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The New York Times Blog: Room for Debate

Last week, I was asked to share a food words about my food stamp challenge with the New York Times website.

250 words is not a lot of space to get into what I found to be the myriad issues and problems with the SNAP program and modern American foodways and all the political, economic, social, spiritual, philosophical and ethical concerns therein.

For those coming here from NYT, have a look around. I've written about them, some of them in depth, on this blog, particularly from October 24-November 25 when I was doing the proper challenge.

Another one of the commenters made a good point: if poor people eat too well on food stamps, they're accused of living off the taxpayers' dime. If they choose processed foods, the same people will denounce them as lazy or uncaring about their health or the health of their children.

Here's what I learned from my challenge: it's possible to eat well on a food stamp allottment. It takes a lot of skill, a lot of work, a lot of planning, a lot of time, and a lot of social capital. I have those things, but I am also not living in poverty. My experience was only a faint facsimile of what it's really like, and I'll never judge an assistance recipient again based on their choices.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 8th, 2009 02:06 pm (UTC)
Cook for Good helps with planning & cooking skills
Thanks for the great blog entry in the NY Times. You're right: it takes a lot of planning and some cooking skill to eat well on a very low budget. I've spent more than two years at Cook for Good developing menus, cooking plans, and shopping lists to help people with the challenge of squeezing the most taste and nutrition out of their food dollar. My average thrifty meal in November was $1.07 per person and my average "green" meal, with ingredients that were mostly organic, sustainably grown and kindly raised, was only $1.73. Both these figures are well below the food-stamp allowance in my state of $1.99 for a family of four with no other means. Best of all: even if you don't need to save money, eating as if you do will make you feel better and help the environment.
Dec. 8th, 2009 02:50 pm (UTC)
Re: Cook for Good helps with planning & cooking skills
Thanks for your comment. I wish I had found your site before I started this whole thing. Commendable job. There are so many people who have done amazing things with this challenge that I didn't come close to in my first month. The next time I do this, I can already see how much different it will be.

Have you any experience with thrifty menus that don't contain wheat, barley, rye, oats, or soy?

(I'm guessing rice and beans figure prominently!)

Dec. 15th, 2009 06:00 pm (UTC)
Stock recipe
I looked (as best I could) through this LJ and couldn't find your stock recipe. Which method do you use?

I actually usually make broth, not stock, because the least-expensive chicken parts I can get are full leg quarters. Every 4-6 weeks or so my local grocery store has Perdue leg quarters at 79 cents/pound or even less -- I've paid as little as 39 c/lb. My assumption is that this is at or even below cost, but the higher cost+demand for white meat more than makes up for it. Every week I check if any veal bones happen to be in, snatch them up and freeze them if they're there -- they're usually less than $1.50/lb, and one makes a great addition to the broth.

Anyway, I usually make my broth from meat and bones and all (in the BIG pot) and freeze it for use in soups and sauces. I wonder, hmmm, maybe I should butcher the leg quarters at home, and use the meat for stir-fry, the bones for stock? Would you put the skin in the stock?
Dec. 16th, 2009 12:18 am (UTC)
Re: Stock recipe
I think your way is very serviceable as well. My method is not very, well, methodical, but it works for me.

I keep all the cores and skins of the carrots and onions I use to cook with during the week in a baggie in the freezer. When I have roasted a chicken or made a bone-in roast or whatever, I take the bones, fat, skin, bits of meat, whatever is left over, cover it with water in my stock pot or crock pot, add the onion and carrot bits plus another cut up onion and carrot, half as much celery, two eggshells, a tablespoon of cider vinegar, a bay leaf, and either cook in the crock pot on low for 24 hours or simmer on the stove for 8-12 hours. I skim every couple of hours, and then I let it cool in the fridge overnight so the fat layers at the top and I can take it off. A purist would say to save the chicken or beef fat for later sauteeing, but I've not been quite that brave. ;)

I do add some leftover skin into the broth/stock/whatever, but since I peel off the fat from the stock it occurs to me that it probably goes to waste. But the flavor is great when the bones and meat have already been roasted (although it does add certain flavorings that some recipes might not work with). Another variation is roasting the vegetables before you add them to stock.

The apple cider vinegar helps extract minerals, gelatin, and glucosamine, which are good for you and can help with texture in some dishes. My chicken stock, when cooled, is pretty gelatinous. When it's warm it's a thin liquid.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )