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How low can you go? Snow and ice and cancelled school.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Emergency Rations

What do we eat when there is nothing in the house and we are too tired to go out?

When I was living with my mother, our emergency food was frozen cheese ravioli with Ragu sauce from a jar (the plain variety, nothing fancy added), and hot Italian sausage. It was always around in the freezer and on the shelf, fast, and easy. You could even leave out the sausage if you wanted, as I did when I turned vegetarian, much to my mother’s dismay. There was something lovely about the way the pasta poofed up in the boiling water, how neatly there were divided into two bites, and how easy they were to chew. Exactly what we needed.

When I moved out of my mother’s house, I discovered ramen noodles, pretty gross on their own, but. If you add in frozen peas and corn and some finely diced carrot, you have a decent meal. For years, when I was eating alone, I turned to this soup when I could not wrap my brain around anything else. Later on, I discovered a fairly nasty, but delicious, substitute—steam a bunch of veggies, cook some noodles well, and throw them all on a bowl with a ton of grated cheddar and tamari. It was a guilty secret that I only shared with one person, camping in the White Mountains. She also loved it.

For a long while, my standard was roasted veg—usually potatoes—or a fancy potato chip, when I sliced the potato thinly, rather than in chunks, before I threw it in the oven. Lightly salted, I felt like I had eaten when I came home at nine o’clock at night, having taught adult GED classes after student teaching in the high school all day. My first year of teaching—tuna noodle casserole, truly a low point in my kitchen. Why would anyone eat tuna noodle casserole?!

Now, what do we eat? When I’m alone, I like Welsh Rabbit—cheese melted on bread—and steamed veggies, falling back on the old frozen pea/corn standards. If I feel fancy, I throw some tomato chutney under the bread. When Mark is around, we turn to Annie’s Mac and Cheese and a jar of home-canned green beans, maybe with a jar of homemade canned peaches for desert. Or I’ll grab a jar of roasted tomatoes from Sunbow last summer from the basement shelf, pick up an onion from the larder on the way up the stairs, and stretch it out with olives, or broccoli, and cheese, whatever is around. Once or twice a year, we eat French toast for dinner, with maple syrup. Oh yeah…

The goal has always been, fast, filling, and light on the dishes. It usually totally throws off all of my calculations—no left overs for lunch the next day, no local produce, lots of fat and salt and cheese—but that is, somehow the point. Especially, if, while digging though the freezer for the frozen peas, you find some ice cream that also needs to be eaten, way in the back corner….

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