Back around Thanksgiving time, a terrific op-ed was published in the New York Times that I saved, knowing that living up to it would be my New Year’s Resolution.
Titled Thanksgiving Thrift: The Holiday as a Model for Sustainable Cooking, the author, Tamar Adler, declared, “Talk about sustainability on the farm is popular these days. This is sustainability in the kitchen.” Elaborating, she writes, “Most of the year, we cook only for the one meal directly ahead, and we dispose of what’s left neatly in the trash — we budget- and time-conscious Americans throw out 40 percent of our food, worth over $50 billion (not to mention all the wasted time).”
This is perhaps the thing I feel most guilty about. I am a terrible meal planner, and despite my good intentions, too much of my local, fresh-from-the-farm produce ends up as a fermenting mess in the crisper.
Yet, at Thanksgiving I succeeded in cooking the way I’d like to, the way my grandparents probably did. The 16 pound turkey that fed us on Thanksgiving became so many meals—leftover roast turkey, turkey sandwiches, turkey tacos, and finally, with the carcass boiled down for stock, a delicious turkey noodle soup. That bird lasted a week, and knowing that there was a good meal nearly ready to go in the fridge each lunch and dinner was a welcome break from daily stops at the grocery store for the next hastily planned meal.
So for my New Year’s Resolution, I am taking the advice (or actually, accepting the challenge) put forth in Ms. Adler’s op-ed: “How much easier and more affordable eating would be if we looked at January’s chicken, February’s bread and March’s broccoli with the intelligence we do November’s turkey.”
The author gives her readers a blueprint, one that I’m excited to follow:
On Sunday we’d roast a chicken whole, then have its meat, its bones, its drippings. The rest of the chicken would mean fast, homemade, spicy tacos later in the week, lunches already made, the start of a soup. We’d save the ends of bread and freeze it as it staled. We’d buy and roast a lot of broccoli at once. The end of the broccoli would be combined with toasted stale bread croutons and the thinly sliced, quickly pickled, judiciously reserved end of an onion. What was left from that lively broccoli salad might then be put into a baked frittata for the next meal, which we might accompany with chicken broth.
I’m looking forward to working to get my cooking in line with my philosophy about where my food comes from. I’m looking forward to giving full respect to both the farmer who grew or raised my food, and the animals from which it comes. A former co-worker of mine would “rescue” any coffee beans he inadvertently dropped when making the morning coffee. I’d laugh in mock disgust as he picked up coffee beans from the floor and dusted them off before dropping them in the grinder. But he’d wag a finger and say, “That bean came all the way from South America!”
It made me think about the voyage our food takes. Imported from another part of the world or grown in our own backyards, food is a miracle and should command our respect and our every effort to use it well and completely to sustain ourselves and our families.
Plus, doesn’t this just sound like fun?
To cook sustainably, we need meat and vegetables to come in their own skins and on their bones and covered in their leaves, because they’re more economical and will leave us more to turn into future meals. We need to cook a bit more at once, and then do little cooking, and more adjusting during the week, which is often all we have time for, anyway. We need to follow the food-loving cultures of the world, and make versions of their simple, resourceful, sustainable dishes. For the curious-palated among us, it means a chance to cook like the Italians, the Thais or the French. For the more conservative, it means cooking like our practical grandmothers.
I’m pretty excited about my resolution—I think it will be easier to keep than the usual “I’m going to eat better or less or whatever” resolution I usually don’t stick with! What about you? Do you have a food or farm-related resolution? Let us know!