Zero-Food Waste And The Time to Cook It

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Winter Break 2016-definitly one of the perks of being a public school teacher. (The pink-eye I contracted from one of my students two days before Winter Break, not so much.) When I was growing up, Mom always made the time we had together on breaks from school so wondrous and so simple. We didn’t have to go anywhere-all the magic happened in the kitchen and around the kitchen table.

This year, I have focused my efforts during Break on zero waste cooking. Prior to this week of frugality and resourcefulness, my compost pile was frequently the recipient of my expensive insistence on all things organic and no time to chop, dice, julienne fry and prepare it all. (Ahh…my road of good intentions)

My daughter and I have spent this week on what I call, Slug Status- a form of hibernation which means that I let her stay in her pajamas all day, and we do not have to be anywhere or do anything we don’t want to do.   We have shared three meals a day and also tea during late afternoons, together. She has patiently listened as I recount the culinary contents of our meals as we revel in the time spent together.

The first day we were on Break, I made “Vegetable Drawer Soup”. It consisted of every bit of veggies either too limp to eat raw, or too small a portion to qualify as a side dish, all sautéed in garlic and the last drops of olive oil I possessed. Sublime really and gets better as each day passes. Maybe that’s the answer to so much-sautéed garlic and olive oil. (Hey, relationship going badly, sauté it in garlic and olive oil)

Today, I am making, “Oh My Gosh, I forgot About the Sweet Tea Bread Loaf Your Sister Gave Us On Christmas Eve Bread Pudding”. It is cooking as I write this, and filling the house with such a heady spice that I think I may spontaneously combust with glee.

Yesterday, I made “3 Forgotten Hotdogs and Leftover Mac and Cheese” casserole. For those of you who ritually pinch pennies and who are faithful about using everything in your refrigerator and pantry, I applaud you.

I realize that part of the allure of this style of cooking, is having and/or dedicating the time to do so. I imagine my Depression-Era grandmothers would laugh at the “Novelty Status” I have bestowed upon this type of cooking. So much seems romantic when you don’t have to do it.

Hopefully, my daughter will look back fondly on a school break infused with the simple magic of a kitchen filled with laughter, time together and economic, gastronomic delights.

Can I keep this up when I return to work on Monday? Will I look upon the tops of my carrots and gleefully cut and sauté them in garlic and olive oil, or will I curse the fact that the family counts on me to provide dinner when I have worked just as hard as them out of the home during the day, ? One wonders.

Maybe, just maybe, I can appreciate what I have done and what I am doing in the moment. If that isn’t mindful, I don’t know what is.

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