Friday, May 19, 2017


A song on the local independent rock station reminded me of the woes of trying to eat right when time, resources, and skills are in short supply. I can't presume to know the limitations of living in a food desert, but I can offer brief comments about how my contemporaries dealt with life support in the mid-Sixties, before food stamps and government student loans.

I managed my own East Bay household on a grocery budget of nine dollars a week for two. Fortunately, the Berkeley Food Co-op was a short walk away. The informational price labels on its limited inventory noted the cost per pound of usable protein. This was back in the day when animal protein was a big issue.

Analyzed in those terms, bacon costs more than steak. At the time, the cardboard packaging of a box of dry cereal was said to be as nutritious as the contents, so the Co-op recommended oatmeal. Berkeley was a center of nutrition research, and Frances Moore Lappe' had just published her priceless Diet for a Small Planet. The traditional ethnic food combinations she defined, wheat, soy, and sesame and rice, beans, and corn, contained all the essential amino acids of animal protein in forms that are less expensive and easier to store in the absence of electricity or a nearby supermarket. Put simply, those foods are greener. Add flax seed to that oatmeal.

Everyone I knew had their grandmother's recipe file of vegetarian dishes, and LDS students had the advantage of their tradition of food management.

Long experience with the pantry suggests that buying staples in bulk is an effective way to cushion the vicissitudes of daily life. Getting a leg up can be hard. At first, bulk might mean a half a pound of dry beans rather than a can. Storage might mean a glass jar scavenged from a recycling bin. Store in bug-proof containers that no one can gnaw through. You will thank yourself. Add powdered milk to the collection for the most accessible animal protein. Tropical island families of privilege used powdered milk in my day, because shipping fresh was prohibitive.  For the same reason, cabbage replaced lettuce.

Traditional dry stores come to life with an herb or two, some olive oil, and some cheese. Coming up with the scratch for those amenities is an achievement, but a fast food meal is so counter-productive that it might be worth a day on peanut butter to fund the oil. Cook in a thrift shop rice cooker or, ideally, heavy cast iron pot and lid that are coated with enamel. Sharpen the knife on the porous bottom of a mug.

Back in the day, young adults started housekeeping with a full kit. Give yourself a kitchen shower if you're not prepared. The pay-off is immediate -30-

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