19 Dec 2010

Currying Kindness

Posted by annmcolford

I began my morning yesterday with curried rice and turkey with vegetables, left over from Thursday. Since I’m trying to eat some kind of animal-based protein at every meal (see my post from November 11), this dish has become a favorite fallback breakfast when I don’t feel like having my usual egg. It’s a good way to use up leftover cooked rice, and just about any meat would work.

Rice-turkey-vegetable curry

For this batch, I sautéed sliced onions, chopped garlic, a diced carrot, and some chopped kale and beet greens in a little bit of olive oil. Okay, maybe more than a little bit. I added a cup or more of leftover cooked brown rice plus about 4 ounces of cooked turkey, chopped into bite-sized pieces. (When I cooked my big turkey at Thanksgiving, I froze the remaining breast meat in serving-sized chunks, so I can retrieve one easily whenever I need it.) Then I sprinkled on about ½ tsp. of ground turmeric plus close to 1 tsp. of good Madras curry powder and added salt and pepper to taste. I stirred it all together, let it brown lightly, then added a couple of tablespoons of liquid (in this case, hot green tea) and let it all schmooze together. I served it in a bowl, topped with a generous handful of cilantro leaves and accompanied by a healthy dollop of chutney.

After fortifying myself so thoroughly, I ended up staying inside all day long, puttering and reading (and napping, if full disclosure is required) as a light snow fell outside. I’ve done a fair amount of entertaining and socializing in the last week, and I did more today—my building had a progressive holiday hors d’oeuvres party, and since I’m on the first floor, it all started with me. As a result, I slipped into recluse mode for most of the weekend—recuperating from all of the gaiety, as it were, and building my social energy for the next round. I am absolutely an introvert in the Myers-Briggs definition of the word, meaning that, although I can socialize with the best of them, I always need some recovery time afterward.

So, I spent a fair amount of time this weekend catching up on my online reading, especially a couple of food-related articles that I’d set aside earlier in the week. Over on the Grist website (Grist.org), food editor Tom Philpott takes the food industry to task for touting the benefits of the relatively low food prices in the United States in his article, “Mythbusting: Cheap food does not equal higher quality of life”. While Americans do indeed spend a lower portion of our incomes on food (a trend begun by Earl Butz during the Nixon administration, as documented by writers Michael Pollan and Greg Critser, and the filmmakers behind King Corn), we also have higher rates of chronic diet-related medical conditions—adult-onset diabetes, obesity, heart disease—than other wealthy, industrialized nations, as Philpott charts in his article. This isn’t news to anyone who follows trends in both food and health. But Philpott also brings income disparity into his analysis, quoting from The Spirit Level, a recent book that examines income distribution. I’ve been following an online discussion of the relationship between inequality and public health, led by University of Washington faculty member Stephen Bezruchka, but it’s wonderful now to see someone linking up those ideas with the conversation that’s been happening in the food world around health issues related to diet and lifestyle. As Philpott points out, “correlation does not prove causation.” But it’s worth more thought and study.

Despite our relatively low food prices, an increasing number of our fellow Americans need help buying groceries. Nutrition professor Marion Nestle points out in a recent Atlantic food blog post that the number of food-stamp recipients has grown from 28.2 million in 2008 to 40.3 million in 2010, or roughly one-eighth of the nation’s population. While economists tell us that the Great Recession is over, life at the lower end of the socio-economic continuum remains a struggle.

So, what do you do if you’re living on a tiny budget, but you recognize the connection between food and health? Being a smart shopper and a creative cook are helpful steps, but both of those roles require time, energy, and information, all resources that may be lacking if you have to work endless hours (both paid and unpaid) to support a family.

I don’t have answers to these perplexing systemic and economic issues; I don’t think anybody does, although I’m guessing that continuing to slash at our social safety net even as we dangle from it is probably not a smart long-term solution. And higher food prices will only hurt the most vulnerable among us, at least in the short run.

At this point—and especially at this time of year—I think the best we can do is to be kind to one another. The person standing in the grocery checkout line ahead of you may be doing some serious household calculus in her head, just to figure out if she can afford both the milk and the cereal for the kids’ breakfast while still paying the utility bill. The guy idling in the car next to yours at the light may be rushing home to get dinner started for the family. He could be just a self-important dweeb who thinks he’s the center of the universe, but I say let’s give him the benefit of the doubt (at least until he cuts you off at the next intersection).

As my friend Linda says, when times get hard, we need our relationships more than ever, just to get through each day. The milk of human kindness is still free, last time I checked. Let’s all make sure we’re well stocked.

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3 Responses to “Currying Kindness”

  1. This is amazing Ann. Just happened to stumble on this but I really truly hear exactly what you are saying. I hoped to see you last summer but maybe next if all goes as planned.


    glenn dailey

  2. Glenn! How great to see you on here! Do let me know if you’re meandering around the West again next summer–would be great to show you around the area.



  3. I’m terribly impressed with the depth of your writing and look forward to each post with bated breath! So glad I found your blog. You go girl!


    Jan Myhre Spokane, WA

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