Thursday, July 3, 2008

MY PERSONAL FOOD BANK

THINK SMART, BE SMART.
One of the first things HD (Hubby Dearest) said to me after we first met in India was, "There are no servants in America."
It was a remark made after he saw the servants we had. Growing up in an Army household there were always servants around us: the cook, the bearer, the ayah (nanny), the maid who swept and mopped the floors, the dhobi who washed and ironed the clothes, the army valet who took care of my Dad's uniforms, the driver, the gardener, the sweeper who cleaned the bathrooms; to name a few.
By the time HD and I met we were down to two...the cook and the maid.
In America, things are totally different. Once you realize you are the only one who is going to help you is you, your wishbone starts changing into a 'do'bone.
I was lucky that HD is of the variety that also helps around the house and has always been better at cleaning than me. Also, very thankfully, I realized he had not been ingrained with the stigma attached to so called 'woman's work'.
The smartest women I know, make the art of running a home into a science of experiments that lead to shortcuts in time and labor without sacrificing taste and quality. The result...balancing a lifestyle that accommodates personal, present day needs of working outside the home, having interests and hobbies that require time, raising children, while gratifying the inborn 'duty' ingrained in us that we should put the best food possible on the table. The latter was my mother's only job and her career...for me it is one of many jobs.
When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I had no idea the toll the medicines would take off my general health while controlling my blood sugar. The endocrinologist kept telling me that I had to put myself and my needs first now; to manage my illness.
The needs she said were diet, exercise and rest and that came before anything else I felt I had to do for my family and others. It took months of her repeating this at every visit (she still does), for me to get the message.
The changes took time as I had to battle and subdue the age old instinct in every traditionally raised woman to serve and do for others first...even now there are times when it takes over. But for me, I realized that diabetes is like a donkey...get in the wrong position by ignoring the three main rules...diet rest and exercise and the hefty kick you'll get (blood sugar out of sync, energy level zero, aches and pains, fatigue), isn't worth it. So, like a juggler every day, I practice the art of managing all the balls I have up in the air.
Managing the diabetes right, gives me the freedom to do the things I want, so foregoing food cravings and overcoming the temptation not to walk each day is easy.
Food...making it, having the kind I want each day is one of the challenges.
Since the kids left home, dinner is always Indian food. The older we get, the more we want Indian food and without planning and determination it is getting harder to make it. So, I started a food bank in my freezer for days I cannot/don't want to cook.
The Food Bank is stocked with heat and serve dishes. I cook double at every meal, immediately cool the food I'm freezing and then put it away.
In the case of curries, and sambar, I make a plain base for four times and then when I need it I take out the base add the veggie of the day and hey presto! a new curry in minutes. Guess who's smiling all the way to the table now?
The Food Bank allows me to get the best produce at the best price, when it is in season. I clean, wash and freeze and then I have things like methi (fenugreek leaves) all year round.
Rising Prices Eating into your Budget? Not if you're as sharp as your kitchen knife!
This year I did something new. I found fresh ginger at 69 cents a pound ( a price I haven't seen for ages) and I bought ten pounds. It was top quality ginger with thick stems. I peeled, washed, and grated them in my faithful food processor, froze them in ice cube trays, and a steel plate; cut the latter into squares like burfee and froze them. A few hours later I put all the frozen ginger into freezer bags and they reside happily in my freezer now, awaiting their call to duty.


As luck would have it just before Cinco De Mayo, our local Mexican supermarket had garlic for an unbelievable price too. I go on quality as well as price and these pods looked healthy, white and bursting at the seams with freshness.
I got a large quantity, separated the cloves and let them dry or a couple of days then peeled, grated in the food processor and froze in the ice cube tray.
I have trays that freeze like three inch logs and these frozen logs are easy to break up into one inch pieces before storing.
Have I heard of store bought ginger garlic paste? Of course I have, but nothing like the fresh stuff...when I open up my garlic bag I still smell fresh garlic and my ginger cubes still have the fresh ginger juice they were frozen with. Nothing beats that in our do-it-yourself society. Plus, I make the time to put in what I want out.
Everyone does this with things that are important to them.
Other daily use items in my food bank: methi, coriander leaves, fried onions, chopped tomatoes (when the garden produces a lot, or the price and quality is GREAT).
Just like with money, it is an investment of time and labor but then who's the queen of instant cooking with all the best ingredients on hand?
When guests come to stay I make a few masalas ahead and freeze those too.
. I bag my onions in sandwich baggies, approximating one use per bag, then put all the baggies into a large freezer bag or a big plastic container...saving on using too many freezer bags.
Well fried onion release extra oil which I drain and re-use for cooking other dishes.
To protect my food against electric outages...thank God these are rare here, I have bottles of water frozen in each compartment/drawer of the freezer to act as ice bags.
Should we have an outage, the stuff will be good for eight hours or more, as long as the freezer door isn't opened.

TIPS
1. Don't let food you're freezing for another meal sit out all day long and then freeze it.
2. Freeze leftovers too, instead of keeping it in the fridge and eating it two days running and take it out on one of those 'don't feel like cooking days'.
3. For your food bank, buy the best produce at the best price.
Luckily for me I now live in an area where I'm in the vicinity of a plethora of grocery stores of every ethnic group. They provide an infinite variety of choice and price. I haven't forgotten though, the days, when I lived in a small town, when my best friend would rush to the only local supermarket at the crack of dawn on Saturdays, grab the only two packets of fresh coriander (tired and wilting already), buy one and hide the other one for me. Back home she would call me, go tut tut tut over the fact I was sleeping in, and say, "Look behind the potatoes!"
Every week it was a different place, naturally, and thanks to my friend I would have fresh coriander.
4. I soak and sprout mung and other beans, cook and freeze half for another time.
The list goes on and on, but except for potatoes, you get the idea.

Remember, with me, I do this because of my health constraints...if you have the time and energy to cook fresh every time, go for it.
If you are worried about freezing food and losing vitamins and minerals, remember most of our food comes to us frozen or semi-frozen.
Take a vitamin/mineral supplement.
Eat something frozen,with something fresh at every meal. If you don't like salads, and some Indians don't, eat sliced cucumber, tomatoes, carrots, zucchini etc. at each meal.
Eat fresh fruits, nuts and include milk, cheese and yogurt, to help balance your diet.

2 comments:

Daisy said...

Thanks for sharing. I can add one more thing. I grind red chile/garlic and green chile/garlic pastes and freeze them in little containers. I add salt and a little vinegar while grinding and it works well.

Daisy

whitefieldbb@gmail.com said...

Daisy:

Thanks for the input and for the comment...I must remember the vinegar.