Monday, September 27, 2010

On the merits of doing it by hand.

A farmer friend of mine said to me recently (in only the wise way a farmer can), "Isn't it funny how all these things were developed  are supposed to make our lives easier, give us more time; but it turns out they only occupy our time further?" In this instance, he was referring to the so-called "smart phones", but isn't it true about so much in our lives? As Americans, we are a naturally fast-paced, on-demand, instant gratification craving society. We want it now, or yesterday. We want it hot, fast, and cheap. We want it the way WE WANT IT.  And while this is an understandable notion, wanting things our way, it has enveloped us in the Burger King mantra which dictates our very existence!
   If you are reading this blog, then you are most likely one, or a combination of,  the following:

1) a close personal friend of mine (love you!)
2) a web addict (for shame!)
3) a foodie who's digging out niblets of worth online
4) a food publicist/editor (please contact me!!)

-and in being one or a combo of these, you are likewise well-informed, and are aware of the backlash in our food culture against the American non-culture. People are becoming acutely aware of the sugar content of their food, the origin of their apples and tomatoes, the detrimental monocultures of corn and soy degrading our Midwest and our economy. They are shopping at farmer's markets, buying seasonally, and exploring organics in a responsible way. (Side note: organic grapes from Peru are NOT more eco-friendly than conventional grapes from NJ!) I am among these people. I joined a CSA (community-supported agriculture) program 2 years ago at Fernbrook Farms in Bordentown, NJ, and am rewarded weekly with pounds of fresh, local, organic fruits and veggies - not to mention an embracing community of hope. I bake my own bread as much as possible; I can my extra fruits and vegetables for the winter. I can honestly and reasonably tell you that 98% of the food I consume, and that my husband and daughter consume, is homemade from fresh ingredients, or handmade. This is a fact that brings me extreme pride and comfort, especially when I see 10 year olds in the mall who might be 25, and/or in puberty. What are we doing to ourselves here!!??
   Blah, blah, blah, soapbox! is what you're crying, right? Well, TOO BAD. I'm not perfect, far from it. I order Chinese takeout once in a while, happen to LIVE for a decent crab rangoon. On busy days out shopping for my fresh produce, we might hit Wendy's for chicken nuggets (or as my daughter calls it, 'the chicken nugget store'). But I will call you out - yes, you - on being a lazy American, and not trying something by hand. There is no excuse, for instance, for buying whipped cream in a can when you can make your own whipped cream, complete with flavors YOU choose, and no preservatives. And I mean, gallons of it! One half cup of heavy cream can yield a full 1 cup of whipped. Plus, it takes less time than you could possibly imagine.
   Did I mention, you're doing this by hand? NO MIXERS ALLOWED. Doesn't count. My goal here is to break you from your technological dependence. Even when we THINK we're doing it "by hand", we're using machines to make it easy for us. Stop making it easy for yourself. You can do it, I have faith!

Easy Whipped Cream - makes 2 cups
You'll need 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 2 tbsp. sugar, and 1 tsp. flavoring of your choice, either real vanilla extract, rum, or just about any other liquid flavoring you want. I would not use coffee; if you want coffee whipped cream, add 1 tbsp. instant espresso into the cream and dissolve before whipping. Pour everything into a bowl. Grab a WHISK - that's the balloon shaped, wiry thing in your miscellaneous kitchen stuff drawer - and start beating in a circular motion, as fast as you can. You will quickly realize 1) your arm is getting a workout!, and 2) the cream is !surprise! getting thick. Keep whipping until it looks like the stuff you squirt from the can. Now, look at the clock. It takes me about 1 1/2 minutes to make, being an experienced cook - which incidentally, is less time than it takes me to figure out how to open the Redi-Whip cap. It might take you three minutes tops. In that time, have your partner in eating cut up some delicious store-bought pound cake and top it with fresh peaches or berries. I bet you'll finish first!

Enjoy your newfound freedom from electricity! If you need more ideas on how to go at it by hand, I'll be happy to oblige.

Two recommended readings for breaking the cycle: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (http://www.animalvegetablemiracle.com/), and The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Both are easy to read, and will shine a hopeful light into your bleak American diet.
To find out more about local produce in your area, please visit http://www.eatwild.com/ or http://www.localharvest.org/

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