Driving up my block one morning this week, I passed a cherry tree that was about to bust into full blossom. I smiled at its frothy buds and felt a wave of joy that spring was on its way.
Then, of course, I stopped dead in my tracks. I backed up the car and sat in front of that poor confused tree. And I said to myself, “It’s Christmas time. It’s bloody December. Oh…my….freaking…lord.”
Remember that Carly Simon song about the world turned inside out and upside down? I wonder how she would tweak her lyrics for 2015. Kids ducking machine gun fire at school; fish jumping from poisoned rivers in Brazil; refugees fleeing on bicycles through the Arctic; cops getting away with murder in (name the city); and presidential candidates promising to build walls around this country.
Carly goes on to sing that, “If, through all the madness, we can stick together, we’re safe and sound.” I don’t know if that statement holds much water these days. However, I do find myself holding ever more tightly to those I love. And I’m appreciating every uneventful, seemingly ho-hum day that comes our way.
I’m also trying harder to live more conscientiously on this planet. I won’t go into the ins and outs of my efforts (god knows I have a lot to improve upon). But in the kitchen, I’m finding it to be a particularly complicated endeavor. Everything we put in our mouths seems to be an assault to the environment, to animal rights, to our health, and/or to our wallets. And the “better” choices many of us try to make—cage-free eggs, “all natural” chickens, farm-raised fish—often turn out to be marketing ploys that are equally as injurious to our world and/or our bodies.
So what’s a well-intentioned non-farmer to do if she needs to feed herself and her family on a mere mortal’s budget? I haven’t really come up with a perfect answer, but I keep going back to two concepts. First, is Michael Pollan’s simple mantra: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” And second, “a little good is better than all bad.”
In my house full of hungry males, I can’t really stop serving animal protein and going all-organic is an expense I don’t choose to shoulder. So am I just a hypocritical doofus? Should I just not bother doing anything? Nah, I don’t think so. I think it matters that I’ve been composting for seven years now, that I stick to the periphery of the supermarket and that I bring my own bags when I shop. And this year I decided to drastically cut down on our red meat consumption. Who knew that giving up beef can do more to cut carbon emissions than giving up our cars? That farming cattle uses 28 times more land and 11 times more water than farming chicken or pork?
In addition, I’ve been buying and preparing less food all together. I’m sure my Jewish grandmother—for whom an overabundance of food was deemed as necessary as oxygen—would be horrified. And I won’t deny that at times the guys end up negotiating for the last slice of something. But it often means they’ll satiate their hunger by finishing up the veggies I’m serving or the remaining spoonfuls of quinoa. Or they’ll have some fresh fruit and yogurt for dessert.
Now, instead of dumping uneaten leftovers and unused produce at week’s end, I stand in front of my nearly cleared-out cooler with a sense of triumph. I’m glad that I’m adding that much less organic waste to our landfills—which is by far the planet’s largest source of methane gas emissions. Seeing how closely I can shop and cook to meet my family’s needs without waste is my latest favorite game.
In the grand scheme of things, I don’t know if any of this will make a difference. But who knows? Every home has a kitchen and if each of us tries to make just one change, it might matter. What change might you make in 2016? I’d love to hear from you.
Those are my preachy thoughts at the end of 2015. As for what’s up on the Freundlich front: When people ask how our family is, it’s hard to say “great,” considering what’s going on around us in this world. I’ll just say, then, that for the Freundlichs, it’s been a loving and even-keeled 12 months. That’s something for which I am grateful. Noah, now a junior in high school, grew about 100 inches taller and has been feeling well. Ben has been thriving at American and is campaigning hard for Bernie Sanders. Sister-in-law Lonnie finished up her chemo and radiation and—as we had hoped—celebrated with us over Thanksgiving. And Ringo is as cute and as hairy as ever.
Happy Holidays. Happy New Year. I wish you and the world peace and health in 2016. And shoot me an email if you want the 2015 cookbook: pegSrosen@gmail.com
P.S. The additions to this year’s cookbook are:
Wowza Zucchini Tart with Herbed Goat Cheese
Quinoa Tabbouleh with Feta
Black-Eyed Peas Pulao
MFG’s Great Veggie Jumble
Addictive Roast Parsnips and Sweet Potatoes with Caper Vinaigrette
Hot-and-Fast Broccoli with Garlic
Zingy Moroccan Carrots
Tula’s Snappy and Fast Sausage and White Bean Stew
Grilled Chicken with Lemon, Garlic and Oregano
Make-Ahead Chicken Curry with Cashews
Quick Maple-Mustard Pork Tenderloin
Cozy Iced Molasses Cookies
Dean’s Damned Good Lemon Bars