Wednesday, October 27, 2010

WWLID: What would Laura Ingalls Do?

I'm still on a bit of a pioneer kick and as the wind whips against the window panes and the air turns colder, my thoughts are turning to winter, using up what precious fresh market produce I have left and making it last.

While I won't have the burden of hiking through 6 feet of snow to shoot jack rabbits, I'd like to eat an apple in the middle of the winter and not pay $2.39 a pound for a mealy, squishy, overall bad apple. At times like this, I ask myself, "What would Laura Ingalls do?" How would Laura eat an apple in February without one of those big box stores that now roam the high prairie in greater numbers than jack rabbits?

Thus, today was my first attempt at making dried fruit from scratch. No more mealy, squishy apples in winter; no more $4.00 for a bag of air and sulfur dioxide.

Want to try too? It was super easy!
Dried Fruit
Fruit of choice
1 lemon
12 cups water

1. Wash or peel fruit, then pit or core if applicable. Slice larger fruits into thin slices.

2. Soak in lemon water for a few minutes while oven pre-heats at 90-150 deg-F

3. Line a baking sheet with parchment and place in a single layer, not touching.
4. Place trays in oven and wait several hours. Resist the urge to turn up the heat.

5. Let sit out over night (at least 12 hours) before packing away in air-tight containers

Lauren Warnecke, M.S., M.C.

You know you are in good company when a group full of middle aged women in applique vests, young eco-hipsters (like myself), and old men who rent greenhouses for the winter can share a potluck dinner while passing around gifts of worm poo while the mistress of ceremony tells stories about her lifelong passion for compost and childhood trips to the circus to pick up elephant manure.

Last night I proudly and officially assumed the title of Master Composter. So far I think it's safe to say the I've used this title much more than the one for which I owe the US government an ungodly amount of cash.

The MC program was something I did on a whim, but in hindsight it was exactly what I was looking for to engage a change of lifestyle, and perspective. I met new people who are doing incredible things to conserve our resources and reduce waste. Without this program, I wouldn't look at garbage and wonder if my worms can eat it; I wouldn't want to make things from scratch, or clean things with vinegar, or mend old clothes instead of buying new ones.

Humbling, indeed

Friday, October 1, 2010

Living simple is complicated

After returning from a weekend trip away, the cupboard is bare. I always make a point before traveling of using up any fresh ingredients that might spoil while I'm away. But this was a rather whirlwind trip, and it didn't occur to me that (1) it wasn't really long enough for everything to spoil, and (2) there was no time before returning to work to go to the store and replenish the bounty.

As a result, the past few days have been really-creative-meal wise. Determined to eat at home and not order food (having eaten in restaurants for the entire weekend), I was nearly brought to tears standing in the kitchen at 11:30pm on a Tuesday night mashing pinto beans by hand into refried beans (for which I have no salsa or chips) with a red sauce made from frozen tomatoes and a slightly past-peak summer squash on the stove, and a mystery casserole in the oven.

Tears of joy, or tears of pain?

It feels pretty good to take a pantry of nothing and freezer of next to nothing and make four full days of food out of it. It is envigorating to make things from scratch; if I have one goal in life it's to make as many things from scratch as possible. And, I feel as though I could definitely survive an atomic bomb or the apocalypse given my uncanny ability to create a variety of meals from dried beans, rice, chicken, frozen tomatoes and slightly off squash.

On the other hand, no one should be mashing beans after 9pm on a school night.

When people lived in a time where everything was made from scratch they had the whole day to mash beans, churn butter, bake bread, whatever. I, on the other hand, am required to spend eight hours of the day with my butt in a chair and have few precious moments between, say, 8 and 11pm to try and "live simply". I'm not saying I work harder; butt-in-chair is not hard, it's just extremely time consuming.

So what, then, is the point? Why do I do this to myself when I could, with a lot less effort and a roughly equal amount of money, eat a TV dinner every night? It almost feels like in this day and age, living "simply" is less simple than living a technological, busy-body, microwaved life. Why does everyone say "I'm so busy," or "I don't have any time" when we spend SO much time sitting on our butts?