like garbage bags, toilet paper, and soap (and our beloved Ghirardelli 60% cocoa chocolate chips which they have at a great price--oh how I miss them). As the selection of fresh stuff at the farmer's markets falls off we shift more to the Willy Street Co-op (non-local organics out of season, of course). By mid-winter the farmer's market is pretty much down to meat, potatoes, cheese, eggs, maple syrup, and honey (heaven for me, but I am told you can't live on it, so we are forced to shop elsewhere to supplement).

So that gives you a picture of what our food life is like most of the time. We are all eager to see how much our shopping, cooking, and eating habits change as a result of this experiment.


1 comment:

JennWrenn said...

Now that I've seen links to your blog on two lists I read (Bay Creek and the farmer's market) I knew I really ought to read it. My family eats very similarly to yours in an ordinary month. After reading Barbara Kingsolver's book this spring I renewed my efforts to eat locally (but the flour is from North Dakota.).
Thanks for showing us how to eat locally in Madison!