Wednesday, April 16, 2008

what's for dinner?

South Indian Food
Originally uploaded by tracyhunter
I’ve been rather quiet on the subject of food. There are two reasons for this.

The first is the expense. I know it’s better for me to eat organic, and better for the planet for me to eat local, but it also seems really expensive. Buying in bulk definitely helps to alleviate some of the pinch, and buying local and in season helps with the produce expenses. I’ll have more to say on the financial aspect of eating organic and local later.

For now, I want to address the other struggle I’ve been having with eating locally and in season. It’s actually not an issue for me, but I live with somebody who spent the first twenty-one years of his life in India. He really likes (south) Indian food, including a whole variety of vegetables that not only are not grown in this area, but the English language doesn’t even have words for.

Most often, I buy these items frozen, and I have no idea how far they’ve traveled. But I am sure it’s pretty far.

So what to do? The short answer, thus far, is nothing. We often eat different meals anyhow. I don’t enjoy eating rice quite as many times in a week as he does. So he’ll sometimes make something for himself and I’ll do the same. I said at the beginning of this whole project that this was about me, and I did mean that. I’m not forcing my lifestyle changes on anybody, including my partner - I don't think asking him to completely change his dietary habits is a fair request.

It’s kind of a pain to cook two meals though, so we try to eat dinner together as often as possible. This means that sometimes he’ll eat quesadillas or eggplant parmigian with me, and sometimes I’ll eat sambhar, dal, and tindoor with him.

Since I do most of the shopping in the house, I’ve tried to provide better produce items for those items that can be gotten fresh, such as spinach, cilantro, potatoes, cabbage, and cauliflower. Others, I’ll keep buying frozen. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve started making my own yogurt from milk that’s local.

The thing is, the vegetables and the yogurt are just a small part of it. There are so many other spices, rice, lentils, pickles, and such that make up a well-rounded south Indian diet, and the majority of them have to be imported here.

On the other hand, a good portion of these items can be purchased in bulk. We get rice in 20 pound sacks, and just an fyi, but spices are much cheaper to buy a pound at a time in a bag at an Indian market than in those tiny bottles in the grocery store. I can usually get lentils, rice flour, some types of beans, and a few other items in bulk at the Indian grocery store as well.

I’ll confess to buying the pickles pre-made in a jar. Then again, I don’t actually know anybody in the area who can tell me how to make them. Even if I did, from what I do know about it, the tomatoes and mangoes sold in this country have a different enough flavor that if I tried to use them to make the pickles, I wouldn’t end up with the same end product anyway. The other produce that is used for making pickles in large part cannot be purchased fresh here.

I’m learning how to make more and more items, but it certainly is an art to make an entire Indian meal truly from scratch. It feels like I’m trying to write with my left hand every time I try a new recipe. This doesn’t mean it’s not worth the effort, it just means I really have to pace myself so as not to get totally burnt out on the whole thing.

This is certainly an issue I’ll keep reflecting more on. I think what is important for me, again, is setting reasonable, attainable goals for myself and being conscious of the choices I am making.

1 comment:

Green Grrl said...

That picture is making me hungry. :-)

Mmmmmm dosa. Lemon rice. Yum.