Sunday, February 8, 2009

Leave the eyes in - they'll see you through the week!

It was a joke when I was growing up. "Leave the eyes in, they'll see you through the week", referring to the 'eye' in a potato where a sprout was starting. It was a joke based on the reality of leading a frugal life. My mother did not shop with a recipe in mind; she shopped with thrift. Going to the greengrocer, the butcher, the baker was not a journey of delighting in the senses, random choices and impulse buying; it was a serious journey to stretch the weekly budget and still feed the family well. And yet despite budget limitations, she was a superb cook and a genius at 'stretching' a meal.
The Sunday roast, be it pork, lamb (or more likely mutton) or beef was often the only meat purchased for the week and yet we had meat three or four times during that week. The roast was stretched on a Sunday with the addition of Yorkshire pudding and root vegetables. Monday we often had cold sliced beef, mashed potatoes and gravy for supper and, by Thursday the leftover beef was back on the table as a shepherds pie. Oh, I know a lot of this management of the weekly food budget was dictated by war time limitations and following the war (WW11 that is) with rationing still in effect, the limitations remained but at the same time, the generation of women who learned to cook and manage during those years, never lost a sense of prudence in shopping and meal planning.
A recent study in England where increasing obesity among young people is a concern, revealed that well over 70% of the under forty generation said that they rarely turned on an oven and that they wouldn't know how to make a full meal from raw ingredients. Jaime Oliver, darling of the cooking shows, has been spearheading a battle to introduce seasonal foods and balanced menus into school lunches by developing recipes for meals that do not rely heavily on processed foods. It's an uphill battle with parents slipping contraband potato chips and candies into school back packs to help kids through the day.
Not only are kids refusing to eat fresh vegetables but they can't identify much beyond a carrot! We had a recent incident up at our cabin with a visiting 14 year old. He flat out refused to eat any of the meals my daughter, a terrific cook , prepared - and there was nothing weird - chili, lasagna, mac and cheese, were all on the menu. This kid refused to even try anything and whinged for frozen pizza balls or something equally noxious. (Early on I deflated any interest my kids had in "mystery" pre-packaged foods by reeling off ingredients such as giraffe toes, toad lips and pig snouts - was probably correct on that last one - as we shopped. Must say I got a lot of funny looks). There being none in the cabin and nothing even vaguely related to fast food within 40 mile round trip, his father drove that 40 miles to buy him chicken nuggets! I'm happy to say that my grandsons (8 and 11) recognize and enjoy home cooked meals.
At Connections for Women we are acutely conscious of the number of job losses in our community; of fewer cars in the parking lots; of once popular restaurants close to empty. We know that more thought is going into how, when and where we shop. For some people budgets simply don't exist. Don't have enough in the bank...stick it on the credit card. We're also conscious of how few people really know how to cook. In my north end of Tucson there are many MacMansions with fabulous kitchens that get very little use. Take out, pre-made meals are the norm. We're not advocating a return to the old days of kitchen slavery for women but we are making a stand for home cooked meals.
As a society now, instant is more than pudding! We want everything instant and yet there is nothing more tantalizing than the smell of a soup simmering, a chicken roasting or onions on the griddle. Tightening belts, closing wallets and re thinking spending is becoming a reality. In the next month, Connections for Women will feature some suggestions for 'stretching' the budget and recipes for comfort food . We're going to talk about buying locally; supporting local business and being creative in the kitchen. Get your apron on and join us...and if time is the issue, check out Microwave Gourmet by Barbara Kafka. No time to make polenta or rissottos? Try the recipes in this book for these and other low cost, time-saving, nutritious and delicious recipes.

1 comment:

  1. Great article; very timely, indeed! I am looking forward to next month's budget-stretching ideas, too. Thank you!


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