Hope your Thanksgiving was tasty, warm, and filled with friends and family, recharging your gratitude tanks. The holiday recaps I've heard range from "we ate so much that we weren't hungry all the next day," to "I'm proud that I managed to fill my plate, stay away from seconds, and didn't feel ill afterward," to--at the other end of the spectrum--"our family usually goes for a walk around Lake Washington while the turkey is roasting." Goes for a walk? It crossed my mind, the thought of exercising, as I lay on the floor watching football afterward, but that's as far as that went. Instead I only roused enough energy to put on the sweatpants I was smart enough to pack for just such an occasion.
Sadly, we've eaten up the leftovers, but if you still have mashed potatoes lingering in the fridge, give Deborah Madison's mashed potato cakes recipe a try, from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I served these up with her applesauce (made from leftover market Jonagolds that didn't fit in the pie) and sour cream. Yum.
Mashed Potato Cakes
2-1/2 cups mashed potatoes
1 cup dried bread crumbs (I just ground up a bread heel in the food processor)
clarified butter or olive oil for frying
Shape the potatoes into 12 round or oval cakes about 3/4" thick. Coat them with bread crumbs and set on wax paper. Film a heavy skillet with some of the butter and set over medium heat. When HOT, add the cakes and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Flip and fry on the second side.
She also suggests serving them with sauteed onions, which I'll have to try next Thanksgiving!
Besides lying around in my food-induced coma, I managed to get through one book off my UrbanFarmJunkie to-read list, for which I posted this review on Goodreads.
The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan. (3.3 of 5 stars.) McMillan
goes "under cover" as a migrant worker, a Wal-Mart stocker, and an
Applebee's "expediter" to understand where our American food system goes
wrong. (I say "under cover" in quotes because I can't imagine--given
that she's white and small in stature with soft hands--anyone in the
California fields was fooled by her story that she just wanted to work
hard and not think about things or talk to people.)
discovers will not be too earth-shattering for people who read about our
food system. Field workers are under-paid by the piece, which then gets
converted to minimum wage, resulting in ludicrous pay statements that
say they only worked a couple hours that day. McMillan claims that, in
the price of your average supermarket apple, the cost of
growing/harvesting it amounts to 16% of its price, with marketing
infrastructure making up the remaining 84%. Thus, if wages to workers
were increased by 40%, the resulting increase to the average American
family's annual produce bill would be about $16. Count me in! I look
forward to chats with my local farmers market farmers next spring about
how they would divvy up their costs. Given that their produce prices are
comparable or only slightly lower than supermarkets, does that mean
more of the money makes its way to the farmer and workers?
Wal-Mart produce section wasn't such a shocker, though I didn't realize 1
in 4 American produce dollars gets spent there. Things get wasted,
things get "crisped", things don't have a lot of flavor. The pay is
lousy, full-time employment is hard to come by, overtime is avoided.
Uh-huh. Interesting that, when Wal-Mart has a lot of competition in the
food department, their prices are lower. If there's just them, or them
and another store, they're not that much cheaper. Also, because of their
ginormous deals, they're your go-to folks for shelf-stable, processed,
Applebee's was another case of overwork and underpay,
not to mention Olive-Garden-style nuked and reheated pre-prepped food.
The discussion of how the assembly-line model moved from manufacturing
to food service was interesting. I had no idea it began around the turn of the century (the 20th, that is).
Because she worked at survival
wages for a couple months in each situation, McMillan's heart is with
bringing decent food and wages to every class in America, not just the
middle-class and beyond, happy with their organic produce and farmers
markets. The rise of urban gardening in Detroit and the new availability
of fresh produce in food deserts are two hopeful trends, as is the
modification of the food-stamp program to require fresh fruits and
vegetables. As she points out, the underpaid have both less time to
spend on home cooking and less money for great ingredients, but, at
least among the migrant workers, there was still plenty of cooking and
shared food happening. Maybe such a return to community division of
labor would make better eating possible for more of the population.
this subject interests you, you might also enjoy CHANGE COMES TO DINNER
by Katherine Gustafson (discussion of hopeful signs in how Americans
are relating to food and getting fed).
Next up I had a foodie-type memoir, but I abandoned it fairly early on, biased perhaps by the recent New York Times article on how memoirists need to make sure they have something that needs saying. As I read about the author's unloved childhood and pot-smoking college ventures, I had the tired feeling this story was all too common, and I didn't feel like slogging through to where the risotto saved her. Never fear, however! My UFJ to-read list remains six books long, and growing...