This is the third installment of a series I am doing during Lent, chronicling our experience of eating what we have. If you’re just joining us here, I have included the links for the first two entries as well. #1: A Long, Cold Winter, Lent and Spring; #2: Lent – Eating What We Have
We’ve made it through week two of eating what we have. Let’s just say when I decided to do this, 40 days didn’t sound too difficult. But then somewhere along the line I realized that the 40 days don’t include the Sundays during this time frame, so we’re really talking about more like 6 1/2 weeks. Oh my. Four and a half more to go. Will we make it? Can we do this? Because it’s getting a teeny bit hard now. Where will we be in 3 weeks from now? Let’s see, we never said we couldn’t go out to eat, right?
So, a few things I feel like I should clear up before going any further. First off, I had decided that there were several items I would buy as we needed them throughout this time, those items being bread, milk and eggs. Now this does not mean that we can just live on this stuff, as much as we might like to and seeing that we could. Secondly, I have a confession to make about that dessert I wrote about last week which I told someone I would bring. Well, I bought that. I was beyond depleted and my weekend was nuts and I couldn’t even think about being very creative, so yes, I bought two Pepperidge Farm cakes and a box of ice cream; our small group is cool that way – they don’t care if it’s not a homemade gourmet dessert. It was one of those deals where it was easier to ask forgiveness than permission. And now I know why we buy convenient food-stuffs – because it makes our lives so much easier.
On Sunday evening we had our small group at our house and yes, we serve a meal. I decided to make Chicken Curry, using a bag of boneless skinless chicken thighs that I had cut up and stuck in the freezer. I used the last two cans of diced tomatoes which I had saved early on in this process precisely for this dish only I was a bit short on tomatoes as the one can was only half big enough, so I added a jar of tomato sauce I canned a few years ago that needed to be used anyway. I suddenly remembered that I needed cashews to finish off the curry and thought for a minute I didn’t have any. I did find part of a bag in the freezer and even though it was only half of what I needed no one knew the difference. I was supposed to stir in plain yogurt at the end, which I didn’t have, so I used sour cream instead. I almost think I liked it better than with yogurt. The link to our very favorite Chicken Curry is here – check it out. I served it with beautifully fragrant Jasmine rice which I had in the pantry. I also used up three quarts of green beans that I canned. I drained them and let them dry off a bit, then sauted each quart of beans in 1/2 stick of brown butter, seasoned them with garlic and pepper and sprinkled toasted sliced almonds on top. For dessert, I baked a fudge brownie mix and a carrot cake mix I had on hand. I also used up a box of cook and serve pudding I bought by mistake one time, whipped up the rest of a box of whipping cream and mixed the two together along with a can of crushed pineapple. We used this as topping for the carrot cake. It was okay, but not great. So now I have most of the topping left and I’m not sure how to use it up. Any ideas?
Last week I baked two turkeys I had in the freezer, one smoked and one regular. I picked the meat off the bones, made a huge batch of gravy with the drippings from both and poured it over the regular turkey. I divided it between 3 Zip-loc bags and stuck those back in the freezer for an easy meal at a later date. It’s especially good with mashed potatoes which is something this “not-a-good-Mennonite-wife” hardly ever makes. I know mashed potatoes are good but I don’t think they’re good for us, so when I serve them, my family always gets a message of truth and grace as a side dish. The truth is mashed potatoes are not healthy food, the grace is that I serve them anyway every once in a while. We’ve had several meals with the smoked turkey, and we will finish most of it tonight in a Turkey Tetrazzini casserole. It goes against my grain a bit because of the cream soup (which this dish will finish off, by the way) and the pasta, but we’ll eat it because we have it. So after this, no more cream soups, which I usually don’t stock in my pantry anyway; I think this was left over from when I was making noodles for an event.
The pantry is definitely getting sparser, although there is still plenty there. Today I realized I could actually close the door all the way; it would usually close within an inch or so but not all the way because of something or other sticking off the shelf a bit. The refrigerator is gaining space as well. I’ve been hanging on to a bit of lettuce for salads and when that’s gone there will be no more for a while. I know the fresh produce will be one of the things I will miss most. Strangely, so far what hubby and I miss most is bananas. We do have a few apples and grapefruit, so we’ll get some fresh fruit for a little while yet if we ration it.
It’s been surprising how often when I’m out running errands that I catch myself wondering if we need anything at the grocery store. I guess it’s become a habit, since that’s what I do when I’m on the road – pick up what we might need while I’m out anyway. It’s made me realize how often I go to the store and how easy it is to just get what we need, or want, most anytime. It has also made me realize just how much I have tried to prepare for the unforeseen. I know I touched on this last week, but it’s a biggie for me. I think it’s more about my pride than anything else – I don’t want to be caught short-handed.
Today my daughter asked, “What if we completely ran out of food?” Well, I don’t think we’re in danger of running out of food. I think what we will all realize is that we may get tired of eating what we have, but we will still have food. This is showing me that we’re very privileged with all of the different options we have nowadays and that we very much take it for granted. The relationship we have with food is practically idolatrous, and I say that as a self-professing “foodie”. I love food and I think it’s okay to enjoy good food; it’s what sustains us on a daily basis. Eating is something we do several times a day and somehow it seems that our lives revolve around food and cooking and meals and eating. Eating is a necessary part of life, but I think we can be careful that we don’t allow it to control our lives. In our community, the cooking and baking, even presentation, seems to border on competition and somehow I don’t think food was meant to be used in that way. As a cook, I want to do the best I can, but at the same time not put that expectation on anyone else. Let us bring what we have, and focus on cultivating deep relationships over food, rather than the food becoming the central focus. It’s not about the food people, it’s about the people you share it with. And that’s all I have to say for this week. It’s not all I’ve thought, but it’s all I will say…