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Sunday, June 29, 2003

Root beer flavored throat lozenges are not what I would choose to be consuming under most circumstances, but the lingering affects of this week's cold are still with me, and still more strongly with S.


At least I have lots of food. This week's box from my community supported agriculture program, the Garden Project is filled with great things. Massive beets with their greens (the beets are steamed and marinating in a garlic and lime dressing), a lovely green cabbage (in a cole slaw in one dish; curried in soy milk in another), 4 huge stalks of broccoli (hopefully to be sauteed with garlic, capers, onions, and perhaps sundried tomatoes and served with pasta), mustard greens and giant spinach leaves (stewed with garlic and dried chilies; with a sautee of onions, tomatoes, and spices), romaine and green lettuce (served with avocado and poppyseed dressing), zucchini, lemon balm/verbena (brewed into tea with a little honey), thyme, rosemary, basil, tarragon, majoram, and chives. The hot weather prematurely wilted the gorgeous bouquet of flowers that came with our box (they just didn't last as long after being trimmed and given fresh water as they ordinarily might), but everything else has been in great shape.

My main challenge, being under the weather, is to plan out meals and make them so that I always have something to bring to work for lunch, so that we have some treats that don't require much preparation here at home for our tired evenings, and to avoid wasting anything. I'm working on it.

I the meantime, it's more tea and throat lozenges for me.
posted by Arlene (Beth)4:37 PM

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

I have a terrible sore throat. It came upon me suddenly Monday morning, after a week or so of fatigure that I was sure I was finally beating. By Monday afternoon I was home in my robe, breathing in hot steam from a bowl in a desperate attempt to soothe my breathing passages.

It was misery.

S. came home and agreed, after some mild coercion, to make dinner. I plopped open a cookbook, Sundays at Moosewood, and asked him to make Cape Verde Vegetable Soup, an African soup with fresh okra, onions, garlic, cabbage, tomatoes, limes, and cilantro.

He got off to some false starts. He choose a pan that was too small for the ingredients; he put the spices in the pan before the oil; he didn't heat the oil before adding other ingredients; he didn't gather the ingredients into one spot before starting. He stopped halfway through to remedy this. I coached him just a little, but didn't intervene.

The soup was MARVELOUS. It was just the right thing. The limes and cilantro added just the right touch of sourness and fresh herbal flavor. I had never tried the recipe before, and was pleasantly surprised that it was SO GOOD.

Even S. was surprised. He now perceives all of this as some sort of trick to get him to cook more, observing that (by his estimate) he's cooked for me about once for every 200 or so meals I've prepared.

But I learned something about giving a recipe to someone who isn't used to cooking. There are things I do automatically (choosing the pan, heating the oil, preparing the ingredients in the order they go into the pot, etc.) that people who don't cook very often might not. If I do get around to writing that cookbook for lazy vegetarians, I should probably include a section on that.

But best of all, when I'm miserable with a cold when okra happens to be in season, there's a dish I can persuade S. to make for me that I know will make me feel much, much better. (Note to myself: limit my head colds to when okra is in season. That's probably a good policy, regardless...)
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:50 PM

One evening last week I was biking home after work. I was tired, hungry, and thirsty. I was also hauling something heavy, and was hot.

I stopped at an intersection behind another cyclist, and heard another bike pull up a short distance behind me.

The third cyclist (3C) said, 'Would either of you happen to have a popsicle?'

I laughed out loud. 'I WISH I had a popsicle. It would be just the perfect thing right now.'

3C: 'My boss just gave me a whole case! Take one! I need to give them away, or they'll melt!'

And so he opened the case, handed me a popsicle (which I was so eager to grab I knocked my load off my bike), and moments later I was standing on the curb, my bike parked beside me, my heavy load serving as a convenient arm rest as I merrily consumed a sweet, frosty, blue popsicle.

It was just the right thing.

I LOVE this town and I love bicyclists!

[P.S. I was so happy, but all my coworkers could wonder when I told them this story was whether or not I had been poisoned. They only took some comfort in the fact that the cardboard case had been sealed and the popsicle was individually wrapped. I tell you, the world is going to hell in a handbasket if every friendly cyclist is a potential popsicle poisoning fiend.]
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:34 PM

Monday, June 23, 2003

Food is joy. Food is love. Food is SO POLITICAL.

The previously posted entry about farmer's market's upsetting retail business interests reminded me of the politics of food. Political aspects of food are coming to a head even now here in California. Agriculture ministers from 180 countries (but notably not the ministers from E.U. nations) are attending a promotional Genetically Modified Organism conference in Sacramento this week. (SF Gate)

The EU is not attending, because they have a popular ban on unpopular GMO foods. The US is trying to get the WTO to overturn the ban and force Europeans to buy foods they don't want.

Of course, there are protests. My favorite quotes from the SFGate article above: "Several activists removed sections of the fence around [a community garden] and locked themselves together with steel pipe. Others planted lavender and cactus. The protesters were expected to be charged with trespassing, police said."

I can see the bumper stickers now: "Plant a cactus, go to jail."

My second favorite quotes tell you a lot more, however, about how the industry knows their products and projects are unpopular: "The Agriculture Department has closed the conference to the public and certain events to the media. The press did not receive an agenda until the day before the conference...."


Thoughts about the politics of GMO foods

Food, being a big business, carries a great deal of political clout for those profiting from it. Farmers are paid not to grow certain crops; huge dams are built with taxpayer money to subsidize water for crops that are sold below cost; trade wars are fought over the right to sell grains and other crops abroad; millions are invested in new crop breeding and technologies, resulting in projects like the "green revolution" of the 1970s which promised high-yield crops would eliminate world hunger, and projects like ethanol, a highly subsidized fuel made from corn. Taxpayer money is used to support the sales of American crops, including tobacco, abroad, to the benefit of private companies. Where small farms once employed and fed most people, huge industrial mega-farms run by giant agribusiness corporations now dominate the landscape. While little niche farms still survive, they must compete with multi-billion corporations with many political and contractual advantages.

As farming has moved to a more industrial model, its methods have been more mechanized. More chemicals are used to prevent costly laborers from hand-weeding and caring for plants individually. Standards had to be changed to accommodate the machines: there is an acceptable level of insects parts in processed tomatoes, for example, because the machines don't notice insects. Crop rotations and mixed plantings, which prevent pests from devastating a farm and help nourish the soil, are impractical when all farm equipment is specialized to handle only one crop. Many of these changes to farming result in higher crop yields, but also higher crop losses to insects and higher costs to farmers, who are expected to purchase and maintain expensive equipment and amend their unhealthy soil with expensive additives. (I'll write about this in more depth when I put in a glowing endorsement for the brilliant book Fatal Harvest.)

The latest technological movement, and the subject of the conference referenced above, is to genetically modify foods (the results are "Genetically Modified Organisms," or GMOs). Why? Because we can, and because agribusiness sees many advantages to doing so. They can produce more uniform foods; foods that look more vividly colored (even when they're unripe) to appeal to consumers; can include pesticides within produce, making the seeds worth more and theoretically saving farmers money on chemicals; can make seeds that produce non-seed bearing plants, so farmers must buy new seed every year, rather than saving seeds as they have for millennia; can make foods that are harder and bruise less easily in trucks; and more.

The problem with most of these 'improvements' is that they don't do anything for consumers.

Arlene, how can you say that? I keep hearing about how 'super rice' is going to eliminate world hunger. Don't you support eliminating world hunger?

We've been through this before. The "green revolution" of the 1970s introduced high yield crops to third would countries which were supposed to solve the problem of hunger. Yet these new super crops did NOT eliminate hunger. They were susceptible to diseases, because they hadn't evolved to resist local insects; their yield differed depending on soil conditions; they did not stop the injustices of poverty, war, and politics which had prevented people from getting enough regular food in the first place.

There have been other problems with supposed 'improved' crops. I read of a new corn introduced in Central America that was supposedly superior to its native predecessor. It was not planted again the following year. Why? It took twice as long to cook, and fuel was scarce, so it didn't actually help anyone -- it just traded one problem for another.

According to the United Nations World Food Programme, "There is enough food in the world today for every man, woman and child to lead healthy and productive lives. And yet, hunger afflicts one out of every seven people on earth." The problem isn't yield - it's distribution, influenced by politics, subsidies, war, and now seed patents and attempts to protect the "intellectual property" of patented seeds, including wild seeds that are now being denied to their traditional users.

If we're serious about eliminating hunger, we need to eliminate these distribution problems. We can't engineer our way out of food distribution injustices, as much as we'd like to.

But don't these genetic modifications help the hungry at least a little?

If you look at many of the modifications, they aren't related to curing malnutrition. Having a fruit appear prematurely ripe when it isn't doesn't help the hungry. Making stone hard tomatoes that don't bruise in trucks may prevent some waste, but it doesn't get that tomato into the mouth of a hungry child. And patenting traditional crops, then forbidding 'unlicensed' farmers from growing them, isn't exactly helping the starving, either.

Well, surely the technology is at least helping those of us in the developed world get superior produce.

Ah, so you have a list of your favorite GMO brands that you buy loyally because of their superior taste, texture, and nutrition?

Now that you mention it, I never see any brands or GMO information on foods. So I can't have a favorite, because I can't even tell what is and isn't GMO. Even the Flav'r Sav'r tomato disappeared.

The Flav'r Sav'r was a resounding failure. It's not the only 'wonder food' to be taken off the market. Starlink corn, which is not approved for human consumption, had an uncontrolled spread of its genes, contaminating a significant volume of regional corn supplies. The contaminated corn -- all the corn it was mixed with at processing plants and mills -- had to be destroyed at a cost of millions of dollars. Starlink's makers couldn't control where its product wound up: it had no scientific procedures in place. Rather than instituting new controls, they tried to persuade the food agencies to rush through approval for human consumption, to prevent ongoing destruction of contaminated supplies and massive recalls of corn chips and other corn products.

It didn't work. They couldn't provide the science to back up their safety claims. Nevertheless, I've read that up to 60% of processed foods in the U.S. contain some GMOs, especially corn products (such as corn syrup) and soy (used in many forms as thickeners or protein additives). You're just not supposed to know they are there, so business can avoid the boycotts and failures they've had in Europe.


One thing I fail to understand is the lack of sound science to back these products. If they hold as much promise as the GMO industry claims, they should be able to prove it with independently performed studies demonstrating the superior nutrition, superior purity, and superior environmental impacts of their products. The fact that they have not done so, and have attempted to defeat labeling provisions for their products, suggests that even they fear their products cannot match their promotional claims.


More information is available at:
-Peace, Global Justice and Democracy Movements Unite in Sacramento to Confront the Corporate Take-Over of Food, Communities and the Future (, an organizing page for this week's protests

-Indymedia Biotech, covering the protests (this is an experimental subject-based, rather than region-based, page), including links to webradio specials

-unrelated to the protests but very scientific: The Union of Concerned Scientists' pages on biotechnology, including GMO foods.


A bit more on the labeling of GMO foods: It upsets me to no end that our food industry won't bother to try to prove that Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are safe, and instead tries to hide the fact that they use them. If they were safe and were being created only for consumer good, they would be publicizing their many benefits.

So where are the ads?

In Europe, food standards are more consumer-oriented: food has to be labeled if it is modified, and all-natural foods (drug-free chicken, for example) command better prices and consumer loyalty. Unable to compete with a quality & purity based free market, our industry wants to forbid labeling to make it harder for consumers to know what they're buying. And they want the World Trade Organization to enforce its deception. 'May the buyer beware' was NOT supposed to be the WTO's slogan.

Labeling is a battlefield. An ice cream company was forbidden from truthfully noting that its dairy products were free of bovine growth hormone. Pro-GMO legislators put in language in a house bill that would make GMO labeling ILLEGAL. In 2002 a judge ruled that food products that do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) cannot be labeled GMO-free, because it implies that GMO products are inferior.

Which, from the complete absence of scientific testimonials to the contrary, I suspect they are. (@#$%^&*)!

[The one European report from the toxics group, saying that they did not find GMOs to be "poisonous" was meant to be supportive, but isn't very compelling. How would you like that as your ad slogan -- "new for 2003 -- not poisonous!"]

Isn't it offensive to be told you're not allowed to know what's in the foods you buy and eat? Followed to its logical conclusion, we soon won't be allowed to know whether real or artificial vanilla is used (because of the implication that artificial isn't as good), that products were made in the U.S. (implying that foreign products might not be as good), whether or not products contain products I'm allergic to (because that's my fault, right?). Etc. It's senseless. In a truly free market, we would have CHOICE.

But apparently, when choice doesn't work in the favor of big business, it's a capitalist principle that is quickly tossed aside in favor of the corporate good.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:21 PM

Sunday, June 22, 2003

It's a cool and beautiful, sunny day here in the City I love. Just a few minutes ago I was sitting in the garden, eating fresh mozzarella on thick roma tomato slices with fresh sourdough bread and a sprinkling of minced Greek oregano. Oregano that I planted here.



There's been a lot of "yum" going on here this week. On Thursday, I picked up my first crate of the season from the Garden Project, a local organization that offers decent paying jobs (with benefits) to people who have been in jail and who lack coping and work skills. They plant trees and grow fabulous organic produce for local community organizations and subscribers. Their farm income funds job training and support programs. I signed up to subscribe to this Community Supported Agriculture program. It's a lot like going to one of the local farmer's markets, but more formal: I pay in advance, and they guarantee me a gorgeous crate of food from a list of crops that I already know I like.

(An aside: I think of farmer's markets as wonderful, wholesome, great things. But once, when retailers had more political power, they were considered controversial, because so many middlemen were being cut out of the big markups (sometimes 500%!!) on fresh foods. Here's an article about how our prized local farmer's market was once both political and controversial.)

And my produce is gorgeous. Though the box it filled was bigger than I expected, and I had a hard time strapping it to my bike. But it was worth all the effort of biking up hills to get home with it!

With this first crate, I received: beets bigger than my fist, with leaves as long as my forearm; full heads of broccoli; firm cabbage; huge collard greens; a lush handful of fennel; large fresh heads of garlic with the stalks still attached; ruffled mustard greens; healthy, large spinach leaves; and a lovely bunch of dahlias mixed with sweet peas, which made a lovely arrangement on my table. (They also looked great sticking out behind my head from the top of my bike bag. :-)

Being an herbivore who consumes large volumes of veggies AND someone who loves to support cool organizations that are making life better for people, this is definitely the right organization for me to buy food from! It's so plentiful, fresh, and ultra-local: grown here in the City and nearby San Bruno. All this and it's pesticide-free!


I immediately fried up some collard greens with garlic, which had a lovely, buttery taste. But then I realized I don't usually prepare beets, mustard or collard greens, and I wasn't sure what to do. My relatives, with their southern-style traditional cooking, would only cook greens if some kind of pig ingredient was involved, so I couldn't go to them. I've read that collards are especially great steamed with vinegar. So that can work for me. It also turns out my existing cookbooks have some lovely recipes, which I'll get to try out.

But then I found this: a Madhur Jaffrey mustard greens recipe (BBC) which simmers which includes spinach, chilies, garlic along with the mustard until very tender, and then adds some other yummy things. It isn't fiery or overwhelmingly garlicky: the simmering mellows all the flavors. It's mild and yet quite good.

I recommend that one. I'll make additional recipe recommendations when I have had an opportunity to experiment further.

posted by Arlene (Beth)2:43 PM

Aside from the confusion as to what cow udders are for and which genders of cow possess them, this is the most adorable cow liberation video I've yet seen. (

posted by Arlene (Beth)2:04 PM

Friday, June 20, 2003

Can you tell that I'm switching back and forth from one blog to another, favoring one at the others' expense? I'm sorry. I don't mean to do it. I just start typing, and hours pass, and suddenly one has a long article and the other is outdated.


You MUST try that Tom Yum recipe I recommended. It is heavenly. It is best when you first make it (especially if you've just clipped the cilantro yourself), unlike so many soups that are best the next day. (I save a little bit for the next day, just for science.)


On-line recipe recommendations of the moment: Aloo aur simla from It's potatoes and green peppers simmered with tomatoes and many spices. It isn't as spicy as the recipe sounds, but is quite good. The leftovers are wonderful as well, if you're lucky enough to have any.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:12 PM

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

This morning I got up early, so I could make a lovely soup for breakfast. I even padded out into the back yard, barefoot, in my bathrobe, to snip enough fresh cilantro to make the soup taste just right.

It's tasted more than just right. This recipe for Tom Yum soup from Vegsource is WONDERFUL. Especially if you add a few fresh mushrooms and skip the rice step. It was perfect. It made the house smell very enticing. I recommend it highly.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:52 PM

Sunday, June 15, 2003

I misplaced a soup recipe, and so sought a copy of it online. I didn't find the exact recipe I was looking for, but one just as good in a completely different way: kali dal at It is DELICIOUS. I wound up using a can of garbanzo/chickpeas (gram beans) AND a can of kidney beans, because I could. It works just as well and you can skip the two hours of sitting. I recommend this highly.

Dinner last night also included saag paneer from, though I used tofu instead of paneer (which I find too heavy unless it's extremely fresh). Preparations for this recipe include a puree of fresh ginger root, garlic, and a hot chili pepper -- an eye-watering puree which I just couldn't stop leaning over to sniff. This is a good recipe, and would have been perfect just as it was, but I added a bit of chard (since I was short on spinach), and the chard took over. I won't make that mistake again.

The rest of dinner was rounded out by potatoes in mixed spices (potatoes microwaved 10 minutes covered in water with a half teaspoon of turmeric added; then drained and fried in oil, coriander, and cayenne for about 20 minutes) from 50 Great Curries of India and wild rice.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:36 AM

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Tuesday night, while at home and feeling under the weather, I made my first peach pie of the season.

It is a lovely thing. And since even the firm, mild, barely-ripe white peaches I used have a very profound peach flavor, Steven said he understands why it's a more traditional pie fruit than pears are. Especially the too-subtle 'Asian' pears used for that last pie experiment.

Arlene's peach pie recipe
-enough sliced, fresh peaches to fill your target pie pan
-3/4 cup of white sugar
-1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
-2 tablespoons white flour
-2 pie crusts (upper and lower)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the dry ingredients into each other, then tenderly add to the fruit, stirring thoroughly so all the fruit is well coated. Put the fruit mixture between your pie crusts in a pie pan, and bake about 45 minutes, or until the pie smells REALLY GOOD and the crust is nicely browned.

posted by Arlene (Beth)7:31 AM

If domestic activities are so very much fun, why does Martha Stewart use servants and caterers?
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:21 AM

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

My partner, S., has been away for a week. During his trip, he visited a nursery run by one of his relatives. In addition to hundreds of tiny flowering plants, he brought me some presents.

A brown paper bag filled with fresh garlic, not yet dried, with soft, soft skins on each nearly translucent clove.

Two plastic bags filled with 5 varieties of dried chili peppers.

Four bottles habanero pepper sauce.

He LOVES me!!!

posted by Arlene (Beth)11:48 AM

Friday, June 06, 2003

I was telling a fellow foodie about my experiments with pear pie. He advised me that pears do not make good pies. He said that pears are too wet, and make soggy crusts. He said that if I try to make a pear pie, I should pre-bake the crust to prevent sogginess.

I told him I've made 3 or 4 pear pies, and have had no problems at all with soggy crusts.

He didn't believe me.

Is there some apple pie cult I was supposed to have joined when I mastered that pie some years ago? Or did making apple-cranberry pies disqualify me from membership, leaving me to make good pies that aren't officially authorized?

I'm mystified.

But not about pear pie. It's GREAT. D'Anjou pears had the best taste; bartlett pears had the best texture; so-called "Asian" pears were too subtle to use in my recipe, and came across as sweet but very bland. I'll have to do some additional experimentation if I can find other types of pears to try. And then just keep making the D'Anjou and bartlett pear pies, because they are SO GOOD!

posted by Arlene (Beth)11:59 PM

Tuesday, June 03, 2003


Getting enough to eat during a Bush economy, Part I: General Advice

This lousy economy, which is killing many restaurants in my home town, has me remembering a time just over a decade ago when the economy was also in a seemingly endless downward spiral. I had spent all of my savings trying to get through college, and had to set that effort aside to focus on things like paying rent and feeding myself.

Feeding myself, as you may have guessed, is a habit very near and dear to my heart.

After leaving an unpleasant-but-steady contract assignment, I discovered that there was no other work to be had. Every week or every other week I got a few short notice assignments, none of which lasted more than a day or two (because I work too quickly). That gave me lots of time to comb the want ads and fret, but did not put much money in my pocket after handing over my rent check. While my boyfriend at that time loved to eat out and was willing to subsidize my participation each weekend, I had to keep myself fed the rest of the week on very little cash.

My wallet got thin fast. I had to master eating cheaply. I tried, failed, learned, did better. After some practice, I was spending $12 - $20 a week on groceries during that time period. And I was eating quite well.

Arlene, how were you able to eat for a week on the cost of a hot lunch downtown?

First, you're eating at the wrong places downtown. Second, it's challenging, but with enough planning and time (which in my case came with underemployment) it can be done, and you can get all the nutrition you need. It took some practice, though, because I'd developed some habits while I had a steady paycheck that I could not maintain.

Like what? What bad grocery habits did you have to give up?

They weren't really BAD habits, they were just expensive. I would buy microwaveable snacks, lots of fresh juice, yummy olive spreads from Italy, little containers of yogurt, and many small items that came in packages that cost a lot without meeting my basic needs. You could spend $12 a week on those items alone, and starve. There were things I enjoyed that I would buy out of season, when they were neither at their best nor cheapest. Also, I hadn't shopped around enough to find good places to buy the food at prices I could afford. The two closest places charged much more than little mom & pop stores, so I had to do some serious comparison shopping to stretch my budget further.

So here are the things I learned:

Processed and packaged foods cost too dang much. They really do. If your weekly budget is $16 and juice costs $3 or $4, you sure as heck aren't going to buy juice. Microwaveable foods, frozen dinners, many canned soups, and lots of white-sugar cereals are outrageously expensive. (They are also too salty, and often too high in white sugar.) Canned beans cost about 4 times as much as dried, even though you'll need to spend more time and energy to prepare them -- it's worth it to get four times as much. So the corollary to this is that fresh, unprocessed foods that you prepare yourself are cheaper and so you can eat more of them. I'll make some suggestions on what to buy in a moment.

Food is both cheapest and best when it's in season. I love bell peppers, but am I going to pay $5 a pound for them? No. They can be had for small change when there's a glut of them in summer. Strawberries? They taste kind of plastic in winter, but they are WONDERFUL in summer once prices drop below a buck a basket, because that's when they're ripe here in California. Whenever foods come into season, they become more plentiful and less expensive in the markets. They are also at their best, because they're more likely to be locally grown, rather than having spent half their existence on a truck. Speaking of locally grown:

Farmer's Market foods are ultra-fresh and ultra-cheap! Follow the old folks who have been practicing budget living for years: you can fill a grocery bag for 2 or 3 bucks at the Farmer's Market. The farmers like it, because they get the full price you pay, eliminating cuts taken by produce distributors and stores; the customers like it, because we pay excellent prices and extremely fresh produce. I got to try all sorts of foods that are grown for local immigrant communities which are delicious. And fresh garlic -- have you tried it when it still looks like green onions, before the paper forms that you have to peel off? It is heaven.

Mom & pop green grocers often have great prices, too. The little markets I frequented when I lived in the Mission charged half as much for veggies as the supermarket chains down the street. The grocers on Clement are in fierce competition with each other to offer the best value. While little markets don't have the competitive advantages that come with bulk purchasing power, they also don't have CEOs and middle managers and distribution centers to pay for. They tend to specialize, and offer good deals on the things they sell. I bought my staples at these stores, and got a lot for my money. In some cases, I was even able to buy processed food treats (veggie steam buns or pot stickers, for example) at great prices, because their client base had many other options, and so they had to keep prices attractive. It pays to compare.

Okay, so you've covered where to shop, and what NOT to buy. But I'm no cook. What am I supposed to be buying? How do I prepare it? What if I don't have ANYTHING, how do I start?

You are SO DEMANDING!! You don't have to be a master chef: some very basic cooking skills will do. Let's see...
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:22 PM


Getting enough to eat during a Bush economy, Part II: Things you can eat and how to prepare them

I ate pretty well when I was unemployed, because I did all my own cooking and could only afford fresh, cheap produce. It worked pretty well. I eat many of these things even now that I am more financially secure (pending the next war that costs us each thousands of dollars in taxes and cut services).

Pantry basics: things to keep around:
-canola oil. You can use it for frying, or even baking. It's one of the healthiest oils. There something called "vegetable oil" which is available in jugs from the supermarket, which is a blend of whatever veggies are cheapest. Love your heart: go with canola.

-garlic. This goes well in everything. It adds a lot of flavor for a very low cost. It's also an anti-bacterial, and has many healthy benefits that are slowly being documented and put in little patented, overpriced pills. Don't buy in jars or pre-peeled: do it yourself - it's cheaper.

-soy sauce. You may not need this, but I did. It's for all those stir fry dishes. It can be had cheaply at mom & pop markets.

-tea. This can be hundreds of times cheaper than soda, juice, or other commercially available drinks. It's good. The green ones are especially good for you. Two bags can make a pot that serves you and your friends. There are many kinds, so you won't tire of any one type.

-dried beans. These can be used in bean soup, fresh chili that's better than canned, marinated bean salads, green salads, refried (mashed and cooked twice with a little oil) as a side dish to most Mexican foods, and boiled with rice and a bit of chili sauce. Soak them in a pot overnight or while you're at work: boil them for about an hour, and add sauteed onions, chili powder, or whatever you like. Avoid salt until the beans are cooked: it may make them tough. The same goes for lentils, which you can buy for variety.

-onions. They're cheap, and they're great fried with potatoes, bell peppers, and in stir fries. They're full of vitamins.

-ginger root. This is as flavorful as garlic, good for your stomach, makes a good tea, and makes stir fries very flavorful. Mince and add to any stir fry with garlic, and allow it to soften for a few minutes before adding other ingredients.

-potatoes. Bake and serve with chives, salt, and pepper or sauteed onions; boil and take to work as lunch; bake after slicing it up and tossing it in oil to make lower-oil fries; curry in the microwave with onions and a bit of canola oil; make potato salad if you like vinegar and parsley.

-oatmeal, quick. This is a great, affordable cereal. You may need to buy cinnamon or brown sugar, but you can make this is two or three minutes. I make mine with soy milk and brown sugar. Mmmmm.

-greens. There are many, many kinds of green veggies that stir fry quickly with garlic and are delicious over rice with a little soy sauce. Spinach, bok choy, gai lon, collards, kale, chard... They are also extremely healthful.

-fresh fruit. All sorts of wonderful things are in available. Fresh is usually cheaper than canned or frozen. If you have a blender, you can freeze sliced fruit and later blend it for frosty smoothies.

-pasta. Imported Italian pasta seems especially affordable. You can get 8 servings for less than 75 cents! Serve it with a sauce of your own making in summer (sauteed onions and garlic, simmered tomatoes, and any spices you may have handy, especially basil).

-rahmen. Combined with fresh veggies, there are THOUSANDS of combinations of rahmen that you can eat. Buy it on sale. I especially like to boil the water, and then add sliced onions, sliced boy choy, and sliced bell pepper. This makes a warming breakfast. It's even warmer if you add a dash of cayenne. Rahmen is high in fat, but as part of a balanced diet, that's not a bad thing.

-tofu. Tofu takes on the flavors of everything around it. It's good in stir fries, in soups, in enchiladas, and as a sort of ricotta used to stuff pasta. It's also very cheap - sometimes you can get a few pounds for a dollar, especially if you buy it fresh from a bucket at your grocer instead of sealed in a package. (You can store it in a plastic tub or jar at home covered with water.)

-corn tortillas. These are great with beans of all kinds. Heat them in a dry frying pan to soften. You can make a fresh salsa to serve with them during summer from chopped tomatoes, onions, chili peppers, cilantro, and a dash of salt. You can bake or oil fry sliced tortillas to make chips.

-spices. Dried or fresh basil and chili powder are great. Curry powder increases your options.

So a sample day could feature: rahmen with spinach and onions for breakfast; pasta in tomato sauce for lunch; and chard sauteed with garlic over rice. The next day could feature oatmeal with brown sugar for breakfast; curried potatoes and onions for lunch; and multi-bean chili for dinner. Ginger fried rice; black bean soup; pasta with olive oil (if you can afford it) and garlic; olive oil mashed potatoes with collards; home made nachos with refried beans with salsa; rahmen with gai lon... There are many possibilities.

So this is what I ate during the last recession, and I still eat many of these things now. I can afford more prepared foods, but these are fast, economical, easy, and good for me!

posted by Arlene (Beth)10:20 PM

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