It’s not just about wasting. It is that—I’m still one of those people who throws food away and guiltily thinks about all the starving children in Africa (and in our own town) who don’t have enough to eat. I’ll compost things like beet greens and broccoli stalks and think, wow, we are alarmingly wasteful.
But when it comes to throwing away leftovers, I get wrathful. To me food is not just another cheap commodity that can be tossed out on a whim. Food is a process. As the majority of the food we eat was produced by either my hands or the hands of someone I know very well, throwing it away is tantamount to a very deep personal insult. That’s my time that went into the production of that food. My sweat, my blood, my exhaustion and caring and effort went into that piece of broccoli. It’s not something to just be tossed away.
Then add in the layer of processing. With most things, I not only grew it (or paid dearly for someone close to me to grow it), I spent hours chopping and stewing and grinding and freezing and canning it so we could eat it. Canning tomatoes may be relatively “easy”, but it is a vastly time consuming process. I didn’t sit for hours in a boiling hot kitchen packing those fuckers into cans just so they could be thrown away. I didn’t spend hours rolling out pasta so it could be thrown away. I put care and time into doing these things because I care so much about the people eating them. I love my family, so much that it daily breaks my heart. I’m not going to sit back and let them eat pizza all the time. I put all this work into it because to me, this is going to help them live longer. This is the key to keeping them healthy and whole and with me for as long as possible. When I catch myself doing something that seems ridiculous- making an enormous mess while making tomato paste from scratch, for example- I just remind myself of all the people I love who are going to benefit, because this tomato paste will contribute to their well being. Maybe in a teeny tiny way- and I’m sure there aren’t too many people out there who have contracted cancer from eating store bought tomato paste- but each little thing helps.
Each meal I make is a sacrifice from me to them, and each meal is a spell cast not just to keep them healthy, but to tie us together. Those meals are my way of showing how much I love the people in my life. People ask me why I do so much cooking- and yes, I do enjoy it, most of the time. I like coming up with things to make. But that’s not really why I do it. Feeding people answers some kind of base instinct at my very core. If all else was stripped away- if, for some reason, all the things I do for fun disappeared- there would still be feeding people. I would do everything in my power, until my dying breath, to continue to feed the people I love, and to do it in the way that I thought was best going to keep them alive. That is a meal. It’s a bond between people that can’t be broken. And it’s certainly not something you throw away.
It becomes astronomically worse when the food in question is meat. It breaks my heart to throw away food- it shatters it to throw away meat. I haven’t been eating meat for all that long, and I still remember why I stopped. I could not stand the thought of the merciless torture that is the bulk of meat “production” in this country. I still can’t stand it. So all the meat I buy comes from animals I have met. And it is still hard for me, sometimes, to look them in the face and know they are going to die so I can live. And that they aren’t doing it by choice, or for some noble reason, they’re just going to die. I try to repay each and every one of those lives by eating every last bite. It seems the ultimate act of callousness to casually throw away a life. And it is, I believe, at the core of what’s wrong with our society. People ask why, how can these things happen, what’s wrong, what could it be? And then they turn around and so casually dismiss the suffering that takes place daily, in every corner. Millions of animals suffer and die? Oh well, tossed out with the trash. Children in other countries suffer and die to make your shoes and your iPads? Oh well, they’re out of style, throw them away. When that kind of apathy exists on that kind of scale, it’s no wonder these things happen. It’s easy to turn your head when you’re warm and comfortable and there’s always enough of everything.
And it all comes back to that, doesn’t it? We may have enough of everything, but at the moment I have no money. I really don’t. Fortunately for me I store enough food through the summer to get us through the winter at no additional cost. I don’t ever have to be hungry. But when I look at my bank account and see that there’s nothing there, I think of all those who are not so fortunate as to have a fully stocked pantry and freezer. And I swear to myself that none of it will go to waste. That it will all be fully and deeply appreciated, and that I will be grateful for every bite that I am so fortunate to have. And I will do my best to share with others, and never throw away the leftovers, which so many others would long to have.
Those of you who have been reading for a while will remember the au pair chronicles—a serial about how it is that I ended up in Germany and what it was like spending 10 months au pairing for a insanely rich family in Frankfurt am Main. Well, I’ve been busy writing new installments to share with you during operation whirlwind baby. But since a hell of a lot of new readers have become regulars since I first began the series a year ago, I thought I would start by re-publishing the series thus far—both to buy me baby time and to get everyone caught up before continuing the saga. You can find an index of the entire series here. This segment was originally published on January 19, 2010.
Once she got over the shock of the “I’m going vegan” announcement, Janet alternately interrogated (“And you really don’t miss cheese?”) and taunted. She seemed to love to eat, but she didn’t have a particularly healthy relationship with the food on her plate. Every few weeks she would announce—over a bowl of broth and a glass of water—that she was going on another diet. First it was the cabbage diet, then Weight Watchers, then starvation. She would give up in hunger after a few days of each and eventually cycle back through the list after several months.
She wasn’t supermodel skinny, but I thought she looked good. She wasn’t as thin as her daughter (and as she, presumably, once was), but who is after giving birth to five children? There was even a treadmill on the fourth floor, and it sat silent and unused while she fought her way through bowls of cabbage soup. But I was the one with the strange eating habits. Me, the crazy vegan.
In December holiday cookies began appearing around the house. A rare fit of motherly feeling and a promise to bake cookies with the twins got me an afternoon off. In the kitchen again the next afternoon I was trying to decipher a German newspaper when Janet came in to snack on the previous afternoon’s results. She picked up a butter cookie and took a big bite. “Ha ha ha! You can’t eat any of the Christmas cookies!” I have a vague memory of her holding a handful of cookies toward my face while doing a little hopping dance and chuckling. She took another handful and left the room. On the days when she wasn’t taunting me, she would ask me how it was I stayed so thin.
Those of you who have been reading for a while will remember the au pair chronicles—a serial about how it is that I ended up in Germany and what it was like spending 10 months au pairing for a insanely rich family in Frankfurt am Main. Well, I’ve been busy writing new installments to share with you during operation whirlwind baby. But since a hell of a lot of new readers have become regulars since I first began the series a year ago, I thought I would start by re-publishing the series thus far—both to buy me baby time and to get everyone caught up before continuing the saga. You can find an index of the entire series here. This segment was originally published on January 18, 2010.
When Janet wasn’t behind her desk, she was wiping the stainless steel counters in the kitchen. The illusion of activity. Wipe the counters so you don’t feel guilty about paying someone else to wipe the toilets, the floors, the windows, and her children. Before lunch, I could often be found behind one of these counters drinking espresso after espresso in preparation for the afternoon of play. Anna would be behind the stove preparing lunch, and Janet flitted around sponge (or coffee) in hand.
That afternoon, we were talking about vegetarianism. I had come to Germany a vegetarian, which Janet seemed to find shocking and exotic. I had gone vegetarian about a year before, after reading Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation. I had been reading La Ninja’s PETA magazines since I was eleven and was horrified by the images I saw there, but I had always been partial to meat and had never felt like any action I could take would mean anything. Schlosser’s final chapter gave me a little pat on the back and said “Individuals can change things.”
So I decided to give up meat, to try the “vote with my dollar” approach to protest. I didn’t like the way animals were treated throughout the factory farming process, and I didn’t like the way that the humans working in the slaughterhouses were treated. Classic reasons for going vegetarian I suppose. But there was something else that bothered me even more so: a feeling of disconnection. At the grocery store I could buy a piece of beef in a sterile Styrofoam bed and never be even remotely reminded, or connected to, the fact that this plastic-wrapped piece of flesh had once been a part of a wet-nosed cow. I didn’t see anything morally wrong with the concept of eating meat, but I saw something terribly wrong with being so disconnected from the life that gave me life.
At the time I was certain I would eat meat again one day (a day which arrived in 2011). It was largely an exercise in appreciation, in reconnection to the real (and by that I mean physical) world. Could I have killed a fish? A cow? A pig? I didn’t know, but these were things I wanted to think about before eating another hamburger.
Back in the kitchen, behind the stainless-steel counters, Janet was telling me about an article about various kinds of vegetarianism that she had just read. “Apparently there are people called vegans who don’t eat any cheese at all,” Janet informed me, shaking her head. “I couldn’t imagine that. No cheese!” She shook her head again.
The night before I had finished reading Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating by Erik Marcus and had decided that as a vegetarian, I was doing a pretty half-assed job at boycotting the meat industry. Who do you think owns the milk and the cheese companies? I had never thought about it before, but—big surprise—it’s the same companies factory farming meat. I had been kind of nervous about breaking the news to Janet (part of your payment as an au pair is room and board, so I needed to inform her). Here was my chance.
“Actually, I was thinking that I would like to become vegan,” I said quietly, looking into my espresso.
“WHAT?” Now, I don’t like to use all caps much in my writing, but this was an all-caps response. “Are you serious?” She was obviously agitated.
“Yeah, well I just finished reading this book, and well…”
“Oh my god, I can’t believe this. Did you hear that Anna? This girl is crazy! No cheese! None!”
“It doesn’t have to be a big inconvenience. If we’re eating something for lunch that I can’t eat I can cook something for myself.”
“What about milk?”
“No. No dairy products at all.”
At that moment, Jens came into the kitchen. It was the rare afternoon that he joined us for lunch. “Jens, Nikki just told us that she’s going vegan.”
“ARE YOU FUCKING CRAZY?!” He actually said that, exactly that, in English. When I tell you these stories, I’m translating all the dialogue. Just imagine little subtitles playing under people speaking German as you read. Except for this moment, which he both translated and yelled. I wasn’t expecting it to be such a shock, but the Cole’s couldn’t imagine their lives without cheese or apparently even sharing a roof with someone willing to go without it.
Food has gotten complicated in the last fifty years. Additives and chemicals and by-products have slipped into much of our food supply without notice and with a number of side effects that don’t seem to be working out well for our health. But however you eat, whatever you eat, whether you are vegan or vegetarian, into macrobiotic or into GAPS, into eating locally or organically or consider yourself a real foodie, I believe that the most important element of our food choices is consciousness. Putting some thought into what we eat and learning to listen and respond to our bodies is always a good idea.
I was a health-conscious eater before getting pregnant, and Peanut has only exacerbated the tendency. And yet there are still days when I am too tired to cook more than a bowl of ramen. This made me feel guilty at first. How could I eat such packaged crap that barely deserves the name “food”!?! How could I know what I know about packaged crap food and still eat it?! And while pregnant??!! But sometimes exhaustion wins out over perfect nutrition and just managing to get by is enough. When I realized that despite the occasional ramen lunch or frozen cannelloni dinner I eat pretty damn well, I managed to let go of that guilt. Perfectionism is over-rated.
As many of you have landed at Click Clack Gorilla through real food blogs, I wanted to have a conversation about real food and pregnancy and to share a fairly successful real food day in the life. A warning and an apology to all my vegan and vegetarian readers—this post contains a lot of dairy and meat—though I have to admit it’s not emblematic of my eating habits at the moment, but rather during my second trimester. These days I only find myself craving meat once or twice a week, and instead have been chugging milk like I’m getting paid for it. I generally feel my best when I’m eating heaps of vegetables, both raw and cooked, and I seem to be back in that pattern now.
keeping it real: pregnant and hungry
Breakfast: Oats, sunflower seeds, and grapes in raw milk, with a glass of raw milk on the side. (Now in the third trimester, I’m up to a liter of milk a day. Whoa.) Real food faux pa: Hardcore raw foodies soak (or sprout) grains before eating, if they don’t cut them out of their diets completely, because of the phytates and enzyme inhibitors present in them. Soaking grains (and legumes) beforehand is said to maximize their nutritional value. With variations in the fruit, this is my staple breakfast.
Lunch: This is one of my favorite “fast food” meals: Savoy cabbage, bacon, and eggs, all cooked in bacon fat with a little butter. During my second trimester I craved meat constantly, and I satisfied the urge, more often than not, with bacon, it being so quick and easy to prepare.
Late afternoon snack: I love onions. I love them so much that I have one tattooed on my leg. And I love this variation on spring onions best of all, when it comes to a side dish or an afternoon snack. Preparation is easy: cut off onion roots and any dead leaves, place them in a hot pan with a thick layer of olive oil, brown them, add a few splashes of water and brown them some more. Sprinkle in a bit of salt and pepper to taste and mmmmmmmm.
Dinner: After onions, savoy cabbage may be my favorite vegetable. Beside it I have an ear of corn and a salmon filet baked beneath a heap of onions, butter, garlic, and a dash of soy sauce. (Though I believe soy sauce is probably another real food faux pa.)
And a cob snail for dessert.
What have your pregnancy diets looked like? Any easy real food suggestions for the expecting?
Every winter I write about Dragon Slayers. And every winter they keep me from getting sick at least a couple of times (or help me get better asap). When it comes to curing and preventing colds, you could take vitamin C in a tablet made of who knows what from who knows where, or you could take advantage of the magical healing powers of lemon juice, garlic, and chili powder. I promise that it doesn’t taste as gross as it probably sounds.
You can read last year’s post about Dragon Slayers here. Or you can just check out the recipe below, and tell me all about your own diy home remedies in the comments—I’m always looking to expand my arsenal. Here’s to not getting sick this winter.
The Dragon Slayer
1/2 fresh lemon
1 medium-sized clove garlic, minced
a dash of chili powder
Squeeze out the lemon and place juice in a small cup. Sprinkle in minced garlic and top with chili powder. Down in one go and marvel at the force of nature that is vitamin c mixed with garlic and sweet, sweet (spicey) chili.
I always feel extra great when I can intercept a useful item before it lands in the dumpster. I dream of a world where grocers put out all of their throw-away food for people to take home with them. Wouldn’t that be beautiful? A world with fewer dumpsters and more free boxes? Yes, yes it would. *Eyes glaze over with daydream juice.* And now let’s get back to the real world, where unthinkable amounts of edibles are tossed every single day and grocers defend their edible trash with padlocks and legal charges.
I’ve been anxious to get back to dumpster diving lately—it’s been a good six months since I’ve been out (and it’s been a good six months since I’ve been pregnant, no coincidence there). And now I find myself wondering if I’m even going to be able to fit between the space between roof and fence at my favorite spot with this beach ball beneath my ribs. Let alone whether I’ll have the balance to climb a fence at all, or the energy to stay up past ten pm. So instead of pining for dumpster booty this week, I got back into an old habit and a great way for folks a bit too wary to root through any trash but in need of free eats: I went to the farmers’ market and asked around for leftovers.
If you’re the shy type, you might feel a little nervous about doing this at first, but usually the folks behind farmers’ market stands are kind and friendly. At this point I know which stands give and which stands don’t, but when you get started, you just walk around asking if that stand has any discards that they would be willing to give away. Of course many people say no, but no one has ever been rude. Beggars at farmers’ markets are standard, and you certainly won’t be the first person that has ever asked them for leftovers. Though a lot of stands don’t give—many feed their extras to their livestock—enough always do to keep us in produce for at least a week. As you can see from the picture above.
Nine years ago I was a meat eater who subsisted largely on frozen hamburger patties that I cooked on my George Foreman grill. Later that same year I transitioned into pescatarianism (translation: a vegetarian that eats fish), then later became a vegetarian, a vegan, and finally returned to vegetarianism and then omnivorism (this time without the icky frozen burgers or the Foreman grill). I’ve learned a lot about nutrition and a lot about my body, but the most important conclusion that I’ve come to is that dietary choices are far too loaded and far too complicated to get judgmental or preachy about.
What you eat is intensely personal. You are made of what you eat. You have an intimate relationship with your food. Your food will see parts of your body that you will never glimpse. Your food is the reason you are alive. And every single body is different. Every body can handle some things better than others, or in different quantities, in different combinations, at different times. It is absolutely absurd to start talking about The One True Way when it comes to diet. And yet it seems to be one of humankind’s favorite topics to preach about. These days everybody is trying to sell you their own One True Dietary Way. Well, harumpf!
As you’ve surely noticed, scientists are constantly “proving” that something new is the Best Thing Ever or that something old Is Going to Kill Us All. With that sort of track record I see no reason to trust most of what I read on the subject, and when you stop to consider how easily statistics can be manipulated (or look into who’s paid for a study), well, you can throw a hell of a lot of “science” out the hatch.
There is some scientific evidence that I believe of course. When I hear that you can prevent scurvy by getting enough vitamin C, for example, I believe it because the science to support it has held out for quite a few years and because The Vitamin C Company did not pay for the studies to prove it. In fact, those are two questions I try to ask myself whenever confronted with new scientific evidence. How long has this information been around? And who conducted and paid for the research? (Another question that often comes soon after is how many studies from diverse sources have been conducted on the subject?)
In making my own dietary choices I combine what trustworthy scientific knowledge I can get my hands on (and I love to read about nutritional stuff, even if I can never remember the names of all the nutrients I’ve learned about to tell anyone about later) with my personal experiences with food. Am I right? Am I wrong? There’s no way to really tell for sure, but when I feel great, then I usually assume that I am on the right track. When it comes to choosing between believing my body and believing what a stranger has written on a piece of paper, I usually believe my body, and I think that you should too.
what is real food?
Real foods are whole foods. Foods that have not been industrially processed or fortified or refined. In her book Real Food for Mother and Baby: The Fertility Diet, Eating for Two, and Baby’s First Foods, Nina Planck defines it as follows: “Real food is old and it’s traditional.” What she means is that “real” foods are foods that humans have been eating for thousands (if not millions) of years. Raw diary products, the meat of animals who were not fed strange things like soy feed or bits of other animals, eggs, berries, nuts, leaves, and honey are all “real” food. (I keep putting the “real” in real food in quotations because it seems so ridiculous, almost redundant, to put those two words together. But when I think of what resides between the aisles of the Western world’s supermarkets, I am reminded that the distinction has become necessary. So I’ll cut it out with the quotation marks already.) By “traditional” Planck means foods prepared as humans have been preparing them for thousands of years (for example not pasteurized or powdered, but taken as is or prepared through processes like fermentation), before the intervention of factories.
The concept that eating real foods is good for me feels like a no-brainer. Of course eating an apple I picked or an egg from one of our chickens is better for me than eating something with an ingredient list I can only identify or even pronounce a quarter of. And the fact that thousands of years of human experience has shown us that these foods works makes me feel better than the latest study by Dr. Whoever does, tell you what. The arguments for eating real food appeal both to my logical and my instinctual sides. And they fit well with my growing interest in eating locally, eating organic, and thinking about a diet that could sustain me if all of a sudden the entire industrial complex fell apart humpty-dumpty style and I had to fend for myself. So there you have it: the abridged versions of Nikki’s Thoughts on Food and How My Diet Became What It Is Today, as well as The Reason I Am About to Recommend This Really Neat Book.
real food for mother and baby by nina planck
When I got pregnant my interest in what I was eating and why surged again in a way that it hadn’t since I’d first become a vegetarian. So, spurned on by my interest in whole foods, I ordered a copy of Nina Planck’s book Real Foods for Mother and Baby. And I absolutely loved it. Planck is matter of fact and unapologetic. She’s not finicky about local or organic, but about health and taste. She supports her position with scientific evidence, but she’s open-minded (the book is geared toward a diet including meat, but she always lists options for a vegetarian or a vegan to attempt to get the same nutrients) and very practical (which made me really love her advice about babies’ first foods). And she’s not afraid to admit that she makes exceptions herself—for the occasional pie with white sugar and white flour or a snack for a hungry and disgruntled toddler while out and about, for example.
Her perspective on food and dietary decisions, in fact, sometimes reminded me of my own. Take a look at this passage: “Recently, journalists, foodist, think-tankers, and the classes who chatter have gotten very excited about local and real food. A favorite story line goes something like this. This food is great! But it’s too expensive. And there are too many choices! People are terribly confused. Is organic better than local or the other way round? The same story runs again and again. I recommend you don’t read these articles. Once you have the information you need about food, there is no correct answer. There is only your taste and your point of view. Here’s mine.” I love me a non-fiction author willing to admit that theirs is not The One True Way, that even non-fiction is full of a lot of bias and opinion. And I love her writing style. Here is a book choc full ‘o facts and figures and charts, and it read faster than a sleezey romance novel. Here here, Nina Planck, here here.
Above all, Planck’s message is easy to understand. Unlike most of the dietary advice for pregnant women out there. Most of that advice speaks of numbers of servings of various nutrients and vitamins instead of in concrete language that is easy to understand at a glance. But not Planck. Her advice is some of the most concrete and easy-to-swallow that I have read so far. Take her break down of your needs by trimester: “You have about forty weeks to build a baby. Since we’re all steeped in the language of trimesters, let’s assume it happens in three acts. Your baby’s parts—her tiny liver, lungs, toes—are made of micronutrients called vitamins, so you hardly need to eat anything extra in the first trimester. Just eat well. If that’s difficult, take well-chosen supplements. You baby’s structure—his bone and muscle—are made of calcium and protein, so have plenty of both in the second trimester. You baby’s brain is made of fish, so it’s important to eat plenty of seafood at the end. Of course you’ll want to eat well all the while, and this cartoon of fetal development is certainly oversimplified. It may seem silly at first, but there is logic in it, and it worked for me.”
Many folks, particularly vegan folks, do not like Nina Planck. This is in large part due to an article she wrote for the New York Times a while back about a vegan couple who, having decided to feed their baby exclusively on soy milk, wound up with a dead baby. Planck wrote about why soy milk isn’t an awesome choice of baby food and how it is tragic that the parents didn’t have that information. Then her editor gave the article an offensively reactionary title along the lines of “Stupid Fucking Vegans Kill Baby with Soy Milk,” and vegans everywhere started cursing her name. But Planck addresses the issue (both of the article and of soy as a first food for babes) in Real Food for Mother and Baby quite adroitly and having experienced the meddling of editors myself, I for one am prepared to forgive her and order all the other books she’s ever written.
I learned how to make sauerkraut patties (essentially vegetarian burgers) from the lovely people down at Camp Mainusch. Soon I will use them to take over the world. Once properly aged (hardened) they also make good frisbees/hand grenades. This is also one of the most flexible recipes of all time, and every single one of the ingredients involved is incredibly cheap (plus the flexibility means you can use it to make use of whatever you have around). Once you get the basic idea there is no end to the patty flavors you will be able to make, and sauerkraut is one of the healthiest foods there is. These are instructions for my standard sauerkraut patty.
>sauerkraut (one or two bags, yes you can purchase sauerkraut in bags, but probably not if you are in America, here in Germany a bag is about 40 cents)
>oats (the amount will depend on how much moisture you’ve got in your patty dough)
>a few pinches of the flour of your choice (optional, but can help with the consistency, I usually leave it out)
>salt/pepper/garlic/spices of choice
>onions (optional, despite their high super-hero factor)
>grated zucchini/carrots/other grate-able veggie (also optional)
>beans or whatever else you have around (lentils, sunflower seeds, quinoa, or crushed nuts all work well)
>your frying oil of choice
Fry the onions and the beans (if using) until the onions are browned and the beans softened. In a large bowl, combine the sauerkraut, grated veggies, onions, beans, and spices (salt, pepper, garlic, and curry paste, if you’re me most of the time) with a few handfuls of oats. Keep adding oats and pinches of flour until the mixture reaches a consistency just sticky enough to form patties that do not fall apart in your hand. Heat up a generous amount of oil in a frying pan and fry patties until browned on both sides, adding oil as necessary. Wa-la! You are finished. Commence to gorge.
Disclaimer: The Beard and I attempted to make these in the United States, but could only find sauerkraut in a can, AND IT WAS AWFUL. So awful that we, dumpster divers both, actually threw away the whole bowl of dough and started again sans kraut. You have been warned. There ain’t no kraut like Kraut kraut.
Further disclaimer: Sauerkraut patties will not actually save your life.
Once upon a time last fall, the Beard and I spent two months traveling around America. Once upon a time a little while after that, I started to relate the entire saga on Click Clack Gorilla. And then I got distracted and wandered off. When I left off the tale (you can read the last installment here) we had just arrived in Nashville and were killing time before meeting up with our couchsurfing host.
There exists a faction of people who react very negatively to the idea of couchsurfing. They tell you that couchsurfing is dangerous. They tell you that couchsurfing is going to get you murdered. They tell you all of the things that everyone has said about anything considered dangerous/taboo that involves strangers since the beginning of time. I reckon that there is a small risk involved. But the beauty of being welcomed into the home of a stranger and showered with kindness is enough to restore even a shriveled old misanthrope’s faith in humanity in a matter of hours. And that’s worth a little risk to me. That and not having to sleep on another roof, but that’s another part of the story entirely.
Our couchsurfing host in Nashville was one of those heart-warmingly kind strangers. He gave us a comfortable place to sleep, he shared our meals, he carted us around town, and he took us for a coffee between the stone pillars of Nashville’s own Parthenon (did you know Nashville has a replica of the Parthenon just hanging out in a park? Because I didn’t). He was one of the kindest, most cheerful people I have ever met. But this story isn’t about him. It’s about his friends’ trash.
His friends, he told me in an email last week, had been dumpster diving at a Whole Foods Market out in Arkansas, and they came back with a truck load of booty: granola bars and breakfast bars, soy milk, juice, nuts, a huge box of goats milk, soap, and a wooden rack for chips that they’re going to use as a bottle drying rack. What a score.
And yet, no matter how much joy dumpster diving gives me, no matter how much adrenaline those folks’ blood was probably pumping with after that haul, I can’t help but feel a little sad. Because why the hell was it in the trash in the first place? Still?! People have been discussing the massively wasteful habits of western culture and specifically it’s wasteful practices when it comes to food for the better part of a decade if not longer and STILL we have truckloads of good food in the trash. Six cheers for these folks for taking it all out of the waste stream. A hundred lashes to all the supermarket chains and, while we’re at it, industrial ag distribution systems, that just keep filling it up.
a side note
I don’t want to leave you all hanging on the America travel story, should there be interest. So tell me what you think. Should I restart the America-travel saga where I left off? A teaser for your consideration: We hitch hiked to a bluegrass festival in Kentucky on the back of a pick-up truck, spent a night in the Smokey Mountains, slept on a barside rooftop in North Carolina, frolicked among the corn in Iowa, attended two weddings, and briefly strolled through New York City, just to brush the surface of what is still to come. So let me know if it’s yey or neigh down in the comments.
It’s summer. The air is hot and sticky, and the daylight stretches out like a cat until it’s almost ten o’clock. It is not the time of year for hot soups. Yet it is the time of year for asparagus, and one of my favorite asparagus dishes is spargel suppe mit fladle, which is Swabian (Schwäbisch) for asparagus soup with strips of pancake. It’s delicious (I’m spooning down my third bowl between sentences), and it’s a recipe that was born of a desire not to waste a single ounce of a vegetable you’ll only see once a year. So when the Beard proposed making it, I interrogated him on his methods so that I could share the recipe with you.
In America, I was used to eating green asparagus, and it wasn’t until I moved to Germany that I was introduced to its albino cousin. As white asparagus is grown underground to prevent it from taking on any color, it also develops a slightly woody peel that needs to be removed (by potato peeler or knife) before cooking and inhaling. Which is a big frickin’ waste, if you love asparagus and want to get the most out of the fruits of a relatively short growing season. (And in Germany the only place you’re going to find asparagus once the season is over is looking pale and sickly in a glass. This is a country that takes seasonality seriously. Or at least more seriously than America.)
This simple recipe uses the asparagus peels to create a broth that you then fill with bits of asparagus, spices, and strips of pancake. Though you do need to throw the peels away after the first step, you can be sure you’ve gotten just about all the nutrients out of them first. So without further rambling, here is the recipe:
oil or fat of whatever sort you have around
spices (salt, pepper, parsley, and whatever else you have around)
Step one. Peel your (white) asparagus. Places the peels in your soup pot, and the peeled bodies in a bowl or pot of cold water so they don’t dry out before you need them. Fill your soup pot of peels with water and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let soak for as long as you have the time to wait. The longer the brew soaks, the more flavor you’ll have in the broth. A half an hour will do if you’re pressed for time.
Step two. Filter out the asparagus peels with a colander spoon, and throw them on the compost. Cut up peeled asparagus bodies and place in broth, along with a few tablespoons of the fat of your choice. Bring to a boil again, adding seasoning to taste (the Beard used salt, pepper, and parsley).
Step three. Make pancakes. Roll up pancakes and slice into thin strips. Add strips of pancake to the soup once served.