Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Flow of Food

I have been accused of being too organized.  I can't help it; it is how my brain works and how I keep my life calm.

This afternoon as I prepped potatoes and chicken for dinner I thought about the flow of food.  I was roasting 5 split chicken breasts; I knew we would eat only 2 at dinner.  I pulled the meat off the bones of the remaining 3 to use in tomorrow's dinner as well as in lunch salads for the next couple of days.  The bones with the clinging meat went into the slow cooker along with the leftover pan gravy; the stock will simmer overnight and will be the base of tomorrow's soup.

I scrubbed 8 potatoes, rubbed them with olive oil, pricked them with a fork, and put them in the oven to roast.  We ate 4 at dinner; the other 4 will be cubed and fried tomorrow morning for a simple breakfast with sausage and a fried egg.

Some years ago I made a commitment to reduce our food waste and our food budget and I have succeeded at both.  I simplified what I buy and I started thinking farther ahead than I ever had before.  Now when I buy a cabbage I am not only thinking of sautéing half of it for one meal: I know that I will sauté part of it, shred some finely to top tacos, serve a cabbage salad or cole slaw one day, and use the rest in a soup. A quart of buttermilk is used in pancakes, to start a jar of crème fraîche, as the leavening in a soda bread, and as the base of a simple and quick buttermilk cucumber soup.

Thursday's soup becomes Friday's lunch.  Friday's pot roast and rice will be Saturday's lunch.  Almost every time I cook I am thinking ahead to another meal.  Monday we will have leg of lamb; the leftovers will be minced and frozen for shepherd's pie another week.  When I make stock there is always more than I need, which I freeze and then use one week when I don't have time to make stock.  Bananas that go spotty are peeled and frozen for smoothies and muffins (and I make a double batch and freeze the extras).  Even milk that is about to sour is cooked into a tapioca pudding.

I don't think of what I do as being out of the ordinary; I suspect that the flow of food plays a large role in cultures where food is scarce or expensive.  Only in very wealthy countries can we afford to use only half a cabbage or one fourth of the carton of buttermilk.  Only where food is outrageously abundant can we toss chicken bones into the garbage and routinely forget about fresh milk until it is spoiled.  Somehow we have forgotten how precious food it is.  On an evening like tonight I pause and remember.

No comments: