Monday, March 19, 2007

Miracles and Nose Twitches

Sometimes I get crazy ideas and they roll around in my head for days. I know they’re crazy, I know I should forget about them, but I seem to have so little control over the things that pop into my headspace and take up residence there.

The thing this week I keep thinking about is the amazing way my mother could always feed a crowd with nothing in the fridge. The Biblical account of the feeding of a multitude with five loaves and two fish was one miracle communicated to me in childhood. But I observed my mother perform stunning miracles of the same genre frequently. Miracles that magically expanded so little fare into a satisfying feast.

And then I think back to when Hub and I were paying off our house. With an agreement that financed a portion of the house through the bank and the rest privately through the seller, we made double house-payments every month. We were far from rich but our house was totally paid off in 3 ½ years. No, it was not easy. It was really tough. And during that time, I could have wrote you a book about feeding miracles performed daily for a family of five.

Now the reason I keep re-circulating these thoughts is because of the many newscasts about hungry children and the many lifestyle magazines that promote eating such a variety and complexity of expensive ingredients that one is led to even comtemplate buying an airline ticket to Tibet to get fresh yak milk. And even in school children are taught to cook with ingredients that are far more complex and expensive than they need to be. And leftovers…what’s that? No one knows what to do with them.

Now when you live like I do and hate the dreaded trip to town as much as I do, on grocery day you buy salad fixin’s, a bit of meat, staples like flour, sugar, etc. and that’s that for the next two weeks. The first week cooking requires minimal planning with a well-stocked fridge. But as week two progresses, I go into ‘survival mode’ and begin to fall back on the miracles that my mother showed me.

This week I am working the old miracles. Last night I dug the last chicken breast out of the freezer. Not the neatly trimmed, skin removed, seasoned chicken breast but an economy-priced whole chicken breast with skin on and bone in. I boiled that breast with a few celery leaves, carrots, diced onion, and seasonings. When tender, I discarded the skin and bone, and diced the breast meat. The meat made Hub and I a couple of lovely chicken pot pies for dinner. The next day, with the reserved liquid I cooked that breast in, we had soup for lunch made with homemade noodles, diced veggies, and enhanced with a dash of chicken bouillon powder. It was excellent, much better than soup from a can. And for dessert, bread smeared with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon and stuck under the broiler just long enough to work the miracle of turning bread bites into fresh, warm, sticky buns.

So then I thought, who shares and bestows college students and financially strained families with cooking skills similar to this so that they can manage to still eat healthy and hearty meals despite limited funds? It’s a skill valuable in ensuring that no one goes hungry no matter how tough life gets. My mother taught me those skills. But is it now as lost as the art of tatting? Seems so to me. So maybe with the miracle-working skills my mother taught me, I should start another blog.

See why I’m better off to get these silly notions out of my head? Unless someone can mentor me on how to do housecleaning miracles like tidying and cleaning my house with a nose twitch, or how to slow time with folded hands and a nod of the head, I am forced to shake this silly notion of starting another blog. Hopefully, in the meantime, no one will go hungry.


Julie Oakley said...

You're a woman after my own heart. I have crowned myself Queen of the leftovers as I love the challenge of creating tasty meals from strange bits found at the back of the fridge. I hope my children are picking it up as they eat the food.

susan said...

Yes! Glad to see more of us around. My mom fed a family of five on a single can of corned beef. One roasted chicken would be a meal, then turn into the best chicken soup because of the flavor from bones and crispy skin.

I, as Julie said, use leftovers in casseroles, stirfry or soup--even leftover pasta ends up in soup, and I always keep a jar each of lentils and barley in the cabinet handy.

Unfortunately, I think that this "miracle of the leftovers" is a dying art unfortunately.

susan @ spinning

Roberta S said...

Hi julie. I'm so glad there are a 'few' of us left. I hope, as you do, that our children will preserve the 'leftover' tradition. It is comical how surprised my children are at themselves, at their own ability to perform the 'feast of miracles', which they occasionally do.

Thanks for your comment.

Roberta S said...

Hi susan, I note at your blog you are such a busy, busy lady so I am flattered that you made time to stop by.

I see your are another 'miracle maker'. (Wonder if all those miracles we have performed with leftovers qualifies us for saintesshood?)

Matty said...

My Aunt once said, "I can feed a family of 8 with 1 lb of hamburger."
I retorted, "Great..whatever you do, don't mix my drinks."
Friday night is 'Grab Night' at my house. That's when all the leftovers come out of the fridge and everybody grabs. Some shepherd's pie, soup, couple of eggrolls, chicken breast, cup of stew,,,no waste.
There are still many of us around! Great post..brings back memories of brown sugar and bread and aching teeth!

Roberta S said...

matty, drinks mixed by your aunt may have been a little on the weak side, but when you talk about Leftovers Night -- sounds like that could be the best smorg of the week.

Actually broiled bread with butter and cinnamon and brown sugar is not nearly as hard on the teeth (in my opinion) as real honest-to-goodness sticky buns. Course when the grandchildren come I supervise the brown sugar portions as I know if I don't they can easily get carried away...

She Dances in Dragon said...

Wow. Thank you for the reminder, Roberta!
Where I live, anybody can offer classes for adults. I'm not sure how good a teacher I'd be -I'm pretty disorganized- And every quarter we get a booklet on available classes, and I think about teaching "cooking on a budget". Along with a "How to use leftovers" class.

I've learned that you can learn how to use leftovers, even if you weren't taught at you mother's knee. All you need is a little creativity and a hungry family. And leftovers cook as easily as anything else does

Roberta S said...

she dances..., I am so impressed with class plan. It might be amazing how many people would be interested. Hopefully you'll forge ahead and let us know how it works out.

Although you're right that anyone can learn how to recycle leftovers on their own, young people that have never been fed leftovers as children, sometimes don't have the ability to see what kind of tasty dishes can be made with the scraps from a previous meal.

P.S. I'm assuming the cooking class you mention is in 'real life' rather than 'Second life'? :)