Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Thanksgiving

The local Operatic pizza chain just sent out an inspiring brochure informing regulars about its work with food kitchens. The copy is deeply heartening and reminds me that the idea of a food bank originated in Seattle during the Boeing Depression of the early Seventies.

Before food stamps, federal aid consisted of parcels of agricultural surplus like five pound blocks of yellow cheese, whole canned chickens and tomatoes, one-pound bags of rice and beans, and powdered milk. Each bag included mimeographed recipes for making the most of the free ingredients.

A newly-married friend in graduate school fed her household on Abundant Foods. It didn't take long to realize that the cuisine was soul food pure and simple. It did not differ significantly from Puerto Rican hospital food, the Lenten recipes I learned as a child, or the home chow of the various ethnic communities I encountered living in San Francisco during the Sixties. This approach to food allowed me to feed a family of two for nine 1966 dollars a week. 

UC Berkeley was an epicenter of nutrition training, as was the Berkeley Food  Co-op. Each item on the Co-op's shelves had an informational paragraph alongside the price. The cost per pound of usable protein was noted for each item. Bacon costs more than steak.

Frances Moore Lappe's Diet For A Small Planet had just come out in paperback. From Lappe' I learned grain combinations for gaining complete protein from vegan sources.  Rice, beans, and corn are one. Wheat, soy, and sesame are the other.

From a vegetarian friend I learned that some bodies need meat.

From Michael Pollan, I learned to eat food, mostly plants, and not too much.

That's not hard to remember.

My body is not happy unless I eat beans. Julia Child taught me to keep my companions happy by cooking beans for twenty minutes or so, discarding the water, and finishing the dish with different water. 

An electronic pressure cooker and cheap rice cooker make short work of the traditional recipes of peasant cuisine. A heavy enameled cast iron cooking pot with lid and a sharp knife are the functional minimum.

The ingredients for traditional dishes keep without refrigeration. Fresh amendments and greens are easy to grow and save countless trips to the store. Basic seasonings like dried onion and garlic powder keep well and make the most of unprocessed ingredients.

To round out the menu, buy the best olive oil and smoked pork that you can find. Season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Expand on Lappe's foundation by consulting Luigi Carnacina's Great Italian Cooking and Dooky Chases's work. Cornell University's triple-rich bread formula will spoil you for any other loaf.

Dining close to these fundamentals integrates mind and body, relieves the burden on the carrying capacity of the planet, and generates extra cash.



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