Posts Tagged ‘convenience’

Every night, the same question comes up, of what to make for dinner? Tonight’s no different. No leftover in the fridge to give me a hint. Instead an odd assortment of vegetables, not even enough to make a soup with. And no help to be had from family members. All four have different ideas, and I do not have the time nor the desire to accommodate all. I shall make an executive decision. Of course, it would be nice to be ‘creative’ and step out of the usual repertoire, for a change. But tonight’s not the night. I am going to go for the safest bet. Roasted chicken with potatoes, and a green salad. I can zip over to Whole Foods, buy their organic fryer, organic potatoes, and organic lettuce, and while I am at it, a few extra vegetables so I can make a soup out of the leftovers tomorrow. Preparation time, 15′ total, and I can go back to my work, while the creature’s cooking in the oven. Done.

There is a lot to be said for that roasted chicken dinner. Most importantly, it meets all four criteria in my good food book:

  1. Cost: a whole chicken can be stretched over two meals for four people, easily, with roasted chicken first day, and chicken soup with rice the day after
  2. Health: no worries to be had with natural, organic ingredients
  3. Convenience: both meals are easy and quick to make, less than 15′, my usual limit on week days
  4. Taste: it’s hard to mess up roasted chicken, plus who doesn’t like chicken?

In a perfect world, I would have a hundred ‘roasted chicken’ recipes to pick from. The reality is closer to five or six meals, that I keep repeating, from week to week. The children have noticed. Oh! we’re having crepes again . . . How about a different dressing for the salad? I have fallen into a rut. I wish I could be more creative and fancy myself as one of my French friends, for whom cooking is still very much a daily practice in effortless imagination. Once in a while, I decide to shake things up a bit, and invest in a new cookbook. Last time, was The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution, by Alice Waters. I remember being quite excited, and thinking this was going to be THE book, unlike the thirty previous volumes, that have been gathering dust on my kitchen shelf. Of course, my interest in THE book was short-lived. I found it hard to make Alice’s recipes mine. An interesting observation, given that, objectively, her recipes embody all I want in food.

I am left with the question of why? How come is it that I keep going back to these few ‘comfort recipes’? When I could so easily whip myself into shape, and start meal planning the heck out of Alice’s cookbook, gathering hundreds of perfect recipes in the process. The answer is in the smell coming out of my oven right now. The aroma from the roasted chicken, and the potatoes brings me right back to my mother, and also my grandmother’s kitchen, to my French peasant roots of uncomplicated, good food. From the many more dishes that I watched, and sometimes helped them make, only le poulet roti, les pommes de terre au four, la salade verte toute bete, la soupe de legumes, les crepes, la tarte aux pommes, and le pudding au chocolat have remained in my primal core . . .

Of course, I am fortunate, to have been wired early on to only appreciate really good, natural food. That I am a boring cook with a limited repertoire is a small problem, compared to what happens for the majority of people in America, who have been brought up to love not natural food, but fast food instead.  To them, a visit to McDonald’s may bring up the same positive emotional onslaught as the one I feel when cooking my grandmother’s vegetable soup. And cooking naturally, or even cooking period, may be a lot harder for them to get into. Although hugely popular, cookbooks, recipe websites, and TV cooking shows, often cannot compete with the aroma of a Big Mac with French fries, on the side.

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Day 15 of Daily Footprint Project. The day for round two of gum surgery. Oh, joy! I am to eat only soft food for the next few days. Fortunately, there is Whole Foods and its well stocked deli section.

Why should I cook if I don’t have to?

The split pea soup with ham struck my fancy. I filled up the biggest size carton. Prad did the calculation. Per ounce, it is really the best deal.

As of late, I am relying more and more on Whole Foods and other outside cookeries to supplement our menus. With the children less and less home for our family dinners, cooking has lost some of its appeal. In fact, it has become a chore, that detracts from other creative activities I’ d much rather be doing. Blogging, exploring ideas for green ventures are where my heart is for now.

I may be happy away from the kitchen, but what does that do for the environment? The image of the throw away soup carton is haunting me. With each take out, I add to the landfill pile. I could go around the problem, by bringing my own containers. I have never seen anyone do it, but maybe I could start a trend. Actually, it would be kind of cool to see what people say. The more I think about it, I totally dig the idea.

Until I get a bike – number one on my green to do list – , there is also the issue of driving to get the soup. I can rationalize by thinking that I would need to drive anyway to buy the ingredients to make the soup. The answer to that one is twofold: one, get a bike, two, plan better and make less trips to the grocery store. Even more ambitious, would be to also cultivate my own vegetables. I am learning to be practical, however, and to consider only what I know myself capable of sustaining in the long run. Gardening is just not my thing. Better scrap that idea.

There is a third problem with relying on take out. Food sourcing. I give up any control on the types of ingredients that are being used. Same when I eat out at a restaurant. In both cases, I am abdicating my responsibility as a responsible consumer, leaving it to others to decide what goes into my food. Once you start, this kind of logic can be crazy making, and realistically, I am not going to give up eating out. Still, there is some truth in the thought, and maybe reason for a compromise. Like air traveling, the idea is not to give up such indulgences altogether. More sensible, is to limit them to special occasions, and make them the exceptions rather than the norm.

I can think of one good argument for not cooking in my kitchen. Foodpooling, as in carpooling. I just made up the word. It is much more efficient to cook for hundreds of people at once, as is the case for Whole Foods, than to each cook our separate meals. I am not aware of any study on the topic, but I am ready to bet that the energy saved must be substantial.

To summarize, if I manage to bike to the grocery store, and bring my own containers, I will come out pretty clean here.

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #15


flush toilet 3
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 4
shower 1
full load laundry
rinse dishes
run full dishwasher


electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 2’
microwave oatmeal 4’
microwave soup 4’
microwave milk 2’
laptop on half day
full load laundry washer & dryer
run full dishwasher


oatmeal with organic milk
organic persimmons
organic milk
takeout split pea soup from Whole Foods
organic apple sauce
organic chocolate
organic apples


toilet paper
3 newspaper plastic wrappers
five day leftover chicken soup


2 papers
milk carton
glass jar apple sauce


drive to orthodontist 5 miles

Non food shopping


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I am behind in my New York Times reading. I just got to the editorial piece in last Monday’s edition. Verlyn Klinkenborg writes about The 17 Percent Problem and the Perils of Domestication. She quotes a recent Science Magazine article, noting that by 1995, ‘only 17% of the world’s land area had escaped direct influence by humans.’ Her point is that we, all humans are taking the wrong approach. We are trying to domesticate nature, not adjust to it. Our egos have led us to believe that we can run the show, that we are superior to nature, when in fact it is not so. And we are starting to pay the price.

What does that mean on a personal level? How do I contribute to this domestication of nature? I cannot think of anything I am doing that is directly contributing. Rather, it is my lack of awareness, and political action, that make me a part of the problem. Also, by subscribing to a modern lifestyle of convenience and consumerism, I feed indirectly all the industrial processes that destroy nature. Only 17% left of nature to give us precious feedback. Like Verlyn Klinkenborg, I am appalled by the amount of destruction, the damage we have done as humans.

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Reading No Impact Man‘s latest post, inspired me to take a look at productivity in relationship to my day to day life. I had a hunch, the need to be ‘productive’ may not always work in favor of my green agenda.

In my comment to No Impact Man, I mentioned the subjective nature of productivity. Prad, for instance, has less of a need than I do, to accomplish lots in one day. I, on the other hand love to ‘work’, and to juggle several projects at once. The fuller my day is, the more tired and satisfied I feel. In Silicon Valley, I fit right in. Many of my friends are working for startups, and cannot find enough hours in their days to finish all their tasks. The need to feel productive rules our lives. This comes at a price

An obvious personal cost is the lack of time to be and to enjoy less quantifiable entities such as friendships, family, nature, and the simple things in life. A more insidious cost, also related to the lack of time, is the tendency to forsake green consciousness for convenience. My favorite excuse for driving the car instead of walking, is that I could not possibly get everything done otherwise. Same with using all the other time saving, but energy draining appliances around the house

I watch Prad go about his day, and I am always amazed by how much he is able to accomplish, without even trying very hard. Green Guru’s notion of productivity is different. Green Guru is satisfied most when he connects with his friends and with nature, and when he feels he has done his share of re-greening the Earth. Right now, he is cooking a solar financing deal with some of his buddies in Honolulu.

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