Sunday, January 29, 2012

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.

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