Friday, September 28, 2018

Old School Chow

I inherited several early twentieth century cookbooks and used to amuse myself in the Fifties by reading improbable recipes aloud with a neighbor girl. Time and experience suggest that those early cookbooks record the agricultural lifestyle of the continental breadbasket before rural electrification. As late as the Seventies there were areas in Western Washington that still had no electrical service.

I've had the privilege of living off the grid for a total of nearly a year, through all seasons. Grocery stores were twenty miles away, at least. Managing the meat and dairy supplies took planning, skill, and many consultations with my grandmother, who had been born in a for-real homestead log cabin. Life in 1966 Berkeley with its emphasis on vegetarian and Mediterranean food supplemented family recipe files for Lent and the rest of the calendar year.

Presumably, the cookbooks' numerous "receipts" for all-vegetable dishes cooked to varying degrees of doneness are a knowledgeable response to using garden produce in its many stages of life. What look like unnecessarily elaborate and over-rich side dishes like nut loaves and soy patties substitute easily for a meat course that might be missing because no slaughter had taken place. Even rich desserts like layer cake are heavy in animal protein and fill a reasonable nutritional void for someone who does heavy labor all day.

This is the time of year I plan what to stock in the pantry over the cool months. Since I began to have almost all of the food supply delivered, it's easy and natural to revert to the food ways that are part of the original supply system for this 1890 house. A hidden benefit of the old way is that the food supply is protected from power outages -30-

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