Casaubon's Book

I was about to post the Chocolate-Banana Bread Pudding recipe that I left out of my food waste post, when I found myself worrying a little bit about whether posting recipes is appropriate for my new forum. You see, I tend to think of Scienceblogs with the first syllable pronounced just like Thomas Dolby in “She Blinded Me With Science” yelling “SCIENCE!” (which I have included a link to for no apparent reason, simply because it pleases me http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V83JR2IoI8k.) Is this warm, fuzzy, chocolatey goodness appropriate to a hard-edged SCIENCEblog? Does PZ Myers post recipes? I do not know, but I fear not.

And this sent me spinning on a meditation about what counts as “serious” and what doesn’t. Those of you who have read me over the years know that I have strong opinions on this subject – I think that we tend as a culture to be contemptuous and dismissive of anything that smacks of traditional women’s work. Moreover, I have argued that as women moved out into the professional world, we accepted the idea that this work was worthy of contempt, and often transferred it off to poorer people, usually poorer women and non-white men and women. And in doing so, we ignored the fact that who did this work and how we did it had a tremendous ecological impact. That is, all those second cars, all those meals eaten at fast-food restaurants, t etc… all that stuff matters. It matters in terms of ecological impact, in terms of human health and in a whole host of moral areas.

Now I’d be a complete anti-feminist whack-job if I claimed that this was women’s fault – that the problem was that we women didn’t stay home and bake cookies. That’s not my claim – it took decades for men to even raise their household participation to 20% after women started hitting the workforce in droves. Basically our government said “we need y’all to go out and work to help grow the economy, but we’re going to make sure you have no secure health insurance, no good subsidized programs for young kids, so you get the fun of working, doing the majority of the housework and taking your own sick time to take care of your kids.” It really isn’t much wonder that most people started stopping at McD’s on the way home.

A lot of people are dismissive of personal choices and personal actions, and as I argue in _Depletion and Abundance_ it isn’t an accident that all the things we decide are unimportant personal choices happened to be traditionally associated with women – they are measures of our contempt for women’s traditional work (consider the attention still given to the individual vote, in comparison, which also doesn’t matter, except all the times that it does). Perhaps more importantly it is enormously profitable for industry to pretend that individual choices are unimportant. After all, if they are unimportant, there’s no reason to constrain them, no reason not to stop at Wendy’s on your way to the climate change demonstration, no link at all between all those cows and global warming…

Thus we put “agricultural emissions” in the category of *big important issues” and say we can’t do anything about it personally – of course “industry” doesn’t acually eat. In fact, I’m pretty sure that 100% of all meals are eaten by individuals ;-).

Which is all a really long way of saying that I’m definitely going to keep posting recipes, even if, as one of my prior critics claimed, he feared he’d wandered over to Lady’s Home Journal, rather than an energy blog. As I’ve argued before, we can’t change our agriculture, or improve our health without changing the way we eat – and we do that by teaching people to cook again, to make good use fo the food they do have, and by helping them make ethical food choices. And that requires small and homely things like recipes, which have their place even in SCIENCE!.

Chocolate-Banana Bread Pudding (note, this recipe probably won’t actually improve your health, but it will turn stale bread and over-ripe bananas into a tasty dessert.)

Enough stale bread to cover a 9 inch pie pan in two layers, cut rather thick (a bit less than a loaf, for most sized loaves)
2 overripe bananas
1 tablespoon of vanilla or banana extract
A couple of handfulls of chocolate chips or to taste
A sprinkle of nutmeg
2 eggs
3 cups of milk or vanilla soymilk

Take the bread slices and cover the bottom of the pan. Break off pieces to make sure the whole thing is covered. Slice the bananas on top of the bread, and sprinkle the chocolate chips on top of the bananas. Layer on the rest of the bread, again, breaking it to make the pieces totally cover the top. You can sprinkle any crumbs around the edges. Beat the eggs, add the vanilla, nutmeg and the milk, and mix thoroughly. Pour over the bread mixture. Use your fingers to sort of squish any bread that isn’t getting wet down into the milk mixture. Bake 35 minutes at 375, serve with whipped cream or ice cream, if you are feeling decadent.

Laotian Chicken (or turkey) Soup: I used to think that everyone made soup out of the bones of any meat that they found, but somewhere (I can’t find the figure again) this Thanksgiving I read that more than half of all turkey carcasses eaten at home get thrown away (the actual figure is higher, given that many people eat bird at restaurants). Go figure?!? This is just nuts. The correct use of animal bones, if you are a meat eater, is to make soup stock – period. This gives you more total meals out of the bird, besides being unbelievably good. This is my favorite iteration of chicken soup.

Take a chicken carcass (or turkey) and cover it with water (if your water is icky, filter it). Add some peppercorns, a piece of ginger root and an onion. Simmer until yummy. Add a little salt or soy sauce to make it yummier. Remove carcass, saving any bits of meat that are still hanging around, and strain soup. Put the meat back in the pot, with 2 large chopped onions, another minced good-sized piece of ginger root (small if you don’t like ginger), 2 stalks of lemongrass (easy to grow, will overwinter inside, can skip this if you don’t have it), 6 keffir lime leaves (can be found asian grocers, also easy to grow inside on a sunny window), the juice of two lemons or 3 limes, some brown sugar to taste, half a cup of fish sauce or soy sauce, some sliced garlic (however much you like) and half a fresh pineapple or a can of pineapple chunks plus the juice). You can also add slightly under-ripe tomatoes, if you have any lying around, or rice noodles, if you like them. Then add as many minced bird chiles as you can tolerate, or a good dollop of chili paste, or if you don’t like heat, none of the above. But it is better hot. Simmer until flavors are melded, maybe 20 minutes, and serve hot.

Note: This is the low key version – the first version I ever had of this, in a Cambodian Restaurant in Indonesia was a lot hotter, sourer, saltier and sweeter. You can double everything and it will be awesomely good, but not everyone is ready to go there ;-).

Cheers,

Sharon

Comments

  1. #1 Tristram Brelstaff
    December 8, 2009

    Mark Chu-Carrol posts recipes over at Good Math, Bad Math. See here.

  2. #2 Jason
    December 8, 2009

    I’ve also seen a few at Greg Laden’s blog.

    Both of those recipes sounded really good. I’m going to try the chicken one within the week, but I never really let bananas go uneaten long and I’m a heathen who freezes my bread, so I would have to deliberately set out to let them go in order to try this.

  3. #3 Mike
    December 8, 2009

    Oh Sharon, thank you for speaking out about the turkey carcasses. That is so one of my pet peeves. This year after Thanksgiving dinner at a coworker’s house, I managed to bum the carcass for stock. On Monday I left two quarts of canned turkey broth in her office as “trade.” I kept 10 quarts for myself, not counting what I left uncanned in the fridge for use that week.

    I think next year I’ll put a sign up in my condo building that anyone who doesn’t want their carcass can leave it with me.

  4. #4 Anna Zeide
    December 8, 2009

    Sharon–like almost every post you write, this one really resonated with me. I’m a Ph.D. student studying the History of SCIENCE, so when I tell people I’m doing my dissertation on the history of canned food in America, they often give the sort of indulgent laughter which suggests that the history of something so mundane and ordinary and gendered as canned food cannot easily fit into their notions of science. So, I’m forced to think of ways to pitch this project to emphasize the science and industry and agriculture, because those are the aspects that seem serious and worth paying attention to. Thank you for bringing it all together, and showing how harmoniously “Ladies’ Home Journal” and an energy blog can live in one place.

  5. #5 Greenpa
    December 8, 2009

    “If your water is icky… filter it”????!!!

    LOL!

    cracked me up, for so many reasons.

  6. #6 cornish_k8
    December 8, 2009

    lol, that is my kind of recipe – a little bit of this, a little bit of that…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqL1BLzn3qc

  7. #7 Lisa Z
    December 8, 2009

    Thank you so much for writing about this. I feel so little respect (except from my husband) for my job as a homemaker and it is really, really starting to bug me. Especially now that my kids are 10 and 12, never mind that one is autistic and I’m homeschooling him, I get the feeling just about everyone thinks it’s time for me to “get back to work”. Excuse me, what?! This isn’t exactly a picnic.

    Truth be told, I struggle with the issue of respecting my own self, too. You and other bloggers I read make good points about why the homemaker’s work is necessary. Now I can add the environment to my list of reasons why. (not that I didn’t know that already.)

  8. #8 Julie Stahlhut
    December 8, 2009

    In a fast-food society, cooking is a positive and radical act.

  9. #9 Lynne
    December 8, 2009

    Thank you for deciding to post recipes. Cooking is such fun and important work.

    Last night I made the curry from Independence Days. Didn’t realize that brown mustard seeds actually pop, even though you said so. Got one in the eye(lid). No worries, I’m not the type to sue, but will wear protective eye wear next time :) BTW it was fantastic, spicy and delicious.

  10. #10 Jen
    December 8, 2009

    This post warmed my feminist, foodie, home-making, activist, science-geeky heart. SCIENCE! can only benefit from your voice, Sharon.

  11. #11 Comrade PhysioProf
    December 8, 2009

    Fuck, yeah! Food blogging kicks ass! The rule is, however, that you gotta post pictures.

  12. #12 Moopheus
    December 8, 2009

    “As I’ve argued before, we can’t change our agriculture, or improve our health without changing the way we eat – and we do that by teaching people to cook again, to make good use fo the food they do have, and by helping them make ethical food choices.”

    The idea that cooking, preparing one’s own food, is a key part of health and using our food resources more efficiently–which I basically agree with–is something I’ve seen discussed on a number of food blogs and forums, but I think part of the problem is that many of the people who really need it are beyond the reach of these forums. The other day my wife and I were in the supermarket, and the woman in front of us was buying a large stack of frozen, ready-to-eat meals with food stamps. Without getting into the whole thing of whether or not it’s condescending and judgmental, which it might be, it seems like this is a person who is not really getting the best food value. This person is not getting recipes on blogs. But it’s hard to know, for instance, what sort of facilities she has available for cooking? Does she have a place to cook? She presumably has a fridge and and someplace to heat the meals, but maybe only a microwave. There’s a gap there, and I have no idea how to fill it, but certain resources need to be brought to bear before recipes can even begin to help. Certainly a lot of people who do have fully-equipped kitchens eat that way too. Maybe they’ve bought into the whole convenience thing, maybe they just don’t care that much about food. Who knows? Again, there’s a gap, but it may be more of a knowledge gap than a resource gap. But again, they aren’t going to seek out that information. How do you make someone care, see the benefits to themselves and the world as a whole? Especially when government agricultural policy, expressed by means of regulations and subsidies, is basically designed to encourage the production of cheap, low-value food?

  13. #13 John
    December 9, 2009

    I don’t see a problem with posting recipes on a science blog. Even scientists need to eat. ;-)

    Does PZ Myers post recipes?

    Not that I know of, but he does post links to polls on newspaper and television station websites, and the polls always warn that they’re “not scientific.”

  14. #14 Barbara
    December 9, 2009

    Sharon,please continue on with blogging about whatever you please. I really enjoy your practical advice. I can read a dry (and possibly boring) article somewhere else. It’s your take on the scientific data that resonates with me. I like to know how peak oil affects you and what you’re doing about it. Anyone can just cut back on their expenditures, but it takes a person of wisdom and creativity to continue to lead a full life while grappling with our new world.

  15. #15 Sharon Astyk
    December 9, 2009

    There are some good (well, they are bad things, but reasonable) reasons why low income people often buy processed foods. 1. Many are disabled, or extremely elderly, and cooking is onerous. 2. If parents work multiple jobs, often olders siblings are doing the “cooking” with no knowledge beyond heating canned soup. 3. Some live in motels or residential placements with no access to a stove, as you point out. 4. Some have no idea how to cook. 5. Some work long hours or multiple jobs and have no time to cook or shop. 6. Some have only occasionaly or intermittent access to stores, due to lack of private transport, inability to drive, etc… and have to pick long lasting food when they can get there.

    The reality is that these things cross economic lines – plenty of rich elderly people find it hard to cook, and plenty of middle class people have no cooking skills – but the cost for the poor is terribly, terribly high and painful. They do end up going hungry, because those prepared foods cost so much. They do end up with health consequences because they are not nutritious. And while there are some programs and ways to help, it is tough.

    My only answer at this stage is to hope that the process trickles down – that a preoccupation with food at every level of the culture offers a growing awareness to the people who need it most that cooking skills are essential. The other place this can be really helpful is in schools – besides the schoolyard gardens, we need to bring back home ec, not as a quickie class, but as a regular part of the curriculum. I’m going to write more about that soon.

    Sharon

  16. #16 dogear6
    December 9, 2009

    Here’s another one for the turkey parts. I cook up the heart, liver and neck with some water and minimal salt. After a while, I throw in carrots and later, some white rice. When it’s done, I cut up the meat into small chunks and peel whatever meat I can from the neck.

    We use it to supplement the dry dog food and they love it!

    Don’t use any onions though – they’re not good for the dogs.

  17. #17 Abbie
    December 9, 2009

    I agree, what good is sourcing ecologically sustainable, local food, and storing it, if we don’t know how to cook it in the first place. It is a change, and it takes time to learn to cook with new, different ingredients. This is why I post recipes as well. Well, and I love to eat :)

  18. #18 Michelle
    December 9, 2009

    How long do you tend to simmer your carcasses? I’ve heard some people let broth simmer for 24 hours or more.

    When I make chicken soup with a whole chicken, I never go more than 2 hours.

    M

  19. #19 Sue in pacNW
    December 9, 2009

    Sharon,

    I appreciate the thoughts about bringing back home ec..it should be required for all students. Our local library did a cooking for teens class, and was overwhelmed at the response. Was at a function this last weekend at our local grade school and was surprised to find out that it still has a good kitchen even though all school lunches for our district are prepared in one place and brought to the individual schools.

    An experiment in a couple of schools near our town is a cooperation between local farmers and the schools. Students are, for the first time in many cases, tasting fresh greens and vegs..and are discovering that they don’t “hate vegs” and the farmers have a good demand for their produce. Far as I am concerned, this is a good gateway to classes on preparation and maybe even growing and preserving.

    In talking with a teacher about the idea of classes, was told that the liability of students working with knives and other kitchen equipment was just too great…all of this said while we were watching a bunch of kids on skateboards…go figure.

    Sue

  20. #20 Ann
    December 9, 2009

    When boiling the bones it is good to have some apple cider in there because it really draws the goodness out of the bones – and the longer you simmer, the better.

  21. #21 Laurie in MN
    December 11, 2009

    Mike, I just have to ask (assuming you even see this): How big WAS that turkey carcass?!?? I rarely get that much stock from one turkey carcass, and I’d like to know if I’m doing it wrong. :)

    And really? SO good for you to rescue that bird!! I’ve always picked the bird pretty clean when we’ve had turkey (somehow I think my step-mom would know if I didn’t and scold me all the way from her house ;) but just recently started making stock with it. Now I can’t imagine NOT doing that — homemade turkey soup is just so incredibly good, especially on a cold, wet, slushy February day.

  22. #22 Scholastica
    December 11, 2009

    What about those who have sensory issues that make their pickiness “legitimate”? Will it matter that it is autism that keeps my son from eating if the items in his limited diet are no longer available or are beyond our financial means? How do we help him prepare for the future we are facing? How do we help other relatives with mental health issues?

  23. #23 Central_PA_Chris
    December 13, 2009

    I made the Laotian Chicken Soup today from a the carcass of chicken I had made on the grill (a beer can chicken over charcoal, so the stock had some smokey flavor). Amazing. A new favorite chicken soup! The sweet and hot flavors were unusual in a delicious mix of flavors. Thank you very much Sharon!

  24. #24 Sharon Astyk
    December 14, 2009

    Scholastica – This is a really important question and one I have a great deal of sympathy with – my oldest son is autistic and has sensory issues with food. We’ve been fortunate in that we’ve been able to gradually transition him towards a wider diet, but from 2-4 I worried he’d actually starve to death if anything happened to our food supply. I will write about what I know in this regard in a full length post in the next week or two – because I think it deserves a better answer than I can give in a short reply.

    What I would ask, though is whether there are any basic staple foods your son likes? Maybe make a list of things you can store that will fit on the diet. But more on this really soon.

    Sharon

  25. #25 Scholastica
    December 16, 2009

    Sharon – The post would be much appreciated. We do pretty well in the grain department. Protein, fat, and vitamin C (in winter) are our issue areas. If we lost daily access to milk and wheat, calories would be a problem. His bmi hovers around the fifth percentile as it is.

    Rebecca

  26. #26 Zuska
    December 22, 2009

    Sharon, I have been reading through everything you’ve post in reverse chronological order, and I love every bit of it. But it is this post that has sealed the deal for me, making me a complete and utter fan of your blog. Erin should get a holiday bonus for having the wit to recruit you to ScienceBlogs.

  27. #27 Sharon Astyk
    December 22, 2009

    Thank you, Zuska – that’s quite a compliment coming from you. I was already a fan of your writings – and I’m thrilled to get to be here!

    Sharon

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