Garden Diary

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

from my friend Theresa

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Consumer Food and Real Food

Much of the food that much of the population eats, even when billed as "Home Cooking", is really industrial food, and the way it is prepared and presented often is influenced more by how this can be done more cheaply for the manufacturer and how it positions the manufacturer vis-a-vis its competitors.

This competitive aspect leads to a homogenization of products; if products are very different, it's harder to compare them. A recently published article in The Washington Post makes this point about clam chowder:

Who put the flouwah in my chowdah? The thick and thin of consumer conformity
by Steven Pearlstein

One of my earliest childhood memories is sitting barefoot and shirtless on a stool at a lunch counter a block from the beach in Ogunquit, Maine, gulping down a bowl of clam chowder.

There was nothing particularly special about the chowder — it was pretty much like what you would have found anywhere along the New England seacoast: a generous mound of potatoes, onions and clams sitting in a broth of briny clam juice and whole milk. As often as not, there would be butter and paprika floating on the surface, with a few grains of sand sitting harmlessly at the bottom of the bowl.

Half a century later, however, a summer visitor to New England is hard-pressed to find such authentic chowder. Although omnipresent on menu boards in restaurants and seaside shacks, what passes for clam chowder now is most often a bowl of flour-thickened gruel in which tiny bits of chopped sea clams and overcooked potatoes wallow...
read the rest at The Washington Post.

Similarly, the way food is served is influenced by these financial and business interests. What is a meal? Well, it is a meat, a starch, and a vegetable, as if even in adulthood we were all eating off a divided plate or a TV dinner tray. Of course, a meal can be much more than that, in any number of different dishes; but by conforming our own table to the advertised format, we are easier to sell to. Dare I say, manipulated.

Last night's dinner was black bean empanadas with three different salsas and guacamole. It was delicious, nutritious and filling! Only one of the salsas (the tomato one) was purchased; Laurie made the watermelon salsa and the mango/cucumber salsa, and I made the guacamole. Some of the ingredients were from our garden, which right now has a lot more to do with determining what we're cooking and preparing for dinner than ads or newspaper features. Which has a certain rightness to it, no?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Bishops of England and Wales Reimpose Friday Abstinence

In a surprising development, but one I welcome, the bishops of England and Wales have decided to reimpose the obligation of Abstinence on all Fridays of the year. Currently, the English and Welsh church only obligates Catholics to fast and abstain on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Of course, the general law of the Catholic Church is that all Fridays of the year are penitential days, but each Episcopal conference has been allowed to determine how that should be exercised. In the U.S., there is abstinence on all the Fridays of Lent, with the extra obligation of fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. All Catholics are encouraged to abstain every Friday, but not required.

Of course, many people assume that there is a requirement to eat fish, but that is just because people envision dinner as being a plate with a protein (meat or fish), a starch (potato or rice) and a vegetable. So, if there isn't meat, there must be fish! (Hence the old nickname for Catholics--"Fisheaters".)

Those who have eaten as vegetarians realize that's a very limited menu planning option. There are many ways of arranging a meal,

For all those who are encouraged by this news from England to begin observing meatless Fridays as a penance (my family has also been doing this for many years), I would just like to remind you that meatless does not mean you have to eat fish!

Most of the monastic orders were traditionally vegetarian most of the year, and there are scores of recipes available. The Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches also observe abstinence throughout the year (on Wednesdays and Fridays), and there are cookbooks available. For those looking to take the plunge, here are a few suggestions.

From a Monastery Kitchen: The Classic Natural Foods Cookbook by Brother Victor D'Avila-Latourrette.

Twelve Months of Monastery Soups by the same author.

The Pure Joy of Monastery Cooking: Essential Meatless Recipes for the Home Cook by the same author.

A Lenten Cookbook for Orthodox Christians

A Fasting Cookbook by Rita Hanna, a downloadable Word file hosted by St. George Orthodox Cathedral in Oakland, CA.

Hat tip to Fr. Zuhlsdorf's blog WDTPRS