One Small Change – August
My mother in law, Judy, has this way of conveying extra special information with a loud, exaggerated whisper that suggests the slight possibility that she’s getting away with something. Like, “Save a little room for dessert Rachel, because there’s homemade fudge in the fridge.”
And this is exactly how I feel about our Food Exchange aka Polygamy Without the Oppression, which was my One Small Change for March that is going strong. (read about it here and here). Just yesterday I picked a bundle of lettuce and edible weeds from the garden, opened the fridge and spotted (insert exaggerated whisper here): Sheryl’s homemade creamy tomato salad dressing. And then we all ate Audrey’s homemade peach frozen yogurt for dessert. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I may have eaten the whole thing myself, right out of the container while leaning against the fridge during our last heat wave. And damn, it was good.
This food exchange is like having good food on tap. There’s always something homemade and awesome that I didn’t make lurking in my kitchen, including: red chile sauce, salad dressings, jam, popsicles, sour cream, tortillas, granola, bread and a yogurt cake that was especially good because Audrey, who is very classy, labled it a gateaux. We also had fun with body care one month: lavender lip balm, a bath soak and a facial scrub that smells like you’re lying under a thousand Hawaiian flowering trees while a gentle wind blows.
And I have finally learned how to make a decent loaf of bread, thanks to Sheryl’s recipe, which is quick, easy and foolproof even at 6512 feet. (it’s more than decent, it’s really delish, but if you walked in the house with a squishable loaf of store-bought bread my kids would probably go home with you).
Foolproof, no-knead bread (and I know the last bread recipe I posted was not foolproof for us high altitude folks, but this one is for reals so easy).
~ makes two loaves ~
7 1/2 cups flour (I use spelt and whole wheat and sometimes 1/2 cup of ground flax seeds or oat bran)
2 TBSP yeast
4 cups warm water
1 TBSP honey (I usually use 3, shocker)
1/4 cup molasses
2 TBSP salt
Warm flour in oven (on lowest setting) for 20 minutes while dissolving yeast in 1 cup warm water. Let yeast proof (bubble up all alchemically) and add molasses and another cup warm water. Mix in flour and last 2 cups warm water until sticky. Butter 2 large loaf pans (9 X 5) and add bread dough to each. Let rise 1 hour. Preheat oven to 400F and bake 30-40 minutes.
In other updates, my beer growler challenge (April) is going great, despite the tremendous effort of drinking all that beer. We bring our growlers everywhere we once would have brought bottles. Even camping, which considering we must look like the Joads with everything but the chickens piled into the Subaru just to spend a night in the woods, consolidating a 6-pack into one bottle is a bonus. We bring our clandestine growlers on river dates, toted in backpacks.
I did a quick little math equation, and just before my head exploded I calculated that if you buy your beer from Carvers Brewery (of course you have to live in Durango to do this, and may I recommend the nut brown ale?) where you get a free growler for every 6 you buy, it actually only costs 50 cents more for growlers (ounce to ounce) than six packs.
And now my August One Small Change: (Will it shock you to learn that it’s food related?)
Right now I’m reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals (which details America’s transition from family farms to factory farms and the operations of the typical industrial feedlot, often housing 33,000 chickens in one, large shed – individual cages stacked to the ceiling with floors no bigger than a sheet of loose leaf paper).
I’ve read Omnivore’s Dilemma, and Fast Food Nation and I know about factory farming and haven’t bought that sort of meat for years. However, what I’ve learned in this book is that even the commercial, organic, antibiotic and hormone-free animals typically live a short, dismal life in which they never set foot on bare grass, feel sunlight on their bodies or are free to engage in the natural activities specific to their species (e.g: chickens scratching in the dirt, pigs rooting in the mud). Commercial turkeys, even those touted to be all natural, come from genetically engineered stock that are so breast-heavy they can barely walk, nor can they reproduce naturally. The labels “free range,” “all natural,” “hormone-free” conjure up a pastoral image harkening back to 1930, when the average chicken flock size was 23 birds, but these terms are incredibly misleading. To be considered free-range, chickens must have “access to the outdoors,” which means you can cram 33,000 de-beaked chickens in a shed as long as there’s one small door (usually closed) at one end leading to a 5X5 dirt patch. “Cage-free” chickens often require more drugs, de-beaking and de-clawing because of their crowded conditions.
There is much more to say. Reading this book has been painful, revolting and eye opening.
My One Small Change for August is to not buy or eat any meat of unknown origin. No more supermarket meat, no matter the claims of “organic.” The only meat I eat will be either wild or from small, local farms.
If you want to look for contradictions in my life, you will see many. Until I start making my own cheese (coming this winter, hopefully) I’ll buy cheese from the store. I will likely eat a muffin at some point that contains butter and eggs from factory farmed animals. However, all our milk and eggs are sourced locally. For the record, I am not against animal agriculture. It’s a noble profession and there are people who give animals good lives, swift deaths and provide consumers with high quality protein. Hopefully someday, this will be the norm.