Sunday, January 1, 2012

Food Revolutions for 2012

Photo credit: Chris Chapman

Yes, yes, I know.  The word is resolutions.  But when I was in college, I had a roommate who used to confuse those words on a regular basis, and I always kind of liked the idea of creating a little revolution in my own life at the beginning of each new year.  One of the reasons I stopped making resolutions several years ago is that I noticed most people (myself included) tend to make the same ones every year–lose weight, save money, whatever–which seems to suggest that resolution-making isn’t really the best approach to revolutionary change.  Either that, or they make resolutions over which they have little or no control, when it comes to making them happen:  this will be the year I find my dream job, this will be the year I find my life partner.   Focusing your energies on things over which you have no control is, in my opinion, a recipe for disaster.

So, this year, I’m going to create a small food revolution in the Foodie household that is entirely focused on things I can control.

1.  Better breakfasts for The Girl.  To say she is not a morning person would be putting it mildly–over this Christmas break, she mostly stayed up until the wee hours of the morning and slept through the rest of it.  So, during the school year, it’s a challenge to get her out of bed in time to get dressed, much less in time to eat breakfast.  This year I’m committing myself to finding healthy, portable breakfasts that she can take with her as she flies out the door in the morning–things that don’t include peanut butter or raisins, two of her least favorite foods.  My hope is that this will encourage her to eat less junk food later in the day.  (Once your kids have friends with driving privileges and money of their own, it’s hard to regulate their junk food consumption.)

2.  Better snacks for The Boy.  Like all teenagers of the male persuasion, The Boy eats constantly.  I rarely keep junk food in the house,so he isn’t snacking on chips or soda (because, thank heaven, he  isn’t driving yet,)  but I’ve started to think that I might as well use his eating energy to its full potential.   An apple is a good snack, but is it the best we can do?  That’s what I’m going to find out this year.

3.  More meatless meals.  We actually like a good number of meals that don’t include any kind of meat, but I haven’t really made an effort to include them in our menu on a regular basis.  Rather than aiming for Meatless Mondays, I’m going to make a more general commitment to putting a meatless dinner entree on the table once a week.

4.  Try new things.  I used to receive a weekly box of goodies from a local company that delivers organic produce from local farms.  That’s how I discovered that I like escarole, and purple hull peas, and dragon tongue beans.  Unfortunately, that delivery just isn’t within our budget anymore.  And, left to my own devices, I don’t try as many new things as I might–mostly because I’m afraid I won’t like them, or I won’t know how to prepare them.  But, as I’m always telling the Foodie children, you’ll miss out on a lot of good stuff if you aren’t brave enough to take some chances.  This year, I intend to take more chances on new produce.

5.  Less waste.  I admit that I’m terrible at meal planning.  I tend to go the grocery store and see what looks good, planning meals on the fly as I shop.  But then I get home, and either the meals I’d planned lose their appeal, or they’re interrupted by new plans that make use of only half the ingredients I purchased–or, as is often the case, I forget what I’d planned (and what I put in the vegetable crisper.)  I know myself well enough to realize that committing to writing out a meal plan just isn’t realistic.  It won’t happen.  I can, however, commit to emptying out the vegetable crisper each week (except for longer-term keepers, like onions and garlic and potatoes), and to using the meat I purchase, rather than throwing it in the freezer where it’s certain to wind up freezer burned and, eventually, discarded.  Those two things, by themselves, will take care of a vast majority of the waste in the Foodie household.

And now, while we’re on the subject of resolutions, may I suggest two very small things for you, Foodie faithful?

1.  Grate your own cheese.  That white stuff you see on pre-grated cheese at the grocery store is sometimes corn starch, but it’s sometimes food-grade silicone.  Either way, the cheese you purchase in bags is dried out–that’s what keeps the shredded pieces from sticking together–and it won’t melt as smoothly in whatever you’re making.  Do yourself a favor and grate your own cheese this year.  It take less than three minutes.  I’m not estimating here, I’ve actually timed myself.  Grating an eight-ounce block of cheese has never taken me longer than that.  And freshly grated cheese really does taste better.  I promise.

2.  Chop your own veggies.  My grocery store offers chopped versions of many vegetables.  Carrots?  They’re already in sticks.  Onions?  They’re already diced.  Celery?  Diced or in sticks, whichever you prefer.  Etc., etc.  But these chopped versions are always much more expensive, never organic, and–let’s face it–they’re the reject vegetables.  No one is chopping up the veggies that look marketable to consumers.  And while there’s nothing wrong with them, in the sense that they’ll cause you bodily harm, I’m a big believer that buying the chopped versions of vegetables changes our relationship with our food: they make us forget that what we’re eating are plants that someone took the time and effort to grow, and someone else took the time to harvest–often for very little pay, but always so you and I could have them for dinner.  Use the little bit of time you spend chopping your veggies to say thank you to the farmers who nurture them from seed, and to the farm workers who make our lives so very simple.   These are the invisible parties in our food lives, without whom none of us would be having dinner tonight.

Happy 2012 to all.  Let’s start a small, peaceful, but noteworthy food revolution.



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