I’d been wondering how to approach this subject, but this post at Virginia Lee’s blog gave me the focus I needed.
No one knows how to cook, and by extension, to think how to feed themselves anymore. Our grocery stores are filled with ready-made meals that require a few minutes of nuking. Certain of them have ingredients that I can’t pronounce. I’m curious as to what they are, but maybe I don’t want to know.
Canned tuna comes ready-mixed with mayonnaise. Convenient, of course, if hideously overpriced. Buy tuna. Buy mayo. Mix them yourself. Get up 10 minutes earlier if you have to. It’s cheaper and probably healthier.
Even if we wanted to make something ourselves it’s difficult to find the ingredients. It’s easier to buy the ready-made roast or the cubed, herbed potatoes, or sliced peppers, or the cooked bacon. Who cares what’s in it? It’s quick and it’s tasty. We’ve gotten so used to having everything ready that we’re losing the ability to make our own anything, including, as noted above, sandwich filling.
It’s one thing if you can afford to buy these items, but what about the people who can’t? Oil-rich Alberta is filled with food banks and they, in turn, are crying for donations. It seems the more we have the less we think of others.
The food bank issue has several aspects, but I’ll only deal with a few. One aspect is food banks need certain kinds of food like canned soups and beans. When those items fall short the money to buy meat or some such is put toward canned goods instead.
Another point is food banks must follow the same rules as grocery stores, and rightly so. No dented cans, nothing with a soiled, ripped, or missing label, and nothing that fell off the delivery truck.
But many of these items are just fine. A torn label on a can of tomato paste does not affect the contents. The box of packaged salads that fell off the truck is fine, too.
But a very big part of the problem is many donated items flummox the clients. Canned kidney beans are a known commodity, but dried kidney beans? Garbanzos? Mung beans? Lentils? What do we do? Who do we ask? Why should we bother?
So these unwanted foods take up space until they have to be disposed of. Good food gets tossed because it either can’t legally be distributed to the needy or because no one has a clue what to do with it. We’re so used to getting our food microwave-ready that anything that requires prep time, like dried beans, is a mystery.
So volunteers dispose of the food items. Because a family member is a volunteer at a food bank we have benefited from this disposal.
We’ve got mung beans and chick peas, and lentils and barley. We’ve got canned coconut milk and dozens of cans of tomato paste, and excellent, cold–pressed extra virgin olive oil in perfect containers.
We’ve had escargot which we did over the campfire, and quail’s eggs which I used in a warm potato salad. We’ve had red-wine vinegar and raspberry vinegar, and plenty of curry spices in various forms from dry to pastes.
The other night I threw together a quick soup with some chicken bullion, mung beans, and curry spices that were not distributed, as well as our own veggies and leftovers and a bit of rice.
It took less than 10 minutes to throw it together and it simmered about an hour. I made it because I knew how and I thought as I did it how much better our world would be if everyone else knew how to do it, too.