Sunday, January 29, 2012

Best Laid Plans

I haven't posted in quite a while, and here is possibly why...

In December, we had a new baby, which means I was pregnant for at least 9 mos. prior to that, which means I was very tired.  I was also in school for most of that time.  Well, actually that is a new development also.

I was working full-time, but I quit that job right around the time I came down with mono for the third time in my life... and then found out I was also pregnant again.  I decided for my health that I needed a change.  I applied for a grad assistantship and now I am seriously pursuing a Ph.D. program in Education (as opposed to halfheartedly pursuing it). Still, that did not leave time for blogging.

Also, when I quit my job, I stopped getting pay checks.  Weird.  But right around that time, I decided that I should apply for WIC since our income would be significantly decreased.  At the same time, I felt I could not justify taking help from the government while we also spent $225 a month for about the equivalent of 8 very fresh and locally grown meals from Fair Shares.  So we dropped our share.  I was sad, to be honest, but realized how much of a luxury that type of food is... It is sustainable in the way it is produced, but not in its accessibility to the masses.

We finally have recycling bins close to us.  First, they appeared on side streets close to us, and lo and behold, one day a recycling bin appeared in the alley behind our house, which means we can empty the bins any time we want!  And contrary to my former sarcastic remark that recycling is only for rich people, I now know that recycling is also a luxury that is not always accessible to the masses.  But it should be available to everyone.  So should fresh, good food.  But it has to be at a good price, as well.

Our garden was a constant learning experience this past year.  Actually, the weather was against everyone.  It was so hot that even professional farmers had trouble... and then stayed warm so we had lettuce in November and a few tomatoes to boot. 

It's probably about time to start seedlings in the basement for next year already... my husband will probably be the one to do it, though.  He is the executioner around here.  I think up the schemes and he executes them.  It works for us.  I have more hopes set on our garden this year, though, since that will possibly be a major source of fresh veggies for us without our Fair Shares share.  I might have to get my hands dirty...

The chickens lost one of their companions last year.  She was fine in the morning, and by evening she was dead.  I cried.  I don't know if I can really put them in a soup now.  They are still laying, but not as much as the first year.  We may get a few more older chickens in the spring from an uncle who is getting a whole new flock.  Then we will have more eggs than we know what to do with since we also get eggs with WIC.

And finally, I have not made granola for a few months, even though I had stocked up on oats and coconut.  First, we get cereal with WIC.  The price of commercial cereal was part of the reason I made granola.  Secondly, I have been pregnant and now just tired.  So that's what happened.  Maybe I will start up again.

God is good.  There is provision for our family in various ways.  And I feel more in touch with my neighbors than before.  Well, my neighborhood, I should say, since we don't have proper neighbors--the houses next to us are abandoned and empty, and the closest inhabited house has a transitory population.  The children that live there haven't been by since it has been cold, but maybe they will be back when the weather is warmer to ask for eggs and pick peppers and tomatoes that aren't quite ripe.  ;o)

Baby #2

Beans, milk and tuna

If you have ever been on WIC, enough said... if you haven't, then I will explain.  WIC is a wonderful government program (for you conservatives out there--no that is not an oxymoron) that benefits women with infants and children, hence, the acronym "WIC".  On WIC, families who qualify (i.e. make less than a certain amount per month based on the number of people in the home) get checks every month that can be redeemed for more milk than most people can drink, more beans than most people eat, and tuna.  Maybe some people eat that much tuna.  I don't know.

There are other things that you get with the checks, like bread and rice, but nothing like the amounts of the aforementioned items.  So we get creative.

Before we were on WIC, we already had a commitment to eat at least one meal a week of legumes (beans or lentils).  Partly this was to save money, partly to be healthy, and partly to show solidarity for the majority of the world that lives on the equivalent of rice and beans... three meals a day, seven days a week.  Our diet has so much variety as middle class Americans, it is hard for us to imagine how most of the people on the earth actually live day to day. 

Beans--these are actually the hardest to work with because I think our culture has something of an aversion to the food.  I'm not sure if it is what it does to your digestive system with all that extra fiber (beans, beans, the magical fruit...), or if it is that they are not all that tasty without creativity and spices (another thing to which white Americans seem to have an aversion), or if it is that they send a message about status (i.e. they are cheap).  In any case, we have had a challenge making ourselves eat beans for several meals a week.  It mostly didn't happen towards the end of the pregnancy and after the newest baby was born, since it takes so much creativity and planning.  Remember, the beans in the Taco Bell burrito don't count--must use the beans on our shelf.  

Now a word about protein: as it turns out, meat is not actually a necessary staple in a meal that includes a legume, a starch (rice, bread, potatoes) and a dairy product (cheese, yogurt, milk).  This is something that Indians (dot, not feather) have down pat with their curry meals featuring heavily spiced legumes, rice and some kind of yogurt.  Which leads me to spices...

We buy curry in large containers at Jay's for about $4.  We can thank Bizzy for that revelation, and that is how we eat most of our legumes.  Another large quantity gets cooked with Mexican-type spices.  We make some soups, my husband figured out how to make falafel with chick peas... and you would be amazed at how much beans we still haven't used.  They are our emergency stock pile food.  Really.  We buy canned so in an emergency, we don't have to worry about water to cook them in.  Enough about beans.

Milk--this has been more fun than beans, for me anyway.  My husband doesn't like milk or yogurt, really, but we do love cheese.  My oldest son went on milk strike for a while, so we have had more than we can drink.  For a while, I have made yogurt using a $13 yogurt maker (keeps the yogurt at the right temperature for 8-10 hours... nothing high tech).  In fact, it's the only culinary activity I've kept up since I was pregnant and on WIC.  Granola and bread making have been sadly neglected.  Anyway, as I said yogurt is good with curry, but isn't everyone's favorite.  And then there was cheese...

One day, while bringing the milk to boil for yogurt, there was cheese.  Okay, curds and whey.  Which meant the milk had turned sour, thereby starting the cheese making process.  So I just went ahead and finished it.  I salted it, strained the curds, and pressed most of the whey out and voila!  Queso fresco.  My husband is, as we speak, experimenting with different ways to make cheese, and making whey bread (using the whey instead of water).  So maybe bread making is back in.  ;o)

Tuna--you either love or you hate it.  And mostly you don't get creative with it.  So that's as much type space as tuna gets. 

All in all, we are grateful for the food provided by WIC (ultimately provided by the good taxpayers... don't worry, we are thankful for you, too).  I have to say, I'm not sure who makes the decisions over there in Washington or what that process is, but I would love to be a fly on the wall to hear the story of all those beans, milk and tuna.