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This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Good Meal May Solve Any Problem

A handful of creative chefs have been working for years to establish this incipient notion of a positive American food culture -- a cuisine based on our own ingredients [...] However, to the extent that it's even understood, this cuisine is widely assumed to be the property of the elite.  Granted, in restaurants it can sometimes be pricey but the do-it-yourself version is not.  I am not sure how many Americans came to believe only our wealthy are capable of honoring food aesthetic.  Anyone who thinks so should have a gander at the kitchens of working-class immigrants from India, Mexico, anywhere really.  Cooking at home is cheaper than buying packaged foods or restaurant meals of comparable quality.  Cooking good food is mostly a matter of having the palate and the skill. (p. 31)
This passage spoke to me as I read this morning because of the meal we cooked last night.  Actually Hadj cooked it while I tried to calm myself after my tantrum.


I had one of my grand, patented, break-downs yesterday.  The kind which has led Hadj to learn how to "speak Shanaese" which really entails "a lot of patience."  That man can really turn a phrase.  I freak out, and get verbal bulimia; gasping and holding my breath, shouting my realities loudly, then withholding sound for uncounted moments.

Since then, I've regained my composure and found the answers needed.  Left behind is new found understanding of my situation, its causes, effects, my swollen eyes, and a slight headache.  The cause of my breakdown may sound simple, and even ridiculous, to a culture that seems more and more zombie-like in the ways we are trained to ignore our intuition and "suck it up."  I'll stop there, and sidestep the stories of my experiences of other people's energy every day, to tell you that the basic cause of my breakdown was a job.  Not too shocking I suspect.

I took a job, for three weeks only, as a market research "recruiter" in which I ride the Washington State Ferry system for ten hours a day asking the same seven questions to as many people as possible.  I do this for barely any money, because I thought I "really" needed to.  I also feel that I plain old made a couple mistakes.  Mistake number one was reverting to my old behavior of taking whatever I can get as soon as I can get it because I think I must or else.  Mistake number two was allowing myself to be swept into a situation, with people who are desperately stressed, because I wanted to help.

The point I'm coming to, in a somewhat disjointed and laconic manner, is this:  I broke down because I made a mistake and didn't know how to handle the consequences.  I realized this truth and got to the root of my problem.  I am really disliking being away from home for up to fourteen hours a day.  This is largely because it takes me away from all that makes me light up; my creative outlets, my animals, my man, my trees and fresh air and free thoughts.  Coming to these realizations made me again grateful because I remembered that I am one of the lucky ones, truly aware of (and apparently protective of) her blessings.  So, I found peace and hope to keep it as I do what I've committed to.  If really fail at keeping an air of calm and satisfaction while owning to my commitment for a few short weeks, then I must suck up my pride, and quit.  Contrary to all of the "Children you must" stories I've heard in my life.

The background of my breakdown and subsequent realizations is leading to this quote from Barbara Kingsolver's 2007 book of acclaim Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.
A handful of creative chefs have been working for years to establish this incipient notion of a positive American food culture -- a cuisine based on our own ingredients [...] However, to the extent that it's even understood, this cuisine is widely assumed to be the property of the elite.  Granted, in restaurants it can sometimes be pricey but the do-it-yourself version is not.  I am not sure how many Americans came to believe only our wealthy are capable of honoring food aesthetic.  Anyone who thinks so should have a gander at the kitchens of working-class immigrants from India, Mexico, anywhere really.  Cooking at home is cheaper than buying packaged foods or restaurant meals of comparable quality.  Cooking good food is mostly a matter of having the palate and the skill. (p. 31)
This passage spoke to me as I read this morning because of the meal we cooked last night.  Actually Hadj cooked it while I tried to calm myself after my tantrum.  We're notably tight on cash right now and are trying to eat the most good food we can while spending as little as possible.  Our adjustments for the parasite purge diet are helpful because it involves eating a lot of cheap, long lasting foods like cabbage and rice.  I think we spent about $250 for the both of us to eat all through the month of December, including splurges for Christmas feasts at home.  So far, for January, our grocery bill is even more impressive, resting at only $110.  We may have to go out for more greens and peanut butter soon, but I'm still proud of our frugality.

What is the previously alluded to recipe from last night?  It was a dinner of delightful proportions.  We ate spaghetti squash with a pureed beet sauce and home made rosemary bread.  Here's the recipe for anyone who read that and thought yum! (Or even thought, interesting...)  The recipe for the sauce, by the way, is adapted from the book we've been going through by Paul Pitchford.  It's the basic pasta sauce recipe.  I think it could use a bit more of a flavor kick somewhere, perhaps from more thyme or oregano, or another beet.

Sauce of Pureed Beets
serves 2

1 small onion, minced
1 large carrot, minced
1 large stalk celery, minced
1 med-large beet pureed
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 TBL tapioca flour (any rice flour will do)
1 TSP tamari
1 pinch thyme
2 TBL olive oil
2 - 2.5 C water

In a sauce pan, on medium heat, sautee in olive oil until tender: onion, carrot, and celery.  Add pureed beet(s), garlic, tamari, and thyme, stirring.  Add water and stir then stir in flour to thicken.  Allow sauce to simmer until the desired thickness/consistency is reached.  Season to taste.

The sauce was cooked in our trusty plug-in frying pan and the spaghetti squash was microwaved.  (I'm looking forward to a real kitchen, where I can stop "de-naturing" all my food with that microwave, but until then...)  We scooped out the squash guts, filled the holes with sauce and added sliced black olives at the last minute.  It was very yummy and happy making.

The rosemary bread was made in our bread machine (we are rich in some ways) with a combination of tapioca, buckwheat and unbleached white flours.  There is also a quarter cup of flax seed in there.  We meant to have peppercorns in there too, but forgot them.

I only ate half my squash last night and I think the quarter cup of raw rice I've eaten is mostly digested now.  Mmmm...it's time for mid-morning snack.

4 comments:

Laura said...

The sauce might be helped by a sour element, like vinegar or lemon juice. Since it includes tamari, I'd go for something Asian like unseasoned rice vinegar (seasoned RV is sweetened, but you don't need that, with the beets). The only thing about it that doesn't appeal to me is the thyme...I would've gone for cilantro, considering the other Asian elements.

Good luck with your work. Hopefully you can find something closer to home. Unfortunately, money is a neccessary evil...

ShanaRose said...

Sour is a great tip, thanks Laura. The tamari is in there to give more salt, I think, without actually using salt. Since the recipe is for "pasta sauce" I don't think they're going for an asian thing, hence the calling for oregano (which we didn't have, hence the thyme). I think re-mixing it a great idea though.

Hannah Miet said...

I believe in this theory about food. And mmm. Sounds so delicious.

Please, never be intimidated by a ticking clock. Your comments mean a lot to me.

Laura said...

Oh I know it's meant to be Italian, but it could totally be translated to Asian. Maybe a cold "noodle" application with spaghetti squash?