Wednesday, September 17, 2008

When Life Gives You Chickens...

I feel like I've been talking a lot about food on my blog. Perhaps this is partly due to the fact that I haven't been getting out much during Buy Nothing Month, or perhaps it's just indicative of where my true interests lie. I have been thinking about food even more than usual lately, no doubt encouraged by the fact the I'm just finishing up Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma.

The book covers more ground than is possible to summarize in a quick blog post, but suffice to say that it has made me more determined than ever that eating local, fresh, homemade food is far preferable to the products found at the local supermarket. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? But actually following through on that conviction is something that relatively few people in our culture have yet to do.

Convenience and price are two of the likely reasons for lack of follow through, although Pollan makes what is, to me, the reasonable point that, if food is so important, isn't it worth spending more money on? Compared to previous generations, Americans today spend a much smaller percentage of their income on food. We've become accustomed to artificially cheap prices, and to having disposable income to spend on entertainment. While there certainly are many in this country who are truly impoverished, there are also many who are willing to fork over the dough for a giant flat-screen TV, but balk at the idea of paying what they see as an unfair premium for eggs from pastured chickens.

Now I suppose I could feel smug for patronizing my local farmer's markets regularly this summer, but how good have I really been? Tonight's dinner was chicken stroganoff, and the chicken came straight from a giant freezer bag from Costco. Since I'm a moderate by nature, I don't feel the need to forgo any and all industrialized food, if that were even truly possible in this day and age. But I do think I could do better, starting with coughing up the extra bucks to purchase local pastured chicken for our dinners, chicken that had a genuine yard to peck in, rather than a tiny door leading to a strip of vacant grass outside while thousands of chickens huddle en masse in their barn.

I have another confession to make - I did buy one of those pastured chickens earlier this summer, and prepared to make what I was sure would be the World's Greatest Chicken and Dumplings using a recipe from Saveur. Despite my better judgment (and I really did know better) I decided to go along with the recipe and incorporate three cups of melted butter into the dumpling batter. Yes, I did say THREE CUPS. And yes, that was a dismal, truly abysmal failure that ruined the entire dish. As I had surmised myself when following the recipe, the correct amount was actually THREE TABLESPOONS, as noted in the next issue of the magazine. Let us not forget the ever nourishing dish that is humble pie. And let us also be thankful that no company was coming for dinner that night.

But hey, at least I was able to make some excellent chicken stock with the bones.

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