Monday, November 24, 2008

My Carb Footprint

Well, that didn't take long. By mid-November, we've had our first significant (as in, the grass was all covered) snowfall, and in the past week, the snow has come and gone and come back again, keeping the temperatures low and chilly.

Just knowing how the economy and fuel prices are already looking this season, I've been keeping my furnace set at spartan levels, and thanks to the Renaissance Man, I have a new programmable thermostat that automatically heats my place (a little, just a little) for those few hours when I'm actually around and not swaddled in wool blankets.

Call me an eco-geek or eco-freak if you like. I really don't care, because I'm learning just how much is truly necessary for the way I live, and it's surprisingly less than I had expected. And while I think that any measure determining one's "carbon footprint" is inexact at best, I do think that the changes I've been making in my life to use less energy have been beneficial overall and have definitely made me happier.

As the weather gets colder, then, I'm finding that the food that satisfies me the most is often the simplest: seasonal fruits and vegetables or produce taken from the summer's freezing frenzy combined with whole or wholesome grains.

Welcome to cucina povera, the basic "poverty cooking" or peasant food known to most people throughout the ages.

Happily, I have not only a good tradition of simple cooking to draw on -- thanks to my upbringing and my own experience -- but I also have the added support and experience of the Renaissance Man to shape our shared meals. For someone who claims not to know how to cook, he's really very adept at making the most of basic and sometimes limited ingredients.

Since we've been busy this past week -- and I've been worn out from the whirlwind -- we've met up often for meals, and though I've contributed tidbits to the plates, he's done most of the cooking.

Mid-week, following a grueling day-long meeting at work, I trudged off to dine with him on a pot of hearty bean soup. While he started with a "mix" of dried beans and herbs, he added fresh potatoes, squash, and onions along with a jar of my home-canned tomatoes to make a wonderfully consoling meal. Our first encounter with the soup was accompanied by his homemade cornbread (he's a pro at this), but later in the week I suggested he add pasta to the pot when he reheated the soup, and we ended up with the satisfying mix seen above.

The Renaissance Man made a handsome loaf of whole wheat bread over the weekend, and though about half of it graced the table at a Sunday potluck, he finished off the loaf by making a very satisfying Sunday supper of French toast for us both.

Though I had planned to head home and make a casserole for dinner tonight, I succumbed instead to his invitation to share some homemade cornmeal mush. Bringing some steamed sweet potatoes, I arrived in time to sauté the vegetables with some chopped apple so that we had a little more nutritional kick to the meal. With a little local maple syrup drizzled on top, it served as both dinner and dessert on a cold night.

We did have a bit of a splurge over the weekend as My Fabulous Aunt had sent half a dozen rich chocolate cupcakes with dense coconut centers as a treat. But that was as fancy as we got in our culinary adventures.

The weather is expected to remain cold and snowy for a while -- not unbearably so, but enough to make comfort food the rule -- so I expect I will do some cooking this week myself. I've got my assignments for Thanksgiving dinner with My Wonderful Parents (and that will be this month's featured local meal, so stay tuned), and I hope to take advantage of the time away from work to get some other dishes made.

And I'll hope that all those good stick-to-your-ribs meals will keep me warm so my furnace doesn't have to work as hard!

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At 11/25/2008 8:34 PM, Anonymous Janet said...

Cucina povera, eh? I like it, and it makes frugal cooking sound ever-so-much more appealing. These examples certainly look appealing, too. Yum!

At 11/26/2008 7:02 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

I know, it's a bit flash for a name for such simple food, but I like it, too. Makes me remember there's a tradition behind eating simply -- and not an entirely bad one, either.


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