Hunger In America (Pt. II)

When E and I were moving this past summer, cleaning out the kitchen in itself took a whole day (and that’s just an apartment-sized kitchen) and the frustration didn’t just end with packing pots, pans, and dishes. The fact that we were throwing away TONS of food from our cabinets. Food that wasn’t just mine, but some leftover from roommates, visitors who came on through, parents and friends who thought you could use a lil extra something…

It hurt enough to see all that stuff go in the trash, and there had to be a better solution. And thus, we ended up putting all we could into a bag and donated it to our nearest Food Bank NYC.

Interested? These were the guidelines we were told:

  • Pile up whatever non-perishables you have that’s not expired. Yep, it’s called shelf-life for a reason! But if it’s not that far from the date, you can give it a shot to see if they’ll still need it.
  • Find the location nearest to you and call ahead to see if someone would be there to collect. The lady in charge was on vacation, but luckily someone else was there to help. Not everyone’s protocol might be the same, and since it was in the dead of July’s major heatwave, we needed to be sure there was a definite point B from walking at our point A . The Food Bank actually ended up being in a church a few blocks away from our apartment and unmarked (no sign except inside the church).
  • Our site had some preferences to what food was to be donated (based on necessity) but in case you ever find you have any questions here’s a list I found of some suggested food items for giving.
  • Also, don’t always expect a receipt. Honestly, we weren’t concerned with a tax deduction that so much as our need to find a place for this food, the fulfillment of knowing it wouldn’t be wasted, and the reassurance of knowing that someone else could benefit from this situation more than us.

And I hope that someone did.

Hunger In America

(thanks Jeannie for the article!)

Food writer and one of my personal aspirations, Mark Bittman (a cook, writer, and lover of food, and another cool not-a-chef like most of us) posted an article regarding the hunger crisis in America entitled: ‘I Eat and Mom Doesn’t: Growing Up Hungry in America’.  

Try to take a look at it when you get a moment. It’s a reflection upon the poverty hunger epidemic in America, which is increased much in the last few years. Where lucky folks like us are fortunate to have plenty of food in our lives to taste, cook, and blog about for our own adventures, there are plenty others in America alone who barely have enough to get through a month. Just another grain of being grateful added to the sandglass, for sure.

I remember when I was beginning a classroom assistant job in the city around the time I was about 23, a few of us who were just hired bonded together about just how bad the job was, went off for lunch together, and would of course get on the train after work was done for the day and go off once again how the day was. Most of all, it was payday that was the worst, due to the mere fact that they were so disorganized they couldn’t pay us on time. At the time, I didn’t look at it as a big deal so much as an annoyance, but one of my co-workers did.

One day in the usual walk to the station with one of my fellow assistants, she was more fired up than usual. Of course, payday came and went and we were told of a delay on all our checks. We decided to take a little longer walk to the next subway stop so she could calm down, and basically she broke down and told me how she’d been feeding her kids ramen noodles for days until she was supposed to get paid. With every delay (and it was a few days), and in-between all the expenses from doctors’ appointments to doing laundry as a single mom, pretty much she had no idea where the kids’ next meal was going to come from. I’ll admit, at the time I looked at her and was a bit skeptical .. she was employed after all and always seemed to hold a good amount of confidence. But here she was, telling me flat-out that she didn’t have enough to put food on the table for her family, and if they kept up with these delays, she wasn’t sure what she was going to do.

The end of the story has me offering her $10-dollars, her thanking me profusely and promising to pay me back, but I’d decided to leave that job the following week so I never got it back. Did I really care or did I know for sure if she was feeding her kids with that $10? I’ll never know. But if it was $10 for my own food for thought at that time, I could deal with that.

Prezzies

Well, it’s that time. A milestone in the year of the life, and this time, it’s for E 🙂

My fiance’ will be turning 30 this upcoming weekend, and although a new decade in the life may be met with some moaning and groaning for some, I plan to make this as smooth a transition as possible.

Case in point, the perfect present I found would have to be something he ultimately wanted. Unfortunately since Aerosmith is nowhere near us and the surprise party has already been done before, I rooted around and finally decided to give him what he wanted: a skydiving lesson and a really good seafood meal.

So now that the skydiving lesson was taken care of (booked for a Sunday not too far from now!) there was deciding on a dish to make. Now of course, this of course is thrown with a little bit more of a selfish intention: I more so want to have fun making something just as much as he will get to reap the benefits of eating it! And since of course in the pro-spousal support he always offers of saying he likes anything I make, well, that wasn’t gonna cut it this time.

And so, after digging around a bit and toying with some ideas, the challenge has been set and the excitement begins! I decided a One-Pot Clambake would be the perfect offering for all of E’s tastes – sausage, potatoes, corn, spices, but most of all, mussels, clams, and LOBSTER!!! (I have yet to make my first lobster, and yep, now the moment has come) Perhaps it’s because I was never the biggest lobster person, but the moment finally seems appropriate.

The new multi-cooker’s waitin’ to be christened and hodge-podge’d. L’Chaim.

“As I like it”

(we all might have been like this at one point or another in our lives)

As always, when we have house guests over we almost always cook. Life sure could be easier with takeout of course, but I prefer to just make something for the sheer fact that the person is a guest in our house and it’d be great to give something a little closer to the heart.

Every now and then and understandably so, there will be a person who will ask for a little something to go with their meal. One guest asked for hot sauce while we were eating a roast chicken I made, and that of course we gladly provided for them. I myself am not a fan of spicy, but am willing to accomodate for those who are. But one particular guest captured my attention of them all…

It wasn’t a matter of spicy or mild, flavorless or not, but this one visitor had the tendency to douse ketchup and cheese over EVERYTHING that we made. Sure, perhaps it is a teenage way of life (the guest was 17) and it’d been a while since I’d had the company of a teenager. But one couldn’t help but feel … just a tad if not more, insulted.

At one point though, our beloved teen guest was confronted about this questionable behavior towards our food that became an epic ongoing discussion. They didn’t fully understand why it would come off as “insulting” that the food we graciously prepared, was now becoming a new dish on its own with all the works they were putting into it. After exerting long, LONG exhausting exchanges of words, the young guest concluded to us: “I just like food the way I like it.”

Having been a much pickier eater myself for a good 3/4 of my life, I could relate to this statement. However, since I crossed over into my adult life, I now had to raise my eyebrow at this one.

How many times have we heard this referral in a movie? In the movie “Remember Me” (2010) there’s a scene where Emilie de Ranvin’s character is ordering in a restaurant and tells her date (played by Robert Pattinson): “I like to have my dessert first.” Her reasoning? it’s what she really wanted in the end and why wait? Also, who could forget the classic introduction to the neurosis of Meg Ryan’s character in “When Harry Met Sally”:

Now of course, I had to excuse the fact that this teen was young: they had yet to realize a lot of the etiquette we now know as adults. But just as I had been trained over and over again in my life, I took this as their own kick in the butt.

HOWEVER … there was one point that stood out, if anything, from dealing with this matter. This young person couldn’t understand at all why it was a crime to eat something exactly the way they wanted it, how they liked it, and why it’s somehow acceptable to do this in restaurants (they claimed to do it all the time, as they saw many also do while they worked as restaurant staff). Trying somehow to dictate the rules of guest etiquette was starting to become a tad uncomfortable as the real answer lay: “because it’s just not something you do.” It became really clear that this person never learned Grandma’s rule (as Bourdain so-put):

“I often talk about the ‘Grandma rule’ for travellers. You may not like Grandma’s Thanksgiving turkey. It may be overcooked and dry – and her stuffing salty and studded with rubbery pellets of giblets you find unpalatable in the extreme. You may not even like turkey at all. But it is ‘Grandma’s Turkey’. And you are in Grandma’s house. So shut the eff up and eat it. And afterwards say, “Thank you, Grandma, why, yes, yes of course I’d love seconds” — Bourdain, from his book ‘Medium Raw’. 

We told her simply that if she’d gone to a La Bernardin in NYC, and covered her food in cheese and ketchup, she should expect a sneezed-on fish. Unlike Burger King, sometimes, ya just can’t have it your way.

Look, if a salt and pepper shaker exists on your table, take that as one of the only indications that perhaps permission has been granted to make it more geared to your own tastes. BUT … unless the ketchup bottle is on the table or they’ve laid out actual cheese and a toaster for you to add to your meal… don’t do it. Taste it for whatever it is, and move on.

Reflecting – 6/16/11

It’s been a few months now with these blogs, and I think now it’s a good time to reflect.

When I started LittleTreats, it was something that began as a second try to get out there again and write about what I was passionate for: food and life. Sure, it still remains the great foundation for any writing of any sort, but it actually took me a little while since then to realize there needed to be more meaning for me than that.

Thus came the next two: Caro’s RECIPES & Each Time. One documenting how one could make food, and one devoted to my love of the arts. Both of them pretty much captivated by the need to educate. As I consider myself both an educator and an artist, in a way I felt that this truly what I was more passionate about the need to help people learn… and here’s why.

Just as we need to eat? we need creativity. We NEED an outlet for whatever ideas may come about, and we NEED to know how to keep our eyes open to what’s around us.

And as I love teaching, I will definitely try to do my part to continue on with that l’il mission statement. These two somehow, I feel, have become two of the things we’re losing touch with in our ultimate education for life. We depend much on what we’ve learned from school, but always saying we need more, more, more … I’ve come to determine that where schools really can only do so much, in the end it’s up to us to keep that fire going. We’re a very culturally-rich nation, America. But what everyone else seems to have a hold on us is their values outside of their school life.

I’ve come to realize that the need to feed your senses needs to just be one constant walking ground. Just as the arts are important, so is the need to educate folks about food. In the efforts made to better our health in this lifetime, we need to take the steps to be willing to explore, and just be in the know.

That said, I don’t think I’ll lack the inspiration to keep writing. 🙂

Many, many thanks and hoping for the best yet to come ~~ Caro

A “Foodette” Book List

As promised … I made out a little list of some of my favorite books with food for young foodettes and grown-folks alike. Books with food, like movies with food, give a great sparkling fascination (or craving) to what we already know, balanced with what could be our next great taste!

Like many, I remember trying Turkish Delight after reading The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe. The descriptions alone were enough to make me want it bad enough, but I gotta say.. somehow, for myself, the descriptions were a tad more appetizing than when I actually had it 😉

Since then, I still of course marvel at the new stories with food for children, and love how much the genre has expanded!

Here are some of my personal favorites:

I Will Never Not Ever Eat A Tomato (Charlie & Lola series) – Lauren Child

Pete’s A Pizza – William Steig

Pizza At Sally’s  – Monica Wellington

Apple Farmer Annie – Monica Wellington

Bee Bim Bop! – Linda Sue Park

Little Pea – Amy Krouse Rosenthal

The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food – Stan & Jan Berenstain

The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle

Pancakes! – Eric Carle

Blueberries For Sal – Robert McCloskey

Strega Nona – Tomie De Paola

The Popcorn Book – Tomie De Paola

The Tale of the Pie & the Patty Pan – Beatrix Potter

Growing Vegetable Soup – Lois Ehler

Eating The Alphabet – Lois Ehler

Stone Soup – many different versions of this folk tale, but try the one by Marcia Brown

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs – Judi Barrett

The Poky Little Puppy – Janette Sebring Lowrey

The Tawny Scrawny Lion – Kathryn Jackson

Birthday Soup (a short story in the book, Little Bear) – Else Holmelund Minarik

If You Give a Mouse A Cookie series – Laura Joffe Numeroff

First Book Of  Sushi – Amy Wilson Sanger

Yum Yum Dim Sum! – Amy Wilson Sanger

Mama Provi and The Pot of Rice – Sylvia Rosa-Casanova

The Little House On The Prarie series – Laura Ingalls Wilder

Charlie & The Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

Chocolate Fever -Robert Kimmel Smith

Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White

The Boxcar Children seriesGertrude Chandler Warner

How to Eat Fried Worms – Thomas Rockwell

Amelia Bedelia seriesPeggy Parish

A Day At An Indian Market – Catherine Chambers

Green Eggs and Ham – Dr. Seuss

Pigeon Finds A Hot Dog! -Mo Willems

Chicken Soup With Rice – Maurice Sendak

In the Night Kitchen – Maurice Sendak

Goldilocks & The Three Bears

The Little Red Hen

How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? – Jane Yolen & Mark Teague

Pinkalicious – Victoria Kann & Elizabeth Kann

Thunder Cake – Patricia Polacco

Curious George Makes Pancakes – H.A. Rey

Fanny at Chez PanisseAlice Waters

How My Parents Learned to Eat – Ina Friedman

Bread and Jam For Frances – Russell & Lillan Hoban

Allie the Allergic Elephant – Nicole Smith & Maggie Nichols

Potluck – Anne Shelby

and of course, the many wonderful children’s poetry books by Shel Silverstein!!

On a sidenote: For the past 2-years, I’ve actually grown quite tickled reading cookbooks like literature. It’s really the most fulfilling, fascinating, and enriching experience anyone could ever have. I highly recommend it. 😉