Monday, January 26, 2009
A Freecavore's Breakfast
It's nearing the end of January, and the gears on the drawbridge I drew up about six weeks ago are starting to rust shut. I am a card-carrying hermit in the winter, no two ways about it. And for the many things that I dislike about the neighborhood I live in (you can smell the sense of entitlement wafting from every street corner), I have right at my fingertips what I need to get through the winter: a library and Trader Joe's. Ample opportunity to cook and read away the winter doldrums. Lately I've been reading about processed food; I just finished Can You Trust A Tomato In January?, a quirky but heavily dated exploration of the origin of the supermarkets and some of the food science experiments found within. And by dated, I'm talking about lines that read "[t]he earliest grocery system was a a communistic one - we can admit now that the Berlin Wall has fallen and the Soviet Union is no longer a union. Cavemen and cavewomen shared what they had." The book was published in 1993, so I can accept that the fall of the Soviet Union was still hot news. But when was the last time anyone mentioned "cavemen" and "-women?" And is the author really drawing some evolutionary parallel between the Reds and the monkeys? Regardless, I learned some fun (but scary) stuff about dough emulsifiers. I'm now reading Twinkie, Deconstructed, an exhaustively-researched but readable look at those unpronounceable ingredients in the aforementioned snack cake. For the record, I have always been grossed out by Twinkies, though my now gluten-free sister probably has a closet shelf reserved for her longing for them.
And speaking of GF (no, not "girlfriend," omg lol l33t h@x0r), my sister suggested that I try taking the stuff out of my diet for a couple days. See, this winter is kicking my ass in so many ways, and one of them is with a plague of dry skin. I'm talking swatches of reptile bumps that itch like hell and belie my skin's age (don't they??). Dry skin is indeed one of the many symptoms of celiac disease, and while I have little other reason to think I'm afflicted (count those blessings!), I figured it would be worth a shot to see if my skin improved at all after a couple wheat-free days. I've been taking oatmeal to work for breakfast every day for weeks now. It's quick and filling and just plain delicious with a drizzle of maple syrup and some nuts thrown in. Today I mixed it up by bringing some leftover quinoa to make a similar breakfast porridge. (I've promised to post a proper quinoa recipe soon!) I've been longing so deeply for fruit in these dark months, and I am all appled out. As committed as I am to eating locally and seasonally, I am what I have dubbed a freecavore. Freegans are willing to ignore a covert animal ingredient when the stuff is free; I'm willing to occasionally bypass seasonality when there's free produce before me. I guess the idea is that it's ok, so long as you're not putting your money into supporting unstable foodways (though that sounds about as justifiable as buying indulgences). So I went hog-wild today and decided to toy with a decidedly unseasonable- but available- fruit choice. I helped myself to a few blueberries from a coworkers morning fruit plate. I mixed 'em in with the quinoa that I had reheated with almond milk, pecans, and oh yes, maple syrup. I was thrilled with how the grain behaved at breakfast - its slightly nutty flavor and mysterious crunchy-on-the-outside-chewy-on-the-inside texture was a great wake-up call for my mouth. But the blueberries... so unnaturally large and unseasonably present... I kinda felt a connection with my caveman author friend: can you trust a blueberry in January? My vote's a no...