Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Seeing Food

I can recall being a child, looking into the cupboards and refrigerator, and loudly proclaiming for all to hear, "There's nothing to eat!"

My parents would disagree, and might even suggest a snack I could have. They weren't however, experts at seeing food, and for a very long time I have continued to look into my fridge and pantry and not really see anything.

While in 2007 we slowly transitioned to more local food, we didn't take the strong approach that we are using in 2008. In 2008, snacks are different. We don't have buttery caramel rice cakes in the house, or organic fruit leather, or even out of season fruit. No, the snacks we have are either local produce or items that fit into the dry goods category of the riot. For our purposes, I am including items such as organic raisins and peanut butter to be considered dry goods, as we order them in bulk, organic, with minimal packaging.

My children keep wandering into the kitchen, poking around, and declaring, "There's nothing to eat!"

Well, actually there is plenty to eat, but we have to learn to see the food. This doesn't apply only to snacks, by the way. Last night I needed something to boost our dinner, and I looked in the pantry three times before I realized that we have canned pears. Today for a snack I made buttered brown rice tortillas with sugar and cinnamon. (As a gluten free family with other food allergies, food can be tricky around here. I am pretty certain that I was always able to make a PB&J sandwich when I was a child.)

I'm rather glad that I have some of these convenience foods to use while we are figuring out how to eat according to the R4A. Within in a month or two there won't be canned pears or brown rice tortillas in the house. We're using what we have but not replacing it.

We have to learn to see food. To see some stock, vegetables, and leftover beans and think soup. To see an avocado and think snack. To see milk and eggs and think custard. Eating real food requires that we see raw ingredients and know how to cook and combine them. It also requires that we do this ahead of time, so that we don't say "There's nothing to eat!" when what we really mean is "It's going to take an hour to cook dinner and it's 6:30 already and we're hungry."

I am at times embarrassed by the amount of food in our house, especially when I find myself thinking that we don't have anything to eat. We do. We aren't starving or even underfed. We don't know hunger in any real way.

As part of our simplification, we are trying to use all of the food that we've purchased. That includes weekly produce and perishables, which is pretty easy, and pantry items, which can be harder. The goal is to only have true staples in the house, along with frozen meats and stocks, perishables, and produce. No more random jars of jam or bags of gluten free flours. Everything purchased must be a staple or an item needed for a recipe (and such items should be multi-purpose).

So, to keep me thinking, here are 1o R4A snacks I could make or serve this week:

1) Winter squash custard with CSA squash, local eggs, and raw California milk, using Rapadura (fair trade and organic) purchased through a monthly co-op.

2) Fried California potatoes (using the Whole Foods definition of local).

3) Organic CA raisins (bulk dry goods).

4) Local, organic dates.

5) Local persimmons.

6) Candied local citrus peel (has anyone candied peel with Rapadura?)

7) CA organic walnuts (bulk, dry goods)

8) Local pomegranate.

9) Hard-boiled local eggs.

10) Local (WF standards) celery with organic peanut butter.

That was tough! It might have been easier if I was in the kitchen looking at the food instead of theorizing about it.

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