2008 Year in Review: Food, Poverty, Hunger, Waste and the One Dollar Diet Project

You’ve seen the books and the television shows: Frommer’s Australia from $50 a day among others and Rachel Ray’s $40 a day on the Food Network.  It turns out that, according to NetAid, more than 1 billion people (that’s 1 in 6 people around the world) live in extreme poverty.  Extreme poverty is defined as living on less than $1 a day.   In reaction to this, among other things, two social justice teachers started their experiment. Christopher Greenslate and Kerri Leonard decided to eat on a dollar a day for one month and they document it clearly and in detail in their blogOne Dollar Diet Project.

In this country we waste so much of probably everything we consume, but food in particular.  The portions we get in restaurants could easily feed two to four people.  The food our children throw out, I see it at the end of the day every day when I empty my daughter’s lunch box and I do it myself after trying to get them to eat a decent meal.  Just thinking about the project and browsing the blog will affect how I shop for food and serve to my family.  With kids there is always that delicate balance (at least with mine) of getting the right food for them so they will eat well and encouraging them to try new things.  I always said that I would never prepare separate meals for the children.  That is rarely the case for two reasons:  the children eat before we do, and although they’ll try new foods (well one of them will and the other will if the stars are aligned right), they won’t necessarily eat them.

The first recipe I saw on the One Dollar Diet Project, was from one of my favourite college recipe books.  I still use it today.  In college my roomates and I ate very well for very little because I shopped at the markets and local grocery store Warshaw’s (no longer around).  The recipe is Chana Masala.  One of my favourite.  As a child, my mom cooked a lot of vegetarian Indian food because it was cheap and it was tasty.  In college I did the same.  Having read the blog, I am more aware of how I shop and eat.  I only wish that my caution would provide food for others.

Bon appetit.  Appreciate what you have and take care of those who don’t.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Help out in your community all year round.

Cause of the Day: American Farmland Trust

If you’re stuck at work and feel that you want to contribute something else, or more to the world you live in….

If you’ve just had a delicious bowl of homemade soup at lunch that your husband or wife made you last night…

If you’re already daydreaming about the next time you get to go to your CSA farm to pick some fresh vegetables…

…then maybe you would take  a minute to visit the American Farmland Trust website.

Apparently 2 acres of farm land are lost to development every minute of every day.  As they say “No farms, no food.”

Today is a great day to do so because their board of directors is matching any donations dollar for dollar through the end of the year.

You can also take their Keep it Local pledge in order to make a commitment to eating locally grown and made foods.

Bon appetit.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: American Farmland TrustBetter Business Bureau Charity Report

World AIDS Day: Cooking for Those in Need

Monday, is World AIDS Day.  This day represents the 20 year struggle to fight AIDS and to force AIDS to be recognized as the devastating disease that it is.  I remember first hearing about “le SIDA” when I was in 6th grade in France.  I overheard some of the teenagers saying that it was in the swimming pool and we might get it.  I had no idea what AIDS was and didn’t learn anything more about it until years later.

Today, people are more educated about the disease, people are more comfortable in many countries talking about sexuality and the spread and prevention of the spread of the disease because they can talk about sex.  The most recent goal of activists is to provide universal treatment, prevention, care and support for AIDS victims.

One of the best things that you can do for someone who is ill, whether it be a terminal illness, a chronic illness, or a little cold is to bring them a home cooked meal.  I know you just cooked a huge Thanksgiving dinner and you’re thinking you don’t want to buy another huge load of groceries and start cooking again.  I have an easy solution.  These are recipes that you can make for your family and a friend in need.  It takes minimal groceries (you can even substitute left-over turkey for the enchiladas) and about an hour to pull together three menus.

The cookbooks that are saving me this week are Maryana Vollstedt’s The big book of casseroles and I’m using a recipe from Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious.  If you don’t have these books you can get them at the library or just flip through the books you have and choose simple recipes.  The menus I put together are:

  1. Creamy Chicken Enchiladas, Side of Spicy Black Beans, Dessert
  2. Chicken with Olives and Tangy Beer Tomato Sauce,
    Rice, and a Salad
  3. Sloppy Joe’s, Salad, and Ice Cream Sundae

You only need a handful of ingredients.  For a healthier delivery vessel, you can purchase some inexpensive glass food containers at the grocery store or hardware store.  I have even just gone to TJMaxx or HomeGoods to buy a dish (this can be cheaper than buying a less eco friendly plastic container at the grocery store) and told my friends they can keep the dish or use it next time they make a friend a meal.

Then deliver the food, heat up your dinner, curl up on the couch now that all the Thanksgiving guests are gone and put in a great movie.  For World AIDS Day, I recommend the movie Love! Valor! Compassion!.

For more info: If you’re not up for cooking, you can support some people who are:  Community Servings.

If you want more of the recipes just let me know.

Safe Havens: Food for Thought

We all have places where we can go either figuratively or literally to feel safe.  For some of us it is a place that’s easily accessible and we live our day primarily in a safe place whereas for others it’s only a state of mind or a brief moment that is not easy to get to.  For many of us, food provides a sense of safety and security.  That is what comfort food is all about.  It is food that reminds us of a time or place, usually in our childhood, where we felt safe without knowing there was any other way to feel.

I am writing from a place of privilege.  I’m a minority only by being a woman.  I have shelter, a healthy family, a supportive and thriving extended family, and the means to provide well for them.  However, I still feel like the world I present to my kids and my family isn’t the right one.  It’s safe, but it is hectic.

We’re living in a time and a culture of frenzy.  I often feel like I was born in the wrong era.  I think the hard hands-on work of being a pioneer woman is more “me”.  Yes, I wouldn’t have modern medicine, a car and all the “luxuries” of my life.  However, when I really look at those luxuries (except maybe modern medicine) I would happily trade them to be able to feel that I’m living my life.   Instead I feel that my family has been tied to a horse and we’re being dragged through our life.  One luxury of pioneer times was their built in slow food movement.

With the recent Safe Haven law in Nebraska catching everyone off guard, a spotlight has been placed on families who have abandoned children that they have raised for up to 17 years.  On the news you hear how shocked and horrified people are that children (not infants) are being given up.  But if you think about the personal cost of medical care in this country, the lack of support for families of children with special needs in many parts of the country, and the pressures of every day life, I don’t think it would be too hard to imagine.  Take your life and start stripping away some of the privileges you may have (health, a job, health insurance, a home, family/friends to support you, a car or public transportation, food for your family, self confidence, dignity)add a child or several children and perhaps one tragedy (loss, mental health problems, addiction, medical problem, ailing family members) and you can quickly see that a difficult life could become unbearable and one could conceivably want more for one’s children.

This article is about creating your own safe havens.  For many part of that process involves helping others.  Just be sure not to hide behind charity in an attempt to avoid addressing your needs and your families.  I don’t mean this to be selfish, but I think often we forget ourselves.  Share what you have to share and give what you have to give.  Some opportunities for giving this year can be found here:  The Greater Boston Food BankFeeding AmericaGrassroots InternationalBetter Business Bureau CharitiesCharity Navigator.

As I said before, I am writing from a place of privilege.  My state allows me to be married to my husband.  I have all I need, and more, for a good life, but still I don’t think I provide a safe haven or the kind of safe haven I would like for my family to have.  My needs and wants for my family are about balance and calm.  This time of year, especially everyone gets into a frenzy with the holidays.  I don’t like that my children see their parents over-tired and worn out more often than not.  It’s ironic because it’s their lack of sleep at the moment that is pushing the envelope on that front.  I think we have to slow down and adjust our priorities a little bit.  It’s hard when the rest of the city and the rest of the country, and more and more the rest of the world is moving at hurricane speed around you, but I think it’s important for me and for us to find a way to spend at least a good portion of our time in the eye of the storm.  My goal this “holiday season” is to start trudging toward that calm still place.  I’m going to try to bring as many people with me as I can, but I won’t be able to do it alone.  A meal is a good place to start.  Sit down with someone, family, friend, daughter, son, neighbour and have a meal.  Turn off your cell phone and set aside an hour (or if you must half an hour) to just be with the person you are with, enjoying food; feeding your self in the safe haven of uninterrupted time, nourishing food, conversation, and good company.

For more info: On Point with Tom AshbrookSafe Havens in MassachusettsCharity NavigatorGrassroots International

Weekly Bump: Ode to Verrill Farm

Verill Farm is a place that I’ve always wanted to go.   I have heard only good things about the farm stand.  With the hectic life of running after a two year old and a four year old and living in Cambridge I have never quite made it out there.

I was sad to hear about their fire not so long ago and moved by all the support from local restaurants and organizations.

I’m pleased to announce that Verrill Farm is up and running and are taking Thanksgiving orders.

Welcome back!

Bon appetit.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Verrill Farm BlogVerill Farm

Weekly Bump: Sweet Tooth

Somehow the holidays are upon us at the stroke of midnight on November 1st.  Whole foods has their holiday orders table set up in the meat department.  Formaggio Kitchen has their list of delicious Thanksgiving offerings.  Hi-Rise has their towering list that sways down over the weekly dinner sheet at the cash register listing all the Thanksgiving goodies.  And *gasp* Santa Claus is already at the Burlington mall.

This month there are some great ways to give and receive.  Here are two of them:

Pie in the Sky: Community Servings is an organization that provides meals to the acutely ill, their families, and their caregivers.  Since November 1993, Community Servings has done this Pie in the Sky fundraiser.  Boston’s best restaurants, bakeries, caterers and hotels have donated thousands of pies that over 350 volunteers then sell to family, friends and colleagues. Each pie costs $25, which in turn provides a week’s worth of meals to a Community Servings’ client and a tasty Thanksgiving treat to the buyer. A full list of the “bakers” can be found on their website but they include; UpStairs on the Square, Chez Henri, Harvest and Rialto.

Home Sweet Home:  Cambridge Housing Assitance Fund (CHAF) works with the community to help break the cycle of homelessness.  As CHAF’s Chairman, David Pap, points out ‘Preventing homelessness is far less expensive, and far more effective, than paying to house a family once they become homeless.’  CHAF is having an evening of desserts and dancing to raise money on November 14th at the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge.  Featured chefs will be Judy Rosenberg of Rosie’s Bakery, Jed Hackney of Harvest Restaurant, Robert Daugherty of the Hyatt Regency among others.  In addition, Sommelier Augusto Gabriel will give wine tasting tips in the VIP room where appetizers, port and  wine tastings will be available.  Tickets are $50 or $75 for the VIP room.

Think Local, Thank Local:  From November 16th through November 23rd a group of local businesses have pledged a portion of their revenue to On The Rise, which is a homeless shelter for women in Cambridge and the surrounding area.  So you can support local businesses as well as On The Rise, by shopping locally.  My neighbourhood stores participating are:  Easy Chairs, Full Moon Restaurant, Hallie’s Garden, Henry Bear’s Park, Didriks and The Fishmonger.  For a full list of stores visit the website for Think Local, Thank Local.  Happy Shopping.

Bon appetit.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Pie in the SkyCommunity Servings
Home Sweet Home Cambridge Housing Assistance Fund
Thank Local Thank Local, On The Rise