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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Frugal Food: What Would an Italian Peasant Do?

Thanks for your patience, Dear Readers. I am not quite "up to snuff," as my beloved dissertation director used to say, but I'll give this a try.

One reason I didn't want to write anything yesterday was because I was saving my strength for the 12 hour day I knew was ahead of me. In addition to my classes, I had to put in appearances at various events with a visiting writer: lectures, lunch, readings, presentations, ending with a pot luck at the home of my Department Head (to be known as DH in future mentions for reasons obvious to anyone who knows him).

As it turned out, the day was a delight. The writer, Richard Ford, was charming, and spent a lot of time with students, gracefully answering questions he must have been asked a million times (Did you feel you had to leave the South? Are your stories based on your life? What are your sources of inspiration?). The reading of the story Optimists was quite moving, and left me teary-eyed.

And, as for the pot luck dinner: we brought braised greens from our garden. Served room temperature with olive oil and lemon. This turned out to be a good choice because no one else brought veggies, aside from a salad left over from the lunch, and one of those vegetable trays with dip that you pick up at the grocery.

Of course, we were also motivated by the fact that we still have tons of greens in the garden and will have to pull them up soon. Plus we wanted to make something ahead that could be transported to school, hang out in the fridge for 12 hours, and be served without any further prep.

We have been eating greens without cease for the last few weeks. Except for one bunch of broccoli that I purchased in a moment of weakness, I have bought no other vegetable. Even with giving away bags of greens and offering some to various dog walkers who stroll by, we may still have to mulch some.

Some people are shocked by the fact that my vegetables have been lacking in variety. Tonight, after a rich dinner last night, we had potatoes with caramelized onions and--yes--greens! I am comforted by a vision from Under the Tuscan Sun. I must say that I absolutely detested that book, which seemed to me more about self-indulgence and shopping than anything else. But I seem to recall an encounter between the author and an old woman picking wild greens on the author's property. The old woman is my role model here. She probably ate greens every day too.

When I was engaged in a previous frugal enterprise that came to naught (reviewing the thrift stores of New Orleans--Katrina put an end to that project), I read a book that my then-partner suggested. It was about dressing from consignment shops. The author warned against the common problem of acquiring too much stuff because it was so cheap. She urged her readers to dress like a French person. The gist was that French women don't try to look different every day, they try to look good every day. Americans, as most of us know, have the opposite philosophy.

So I say, we don't have to eat different vegetables every day. We just have to eat good vegetables every day! Eat like an Italian peasant.

Any thoughts, Dear Readers?


Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

Potatoes and carmelized onions with greens? When can I come to dinner. Sounds deliciosioso (sp?? but you get the point, lol).
Cheer's to you for gardening. We have an organic garden and I love it!
My very own doctor told me to eat more food that looks like it came from the ground or a tree and since I've started doing that, I feel so much better and I save a little pocket change :)

Steady On
Reggie Girl

Anonymous said...

Sounds lovely to me too. We often do a vegetable stir fry for dinner and I use a lot in homemade soups too. I grow a few of my own vegetables - I will be growing more this year as I am digging over part of my lawn to make more room.

Chance said...

That's it! I'm moving south. You may be done with greens but all I can do is drool at the green and sun. 45 degrees here in Vermont, and we will be looking at a garden that green sometime in late June. I love your phrase "Eat like an Italian peasant".

Duchesse said...

OMG! Richard FORD! I am so envious I can hardy type. (If Jim Harrison visits, I am crashing the party.)

My family enjoys greens but only if I add a bit of fat (olive oil, usually) and to get to adoration, I add bacon bits.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Reggie--i.e. mashed potatoes, onions cooked till almost burned, braised greens (left-over). Easy!

@Alienne--We have almost no lawn left. That shocks some people.

@Chance--Sorry. But by the end of June, our garden is pretty much kaput and it's so hot you can't go outside.

@Duchesse--He is so charming that he gave me a little kiss on the cheek as we left the dinner!

There's a cookbook called "Everything Tastes Better with Bacon."

Mervat said...

My favourite fullbodied scent in the house is that of caramelised me it encompasses what cooking should be about, mouthwatering, flavourful and easy!

BTW, I am very familiar with having a DH *as* a dept head ;)

Frugal Scholar said...

@Mervat--My DH (Dear Husband) is NOT my Department Head. Even in Louisiana, that would be too much nepotism. So my husband is Mr. FS and my Department Head is DH. Love your blog by the way. Thanks for stopping by.

Funny about Money said...

Me, too. Though my backyard won't accommodate a magnificent garden like yours, the chard by the pool is trying to take over the planet (at night, you can hear it hollering "Feed me, Seymour!"). As a consequence, I've been having chard or beet greens every day.

Wonderful stuff. It will be missed after it bolts to seed when the heat comes up.

Sooo glad to hear I'm not the only one who gagged on Under the Tuscan Sun. Gave up reading before the end of the thing.

Anonymous said...

It's been years ago, but Richard Ford showed up at a signing for my novel when it was published. I was taken aback that he would deign to honor a beginner and ended up gushing, and revealing my beginner-ness.

sallymandy said...

Oh, here I see that you had the same thought about eating the same vegetables. Well, I agree!

Frugal Scholar said...

@Funny--Our garden isn't as great as it looks. Basically, all we get: greens, hot peppers, eggplant. Sometimes a few tomatoes.

@Terri--You wrote a novel!!!! Do you want to share the title?

@sallymandy--The lack of variety is a consequence of how little thrives in our garden. But I do love greens!