Thursday, October 23, 2008

Real Food

Chas got to thinking about the comments below on Matt's second "For the children" post, (including mine on supermarket cashiers who could not recognize squash or cabbage)and responded with some thoughts of his own.

"When I was teaching, I used to hear the same lament from some students: "We can't afford good-quality food."

"Yes, you can. But you have to know how to cook. The problem is more one of cultural poverty than financial poverty.

"Every traditional culture had its poor people's foods--boring, but nutritious enough to keep you going.

"Think of beans and tortillas, rice and stir-fried veggies, oatmeal, cabbage, pea soup -- and a little fish or chicken when you can get it.

"It's all still cheaper for the nutrients than Hamburger Helper, which is just an expensive way to buy pasta.

"You can fix some of these foods in quantity and eat them for days --

""Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold / Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old" -- you think that's just a nursery rhyme? Heck, it's a memoir of 17th-century English life."


"Cultural poverty. And neither Barack Obama nor John McCain can fix it."

This weekend we had been eating rich (though still "free") food, like elk and hare, so yesterday I made a delicious dish squarely in the poor people's tradition, pasta e fagioli. (It is better known perhaps for its inclusion in the worst lyric ever attached to an ethnic group, in Dean Martin's "That's amore": ".. when the stars make you drool/ just like pasta fazool/ that's amore.")

Take dry beans (I used 8 oz.), cook in water or stock of your choice with seasonings ditto-- I used the stock we constantly reduce from chicken, a small head of garlic, a sprig of rosemary and one of sage from our garden. Cook until tender but with some stock remaining.

Take a certain amount of one of the tiny pastas-- we call them "pastina" though they are usually named by shape in the market-- say 1/2- 1 cup. Cook in just enough stock to get them al dente (start with a little and add until they have absorbed all liquid but are not sticking to the pot.) I added a couple more garlic cloves and a leaf or two of sage.

Mix the two together off- burner. Add lots of Parmesan. You will have a fine tasty meal for a cold night. And you figure the cost. If it takes you too long to cook the beans use a pressure cooker. The rest takes 20 minutes.


Anonymous said...

Prole food should never be underesitmated. I remember discovering 'Curry-brat' in Berlin; it was a revelation. Last month I met some Italians, who had rented a van and were travelling through the Great Basin. They spoke enthusiastically about the European trend of locally produced food, and were wanting more than anything to sample such delicacies as 'hash-browns' and 'calf-fries'. I thought they would have preferred American regional cuisine that was a tad more elevated in stature, but no- they wanted street food; it keys in to the popular mind with an accuracy unrivaled by clam chowder, or geoduck.


mdmnm said...

Good recipe, Steve, I look forward to trying it. No tomatoes in the pasta e fagioli, then?

I really enjoyed the discussion at Matt's post and over at Chas's.