Cooking with BGIM!

This post is for a few folks who asked me about some recipes I had mentioned recently. For new readers, I don’t talk a great deal about it since I am always running my mouth about something else but cooking is one of my hobbies. Living in Maine in fall it also means apples galore! We recently picked quite a few at a local orchard and for some reason this year we have been on an applesauce kick.

My recipe (not sure where I got it from, so if it’s your Great Aunt Jean’s don’t sue me)

3-4lbs of peeled, cored apples (Cortlands are great but I will also do a mix of whatever)
4 strips of lemon peel
juice of 1 lemon 3-4tbsp
3 inches of cinnamon stick (I often put in 3 sticks)
1/4 dark brown sugar
up to a 1/4 cup white sugar
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt

This is a great recipe, just throw it all in a pot and cover, bring it to a boil, once it’s boiling, lower your heat and let simmer 20-30 minutes. Basically it will tell you when its done when it starts looking like applesauce. Remove from heat, remove lemon peels and cinnamon sticks. Mash with masher to desired consistency.

You can freeze this up to a year but if you have never had warm homemade applesauce you will quickly learn, screw freezing…just eat! It is orgasmic.

Crockpot Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

I admit I was skittish about this but I had a plethora of sweet potatoes plus I wanted to do something different, so I said screw it, let’s go.

2 cans of Black beans rinsed (use dried if ya like but I am lazy like that)
2 cans stewed tomatoes
2 sweet potatoes diced
3 green peppers diced
1 large onion diced
fresh garlic-to taste
1 tbsp chili powder
pinch of smoked serrano chili powder
1 fresh jalapeno (omit if you don’t like spice)
1 cup both or water

It’s a crockpot, toss all the goodies in there. I cooked it on high for about 7 hours and it came out great. I served it with cornbread and threw cheese on top of the chili. Very filling and the flavors really melded well.

Poor Ronald McDonald the Scapegoat!

So McDonald’s, the king of cheap, calorie laden, gas inducing (even poop inducing) burgers is going to make the Happy Meal a little less happy and a little more healthy and somehow this is going to help make the children of America a little less obese? Really? Well it seems there are many who feel this is an important step in fighting the war on childhood obesity that is currently being waged by our gorgeous First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.

I will admit that we do have a growing issue with obesity in this country but I am not so sure I want to lay it all on the feet of folks like McDonald’s and sugary breakfast cereals as many would like to do. Nope. Let’s take a look at lifestyles, back when I was a kid, I walked to school yet in the age of paranoia kids just don’t walk like they used to. In fact in many parts of the country as Physical Education has been gutted in school districts and to be honest movement only happens in extracurricular activities outside of schools that often have fees attached to them.

Which brings me to what I feel is the culprit behind growing obesity rates in this country, sheer economics, plain and simple. Wages have been stagnant in this country for a while; in fact most so called economic growth seen in families in the past several decades was only because households went from one wage earner to two. Then the credit and economic crisis hit and the jig was up. Yet when households started having two wage earners, which meant no one was home to cook a balanced home cooked meal; well you eat quickly made foods. Quick made does not necessarily mean fast food but it often does mean processed foods which often times are simply not as healthy as can be. Add in a couple of tired parents living in suburbia where sidewalks don’t exist, a big gaming system and you have a stew brewing that will lead to obesity and this is for so-called middle class folks

Take a walk with me to poverty row and it gets even worse. If you are income eligible your kid can get two meals a day for free at school and during summer at schools and community programs. To a family on the financial edge these free meals can seem like a blessing so you don’t have to decide between the light bill and the grocery bill. The question is have you seen a school lunch? If not take a look.

Nothing on that plate screams healthy yet this is what is served to our kids in the US under the guise of healthy and nutritious and before you get mad at the schools. The reality is the United States Department of Agriculture’s meal reimbursement rate to actual providers of these meals is paltry. In the summer the reimbursement rate for lunch is $3.15 per meal per kid and before you get excited, that reimbursement rate covers staff salaries, supplies and all that jazz so really it’s about a buck or so per kid if you are lucky. Millions of kids in this country get the bulk of their daily sustenance under these programs…think about that.

Now let’s think about the fact that over 15 million kids in America are living in poverty, in fact childhood poverty is at the highest it’s been in over 40 years! Couple that with rapid growth in the use of SNAP benefits aka food stamps and maybe McDonald’s is not the culprit, maybe ole Ronald is the scapegoat when the fact is we as a nation are just not terribly vested in our young no matter what we say. The hard reality is people are working harder for less financially, yes there are some parents who need nutrition education but in a society that does not value it’s families in general to focus on childhood obesity without looking at all the other systems that can impact obesity is simply a Band-Aid approach designed to make us feel good but not affect change on any deep level

So to Michelle, I say work on making sure healthy nutritious food is financially available to all, make sure kids have access and the means to physical activity and you can start by making sure their parents are healthy.

Food judgment is not cool

In keeping with this week’s theme of talking about class and poverty issues, today I want to touch upon the issue of food. I have written on the issue of food in the past, and here is a great tumblr post by a gal who really gets the issues of class.
However despite writing on this in the past, I feel the need to revisit the issue because I am convinced it’s pretty easy to be clueless when wondering why don’t those darn poor folks eat better? Why are they not more adventurous in their eating? Don’t they know fruits and veggies are cheap? And so on, as I tap the ole gray matter to think of some of the seemingly innocent comments I have heard from folks on the matter of food and folks who are financially vulnerable.

Let me tell you something, I was damn near 25 before I decided to get adventurous in my eating, why? Money, plain and simple; sure I could have sprung for some red leaf lettuce beforehand, but what if I hated it? Then I would have been shit out of luck as far as my money and frankly for the earlier part of my adulthood, my dollars were sparse and I could not afford to be wasteful. The reality is for many folks at the lower end of the financial spectrum, dollars are tight and often it’s easier to eat what you know rather than stepping out and being adventurous. Even the ability to be adventurous with something as seemingly small as food is not available to all! Sure the sushi lunch box special is comparable in price to a meal at McDonald’s but if you find it is not to your liking when your budget has no wiggle room, survival dictates taking a step on the wild side is a bad idea.

Next up good ole fruits and veggies and the poor, I especially love the internet flappers who wax poetically about the joys of eating veggies, how good they are for you and all that good stuff. Again another area where frankly I never got very adventurous until I was in a solid financial place with access to decent kitchen equipment and could afford to decide whether or not kohlrabi made for a good slaw or not. For my son’s early years our veggie consumption was limited to corn, potatoes, canned string beans, and one or two other items. When my son was born I relied on food stamps (the real deal in the awkward as hell book where everyone knew you were poor) for the first year of his life and after that I often worked 2-3 jobs to provide for us, so I lacked time to play around in the kitchen as well as the funds to splurge.

Also for many folks at the lower end of the income spectrum the reality is a buying a ton of fruits and veggies is simply not cost effective when it comes to filling folks up. Look, I live in Maine, I have participated in CSA’s, I know all my local farmers but even buying straight from the source isn’t cheap! Even at the farmer’s market tomatoes often run $3 a lb! Yeah, yeah, many CSA’s will offer a working share; you provide them with free labor they give you goodies, sounds great? Except if you are working your hourly wage gig to keep a roof over your head, the free farm gig is not really feasible. One man’s cheap is another man’s expensive as hell and frankly out of reach

I could go on and on but let me say often how we view food is a direct correlation to where we are class wise or where we have been class wise. The fact is it’s real easy to suggest what other people should do but unless you have walked a mile in their shoes, perhaps its best to sit back and keep your thoughts to yourself.

I will be honest and say one of the first experiences I had around realizing food is tied to class and I have shared this before was when I was in graduate school in New Hampshire. I was out at a Japanese place with my colleagues and everyone but me ordered sushi, the only thing I even remotely had any interest in was the tempura. I am sure my classmates didn’t mean any harm but everyone ribbed me for having such blah taste and proclaimed loudly how could I not eat sushi? I went home that day feeling so ashamed because until that point in my life I had never been in a place or position where eating sushi was an option. Then I got pissed the fuck off that I was being judged because I didn’t eat sushi, never mind I started my adult life as a high school dropout, married at 18, a mother at 19, separated at 20. The only thing that these assholes could see was that I didn’t want to eat raw fish? Long story short, I willed myself to eat sushi and to this day I still wonder if I really like it since I will be honest, I would be way happier with some fried catfish, a side of spaghetti and some coleslaw.