Thursday, February 16, 2012

Independence Days Challenge

Independence is many things to many people.
To me, it is a powerful feeling to be independent. The New Oxford dictionary has a few different definitions. Here's the one that speaks to me the most:

not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence : I wanted to remain independent in old age.
• capable of thinking or acting for oneself : advice for independent travelers.
• (of income or resources) making it unnecessary to earn one's living : a woman of independent means.

I have always said it's more challenging to be independent in a small apartment, as many others know. Sometimes I lose sight of how to get to the end goal, even though I know in my heart that I shouldn't sweat it. Every now and then though, it's good to get a bit of encouragement. This morning, I got that bit of encouragement from a woman who's blog I've always enjoyed, but had slipped my mind. Sharon Astyk is an intelligent writer that has written on a variety of topics like the preservation of home, agriculture, food preservation, climate change, changing weather instability, peak oil, and the rejuvenation of family. Her blog, The Chatelaine's Keys is never boring and always gets me thinking. On February 1 of this year, she brought back a challenge she's done in the past that she called Independence Days

She challenges us to  not lose sight of the goal, not to get overwhelmed by the myriad of things we need to do to be independent. Here is an excerpt of that post:
"The whole idea is to get the positive sense of your accomplishments – it is easy to think we haven’t done anything to move forward, but in fact, we all do, almost every day.  We just think of accomplishment as a big thing – a whole day spent putting up applesauce or a hundred tomato plants.  The Independence Day project makes us count our little accomplishments and see that we are moving forward.  So for each week, tell us what you have done in the following categories:

Plant something: A lot of us were trained to think of planting as done once a year, but if you start seeds, do season extension and succession plant, you’ll get much, much more out of your garden, so I try and plant something every day from February into September.

Harvest something: Everything counts – from the milk and eggs you get from your animals to the first dandelions from your yard to 50 bushels of tomatoes – it all counts.

Preserve something: Again, I find preserving is most productive if I try and do a little every day that there is anything, from the first dried raspberry leaves and jarred rhubarb to the last squashes at the end of the season.

Waste not: Reducing food waste, composting everything or feeding it to animals, reducing your use of disposables and creation of garbage, reusing things that would otherwise go to waste, making sure your preserved and stored foods are kept in good shape – all of these count.

Want Not: Adding to your food storage or stash of goods for emergencies, building up resources that will be useful in the long term.

Eat the Food: Making full and good use of what you have, making sure that you are getting everything you can from your food, trying new recipes and new cooking ideas, eating out of your storage!

Build community food systems: What have you done to help other people have better food access or to make your local food system more resilient?

And a new one: Skill up:  What did you learn this week that will help you in the future – could be as simple as fixing the faucet or as hard as building a shed, as simple as a new way of keeping records or as complicated as making shoes.  Whatever you are learning, you get a merit badge for it – this is important stuff."

Sharon invites her readers to join up, write about their own accomplishments and chime in, and many do. I'm sure that even here, in our small apartment, there is a way I could work towards these goals while working nights and trying to de-clutter our lives. I'm sure we could all do something. Even if you aren't necessarily working toward increasing independence, it's not a bad thing.
I'm not sure I'll have something to report  on the above  "catagories" every week, but I'm going to work toward doing something. I'm going to try to have something to report every Friday.

What about you? Are you interested in increasing your independence? Is there some small way you could waste not, want not? Or is there a way you could plant something, or perhaps harvest something as the season progresses> If we all work together, it won't seem so overwhelming.
Stay tuned for tomorrow's check in!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Since When Do We Need Lunch Inspectors?

I'm appalled, stunned and incensed to learn about a 4 year old who was told her home-packed lunch wasn't good enough on January 30 of this year, because it did not meet one person's idea of an approved lunch. From the North Carolina Journal,
"When the girl came home with her lunch untouched, her mother wanted to know what she ate instead. Three chicken nuggets, the girl answered. Everything else on her cafeteria tray went to waste."
"The girl's turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, according to the interpretation of the agent who was inspecting all lunch boxes in her More at Four classroom that day."
In a report written by Sara Burrows for the North Carolina Journal, it's made clear that, "The Division of Child Development and Early Education at the Department of Health and Human Services requires all lunches served in pre-kindergarten programs - including in-home day care centers - to meet USDA guidelines. That means lunches must consist of one serving of meat, one serving of milk, one serving of grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables, even if the lunches are brought from home."

So a state-approved random agent inspected the girl's lunchbox and decided her lunch was not healthy enough and decided she needed chicken nuggets instead? Do they not know what those things are made from? I used to make chicken nuggets for a living, folks, I know all too well that there isn't enough real meat in a nugget to be healthy. Very rarely you can buy chicken "cuts" in a nugget size. The difference is that a "cut" has a grain to the meat. This is an actual piece of chicken meat, sometimes from the breast of the bird. But I can tell you that that kind of cut isn't going to be within the budget of a school. They would probably buy the nuggets that are cheaper and faster to cook, and there is very little about those that are healthy.

For my liking, this allows State officials too much power, but I'm Canadian, so maybe I'm not allowed to have an opinion. But read this and consider what it means,
"With a turkey sandwich, that covers your protein, your grain, and if it had cheese on it, that's the dairy," said Jani Kozlowski, the fiscal and statutory policy manager for the division. "It sounds like the lunch itself would've met all of the standard." The lunch has to include a fruit or vegetable, but not both, she said."

So who was the "inspector" who decided that the lunch was not nutritious enough? None of the reports name the person, and the principal of the school clearly has no idea what happens in his school.
"The school principal, Jackie Samuels, said he didn't "know anything about" parents being charged for the meals that day. "I know they eat in the cafeteria. Whether they pay or not, they eat in the cafeteria."

Why would a perfectly healthy lunch be discounted and chicken nuggets offered to the child? Well, we can only assume that more than just chicken nuggets were offered, although no one makes it clear what was on the offered lunch tray. But the girl's mother, who wishes to remain anonymous in order to protect her daughter from retaliation, said she received a note from the school stating that students who did not bring a "healthy lunch" would be offered the missing portions, which could result in a fee from the cafeteria, in her case $1.25.  Wait a minute.... this mother is expecting backlash because she went public with this? What kind of community is she living in? What kind of a school system does this? Jani Kozlowski is quoted as saying, "If a parent sends their child with a Coke and a Twinkie, the child care provider is going to need to provide a balanced lunch for the child," Kozlowski said.

Ultimately, the child care provider can't take the Coke and Twinkie away from the child, but Kozlowski said she "would think the Pre-K provider would talk with the parent about that not being a healthy choice for their child."

So the State Inspector, whoever that was, was wrong to deem the lunch not nutritious. Furthermore, the school sent the bill for $1.25 home for a lunch that was not needed or welcomed! And the principal knows nothing about it? Right, tell me another fable.
Since when do four year olds need their lunch boxes inspected? Really? This is what North Carolina does with their money? Hire people to inspect lunches healthy?

This, if nothing else proves that government has gotten quite cozy in the pockets of it's citizenry. It also proves that the principal of the West Hoke Elementary School in Raeford, North Carolina isn't doing his job. Apparently, the mother of this girl has written to her state representative, Republican G.L. Pridgen of Robeson County, who is looking into the matter. One can only hope the follow up is shared with the citizenry as well.

Now, let me say that we also have a picky eater, which this girl apparently is. It's tough to get your child to eat healthy at the best of times. I send as nutritious a lunch as I can manage with our youngest son, and everything comes home again. My hands are tied somewhat by a no-peanut rule due to an allergic child in the school. Fair enough. Slightly more restrictive, but I understand why. No biggie. But because our youngest really doesn't eat lunch, it forces us to get more creative with breakfast and dinner to make sure he eats right. I know I'm not the only parent out there who faces this. One of my customers asked me a couple of weeks ago what I pack for the boys for their lunches, she's at her wits end trying to find something her children will eat. Our eldest and middle sons both eat fairly well, although I remember the middle son was not a great eater at his younger brother's age. He is still outgrowing it. I can only hope the youngest will as well, that one day he'll decide he likes more than spaghetti, meat loaf, cheese and corn. In the meantime, we're battling with a school system that has taken away hot dog day, tried to abolish pizza day and at one time would only allow water in the school. (Did I mention our youngest hates drinking water?)

So my heart goes out to this embattled mother who worries her daughter will face retaliation if her identity gets out. She clearly has enough to worry about with a picky eater, she shouldn't need to worry about a self-important state lunch inspector deeming her packed lunches unhealthy.
Lunch cops...damn, what's next? Smoking police?
Oh wait, we already have those....

Still trust in government?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Big Yummy News!


I'm not sure exactly when I decided my hiatus from cooking was over, but at some point, I decided I wanted to cook again. I've been gradually getting cookbooks from the library, and a couple from the store I work at. I've been trying to get better at certain dishes and staying away from the classics that the boys like. One can only hear, "It's okay......" (insert pause here while they think of ways to not offend me) so many times. So instead of getting my sleeves in a twist, I just don't mess with their favorite dishes. No biggie.  So I've been experimenting with new dishes. Somewhere along the way, I found I was enjoying food again, which had stopped happening many years ago. I've always loved eating it, and Betty is a great cook, I just wasn't enjoying making it anymore. I'm lucky to have a wife that enjoys cooking the way she does. But as I've said, I've been getting back into food lately. The making of it, the different elements of it, the processes, the basic ingredients and even how it's grown, shipped and treated.
(Seriously, our tomatoes are gassed to be red, did you know this?)

I want to find fresh ingredients. Fresh, like, picked that day, and naturally colored by the sun. Heck, I'd rather grow my own. I want to be able to make good food that has a taste and nutrients. I want to be able to teach the boys how to make an omelette or a roasted chicken, or make spinach dip or how to cook a steak properly.

To that end, I got the idea that I should start doing instead of just reading, and along the way, I should share what I see, taste, learn and fail at, so that someone else can learn from my mistakes. And so, Crispy Chewy Crunchy was born.
I'll be discussing the textures, the dishes, the elements that make up those special meals that we all remember. I'll talk about the tools we can use to make stunning meals, the tools the pioneers used, as well as old time recipes from the North, South, East and West. I'll discuss basic food prep methodology and terminology that many of us may not know about. I'll introduce you to new ingredients, new dishes and new ways of looking at what we put into our mouths. I'll feature cool places to eat, cooking schools, other foodie blogs that you should know about and up and coming cooks, and maybe even some of their recipes. I'd love to hear about what makes up your best recipes, your special meals and food related traditions.

I hope you come and join us. Lets have a conversation about food.

Monday, February 13, 2012

An Award? For Me?

I'm stunned!

I apologize for the delay in posts,  RL (real life) bit me hard the past few days, but here I am!

I'm thrilled, stunned and overjoyed to report that I was nominated for an award! Many thanks to Linda at Hello, It's Me, and to Bernie, aka The Apartment Prepper  for nominating me for the Liebster Award!

All that comes to mind is a Sally Fields impression from an awards show... "You like me! You really like me!"
Seriously though, thank you for the award. It means a great deal to this neophyte blogger.

1. Copy and paste the award on your blog.

2. Link back to the blogger who gave you the award.

3. Pick your favorite blogs with less than 200 followers, and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have received the award.

4. Hope that the five blogs chosen will keep spreading the love and pass it on to five more blogs.

Tomorrow, I'll pass on this little bit of blogger prestige to my favorite blogs, and let you know who I've chosen.
Today I'll be working on my post for tomorrow, and cooking.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, the importance of home cooking cannot be overstated. Cooking at home provides you and your family, and friends, with a more nutritious meal. One you have more control over, one more modifiable than a quick burger delivered in a silver wrapper. It also allows us to be creative in a way often discounted. Don't discount the power of good food. One of the best gifts I received as a teenager was a cookbook. One of the most important things I ever did was learn how to cook.

I'm off to wake up the second son, and then admire the pages of the Food Network's Chocolate issue.
See you tomorrow!