Friday, April 25, 2008

I can't believe it IS butter!


Butter for Apple Crisp
Originally uploaded by madaise
I didn’t quite expect this news so soon, but wealthy, industrialized nations are running out of food. Japan has a severe shortage of butter – they’ve basically run out. This article explains some of the contributing factors. The scary news is, it seems like this is just further expansion of a trend we’ve seen in places like Haiti and Egypt in the past few weeks, and not an isolated incident to be brushed aside as irrelevant. In fact, as this article points out, Canada and the US are already seeing rationing and shortages, especially of rice (even Jay Leno mentioned it on his show tonight). I’ll admit we’ve been stocking up on 20 pound bags of rice, when we can. Each store will only allow us to purchase one or two bags at a time. We also haven’t been able to purchase fresh curry leaves (not related to curry powder, but still a staple of Indian cuisine) for over two months now. They’ve just become too expensive for the small shop where we buy our Indian groceries to even bother stocking them anymore.

So I’ll continue trying to grow stuff on my balcony, but this just reaffirms my belief that the more I can make and do for myself, the better able I’ll be to deal if and when I find myself facing a shortage of something more serious than curry leaves.

I was thinking about how I've been learning to make yogurt, sour cream, and assorted other dairy based products, and I realized that part of the problem with buying only processed, packaged, preservative laden foods is not just that they are unhealthy (which they are), but that they allow us to mentally separate from what we eat.

I was thinking some more today about chickens. I had to admit that if I ever had my own, I’m pretty sure they’d just be for eggs. I don’t know if I’ll explain this very well, but I don’t actually like animals all that much, to be honest. I have a cat that I adore, and believe to be the cutest feline ever born, but I don’t feel the need to pet dogs I see while I’m out walking, and in fact I go out of my way to avoid them. I don’t think I ever want a dog of my own, and I’m not sure I ever want another cat either. Anyway, point being, as much as I wouldn’t peg myself an animal lover, I also don’t think I could stomach killing a chicken. Buying the meat on a tray wrapped in plastic allows me to detach. This is the obvious, classic vegetarian argument.

What often gets overlooked, at least by me, however, is the mental and physical detachment we also have from other foods we eat. Like yogurt. As long as I’d only bought it in a tub in the store, I hadn’t really thought about what it was that made it yogurt. Now that I’ve made it, I actually understand what it is. I’ve made bread, and soda, so now I understand what makes the bubbles in each of them. It’s kind of like those cheesy public service announcements say: “The More You Know”…

Last week, I made butter! I know that the Japanese butter shortage is just a reflection of a general shortage of milk products, but I wonder if they’re still able to buy cream? Because that’s all that butter is!

I know that knowing how to make butter won’t help me in the event that my area experiences a serious shortage of milk products, but I think the more I know about how to make the foods that I eat, the better prepared I’ll be to deal with the sudden unavailability of products I’d previously taken for granted would always be on the shelves of my local store. I don’t know how it breaks down financially, but I’m pretty sure that if I don’t save money, it won’t cost me any more to make versus buying ready made butter…plus I’m reducing the amount of packaging I’m introducing to the landfill, and it's super easy for me to find local cream where I live.

I’ll direct you to Crunchy Chicken for the more specific instructions, but basically, it’s super easy, and goes something like this: put cream in a jar, making sure to leave plenty of air in the jar, and put the lid on. Shake like crazy till it solidifies (I shook for less time than Crunchy’s directions, I read others that said they shook longer…she describes the stages, though, so you’ll be able to figure it out). Use a spatula to squeeze the liquid out of the solid, pour it off (saving it for later use). Add a little salt, and enjoy!

9 comments:

Heather said...

I feel exactly the same way. I hear all the stories my dad tells, things he did when he was a kid and it blows my mind. My dad can sew, he can cook, he can mend a large wound (on himself, no less) in the middle of the forest, he has raised his own gardens and killed animals for dinner..... After all these years working to simplify my life, I realized that much of what I'd done was to make things more convenient for me, which is fine, but I was ready for the next step in my life - Becoming mindful of life outside myself.

So I became more environmentally aware which led to eating whole foods, then to eating locally. I really feel in touch with food the way I never did before and in doing so, I've found joy in some of those things that our generation just doesn't know anymore (like baking bread and making yogurt, etc). I love the feeling that in knowing these things, perhaps my husband and I can weather coming storms with grace and help a few others along the way.

Blue Collar Crunch said...

Trying to step back from the detachment you mention and reading Ishmael are the two forces that probably motivated me the most to cut way, way back on the amount of meat I eat.

Japan is probably going to be the first of the first-world nations to see most of these shortages. They import a much larger percentage of their food than the rest of us.

Oh, and I did put up my food-related challenge today (well, very late last night) if you're still interested!

Debbie said...

Ever since our trip to India I have had a recurring thought - a 'simple' action which many people could/should do, for a multitude of reasons, is to just eat less. It is my opinion that many of us, including myself, spend too much time each day munching, grazing and snacking. I am working on eating mindfully - not just shoving food into my mouth out of habit or because I am bored or stressed. I am curious as to the amount of food which we waste each day just by mindless/senseless eating. Just a few thoughts...

Melissa said...

heather - I find it's actually kind of scary when I realize how much I cannot do for myself! (including almost all the skills your dad knows!) I saw the site you recommended on baking bread. I have to check that out because I've made some really disgusting loaves in the past few weeks. I have been forcing myself to eat them, but ugh. isn't it amazing how once you do become aware of the big picture regarding food, it takes on a totally new role in your life!

bcc - I think what's really scary about Japan is that just two years ago, they had so much milk they were literally giving it away and pouring it down the drain. I just signed up for the challenge...it seems very well thought out and I like the perspective you bring to it, and the fact that you've made it very accessible for just about anybody who wants to give it a try! I might get in touch w/ you later as I seem to be having trouble getting the banner up...

amma - 1st, I urge you to check out the challenge BCC is hosting. It's right in line with your comment! As to what you said, I totally agree. I think I am going to write an India post. my Indian & I were talking about how, despite the pollution, litter, etc., in some ways India is way ahead of us in terms of sustainability - out of necessity, which is what makes it interesting (and scary when I think about how quickly the middle class seems to be growing). I thought about snacking a lot while in India. I found myself feeling stressed knowing that snacks weren't available and knowing that I was at somebody else's mercy for the next mealtime. I found myself often overeating (when I wasn't totally sick). I think it was some sort of leftover instinct to stock up while I could - even though my body clearly wasn't in danger of shrinking away anytime soon.

Heather said...

Hope you enjoy the lessons on the Fresh Loaf. I found them incredibly helpful. The don't just give you a recipe, they explain why each ingredient is added and what changes in factors can result in. VERY interesting stuff. I'm all about the "why" - why stuff is the way it is. The second lesson was my favorite bread, although I now substitute local honey for the sugar. Yum, honey!

arduous said...

Dude, seriously? No snacks? All we do in India is snack!! I actually find it a little stressful because every time you go to someone's home you are offered food and drink, and you can't refuse. I like snacks as much as the next person, but after visiting three houses in one day, I am snacked out!!

ONNO said...

That's a really interesting take on food and I agree with it completely. I think the more involved you are with your food, the more hands on you become, the more you appreciate it. I do have to agree with you about meat. I haven't been able to wean myself off meat, but if I had to kill the chicken or the cow or pig, I would probably stop eating meat pretty quickly. Thanks for the wake-up call.

Dagny McKinley
www.onnotextiles.com
organic apparel

Melissa said...

arduous - you are right about the visiting snacks. :) When we were just hanging out at home though, there wasn't much snacking going on. I tend to graze throughout the day, and never usually eat three big meals, so that was more what I was thinking about. I've been giving this more thought though, and maybe what was stressing me out was not that there weren't any snacks, but that when and what I ate did not seem up to me...like you said, if somebody offers you food, you can't say no, even if you're not hungry. I found that a lot of the food that we were offered when we were visiting was super sweet, oily, spicy, or a combination thereof...I really wanted somebody to offer me fruit salad or something :) I was talking about this whole thing with my mom, and we decided food is one of those issues for us that is super connected to a lot of bigger stuff, like control issues - I think it wasn't so much that I was actually feeling hungry, but that I had to depend on somebody else for all my meals. I think that just like you mentioned on your "sustainability in the city" comments that the idea of self-sufficiency might be a cultural thing, I think some of our control issues might be cultural too. I wish I could let go of some of mine. I know it's part of the reason I hate flying. I don't like the idea that my life is totally dependent on that person driving the plane to not screw it up. Whew. I'm exhausted. that's enough introspection for one day!

Green Bean said...

I completely agree. Reconnecting with the sources of our food, having our hands in the growing and preparation of our food not only empower us but make us more appreciative.