Sunday, August 21, 2011

On Not Having A Fridge


I know this is ostensibly a food blog, but bear with me as I veer off into food politics a bit. I was watching The Daily Show and found this clip from their continuing series on Class Warfare. The quote about the poor beginning about 4:30 in floored me:
"Whe you look at the living conditions of the 43 million Americans that the census says are poor, you see that they in fact have all these modern conveniences...99 percent of them have a refrigerator."

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
World of Class Warfare - The Poor's Free Ride Is Over

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So now people apparently aren't considered poor if they have a refrigerator. A REFRIGERATOR!

It started me thinking about the last time I had to live without a fridge. I moved into a house with no fridge and had to buy a new one. I'm not poor, or I would have gotten a 30-year-old used one that sucks up $300 in electricity every year like I had back when I made minimum wage.

I bought one at Sears and they said it wasn't in stock and would take a week to deliver. No problem, I thought. I can survive a week without a fridge. I can eat non-perishable food and eat out, because I can afford that.

But if you don't have a fridge and you do want some perishable food, say something nutritious like milk, cheese or eggs, you'll need ice.

I didn't have an ice chest, because I was only missing a fridge for a week, so I just put the ice and small cartons of milk in a dish pan and covered it with a baking pan with newspapers on top for extra insulation. Still, I had to buy ice every day. It was messy and inconvenient and expensive, but for me, with my income, it was a short-term problem and I could easily survive.

If you're poor, you don't have the same luxury of eating out and wasting money on small sizes of food. You also don't have the comfort of knowing a brand new fridge will be delivered at the end of the week.

Ice is expensive. And heavy. So if you don't have a car - which I'm assuming you don't, if you're too poor to be able to afford a $50 yard-sale fridge - you have to schlep 10-pound sacks of ice. Heavy, cold ice.

Hope you're not old or disabled or live more than a few blocks from a grocery store! And I hope you don't need any other groceries, because once you have a couple sacks of ice, it's pretty hard to carry anything else.

I also hope you have the spare $3 a day you'll need to buy 2 bags of ice. You could make ice almost for free but HEY, THAT'S RIGHT, you don't have a fridge SUCKA. So that's $3 a day - or about $1000 a year you'll need to support your non-fridge habit. And since the federal poverty level is $22,000 a year for a family of FOUR, I'm sure you'll miss that $1000 pretty badly.

You could have bought about 750-1000 pounds of dried beans with that same amount of money, but that would be ridiculous. You're poor. You don't deserve a fridge!

And if you do want to cook perishable food, you'll have to buy it in small quantities you can use right away. So instead of buying a pound of margarine on sale, you'll have to buy it by the cube at the corner convenience store, because the market doesn't sell it in tiny quantities. It will cost you about as much as a whole pound, maybe more, but that's the way it goes, right?

You'll probably waste a lot of food, too, from spoilage or getting soaked by water from melting ice, food you can ill afford to lose. But waste is part of the American way! Learn to embrace it.

As you can see, I'm being sarcastic. I'm just hiding the fact that I'm so furious at the numbskulls who think poverty is easy, that it doesn't take cleverness and flexibility and constant scrambling to just get by. They sit up in their studios and have their lattes brought to them by production assistants and talk about how poor people have refrigerators and how that makes it almost like not being poor at all. I have two words for them, and they aren't "Bon appetit."

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Art of the Proper Cheese Plate


Here's the thing with a cheese plate - it's not just about cheese.

Sure, you can slice up some colby and mozzarella and call it a cheese plate, but give me a break. That's cheese on a plate, not a cheese plate.

A cheese plate is a work of art, a fanciful exploration of possibilities. It can go many directions, but to be correct, must remain balanced and pleasing in every aspect. The preparer - for no cooking is involved - must carefully select the cheese plate items for an experience of salty, creamy, sweet, crunchy, fruity, simple and complex.

There must be at least two cheeses, preferably three or more, of good quality and of a variety of flavors and textures. It helps if they aren't all cow's milk. One cow, one goat, one sheep is an interesting mix. Or one creamy, one semi-soft or firm, and one dry and crumbly.

My favorite would be either one brie or blue, one aged cheddar, and some kind of Pecorino or Parmesan.

The classic accompaniments are bread, fruits (fresh or dried) and nuts. Neglect not olives, though. A development I've seen recently is a blob of honey with comb served with a blue cheese. I like that.

At home, I get creative with different types of crackers, hearts of palm, several different olives, little pickles or cornichons, sliced sweet peppers, dabs of hummus. Dried fruits like raisins or apricots, a thinly-sliced apple.

Tonight's cheese plate featured:
Goat cheese gouda
A strong American blue cheese
Lucques Olives
Plain hummus
Hearts of Palm, sliced lengthwise
Walnuts coated with cocoa and chipotle powders
Apple, sliced thin

The lovely thing about making a cheese plate at home is that it turns cleaning out the fridge into an artistic, creative experience. The fridge and cabinets become sources of hidden treasure. Before, it was a just tablespoon of leftover walnuts. Now it is a cheese plate accompaniment! I am a culinary genius!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Another one off the list

Butternut squash and radicchio pizza, Local Cafe
This was not the pizza. This is really good butternut squash pizza.

I go out to lunch on Mondays when I am in the office because I am too lazy to take my lunch. I try to go different places and see what is out there. Culinary adventure. I'm a real Indiana Jones that way.

I checked Yelp and found a pizza place I hadn't been. I found the little place hidden in a non-descript strip mall back off the street. A crap location to be sure.

I was the only customer. I figured Monday lunch, a little late, in a crap location. Ok.

I ordered my food and got an iceberg lettuce salad topped with a those pink unripe tomato slices and a handful of shredded mozzarella cheese. Not so good.

But here's the really bad thing. The old dude that ran the place came over, saw I was reading the newspaper, and began shoving the newspaper aside in an irritated fashion as if he were pissed that I was reading the paper where he needed to sit his salad. I picked up the paper and moved it out of the way. Started eating salad and reading the newspaper again.

Back he came with the pizza plate holder thing and the pizza plate. He again harumphed around as if I were messing with his game. I couldn't believe it. I wanted to have a nice lunch and now some jackass is mad because I dare to do what I want while I'm eating (at a 4-top, which had plenty of room to just put down the food and leave me to my stupid newspaper).

Then he went over and turned on Fox news LOUD despite that Sinatra was also playing loudly. I stuck my fingers in my ears and kept reading. Do you know how hard it is to eat pizza with your fingers stuck in your ears?

Anyway, Fox News was the final straw that convinced me to never go back. It should never be played at mealtimes. In fact, that channel should come with a warning: may induce nausea and vomiting.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Public Service Announcement: Salad

Vegetable Charlotte - now THAT's what I'm talking about

I am a vegetarian and have been since 1986, yet I can count on one hand the times I have thought "Going out to eat? Yay, I can get a SALAD!" I may not even need any fingers to do that.

It always takes me aback a bit when my non-veg friends muse "Is there anything at Restaurant X you can eat? Oh, they have salad!" as if that solves the problem.

Maybe non-veg people look forward to having a nice salad as a meal out. Then again, their salads are usually topped by grilled shrimp or a breast of chicken.

I suppose it is the idea that vegetarian = vegetables and the fact that many non-vegetarians eat vegetables reluctantly, if at all, and often in the form of salads that gives rise to the belief that vegetarians are big salad eaters.

I'm not. I rarely eat salad. My greens usually turn to bags of pre-compost green liquid in the crisper drawer before I ever get around to eating them.

I do love vegetables. I love 95% of all plant matter (the only exceptions I can think of are bitter melon, starchy big lima beans and...that's pretty much it). I love plant matter prepared creatively as soups, stews, curries, stuffed vegetables, tartes, tortas, with pasta and noodles, on sandwiches, tagines, gratineed, roasted, fried, sauteed, steamed and put on pizza.

I even love salad sometimes, just not as the main course. So - here's the PSA part - if you're choosing a restaurant to take your vegetarian friend to and the only non-meat item they have on the menu is a salad, go somewhere else.

Friday, August 12, 2011

I remembered my password!

I haven't posted on this blog in almost a year! About eight of those months have been spent occasionally wondering what email and password were connected to this blog, and being unable to remember.

It came back to me! Glory hallelujah.

Who knows if I will start posting again. I still love food, but I have fallen into culinary bad habits like eating cheese plates for dinner (cheese, crackers, olives, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, maybe a couple slices of Tofurkey lunch "meat") and not cooking anything real.

Here's a food pic that cracked me up. I love Baken!
Eggs and Baken

Thanks for stopping by after all this time. I'll be better, I promise!