My parents grew up in The Great Depression (born respectively in 1933 and 1938); you would be amazed at the level of self-sufficiency and frugality one learns in the home of such parents (whose own parents worked multiple jobs, took in sewing, raised animals and tended gardens). I can assure you that to this day nothing goes to waste that I can avoid – I am now 54 and live alone. What’s more, more often than not I have enough to share. I can stretch a $10 whole chicken into multiple weeks’ worth of meals – first roasted, then as sandwiches, for Chicken pot pie, chicken soup, a stir fry, Chicken a la King or croquettes. Even as accomplished as I am at this I recognise that my ability to be successful has some critical factors that start with a love of cooking and a creative home economics streak.
Gwyneth Paltrow unleashed social media frenzy with her less than 1000 calorie a day food choices in conjunction with the $29 a week SNAP challenge this week. And a dear friend of mine took exception the fact that I commented, as so many others have, that based upon her choices she was out of touch with reality. Let me be clear there is nothing inherently wrong with her diet selections – other than being boring, and, as it turns out, insufficient – Gwyneth admits she couldn’t do it. I use the word diet specifically because while I happen to also like kale, and avocado and limes and so forth it appeared to me that she was maintaining her svelte figure rather than actually eating for taste, nutrition and, and oh, pleasure.There are three grocery store options near where I live, two of which opened within the last two years, but is not to suggest that grocery shopping is a leisurely activity. Just as my paternal grandmother used to schlep her groceries home on the infrequent bus transportation of Niagara Falls, NY I have to plan my purchases because I am walking (I took my beloved car off the road for financial reasons). Perishable items and heavy things like milk, yogurt, and the aforementioned chicken require thoughtfulness to purchase (despite fortitude and physical strength I cannot easily carry these home at one time) and I am not trying wrangle a couple of kids in the process.
This morning, after breakfast of 1 ½ pieces of crisp bacon ($0.23), 2 organic eggs ($0.58) as an omelet with a sprinkling of Swiss cheese ($0.14) with a baby Portobello mushroom ($0.18) and a piece of raisin toast with cinnamon sugar sprinkled on it (let’s say that with the organic butter this was $0.20), I was cleaning a four and half pound pineapple ($2.99) and two ripe mangos ($0.79 each) and I was still thinking about Gwyneth and her challenge. More specifically I was thinking about the disconnect between nutrition, access, smart choices, time, and costs – oh yes, and all those in the 1% who would deny their fellow human beings the ability to feed themselves while acting as little better than slavers of a previous centuries.
Like the chicken, my $2.99 pineapple is a perfect example of how far I can stretch things. After trimming the top and the base, the hard core goes into a teapot to become iced pineapple green tea with raw honey. Once brewed the leftover teabags and the core join the rest of the trimmings (and the egg shells) in my food processor which then go into a section of my garden for enriching the soil. The pineapple fruit (usually about 2 full quarts of pieces) has an enzyme which when eaten whole naturally whitens teeth, but it also also a good source of Dietary Fiber, Thiamin, Vitamin B6 and Copper, and a very good source of Vitamin C and Manganese. I also make kale smoothies with it or will make some variation of Sweet & Sour Chinese with a ½ of a pint. The disconnect between my skills and that of the average SNAP user isn’t that I make more money – author’s don’t – but knowledge and time (I am not holding down multiple jobs to make ends meet, nor do I have the responsibilities which come from having a family). If there is a singular point to this blog post is the old adage:
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. ~ Maimonides
We, as a global society (because the problem of hunger is not limited to the United States), need to do a better job of teaching all of our kids the basics of home economics. Breakfast, lunch and dinner should not be packaged foods filled with chemicals and saturated fats. Lobbying groups should not be getting subsidies for their food industry clients but organic Farmer’s and the markets that offer the fruits of their labors surely should.
Some other day I will rant about the sheer volume of food that goes into landfills each year, turning into methane gas that should be either diverted for consumption while still possible or the model of making it a biofuel embraced.
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