Archive for July, 2011

The first temptation

July 31, 2011

As many foodies know, Wylie Dufresne is a notorious, self-proclaimed “egg slut”.  Me? I’m a mashed potatoes slut. I order them on menus, silently critique them in my head and think ooooh.  The adventure of ‘no grocery store for a month’ based on my need for mashed potatoes began with a vexing temptation.  First, I forgot to put sour cream on my list of foods. Luckily, a friend pointed out that yoghurt could be brought over. Perfect.  I had yoghurt.  Failure: it was French Vanilla.  Habit, right? French Vanilla yoghurt combined with potatoes? Yuck.

A friend pointed out that it wasn’t 8/1 yet so I could still go to the grocery store. Tempting. Ok, I gave into that idea. I showered, got into my car and thought “what is the point of this?” Finding ways around? Yes. But not *this* way.  The way around is substitutions, using what is local and a host of other things.  I left my car, cut up my potatoes and figured if McGuyver could make a bomb out of a potato, I could mash them without tossing in sour cream (trust me on this, it’s amazing).  Butter. Hmm. Worked. A bit of horseradish, a dash of BBQ  sauce better.  Parama cheese. Perfect.

Now, I realize that my copy-cat plan wasn’t the best thought out: I still don’t have sour cream . . . I’m missing non-French Vanilla yoghurt and uh, chocolate.  Day one is in the books. I’m about to cook some pork chops and pack my lunch for tomorrow.  (Egg Salad minus celery, crackers and maybe I have a Luna Bar somewhere. . . ).  What I’ve learned: it’s wicked easy in this part of the world to say “oh, I need” and go and buy it from a grocery store.  It as my initial temptation: I worked around it.  Will I keep it up? Who knows.  But going into the week, I have a container of mashed potatoes and already cooked green beans from my CSA at Nourse Farm, hardboiled eggs about to become egg salad and 2 grilled pork chops from 8 O’clock ranch.  Yup.  I can probably make it until Wednesday . .  .who knows?

I also realized I boiled all my eggs. I so didn’t think this adventure all the way to the end.

Ah, survived the first temptation!

The perfect food!

Taking a month of …. for now. The No Grocery Challenge

July 30, 2011

So, a friend of mine posted this blog a few weeks ago on Facebook (seriously, how did I live before smart phones and social networking!).  I chased a few links and found what might be one of the original blogs.  (Eh, who knows …).  The rules are pretty basic: don’t go to the grocery store except for what cannot be sourced otherwise.  There are few challenges floating about in the locavore world.  I was immediately interested and agreed to this mad cap challenge. Hey, it’s just me, right? I mean, aside from the sous chef and the prince.  And then I decided to step it up a bit.  I am keeping the basic challenge: buying everything at farmer’s markets, stands with a short exception list (below) and then only $30.  And no, I didn’t stock up on Coke Zero or ice cream!

A lot of the people involved have kids.  I can hear some people in my life now “of course it would be easy for you, you’re single.” (uh, yeah, i also have an hour commute and work roughly 50 hours a week but that is a different blog).  Yup, I live the life of a singleton.  That also means, that if I worked 12 hours that day, there is nobody I can call to say “hey, can you toss on some pasta for me” (well, that and being gluten-free also).  I’m also working for a company that is facing an audit probably in August.  ACK!  So, I know August will be insane.  So why not kick it up a step?

For August, I will not only avoid the grocery store (except the list below), I’m also skipping caffination stations.  Not giving UP caffeine (that would be a danger to others) but avoiding the fast food life style of the mornings and sometimes evenings that have fueled me during early morning commutes or late nights because I’m too lazy to cook something.  I realized how horrific my eating habits (despite some canning adventures) had become when I realized that one day I consumed (seriously) a package of pop tarts from a vending machine, some carrots and a tomato (probably a few thousand miles on those), ice cream with strawberry jam (ok, I made the jam) and 2 dill pickles. Why? It’s what I had either in the house to eat without cooking or had for the vending machine. Seriously.

When the challenge was posted, I realized hmmm. It would probably be good FOR me to do this: I despise chain stores, I try to be a locavore (but let’s face it … some mornings hash browns and coffee from Dunkin Donuts do hit the spot), I believe in local businesses well and the entire menu I listed earlier.  The thing is, to some extent this will already be easier for me than many: I buy my meat from the fantastic 8 O’clock Ranch (which probably means I’m not a locavore FOR meat but since they are a small ranch in upstate NY … I’ll stick with them), I get most of my fruits and veggies from Old Nourse Farm’s CSA.  My issue is more that while I’ll can/freeze food, I forget to USE that food in my I-must-eat-now mode (that and I don’t own a microwave).  So with a bit of planning, I’m going to go free from caffination stations, grocery stores, chains . . . what I do need to buy I will buy from family owned groceries.  This will be interesting.  I’m sure I won’t save money (one of the original bloggers is in Hungary. $2 wine? Ha.) The obvious benefit is breaking myself of this pop-tart diet I seem to be on!

So, with that … my August grocery list is limited to: vinegar, yoghurt (don’t tell me I can make it … epic fail), half&half, cat food (they do like to eat), salt, sugar and olive oil.  The greater adventure … figuring out what I’m going to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner now that I’m avoiding chains and the cafe at the office. If you see me, and you love me? Please hand me Diet Coke.  I’m sure I’ll need it by mid-August.

Have you ever READ the fine print?

July 24, 2011

Now I know some of my lawyer-ly friends will say “yes”, but really, how many people READ all of the fine print?  I have done the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) route for over a year.  I love it.  I switched CSA’s this year for a few reasons: my new one gives “credits” and you select how much of which type of item you would like for the week (pretty cool … no bok choi! or tat soi!).  Anyway, I’m close to meandering off the path.  Last year I froze some berries, some squash and meandered through the ‘off season’ (and uh, in New England, that’s a long time!).

A friend posted on her blog the tales about urban canning. Yup, she’s a “cult” leader of the nice sort. She sucked me in . . . the results?

  1. 5 pints of plum chutney
  2. 1.5 pints of spicy plum sauce
  3. 3 cups of pesto (frozen)
  4. 3 pints of blueberry jam
  5. 1.5 pints of blueberry-chocolate sauce
  6. 7 pints of bread and butter pickles
  7. 1.5 litres of blueberry wine
  8. 6 pints of frozen blueberries

In a weekend.  I know I’ll be happy this winter when it’s impossible to get anything in New England without a massive carbon footprint.  I know I’m eating better because everything used was either organic and locally grown or organic.  I had a blast picking the blueberries, despite the near record heat and humidity.  Everything was canned, frozen or being strained (in the case of the wine) within 10 hours of being picked.

How did this insanity get started? Aside from my friend the cult leader? I read the back of the label of my pickles. The #2 ingredient behind cucumbers? HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, some strange word I can’t pronounce and don’t remember, and yellow dye.  Yup. I’m out of the grocery race.  I’m going back to picking my foods in the garden, using my CSA share and canning and freezing along the way.  It is completely that easy.

Jam in the making

The Women’s World Cup

July 19, 2011

An open letter to the US Women’s National Soccer Team (that probably only my mom will read),

You didn’t win the World Cup.  It bites.  Not meeting a goal always does, it’s why we set them.  Pundits, philosophers, teachers all say you learn more in losses than in victories. Meh.  I’m not convinced. Sure, as an athlete it gives you game tape to break down, improve your skills (a rarity for a career, I can’t look back at mistakes on my day job with a tangible copy to see how to improve. Luckily, I don’t do anything important!).

I heard a few of you say you want make your own chapter, loose some of the shadow of ’99.  Maybe it’s a good thing; maybe it’s something that as a non-athlete I don’t get.  What I do know, is that most of you were probably in the crowds cheering on that magical ’99 team.  There were a few lightening bolts for those women: at home, coming off the ’96 and ’98 Olympic games where the women’s teams dominated (soccer, basketball, softball and hockey).  The ‘99ers were the Title IX daughters.  The ones who had to fight to get on boy only teams as playing fields slowly opened to girls.  I know, they are my age and when I heard them speak about being the ‘only’ girl, or shortening the name of Patricia to Pat, I nodded.  My sister and I were the first two girls in our town’s t-ball team.  We were very bad players (ok, let’s face it, t-ball isn’t really a sport…it’s about learning teamwork!).  The boys didn’t want us on their team, we were clueless (my sister asked why they didn’t sell peanuts at t-ball games) and well, maybe managed a hit every other game and played the minimum.

By the time we were in high school, the t-ball teams were full of little girls.  No longer were girls relegated to swimming, diving, track and other individual sports.  Slowly, “powerhouse” universities started to emerge in team sports for women: UNC for soccer, LaTech, Tennessee and later UConn for basketball, UCLA and later Arizona for Softball, Stanford and now Penn State for volleyball.  Look at your roster now: you don’t have to go to UNC to become a national team member (Ok, Julie Foudy would yell Go Cardinal!).

Your legacy can’t be the same as the ‘99ers.  They fulfilled Title IX.  Your team, your generation has done so much more.  You are risk takers: you went to different schools and created traditions.  You’ve tried so hard to get a women’s league going, again.  You’ve won an Olympic Gold Medal (and let’s face it: I know the World Cup is your sport’s pinnacle, but in so many ways, the Olympic title is much easier understood).  You represent with class, and dignity.  You don’t make excuses.  And you left your all on the field.

You are the next generation.  Your expectations are greater, they should be.  But the world is catching up and that is better for all women.  You captivated a nation during a long summer of divide.  My nephews watched with their sister.  Their sisters pointed out the men didn’t medal, and “the girls won the silver.”  I know I have to attend a few soccer matches in the fall for a pair of 6 year olds who at last check were trying to hit beach balls with their heads.

In a few years, when you ask a 12, 13 or 14 year old what they remember about the 2011 World Cup.  The probably won’t say “You lost to Japan.”  You’ll probably hear about teamwork, not giving up, some crazy headers and how it looked like fun.  And you might hear a story about a kid who picked up the game from watching.

You might not have won a trophy: but you made an impact.  Once again, you reminded young women and little girls that we can do anything.  And you picked up the respect of a few boys for how you played the game, and that is never easy.  And you reminded us all, that sometimes, the struggle is the victory.