Tag Archives: women

To Feed

4 May

A few months back, I had an essay contemplating fertility and motherhood on The Nervous Breakdown. But when I initially conceptualized that essay, it had a much stronger agricultural connection than the final version. In light of recent posts here about parenthood and feeding our children, I thought I’d resurrect some of the scraps of that essay into a short, meditative post on motherhood and feeding.

In describing the sand dunes in the desert in her book, Refuge, Terry Tempest Williams writes “[t]here is musculature in dunes. And they are female. Sensuous curves—the small of a woman’s back. Breasts. Buttocks. Hips and pelvis. They are the natural shape of the earth.”

The earth and the body, shaped by the same forces of biology, and in many ways servicing the same greater purpose. We, the land and the woman, are the providers of food.

*

In order to maintain its fertility—the word fertility itself here is a reminder of the links between land and body. Fertile, noun, meaning: capable of sustaining abundant plant growth; producing or bearing fruit in great quantities; capable of breeding or reproducing. In which of these definitions is the woman, in which is the land?—the soil’s nutrient cycle must be strong, constant.

Soil requires a healthy, vigorous root structure, the silken threads of dangling plants umbilical cords, flowing nutrients to the stalk, above the surface. The methods for transferring food from soil to plant to eater. Soil must be fed to be healthy enough to feed.

Soil must also be maintained. Prone to erosion, the ground itself can be swept away by too much wind, water. A soil particle can become detached, dislodged, can become an individual separate from the entity we call land. The roots and the living elements bind soil particles together into an aggregate. Healthy farming practices that reduce tillage, that use the decay of organisms to create nutrients, that limit water runoff by planting only on strong, aggregate soil, all create the elements of this bond.

And because the soil is strong, the plants have food, we have food.

But, in the name of producing food, we are poisoning the food providers. The land is sick. The women are dying.

*

Between the 1940s and the 1970s, agriculture was revolutionized—that is, agriculture underwent what is now known as “the Green Revolution” which is also known as the widespread decimation of industrial agriculture technology. Words crop up in repetition here: modern, developed, improved, synthetic, science-based.

Mostly these technologies consisted of chemicals, and of mechanisms for distributing chemicals. Pesticides to increase per acre yields. Nitrogen fertilizer to eliminate the need for soil recovery time. Plants genetically altered to grow closer together, grow with less water, grow in spite of the pesticides. What we hoped, what the whole hungry starving unequal world of food hoped, was that all these chemicals would feed more and more and more people, that all these chemicals would stop so many from going hungry. We mixed and we doused and we prayed.

We were wrong.

And we’ve known for some time now that we were wrong. We’ve known that instead of nurturing the soil, that instead of feeding the plants that would become food, chemicals are poisoning the soil, are poisoning our food.

Herbicides, meant to protect plants by eliminating weeds, are gradually destroying plant root structures, causing fungal root diseases, reducing the plants’ abilities to absorb micronutrients from the soil.

All these chemicals, too, are creating monsters. Monster weeds and monster bugs capable of withstanding the poison of the chemical. Evolving past death by chemical. So we mix more and we douse more and we pray more even though it’s not working.

Even though we know these chemicals we thought would protect our food are killing it.

*

Author, researcher, cancer survivor, Sandra Steingraber writes, upon holding a vial of her own amniotic fluid, “It contains the sap of apples, the juice of oranges, the tea I drank a few hours earlier, and the milk I poured over my cereal that morning.” The food is the land is the body.

Rivers and creeks pass from the land sprayed, so quietly, with pesticides and planted with fertilizers, into reservoirs into tap water. Pregnant women are routinely advised not to drink the water in high-agricultural use areas. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma occurrence rates are highest over the Midwest and Great Plains, the region of highest use of agricultural pesticides.

Our bodies tell us the story, if we are willing to listen. Pesticide residue is detected in body fat, umbilical cords, placentas, breast milk. Pesticides that crumple our genes to damaged shells of themselves, that erect walls around hormone production systems in our bodies, that smother healthy cells, that nourish and encourage tumor growth.

*

Feed is a verb. To feed. To give food to; supply with nourishment. To serve as food for. To produce food for.

Or perhaps, to feed must mean more than simply to produce a commodity that can be ingested. Perhaps to feed has come too much to mean to become a good, consumed.

Perhaps: To supply with something essential for growth. To nourish. To nurture. To sustain.

Ragazza Sottile

9 Mar

First, a shameless plug. I have a new (totally non-food-related) essay up at The Nervous Breakdown on why presidential candidates need to remember what they learned in Comp 101, so if you like logic, you should check it out!

But now on to We*Meat*Again business: My post last week on Comfort & Food (which included my Nona’s ravioli recipe) got a pretty good response, so I thought I’d leave you all this week with another recently trimmed excerpt from the book — a scene of our family eating that ravioli! Mangi, all.

*

These meals were the driving force, the reason, the purpose, the very life blood of my hunched, world weary Italian great-great relatives. As a child, they terrified and mesmerized me, full of big booming voices and the incessant, overlapping chatter of too many people who have shared so much history. We packed in around Nona’s good table, her china cabinet shaking with our laughter. The hutch served as an extra table, because there usually isn’t enough space on the main table for all the dishes—homemade pasta, olives, tomatoes, spinach and ricotta cheese, sausages stuffed to the brim with my Nona’s bare, meaty hands.

At Nona’s table, my mother’s brother Paul would always sit next to me, on my left, because he is left-handed.  Paul is a small, dark brown man, thin and straight, a natural with a short-sleeved, white, collared shirt and a cigarette hanging casually from beneath his small black moustache. He is thirty, unemployed and living at home, and he already has an ulcer. Paul is like all of the Italian men in my family. Small and straight, with gigantic appetites and metabolisms faster than my mother can speak, and all completely dependent on their women.

Even after my vision was corrected and I no longer had to wear my massive glasses, every woman at my family’s holiday tables seemed larger than life to me. My mother, her rich, shiny brown hair tightly curled and pulled away from her face. She wears purple and turquoise eyeliner; that’s how strong her skin is. My Nana, who is German, and married into this family, a small, angry woman, who still insists I sit on her lap every time I see her. My Nona, the modest, white-haired matriarch, hands like a map, greasy with meat and the juices of fresh tomatoes, nodding her head vigorously in the direction of my half-full plate.

“What’s wrong with your lasagna?” she bellows, “You didn’t finish!”

“Oh, I’m just not hungry anymore, Nona,” I reply.

But Nona is stubborn, like all good Italians, and she pretends not to understand the things she doesn’t like to hear. “Don-na be silly, ragazza sottile, skinny girl,” she shakes her head at me, “Pass me your plate, I get you some more.”

*

Readers: I need your input. I’m looking for request for future We*Meat*Again posts, so if there’s an ingredient or technique you’d like profile, a recipe you’d like made-over with healthier options, some whole foods-eating advice or how-to posts, or food news and policies you’d like to see explored creatively or otherwise, leave a comment, tweet at me, drop me an email — let me know any way you can!

 

Comfort & Food

2 Mar

My latest issue of Cooking Light magazine has this adorable feature where world-renowned chefs share their favorite comfort food recipes and the stories from their family’s past that explain the emotional component to each dish. I was making Gnocchi with Brown Butter this week and thinking about how comforting food is, how we can have a healthy relationship to comfort food (as opposed to one based on indulging in gross, fatty food for emotional comfort). Because the real reason comfort foods are comforting is that they remind us of people.

I thought I’d share some scenes from The Vegetarian’s Guide to Eating Meat cutting room floor (something recently cut from the manuscript) that reflects on this, the communal cooking of my Italian childhood, and the emotions tied up in those rituals. Enjoy!

*

This past Christmas, Nana announced that she was not going to make ravioli anymore. Last year, around December 17th, an ice storm hit New England, where my parents and grandparents both live, ten minutes apart from each other, in the town where I grew up. Both houses were without power for more than two weeks, and though they tried to salvage the food in the basement freezer by tossing it out into the waist-high snow banks in the backyard, the freeze was too deep to preserve the delicate ricotta filling or the spiced ground beef in the centers of the ravioli. All the hard work ruined.

It’s an Italian tradition to eat ravioli early on Christmas Eve—dinner of cheese and meat ravioli, tomato sauce, Italian sausage and an uncapped shaker of Parmesean to dump snowy mounds over everything, around four, before the eight o’clock mass. So every October, my parents and grandparents have a ravioli-making day to prepare the massive batches of ravioli this family dinner requires. The four of them, sometimes joined by one or more traveling Landrigan daughter, passing through her hometown, gather in Nana and Gampi’s tiny white cottage kitchen and perform the balanced construction.

First, the pressed pasta, birthed the week before by Nana and Gampi, alone. Then the alchemy of the filling, beating together egg and ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, parsley. Letting beef simmer in its own juices in a skillet over a low gas burn. Then the cooling. The ravioli dough thaws on the laminate countertop, waiting to be rolled. Soon, my Nana’s small arms, brown and spotted with time, take the wooden rolling pin to the yellow dough, kneading and stretching it taut, until you can nearly see clear through the material. This is just the getting ready.

Next, the assembly line. After Nana rolls out the dough, she and my grandfather, together, lift the wide, flat dough up and over, laying it down across the ravioli plaque, a two by twelve series of fluted-edge metal squares, that look like conjoined cookie cutters. They are not cookie cutters. The dough hangs there, suspended. Gampi, the most patient, uses the plastic mold to gently—so gently—imprint tiny round crevices into the center of each ravioli, creating filling pockets. My mother’s job is to use two spoons, regular dining room table spoons, to scoop just the right amount of filling into these pockets, without overflowing, without skimping on the good stuff, without bursting the bubble of dough with the weight. My father, the least Italian and therefore the least trusted in the kitchen, uses a pastry brush to dust the filling with a few sprinkles of water, to help seal the dough together. And then Gampi is there again, ready, waiting, another sheet of rolled-out dough hanging softly between his two thick hands. He lays the second sheet on top of the filled raviolis, still hanging over their metal plaque.

These next steps, the most crucial, are always Gampi’s and my mother’s. Nana is hard at work rolling out another two sheets of dough, and my father has retreated. Gampi moves the rolling pin over the pressed dough, with just enough pressure to cut along the fluted edges of the plaque, just enough flour to avoid catching the sticky dough against the pin, or his hands. If you’re good at this—and Gampi, his mother’s son, is very good—the ravioli don’t drop. They are trimmed, but fit perfectly inside the plaque. Gampi turns the plaque over quickly, but smoothly, without any jerking, and gives it one solid, insistent tap against the counter.

As the newly made raviolis drop from the plaque, he hands them to my mother, who places the two-inch square pasta pillows onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet in a single layer. This is an honor. This is an important job. She takes it very seriously, and she loves it. My mother, a daddy’s girl, loves that her father has entrusted her the sacred position of moving the finished product from here to there, from construction to creation.

That’s what it takes to make twenty-four ravioli, and in one batch, Nana and Gampi make two hundred cheese and three hundred beef ravioli. They like to stock up. So when the freezer kicked it during the ice storm and the ricotta congealed and the ground beef striated with grey burn, that was the worst thing you could have done to Nana. The ravioli were ruined and so was Christmas. We ate store-bought ravioli that year and nothing, nothing could be more a slap in the face. She refused to ever go through that again.

Nana’s Ravioli’s Recipe:

4 c. flour

5 eggs

1 egg shell water (whole egg shell)

Mix with fork not too wet. Let rest 10 mins. Covered 10 mins. After kneading 10 mins.

Cheese Filling

1 big ricotta

3 eggs

Salt + pepper

Parsley

¼ c. grated cheese

There are no directions for the hard part—for the rolling, the pressing, the filling, the cutting, the careful handling. Because that’s not something a person would ever do alone.

Nibbles: What We Didn’t Eat This Week (1/19)

20 Jan

Some news from around the world of food this week…

Many of you may have already heard that Paula Deen has (SHOCKINGLY) revealed she has Type II Diabetes. Now, my little sister has been insulin-dependent with Type I Diabetes since just after her ninth birthday, so I will refrain from unleashing my vitriol at obesity-inflicted Type II Diabetes here. But here are some interesting observations about the Deen situation: how conveniently the announcement coincides with (rather than a change of heart or cooking style) Deen’s contract to shill for a new (and dubious) medication, and the mounting evidence correlating meat-eating habits with diabetes.

On a more creative note, my awesome writer-friend Amy Weldon has a really interesting essay up on her blog exploring the connections between food and Southern femininity.

The “Just Label It!” campaign against unknown genetically modified ingredients in our foods officially launched this week with a new video by Robert Kenner (director of Food, Inc.), and Ecocentric has a good blog post covering the basics of GMOs and the labeling campaign for those who want more information.

This is a bit of a food tangent, but some may have heard that Newt Gingrich is gaining ground in South Carolina with a new ad calling President Obama the “food stamp” president (accusing him of putting more people on food stamps — not because the economy has tanked — but because he just looooves government handouts to poor people, is my read). This reminds me of my recent post taking down Rick Santorum for similarly offensive racial/food political slurs.

The Daily Meal released its annual list of the 50 Most Powerful People in Food. If you click through from the bottom up, you’ll spend the first half cheering at the familiar food advocate faces (Bittman! Bourdain! Allen! Mahler!) and then notice a very distinct shift into the corporate world. Here’s hoping 2012 is the year the balance starts to shift

In good news along that front: Food Corps is open for applications for its next cycle, and is expanding this year after a successful pilot program. They need more people in more states, so if you’re interested in pursuing a career in agriculture, nutrition, education, cooking, gardening or advocacy, this is a great way to — literally — get your hands dirty.

Now before you head off for the weekend, make sure to stop by last week’s post and leave a comment to enter for a chance to win a copy of the new, illustrated edition of Michael Pollan’s Food Rules, as We*Meat*Again celebrates our 10,000th site visit!

What It Means to Nourish Another

16 Jan

Today’s We*Meat*Again post is happening elsewhere, folks, as I have a new essay live on the awesome online literary community The Nervous Breakdown. As I’m now a regular contributor at TNB, about once a month, I’ll have an essay to send you all to over there.

I’m really proud to be part of the TNB community, alongside beautiful nonfiction writers like Emily Rapp, Melissa Febos, and my good friend Amy Monticello, and I’m excited about the opportunity that writing monthly essays for the site will afford me to delve deeper into the abstractions of many of the concepts we discuss here on We*Meat*Again.

This month’s essay is called “Waiting,” and it explores, as Amy described it, what it means to nourish another, today. What it means for the female body — or the land — to be fertile, to be planted, to feed.

Hope you enjoy it!

And once you’ve finished reading, make sure to stop by last week’s post and leave a comment to enter for a chance to win a copy of the new, illustrated edition of Michael Pollan’s Food Rules, as We*Meat*Again celebrates our 1000th site visit!

Inequality in Our Food System

12 Dec

A few events, some louder than others this week got me thinking about just how unequal our current food system is. The protestors on Wall Street are angry because income disparity leads to a disparity in political representation and access to education, improvement, etc. The food system, as it currently exists in this country, has the same results. The poor stay poor (and less healthy), and the small farms fail, so that the large corporate farms may survive.

In fact, the first event this weekend that reminded me of the parallels between food and finance was the first major gathering of farmers at Occupy Wall Street. Jim Gerritsen, president of the Organic Seed Trader’s Organization, spoke to The New York Times last week about why he’d be making the journey from Maine to join the protests:

He said farm gate prices — wholesale prices for farm products, excluding transportation — were the lowest he had ever seen. “And the price of food in supermarkets is higher than it’s ever been. So, farmers are hanging on by their fingertips, and consumers are paying through the nose.”

“The money that gets made in between,” he continued, “is going to companies, and the government isn’t doing anything about it.

“And if it goes on like this, all we’re going to have to eat in this country is unregulated, imported, genetically modified produce. That’s not a healthy food system.”

*

Gerritsen’s quote is so valuable in that it reminds us that the current system of wholesale food distribution harms both producers and consumers. Just as big finance is constructed to continually insulate those in positions of power, to reward and encourage their risk-taking on the backs of a working class who suffers when these high-stakes maneuvers fail, so too is the food systm constructed to encourage consolidation and cheap growing methods that cause higher prices for less healthful foods.

And the people suffering most are the consumers with the least.

*

The second event was much more quiet, in terms of news coverage anyway, and much more disturbing. After a seven-hour stand-off last week, a woman in Texas shot her two children, and then herself, in the head. The reason? She was at the end of her rope, having repeatedly been denied food stamps by the state.

She and her children bathed in hoses outside of their trailer park. She begged at the back doors of restaurants for their food waste scraps. But her child support payments were greater than her expenses, so she was deemed able to care for her children without assistance.

Clearly, this was not the case.

*

Last Monday, at a campaign event in Iowa, GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum promised to significantly reduce federal funding for food stamps, citing the nation’s obesity crisis as evidence that the program was being fradulently misused.

If hunger is a problem in America, then why do we have an obesity problem among the people who we say have a hunger program?” Santorum asked.

I had to re-read the last part of the sentence a few times to fully understand what it meant.

Set aside for the moment the complete lack of understanding of the roots of the obesity crisis (a significant increase in the consumption of certain types of foods, such as refined sweeteners combined with a sharp increase in the prices of whole foods due to the above mentioned consolidations) that this quote shows. Set aside for the moment the reality that SNAP has actually been proven to help grow the economy by protecting the poorest consumers.

I think it’s important to take a minute to address what Santorum meant by “among the people who we say have a hunger program.”

Maybe I’m wrong. But I’m pretty sure what he’s saying there is that poor minorities tend to be those receiving federal nutrition assistance, and also tend to have the highest rates of obesity. I think what he’s saying is, why do black people need food stamps when they are already so fat?

*

Santorum isn’t wrong. According to the most recent data, adult obesity rates for Blacks and Latin@s were higher than for Whites in at least 40 states and the District of Columbia.

Why? Do we believe, as Rick Santorum seems to, that this is because black and Latin@ people eat more? Are lazier?

Or could it be this: 35.3 percent of adults earning less than $15,000 per year were obese compared with 24.5 percent of adults earning $50,000 or more per year.

Could it be that we need food assistance from the federal government not in spite of increased obesity rates among the poorest, but because of those rates?

Could it be that our government’s food system, as its finance system, rewards the lowest-brow, cheapest, poorest-quality investment, and that the customers for those shoddy investments — in this case, mostly in the form of high fructose corn syrup and soda — are the least fortunate among us?

That those who have the least choice suffer the most loss.

*

Internet comments on stories about the Texas family are too cruel to replicate, but include standard lines about the selfishness, or laziness, or incompetance of a woman who would turn to such desperate (and indefensible) measures when faced with an 18-page form and proof of income and employment.

But of nearly $262 billion in farm subsidies paid by the federal government over the last fifteen years, the farms with the highest top ten percent in annual incomes raked in more than 74%. $165.9 billion. And no one is calling them lazy.

Nibbles: What We Didn’t Eat This Week, Inspired by Food Day

28 Oct

This week, on October 24th in particular, the United States celebrated our first ever Food Day with events around the country including cooking classes, garden planting and awareness-building campaigns. The notion behind Food Day was to model the highly successful Earth Day campaign to help the food movement transcend social and political boundaries. Here’s to many, many more, and the development of a fully realized movement as part of the general public consciousness.

In the spirit of Food Day, then, here are some links from around the web where we can all get our food consciousness raised.

Promising (if somewhat far-off) trends for the future of food this week coming out of Maine and Chicago, where politicians (or their wives) are finally beginning to take action for food. At a Let’s Move! food desert summit in Chicago, first lady Michelle Obama made a pledge to eradicate food deserts in the U.S. by 2017. And in even bolder legislative news (I know, right?), Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree announced a bill of sweeping structural reforms that would break down existing barriers and build infrastructure for small-scale local producers.

Pingree’s legislation is particularly remarkable for its recognition that these reforms would provide a much-needed boost to local economies. An essay by Tammy Morales this week explains the connection between job creation and  small-scale food entrepreneurs. A saying about two birds and one stone comes to mind…

Similarly, Mark Bittman reposted a letter from George Faison, New York area meat wholesaler, making the case to restaurants why investing in slightly more expensive organic, sustainable products is worth it in the long run (both economically and environmentally).

Let us not forget, however, that there is still work to be done. As a follow-up to last week’s mention of the House hearings on the Interagency Working Group’s recommendations to reduce junk food marketing to children, Marion Nestle posts a breakdown of how the talks are going. And it’s looking more and more like the agency will cave, giving up bits of even its relatively toothless voluntary regulations.

So keep up the pressure on your representatives, people. I promise you, Tony the Tiger is this decade’s Joe Camel. In twenty years, it will look ridiculous that we ever allowed our children to be sold this way.

Food & Jobs Links for Labor Day

9 Sep

In honor of Monday having been Labor Day, and of President Obama’s job speech from last night, I thought I’d round up a series of links this week on food, labor, and the workforce.

First, the good news, and a report Mr. President would do well to pay attention to in launching a new infrastructure-based jobs initiative: the Union of Concerned Scientists on the enormous job creation potential of farmer’s markets and other local food sourcing systems.

This is an older report, but is still the most definitive on worker safety and rights in meat processing plants — a different beast from agricultural fields, but still deadly.

Barry Estabrook has written a great, concise overview of the problematic regulations surrounding children in the farm industry. It shocks most people not from farm states to learn that children as young as 12 can legally work on farms, and children as young as 16 can legally mix and spray pesticides. I know many farmers who rely heavily on their families as labor forces, so I think it’s important to find a balance on this issue, but that stricter regulations are absolutely needed.

Methyl iodide, a pesticide used primarily on California strawberry fields, is just one of the many reasons why being a farmworker is so dangerous these days, and California isn’t regulating exposure to the chemical their own government deemed highly toxic.

TribeHR, a human resources management team, this week used data from the OECD to measure workday length in hours globally. But the most interesting bit of this to me is the gender breakdown of unpaid work (down at the bottom of the link) which shows that women are still spending nearly four times as many minutes per day on cooking and food cleanup as men. So I guess food is still women’s work, globally anyway.

Finally, lest we in the rest of the country imagine that Hurricane Irene was a great big let-down (actually, I know a lot of East Coasters who think that, too) we should all remember those who are suffering the most: New York and Vermont small farmers, whose croplands were flooded and destroyed. Learn more, and how you can help, here.

Feeding the Starving World

30 Jun

First, allow me to apologize for the brevity of this week’s posts. I’m traveling for job interviews (fingers crossed!) and so finding the free time for posting is more of a challenge. But I would never abandon you! I just have to find ways to be more concise — not one of my fortes.

For today, then, I wanted to share with you all a few interesting media projects focusing on equal access to sustainable food. I haven’t written as much yet as I’d like to about food justice. I’ve mentioned before that for me, being a foodie isn’t a snobbish, elitist position — it’s actually a commitment to activism.

When you begin digging into the inequities of the food system, it’s impossible to ignore the reality of how few people in the world have the luxury of choosing their diet the way we in the upper middle-class, industrialized world do. From that perspective, it feels insulting to overindulge, to consume processed junk food, or to eat at some ridiculously overpriced, over-portioned megachain, to support a corporation like Hormel that so mistreats its workers.

From that perspective, then, it’s inspiring to see projects like these unfold, wherein the people who are most forgotten by the current global food system — specifically the poor of developing nations — are taking charge, creating a sustainable food system of their own.

The problems with food in the developing world are so vastly different from those needed to reform the industrialized system. This video, the first full episode of Stove Man! a documentary television initiative of the Paradigm Project, begins to demonstrate this. Stove Man! follows two entrepreneurs on their mission to raise funds to provide cooking stoves for women in rural Kenya. In this episode,  as the businessmen travel to Kenya to follow the women on their daily journeys to collect enough fuel for a cooking fire.

And then, in this month’s Orion, a great photo and text feature on the ways in which the poor are taking charge of their own food systems. The feature focuses on a peasant-owned garden cooperative based in Port-Au-Prince, which has become both a source of food for the poor, and an arm of political leverage for the community.

Food prices are rising sharply globally, a fact we may forget here in the developed world, where we are still somewhat cushioned from that reality (though we won’t be for long). We still live in a world in which starvation and poverty are the norm for children in certain regions. In the face of all this, we need to dramatically rethink how we provide food for ourselves. New ideas are needed, especially on a global scale, both to reform the existing industrialized food system, but also to build a sustainable food system for the developing world that does not prevent growth, but doesn’t tred in our same errant path.

There are more and many ideas there, all kinds of models for urban farming that are both scalable and sustainable. But the free market doesn’t always favor these logical, compassionate solutions. It takes a village of peasants to stand up and take the land into their own hands and grow with it.

Chicken Salad for One

22 Jun

A few weeks ago, loyal reader Lindsey asked for some advice on cooking well for one, saying it’s tricky sometimes to feel motivated to spend much time in the kitchen just for yourself. I know that feeling all too well, both in terms of slacking on eating healthy foods, but also in terms of the amount of time a person is willing to spend on herself.

I think what cooking well for one boils down to is making a fundamental choice. You must either find a handful of really easy, healthy recipes, or you must be willing to feel indulgent for a night, and make an event out of your meal.

Today, I have a story about how awesome a leisurely evening spent cooking for one can be.  It began this lazy late June afternoon, when after being caught in a midday flash rainstorm and getting soaked, I decided to spend some of my remaining time in the day recreating a chicken salad I’ve been craving.

I was drying off from the rain, but the sun had just come out, and I I wanted something healthy and light and delicious for dinner that wouldn’t involve turning the oven on for the night. I wanted to get outside. And then I remembered this delicious Trader Joe’s chicken salad I had with Marytza in Los Angeles, which was full of cranberries and pecans.

Now, we don’t have a Trader Joe’s in Ames, which as I discussed yesterday, is not something I feel the absence of, so if I wanted this chicken salad, I was going to have to make it myself. No problem. I had fresh, local chicken defrosting. I found a similar recipe on the amazing smitten kitchen. It was four-ish, I had time to kill before I was too hungry to wait, so I hopped on my bike and headed for the co-op for the remaining ingredients.

Yes, I am a hipster foodie cliche, living two-Black-Keys-songs-away from the local co-op.

I spent the next two hours prepping this chicken salad — not because it was difficult or time-consuming, but because I took my time. I actually brined the chicken and then poached it in sherry for extra flavor. These two steps took about 45 minutes, during which I prepped the rest of the salad.

I know I’m beginning to sound a little too elitist-foodie here, so allow me to undercut myself for a moment. I know last time I spoke about enjoying the process of cooking, I mentioned listening to the New Yorker’s fiction podcast. Well, the truth is, the only podcast to which I listen regularly is the one that played tonight as I chopped pecans and tarragon was ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, my source of daily sports banter.

I poured myself a glass of local white wine — an alcohol I only find myself craving on humid summer days — and settled back to enjoy my homemade chicken salad for one.

Now, I know we don’t all have hours to spend cooking a relatively n0-frills dinner in the middle of the summer, as I, in all my unemployed-writer glory do. So I promise next time to give a lesson on the other path — the one that involves a delicious, healthy, super-fast meal — next time.

But for now, the lesson should be that you shouldn’t be afraid to make cooking for one as much a labor of love as cooking for two can be. Also that wine makes everything more fun.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 40 other followers

%d bloggers like this: