Reading and Cooking

Two of my favorite things, both good for the soul!

Reading is going well.  I'm remembering some stuff and enjoying learning other stuff.  Tess of the D'Urbervilles picked up after I got over the annoying dialect and Hardy's tendency to pontificate over the intricacies of cosmic irony.  She Stoops to Conquer was amusing.  I could never get tired of re-reading Paradise Lost.  And I'd forgotten A Modest Proposal was so . . . gross.

Cooking is a more challenging.  During Lent we fast from all meat and animal products.  It's very difficult to give these things up, especially when you love food as much as I do.  I recoil at the thought of food rules -- I have always distrusted diets for that reason.

But, just like anything we love, giving it up for a time can be a good exercise, both in discipline and in appreciation.  I have never loved quiche, champagne and sausage as much as I do around 3 AM Easter morning, when we're feasting after many weeks of deprivation and many hours on our feet in church.  It's an exhilarating experience!

De facto, our eating habits must change during Lent.  I try to be more disciplined about planning meals instead of snacking all day long; most of our meals have to be somewhat planned, anyway, because they involve soaking beans, cooking or chopping vegetables, and other more labor-intensive processes.

In the last year or so, I have increasingly been trying to buy foods that are organic, unprocessed, and as local as possible.  (Sometimes it's not possible.  Local coconut milk?)  After reading Nourishing Traditions, a fascinating combination of philosophy tome and cookbook, I became much more interested in the processes our foods go through before they come to us.  Some things you'd probably rather not know about: heating milk for pasteurization destroys most of its valuable nutrients and bacteria, rendering it potentially harmful if it sours; non-organic maple syrup is extracted using formaldehyde (yes, the stuff that fetal pig was swimming in back in Bio lab.)

Anyway, to make a long story short (too late!) yesterday my mom introduced me to the best organic market I've ever seen.  At every turn, I was discovering foods I'd thought were only available online: Celtic sea salt, organic cookies, Vegenaise, non-radiated spices, gourmet nut mixes, the best bouillion.  And not only did the cashier willingly accept my reusable bags, he gave me a discount for using them -- and then carried them out to my car.  Did I mention that they run on wind power?  And that they composted and recycled 85% of their trash last year?  My new heroes!

So cooking is easier, and more fun.  Coconut curry with tofu and broccoli over rice.  Tangerine spritzers.  Home-baked granola with goji berries and pepitas.  I am *not* feeling deprived yet!