CSA Week #24: “A Rant & Mistakes Were Made” Edition
Update: The HTML errors are fixed, and you can read this post in its entirety now. Apologies for not fixing it sooner.
In case it’s not obvious from the recipes I cook, I’m a mostly-vegetarian who occasionally eats fish. (A pescatarian, I guess we’re called, though I blanch at that, since it implies I eat way more fish than I actually do.) I’m a vegetarian for ethical reasons beyond animal welfare, though I’m a big animal person who believes routine cruelty to animals warms us up to violence amongst ourselves. But I’m mostly in it because meat-eating, even organic, farm-raised beef, is an environmental disaster. It makes less sense as our population explodes in size, and the need to be more efficient with minimal environmental damage in agriculture grows.
But I’m not rigid about it. I am suspicious of rigidity, because when you’re rigid and you fail your own rules, you often just give up completely. I’ve seen many vegetarians go from never eating meat to eating it every day. I think the goal should be to reduce as much as possible, because this is about doing better by the world, and not personal purity. That’s why I allow myself occasional bouts of fish-eating, plus some dairy and eggs (though I try to only buy free range eggs from local farmers). I also support initiatives like Bittman’s “vegan until 6” idea, or the “only on weekends” meat-eating strategy. Denying yourself pleasure is a sure way to fail your long-term goals. When people are incredibly rigid about their eating rules, and it’s not for religious reasons, I see that as a red flag. Often for an eating disorder, or for some other purity ritual. And if that’s your reason for being vegetarian/vegan, it’s often going to come before more important real world ethics concerns.
I bring this up, because I bring this up, because PETA is at it again. Most of their campaigns now are about promoting the idea that veganism is more important than women’s rights, civil rights, whatever. They’re particularly fond of pushing the idea that veganism and vegetarianism are excellent weight loss plans that will make you smoking hot, a claim that concerns me for a couple of reasons, and then makes me mad because they’re distorting what is actually an important point.
For one thing, they conflate veganism and weight loss, contributing to the American fascination with trying to lose weight by eliminating certain kinds of calories. It’s not what kind of calories you eat that causes weight loss—it’s burning more calories than you consume. I am annoyed by anyone saying they’ve found the way around this issue, since they are a charlatan.
But it’s also the blatant sexism and promotion of eating disorders. The stereotype—which is unfair—of vegetarians and vegans is that they are thin, undernourished, and weak. This just so happens to coincide neatly with the dominant beauty standard pushed on young women in our culture. PETA is happy to exploit this to encourage young women to quit eating animal products on any level. The problem with this is a lot of women use vegetarianism/veganism as a cover for an eating disorder. Instead of fighting this, folks like PETA and the authors of those wretched “Skinny Bitch” book turn some of the symptoms of anorexia—obsession with purity, competitiveness, the belief that “skinniness” is truly superior to being, say, slim and athletic—and try to turn them into virtues. Basically, it’s using animal rights as a cover for being pro-ana. And the body policing crowds our real questions about animal welfare, environmentalism, and people’s health.
It also bothers me because they’re taking something I think is good—using vegetarianism as a springboard to think more about healthy and sustainable eating—and distorting it into this food-and-body-hating assholery. They hoodwink people into thinking starving themselves equals health, and that eating a bunch of prepackaged junk food equals environmentalism (but just don’t eat that high calorie honey, even though plants actually need bees out there making honey in order to make fruit!).
Part of why I wanted to do this CSA series is to counteract those toxic messages, and show that vegetarianism is not equal to starving yourself, and that eating from a box that is labeled “vegan” isn’t the same as being healthy. Or that subsisting on two biscuits and an apple a day doesn’t make you purer than everyone else, or sexier.
1) Boiled and mashed the one sweet potato I had left.
2) It was the food processor Olympics! First, I put the ends of some homemade bread we’d eaten in the food processor, to make some more bread crumbs that I keep in a bin in the back of the fridge. Wiped out the food processor, and then pureed what was left of the roasted pumpkin—yes, I still had 3+cups of it, even after pureeing! Then I rinsed it out again, and used it to make this blog post, using up the rest of my pumpkin by doubling the recipe. I didn’t have shallots, but I used a little of one of my onions. While that was simmering, I started my actual dinner for the night. When it was done, it went into the fridge, as did the pizza dough.
1) Blanched some green kale I bought on sale.
2) Proceeded to try to make sweet potato buttermilk biscuits, but for whatever reason, my dough was way too sticky, and no amount of flour infusion was fixing the problem. So eventually, I just wiped up the damage that was splayed out all over my counter, as you can see. I only admit this, because part of the project is humanizing cooking, and failure is part of the process. So there you go: I failed and had to think of something besides biscuits to make.
3) I proceeded through the stages of grief as rapidly as possible, something that I was able to do sans wine, though I wouldn’t recommend it. I needed something I could spread the pumpkin cream cheese from last week on. Then I took a quick reckoning of what I had on hand, and determined that my last remaining apple plus what was left of the orange juice meant fruit bread. I followed Bittman’s recipe for this, without the nuts, because I don’t like nuts in bread.
4) I also bought some Brussel sprouts at the farmer’s market, and I quickly coated these with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and put them in a pan to roast them while the bread was cooking.
5) Did the dishes while remembering the good times, when I thought those biscuits would work out. Then moved on to that big batch of blanched kale. I did a standard beans-and-greens thing with it—cooking it in the skillet with onions, garlic, thyme, and veggie broth that I evaporated off. Added white beans.
Time: Much longer than I initially planned, and subsequently, I forgot to keep track. Sorry. But the hope in all this work, obviously, is that I’d have ready ingredients to reach for and it would save me time later. Anyway, it was Saturday afternoon, and I didn’t have much else to do.
Soundtrack: Girl Talk’s new album for much of it, but I also did some sound editing.
1) Took the pizza dough out from the fridge and let it get back to room temperature. Rolled it out on a pizza stone, and then spread some of the pumpkin sauce on it. I sprinkled some goat cheese on that, added some olives, and put some pepper on it. Cooked for 10 minutes at 500 degrees. Alas, this ended up being another fuck-up, because for reasons unknown, the pizza stuck to the stone. It was edible—we just chiseled off the top of it and ate that, leaving much of the crust behind. It was a real shame, too, because this crust was some tasty, moist delectable shit. Next time, I guess I’ll grease the pizza stone.
2) Made salads so there was some green on the plate. The lettuce was from the enormous, beautiful heads on sale at the farmer’s market.
Time: 20 minutes.
1) Peeled and chopped up an onion and the turnip. Cut up some of the cabbage and added it to the mix. Cooked it all in the skillet with salt and pepper and some garlic, until it was soft. Turned down the heat, and added what was left of the pumpkin sauce. Got that warm super quick and poured it over pasta. It was super tasty and didn’t resemble
2) Made side salads with the lettuce, a cut-up apple, a little goat cheese and some quick spray-on dressing. Covered it and the pasta with parmesan cheese.
Time: As long as it takes to boil pasta.
1) I was feeling crappy and not like cooking, but then I decided that it wasn’t all that hard, something I think wouldn’t have been true before I began this project. So point in the “practice makes easier, even for people who’ve cooked for years” column! We both loved the stuffed carnival squash before, so I decided to do it again, but this time with chick peas, since I had a couple of cans laying around. I found a recipe that suggested putting an egg in for binding, so I did that. Two cans chickpeas, one egg, a couple apples that were cored, salt, pepper, bread crumbs, and herbes de provence—all in the food processor. Cut open the carnival squash, and stuffed them with the mix. Put in the oven at 375 for 45 minutes. A lot of the stuffing was leftover, and it had an egg in it, so I put it in a separate dish and baked it, just to be safe.
2) Cut up all the potatoes, sweet and otherwise, coated them in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted them.
3) Steamed broccoli.
Time: An hour.