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Friday, September 30, 2011

The $5 Meal Challenge -- Slow Food USA

(Two posts today -- check here for my post on our Front Porch.)

On the very same day back in June,
when our daughter Alida married Josh, one of their grad school
classmates also got married, to a young lady named Emily.

Emily's Black Bean and Tomato Soup.  Mmmm . . . soup!
Emily keeps a blog called Feeding Philosophers, where she writes about -- well, Emily can explain better than I.  This is from her "About" page on the blog:

"I’m a currently unemployed philosophy wife with a master’s degree in college administration.  I love food and I have a growing interest in green/sustainable living.  This blog gives me a chance to share my cooking and baking experiments, as well as a space to further explore healthy living.  It also serves as a fun distraction from the soul crushing pursuit of finding a job during a recession (sigh)."

Two weeks ago, Emily and Alida paired up to host a special dinner party,
part of Slow Food USA's $5 Challenge.

$5 Challenge Banner
According to the Slow Foods website, this was the challenge:

"You're invited to help take back the 'value meal' by getting together
with family, friends and neighbors for a slow food meal
that costs no more than $5 per person."

Emily and Alida signed up for the challenge, got their newly minted husbands on board,
and invited several other people for the feast.  Everyone was to bring something, and play by the rules.

Please visit Emily's blog here, and let her tell the story.

The dinner party was at Josh and Alida's apartment, and those are the
only pictures I've ever seen of it.  I'm just sayin' . . . .

But back to the business at hand.  The $5 Challenge.
If you've gone to Emily's Feeding Philosophers blog and read her entry,
you can stop here and go eat a Mallomar, or a batch of beans and rice.
You've gotten the important information.  What follows is just my own tale of the $5 Challenge.
We've got two examples of people who signed up and participated in this.
One group did things the right way -- that would be Emily and Alida and their
dinner guests in Los Angeles on that Saturday night, the 17th of September.

Then there's the people who did things the less-than-right way.
That would be me and Howard.

In our defense, we didn't have much warning, plus I didn't actually read all of Slow Foods USA's info.
Although the "slow food" part should have cued me in.
This is what slow food looks like!
After Alida told us about the upcoming dinner party, I thought of what a good idea it is,
to make people aware of what they are spending with an at-home meal,
as opposed to a McMeal that (probably!) isn't as healthy.

I say probably, because it all depends on what you make at home, doesn't it?

Howard is That Old House's official hunter-gatherer.  He likes supermarkets; I loathe them.
Off he trotted to the local stores, with instructions to bring home food for that evening,
costing no more than ten dollars total -- $5 each.  And he did just that.

Here's what he bought:

A package of beer brats, a bag of pre-shredded cabbage and carrots, one big sweet potato, and
a steam-in-the-microwave bag of creamed spinach because he knows I love creamed spinach.

So we grilled up the brats, baked and mashed the sweet, nuked the spinach,
and I mixed up a dressing and made cole slaw.
Well, it wasn't curried lentils, no tofu or homemade focaccia bread,
and there wasn't any slow food cooking involved unless you count the time spent baking the sweet,
but it was certainly under $5 a person, was way better tasting than a Value Meal,
and certainly couldn't have been any worse nutritionally and probably a whole lot better.
 And we even had leftovers.
All kidding aside, it is sad and worrisome that the diets of so many people -- particularly in lower economic brackets -- are very lopsided, with fast food and convenience foods dominating.

Emily writes that she found cooking for $5 per person "easy."
And for Emily, and Alida, their friends and families -- it is easy.
But they have something special that makes it easy -- the incalculable resource of good educations and creative minds.  (Not to mention excellent parents, of course.)
Lunch -- Leftover asparagus made into cold soup; leftover fish, broiled, on grilled bread.
A philosopher's stamp of approval.  Alida chows down, May '10.

Lots of us were lucky enough to learn real cooking from our mothers,
who hopefully learned cooking from their mothers,
who themselves learned back when peanut butter was considered a convenience food.

Others of us can teach ourselves how to cook real food.
This requires time, good reading and comprehension, patience, books or the internet,
and enough money to afford mistakes.
  That's luxury.
Tomato herb omelette, fresh blueberries with Greek yogurt -- faster than an Egg McMuffin.  July '10.

I wonder what are the lasting effects of a challenge like this.
Did it reach the people who need the message most?
 How do we encourage cooking -- slow food or any other kind -- when fast food is so quick, relatively cheap, and people like it?
How do we educate both the fast food consumers who don't know alternatives,
and also the ones who buy fast food for pure convenience?

Persuasion and education is a more powerful tool than legislation
and, to me, philosophically more acceptable.
Anyone got a good sturdy soapbox?

If you haven't visited Emily's blog, she's got lovely thrifty recipes,
and there's the post about the $5 Challenge.  Plus, let's all make a wish that she
finds her job soon, and can afford to buy saffron and very ugly mushrooms.  Click here!

Also visit Designs By Gollum for Foodie Friday.  Click here
and go see what Michael is up to!
Loads of foodie posts await you there, thrifty and otherwise.

 As for Howard and me, we've got a work weekend out at the beach house.
Visit my other Friday post,
about our front porch, by clicking here!
Fab weekends to all -- Cass

That's A Nice Front Porch You Got There, Honey (wink wink)

Real sunshine today in northern New Jersey.
And the people rejoice.
At least, this people is rejoicing.
I was beginning to grow moss up my north side.
Which is not my best side, you know what I mean?

I have gotten no further in outdoor Fall fluffing than a wreath on the front door, a few pumpkins and mums
scattered hither and yon, and the artfully disheveled sprinkling of fallen leaves, courtesy of my partner
Mother Nature.
Who, by the way, is terribly bossy.  Insists on getting her own way, and always does.

I have to admit that decorating That Old House for a holiday is not a chore.
She's pretty cute all on her own, so any fluff we add is just that -- fluff.

The first summer we owned this house, our daughters went Dollar Tree decorating crazy on Memorial Day:

Ah, yes, such dignified patriotic decor for a venerable early American house.
I'm sure they do something similar in Colonial Williamsburg on such days.

When we bought That Old House, she was yellow, with green shutters.
And she had lots of boo-boos needing attention; her complexion was a disaster.
(Translation: don't look too closely at her lattice, shutters, trim and other delicate areas.)

Our second Christmas, in 2009, our daughters and I decorated the front door.
In the snow.
I think we'll do a similar door decoration this year,
but no more yellow house with white trim; That Old House got a paint job back in June.

Crisp white on the old cedar clapboards and woodwork, and all her boo-boos fixed.
Blue porch ceiling, gray porch floor.
Dark, dark, dark green on the shutters and around the front door.
Sadly, most of the old shutters were shot; they will be replaced someday when the Shutter Fairy shows up.

In August, we discovered that the proper state for a front porch anticipating a hurricane is nekkid.

But now it's Fall, and our old farmhouse-in-the-suburbs
is getting its gold on, along with its oranges and russets and
plums and dark greens ... all those autumn colors.
That's a fake Jack O Lantern on that teeny wicker chair.
I love electric Jack O Lanterns; plug 'em in and let 'em shine.
No worries that you'll fry a squirrel or burn the house down.

Our front porch won't get much attention from us this weekend.
We are heading out east to Long Island, to the family beach house.  Big plans -- some painting,
some slipcover-wrestling (soon to be an Olympic sport), just enough wallpapering to avoid divorce,
a few meals of local fish and veggies, much staring at the watery views, 
and the sit-down-and-take-an-unplanned-naps that salt air force upon you.  Have a lovely weekend!  -- Cass

Link Parties!

LaurieAnna's Vintage Home is the place for Farmhouse Friday Click here!
At My Romantic Home, it's Show And Tell Friday Click here!
Feathered Nest Friday makes its home at French Country Cottage.  Click here!
The Charm of Home features Home Sweet Home on Fridays.  Click here!
It's Vintage Inspiration Friday at Common Ground.  Click here!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Yes, There WILL Be A Quiz!

(Thursday's Post; pay no attention to the date in the corner!)
The other day, on the way home from my sister's house,
my minivan insisted on taking me to HomeGoods.

Y'know, they've got some nice things in there.
So I opened up the wallet, let the moths fly out, and got me some.

Specifically, four of these bread & butter plates:
 4 of these luncheon-sized plates:
 12 of these cotton napkins, 'cause they came in a pack of 12 and after all, what's a girl to do?

I also bought two 60" x 60" square tablecloths in linen, one in red, one in gold.
I like square cloths on round tables.

So, I brought it all home, and decided to test different dinner plates with the new plates and napkins.
As I've said before, you are never too old to play with dishes.

Which setting do you like?
The one anchored by a green Dollar Tree dinner plate:

Or .... the one with a red dinner plate, part of a set of 55 dinner
plates I bought 2 years ago (for $20) to use for big parties:

Or, the white and red swirly-bordered Dollar Tree plate;
I thought the swirls might look good with the 
Jacobean designs on the small plate and the napkins:

All three table settings are on the gold linen cloth from HomeGoods; the red one is underneath.
I have no idea why I did that -- I had thoughts of doing the place settings on both cloths, but -- I got lazy.

Also in common -- the wineglasses.
Big balloon glasses from Dollar Tree.

The flatware is our new everyday:
Reed & Barton Williamsburg Royal Scroll.
I love three-tine forks; I had a very cheap version of this pattern when I was first on my own.
So cheap that the fork tines were sharp and if you weren't careful you could cut your lip eating your salad.
True story.  Don't ask me how I know.

Anyway . . . I love the contemporary interpretation
of the Jacobean pattern in the napkins
and the small plates, partnered with the very traditional flatware.  

 Left to right -- White with Red, Red, or Green dinner plates.
Which would you like to eat from?
Or should that be "From which would you like to eat?"  -- Cass
And before you go -- I just want to show off my newly re-hung
Front Door Wreath, a simple leafy affair.  Now it's at the right height!
Hung with a piece of wide double satin ivory-colored ribbon, leftover from Alida's wedding back in June.
 For more on our front porch and Fall decor
-- and I don't count the fallen leaves! --
check back tomorrow, Friday.

For now, the wreath turns its back on us; how rude.
Although that means we are all now inside That Old House.
Hope I have enough chairs . . . . and goody bags.

Link Parties
At Tales From Bloggeritaville, it is Thrifty Thursday.  Click here!
No Minimalist Here hosts Open House Party Thursdays.  Click here!
Between Naps On The Porch -- Tablescape Thursday.  Click here!
It's Fall, Y'all at Southern Hospitality.  Today it's Front Doors!   Click!
No Minimalist Here