Saturday, October 21, 2006

You can't just let it go to waste

The other day, I made a salad. A darn good one, too--it's a Willow Cottage specialty--spring greens, small chunks of sharp cheddar cheese, dried cranberries, Granny Smith apples, walnuts, and raspberry vinaigrette. But I only needed half of the apple, and seeing as I wasn't in the mood for the mouth-puckering sensation of eating a Granny Smith all by itself, and had no other designs for this crisp apple half . . . it went to waste.

I could have just worked it into some recipe somehow; I've got lots of other kinds of apples sitting around, and I'm sure I could have baked up an apple pie or crisp or whatever. But we don't need any more food, and Mr. Wonderful and I aren't exactly eager to say to each other, "well, there's just more of you to love."

As I was scolding myself about my poor stewardship of this crisp, beautiful apple--and the many other things that I throw out each month--I felt sad.

Because it's not as if stuffing more food down my throat--or anyone else's--is going to alleviate the hunger of starving children across the world. And I couldn't very well send that half an apple to a kid in Zimbabwe, could I? That's the trouble: if the food is already here, sitting on the shelves of my local supermarket, it's either going to be eaten here in North America by people who have plenty of food, or it's going in the compost heap.

If I have food, but don't know what to do with it, and I eat it just to make sure it doesn't go to waste (not because I'm hungry), I am doing nothing to alleviate world hunger or even being a good steward of the resources I have. I am simply assuaging my conscience, and getting fatter while I'm at it. And that definitely isn't good stewardship, either.

So then I thought, maybe I shouldn't have bought the apple in the first place; if I didn't know what to do with the whole thing, that was probably a bad consumer choice. And that's probably true. But then, if I become really careful about what I buy, purchasing the minimum amount of food possible, aren't I making it more difficult for hard-working farmers to make a living?

There's a veggie stand a couple of miles away that I like to buy from, not so much because the food is good, but because the older couple that runs it looks like they could use the money to supplement their meager Social Security checks each month.

Anyway, if I leave the apple in the bin at the store or the fruit stand, it's not like that suddenly frees up food to be sent elsewhere.

But food does get sent to the world's hungriest places--I know that, and I want to support it as much as possible. But world hunger is not the result of a global food shortage; grain is regularly dumped in the ocean to regulate prices. Nor is it the direct result of obese North Americans hogging and wasting all the food. The trouble is that some governments are determined to starve their people, and won't accept aid--and that we don't work hard enough to move the food supply where it really needs to be (instead of, say, dumping it in an ocean, it would be nice if we could ship it across an ocean . . . but then, it still might be rejected).

In the grand scheme of things, maybe I should be less concerned with throwing out a half of an apple than with my failure to change the systems that withhold food from the people who really need it.

Wasting food is a nice, tidy kind of sin to commit. But it's only a front--a distraction--from the great omission.

Friday, October 20, 2006


We all want to believe, when we tear open a pack of M&Ms, that there are just as many green M&Ms as there are blue ones.

But this is not so.

M&M packets are not the multicultural utopia we believe them to be, controlled by the socialist machines that divide them into bags; one color always dominates (in this case, of course, two colors are competing for dominance).

I know this is hard for many of you to take, but someone had to tell you. And anyway, you always knew there were more brown ones than any other color; you just didn't want to admit it.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

May contain peanuts

Bridge may be icy;
Medication may cause drowsiness.

May contain peanuts,
Or trace amounts of milk and tree nuts.

And here I am, taunted
By warnings that never come true.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Apple butter at Willow Cottage

Someone asked me the other day if I had any favorite fall traditions. I know lots of people pick pumpkins, carve jack -o- lanterns, or take part in other gourd-related activities. I was about to say that I don't really have any traditions--I don't think of myself as a particularly traditional person--and then I remembered: apple butter!

Every autumn for the last several years, Mr. Incredible and I go to Ashcombe, pick apples out of the huge bins they keep on the porch of the perennials department, bring them home, and make apple butter. We usually make two batches, two Saturdays in a row, and those are the coziest, best-smelling days of the year!

Interested in trying it out for yourself? Here's the recipe (I got it from my grandma; the measurements are a little weird, but it works well):

Apple butter

Lots of apples (I use Jonamac or Jonagold)
7 cups sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 1/3 tsp. allspice
2 1/3 tsp. cinnamon

Fill a 5 1/2-quart crockpot 7/8 of the way with chopped, cored, and peeled apples.

Add other ingredients and cook on high for 5-8 hours and purée.

Pour into jars and seal them using a canner.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Cherries on top

We have a lot of special treats in our household. Or at least, it seems that way. After a long, tiring day, we often decide together on an activity--like watching an episode of our favorite BBC sitcom or sipping hot drinks and munching on scones--that we can enjoy together before bed. It's our way to unwind; to bond; and to cope with life.

So the other night we made chocolate chip pancakes topped with cherry pie filling. Bedtime was fast approaching, so as I assembled my pancakes and poured drinks, I flew around the kitchen, working as fast as I could so we could sit down and enjoy them sooner. As I reached my hand into the can of cherry pie filling, though, I got a little wake-up call.

"Slow down," Mr. Incredible reminded me.

"But I want to enjoy our special treat."

"Making the pancakes together--that's the special treat."

And I guess that's part of why I married him. Not so much because he says things like that, but because he believes them.


On a similar but unrelated note, James Lileks, a very talented columnist and blogger, has a neat reflection today on (among other things) watching his daughter grow up. If you haven't before, check him out--his blather is usually worth wading through.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Random (but categorized) thoughts from the last few days

It was a good weekend. After Mr. Incredible's most frightening rendezvous with our chef's knife on Wednesday night, the bathroom remodeling project (which usually dominates his weekends) was put on hold. After all, it's probably best to leave plumbing and serious demo and carpentry to people whose thumbs are completely intact. Determined not to have a completely and totally unproductive weekend, we made the snap decision around 11 a.m. on Saturday to paint the miniscule room upstairs that we affectionately call "the study." And so, by mid-afternoon, the floral yellow gingham wallpaper border was down, the trim was removed, and all contents of the room had been relocated to the empty bedroom next door.

And now, the room is truly ours; it has brush strokes of our color choice--Tibetan red--all over it. It wasn't a terrible color before. It just wasn't ours. And with a little weekend warriorism, now it is.

Pumpkin-nut bread is awesome, but would taste better with cream cheese. Mmmm. I'll keep that in mind for next time.

Denim skirts are the perfect way to wear jeans to work. Why is it that a simple denim skirt can make you feel so put-together; so confident? Is it that they are basically impervious to stains and wrinkles? Is it their durability and weight? Whatever it is, they're the ideal attire for those frazzled mornings when you just can't get it together, but you really need to fake it. :)

Why didn't anyone ever tell me about the turducken? I talked to a Canadian yesterday who was celebrating Thanksgiving (they observe it a little earlier than we do, even though apparently they're not quite sure of the historical significance behind their holiday) and he introduced me to the concept of roasting one bird inside another. I'm determined to try it.

I don't think I'll be able to fit it in, but I am so tempted to join nanowrimo.