Sunday, October 17, 2010

Education Makes The Man(icotti)

First, a thing about our No-Restaurants experiment. This past weekend, we traveled with good friends to Kansas City to the Renaissance Fair. We made a pit stop at Gino's Italian Cuisine in Kearney, and I'm not exaggerating (much) when I say Brent and I both copiously salivated for days before the trip. It would be our first outing since the inception of NR. And really, the food was good...but I wouldn't say it was the most amazing meal of my life. And yes, both Brent and I spent some time on the toilet the next morning because of it. (Better on it than in it, I say)

So, end point, the experiment continues (although, it seems less of an experiment now and more of a lifestyle choice). The kids agreeably are on board with continuing, so now maybe the challenge is to see how long we can go before we cave into the pressure/desire to visit a local eatery.

Second, my obsession with purchasing food-related texts is nearly at a climax. I have not even finished with Marion Nestle, and yet, my latest purchase is Fix Freeze and Feast. Essentially, the book's recipes are doubled, tripled, quadrupled (and beyond), so that the reader can freeze several entrees in advance. The variety of recipes means I'm not stuck making a helluva lot of casseroles for the rest of my natural-born life.

As I learn more about the production of frozen foods (via Nestle), the more that making my own "frozen dinners" appeals to me. I can guarantee the pan of Pizza Casserole I froze Wednesday night does not contain Yellow No. 5 or Xanthan Gum. The 20 cups of Black Bean and Vegetable Chili I made today has probably most of a day's worth of vegetable requirement, as opposed to vegetable-sounding products one may find in a can of store-bought soup.

Some people stockpile arms and ammunition, I stockpile pans of manicotti. I suppose it is my cross to bear in this life.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Teach Me To Fish...

I've been reading Marion Nestle's "What to Eat" lately, and let me tell you, it is quite a tome. Overwhelming, perhaps.

The more I read, the more I am convinced that

a. Food consumers are not stupid, but yes, ignorant.

b. The food industry is fraught with unscrupulousness.

c. Various concerns about public health and safety come in second place nearly every time to companies who have a lot of money and lobbyists.

d. All of the above.

I suppose you could look at it two ways: one, it's depressing to think how duped the American consumer has been for all these years...and yeah, an isolated tropical island free of politicians is looking pretty appealing right about now.

OR

Two, this is Enlightenment. This is evolution of the human species. Knowledge is power, and knowing is half the battle (via G.I. Joe). Now, we can start making good and right choices.

Me, I choose No. 2. Nestle's section on fish is rather extensive...at various points, it occurs to me a degree in Marine Biology or similar would be very useful. Anyhow, out of all the pescatological chaos, I came across this:

Seafood Watch

Depending on what part of the US you live, it lists fish that are okay to eat (safe, not overfished, etc). It also details seafood that is unsafe to eat. Good stuff! It folds up into a size that fits into your wallet and you can schlep it with you in supermarkets and restaurants. Double good!

I look forward to using it. Maybe you will too.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

One Month Restaurant-Free

On September 5, 2010, the Nelson family undertook the great task of withdrawing from all restaurant outings.

The final pronouncement: Not painful at all, and actually, worth continuing.

Oh sure, there were times we craved non-homemade-food. I mean, how can we physically not crave it when we live in such a processed-food-world? But mostly, suppressing the urge to indulge was easy (or at least, grew easier with time).

So, dear readers - let me give you the highlights.

1. I purchased a nice, new food processor, which has allowed me to make fresh salsa, mashed sweet potatoes, and broccoli pesto - just in the last week.

2. Slowly but surely, Brent and I keep dropping weight. I believe this can be attributed to smaller serving portions and the elimination of junky, processed foods from our pantry.

3. We have become more resourceful. Bags of lettuce or produce are no longer being thrown out because of spoilage - we are actually eating them before they go rotten. This in turn leads to smaller grocery bills (this I really can't confirm with hard evidence, it's more of a gut feeling).

4. Our children are more invested in the meals - because they help us prepare them now. Also, we are more creative when it comes to meals, and we are actually excited when a new recipe is up on the rotation.

5. Okay, yeah, part of me misses being catered to and served. I mean, eating every meal at home means I am somewhat a slave to my kitchen. Happily for me, though, it's a place I like to be!

6. Many of our (Brent and I) conversations are based around food. How we take it for granted, how we use it to solve our problems, what kind of role it plays in our lives, etc. This provides for good conversations.

7. Dinner times seem to be more relaxed these days, more chatty. I have no idea why that is.

8. Doing this project does require a bit more planning and forward-thinking. That could be stressful for families who are pretty busy. I mean, who really wants to spend time packing a cooler full of bologna sandwiches for a weekend soccer tournament when it would be easier to go to Subway?

9. Brent and I have begun to compile a list: "Foods We Will Eat More Of When Our Kids Leave The House" (currently: squash, sweet potatoes, tortellini soup, and salmon).

Ultimately, we (even the kids) have no real desire to eat out now. So, we are going to soldier on for another month.

However, I foresee a weekend in mid-October where a trip to an out-of-state Renaissance festival might necessitate a trip to an out-of-state Italian joint.