© Submitted photo
Kenda MacLellan presses apples to make cider after purchasing 75 pounds of fallen apples.
I have to admit, I wasn’t paying attention. In our home, my father did much of the cooking. He was a very patient man, but not so patient when he tried to teach me to peel potatoes or kick-start an interest in cooking. Must have been easier to do it himself.
As a mother of five, I can identify.
While my father was making the BEST mashed potatoes and hamburger gravy, my grandmother’s apartment on the top floor of our house was scented with delicious pies and breads. I was surrounded by the activity of cooking every day, much of it homemade, but the urge to roll up my sleeves and cover them with flour didn’t hit me until I was a young wife. There, in our first apartment, we made homemade bread from a Harrowsmith magazine and ate it by candlelight.
Most people can learn to cook, if not in the style of Julia Child, at least well enough to maintain life. The more difficult challenge is to cook delicious, healthy food that appeals to the whole family, on a budget. ‘Convenience’ foods are popular because the alternative just seems like too much work after an eight-hour day and soccer practice.
I’m working on a theory, actually… it is just beginning to form tonight. For now, we will call it PCS: Plan-Create-Share. These are the necessary ingredients to eat well and still be able to pay your rent.
Plan - You’ve heard it before- don’t go to the grocery store without a list. Planning also includes searching cookbooks and the internet for recipes, sharing tips with friends, checking the pantry for ingredients, and intentionally including leftovers in the menu (roast chicken becomes chicken pot pie or a wrap for lunch). A plan gives you a lunch of blueberry muffins and butternut squash soup, rather than an $8 burger. Planning means buying a huge bag of quinoa because in the end it will cost less per serving.
Create - When a co-worker asked how I was going to “build” a soup, I had no idea what she meant. Now I can take pink peppercorns and herbs from my window box garden and create a delicious broth. Don’t be afraid to learn the basics of cooking and then add your own flair. Homemade pizza crust costs just pennies to make, add an olive oil base and dig through the fridge for toppings. Why stop at apple crisp when there are so many other fruits waiting to be showcased?
Share - I have a most generous friend who is always planting produce in my bag as I head out the door. Another friend shared an abundance of peppers. Our garden was overflowing with cucumbers and we still have Swiss chard. Trading the bounty of our gardens is one way to share, but we can also share a BOGO sale, or split a giant box of something from Costco. Single people can purchase a family pack of meat to divide between several homes. This past week we borrowed an apple press to make cider. On our way to Moncton, we purchased 75 pounds of fallen apples and now the freezer is half full. We can, and may, share the cider, but we can certainly invite friends to come and make their own in the next few days. We can share knowledge, gardens, skills, sales, kitchen utensils and apple presses.
This series of articles has been about food security, the ability for all people to have access to healthy, affordable and culturally relevant food. We often associate this term with the struggle to have government listen and do something to ease our plight. Certainly, all levels of government have the responsibility to see that citizens have a living wage, benefits that promote health and affordable and safe housing. But if food is meant to nourish us, and not just fill us up, then food security is also about nourishing our communities. We all have a responsibility to nurture the health and well-being of our neighbours.
I hope these subjects have stirred conversation at the dinner table and possibly letters to your MPs and MLAs. I would be interested in speaking with people who would like to work towards a more equitable food system. Be encouraged: change is possible, but waiting for change is often a verb.
Kenda MacLellan is a community food mentor and a board member of the Living Earth Council. She lives in Truro.