April 1, 2020 § 10 Comments
Confession: I’m not a gluten avoider. Like, in Any. Way. I think homemade bread is one of the most delicious things in the world, and luckily no one in our house has a gluten intolerance because in our pandemic seclusion we are baking a LOT of bread.
I find baking bread to be very meditative and stress relieving, but it is also money-saving and trips-to-the-store-saving. You can avoid unnecessary and unhealthy added sugar (it is a popular misconception that bread needs added sugar to rise) and all those horrible things Big Food loves to add: trans fats, mold inhibitors, colorings and emulsifiers. The amazing thing about bread is that you really only need a handful of simple ingredients, and time.
Of course yet another huge bonus is that making your own bread also serves to eliminate lots of wasteful packaging, much of which is bound for the landfill (I’m looking at YOU, cellophane windows).
In my last post I included a favorite sandwich bread recipe … shortly after that I made these flour tortillas. It makes a big bunch up all at once- like 30 or so- good for anything you can think of: burritos, quesadillas, wraps, etc. They definitely take time, but right now that’s something many of us have in abundance. Give these a try and let me know how they turn out.
In a large bowl whisk together:
- 6 cups flour
- 1 Tbsp salt
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1 cup of bacon fat OR lard OR room temperature butter
Use a pastry cutter or your hands to combine thoroughly.
Add 2 1/4 cups very hot water and combine with hands again.
Knead for 3 minutes.
Let sit 15-20 minutes.
Then pull off small, golf-ball amounts of dough and roll flat with a rolling pin until very, very thin. Kate Moss thin. You will almost be able to see through them. Heat a cast iron pan until very hot (NO need to add oil or butter) and fry until both sides bubble a little and have small brown spots.
If possible, it’s easiest to have one person rolling and another frying. Ilsa and I like to tag team on these jobs. She has become an EXPERT fryer.
As you make them, place them on a plate wrapped in a clean dishtowel to keep them from drying out. I like to store them in our breadbox this way, but if you don’t think you’ll eat them all up in a few days you can freeze some for later.
NOTE: You do not use a tortilla press for these flour tortillas; a press is useful for corn tortillas.
My husband Steve’s favorite thing to use these for is something he made up: he sprinkles a tortilla with olive oil, Parmesan, chopped garlic and rosemary and toasts in the toaster oven to make these lovely little… what? I don’t know what to call them except Steve’s Happy Little Tortillas, and they are delicious.
March 14, 2020 § 2 Comments
- At what point are they gonna cancel high school for Ilsa?
- And for how long?
- What does “anthropogenic” mean?
- Like, it’s bad, right?
- Do I have time to do my writing today AND drive forty minutes to buy milk in glass bottles?
- I now have a houseful of kids- I mean, young adults– fleeing the craziness of NYC in the wake of Coronapocalyse.
- Can I keep them all fed AND stay No Garbage?
- On a related note, are Greta’s friends gonna think I’m as crazy as a soup sandwich?
- Would they think that anyway?
- Saran Wrap seems to be made of polyethylene.
- Is it?
- And if so, does that mean it’s recyclable at the supermarket?
- Is there ANYTHING harder than trying to wash Saran Wrap?
- Giving a chicken a manicure, maybe?
- We are now out of toothpaste.
- How, exactly, will my husband react when I present him with toothpaste homemade from baking soda?
- Toothpaste can’t be grounds for divorce, can it?
- On a related note, is Terracycle really all that?
- But, like, really?
- I probably have to stop hating hand sanitizer now, don’t I?
- Are the kids- I mean young adults– bored yet?
- How about now?
- Don’t we have a soccer ball around here somewhere?
- Should I make another trip to the 45-minutes-away butcher to stock the freezer?
- Or, perhaps go hide under the bed?
- Is it wrong to try to be No Garbage when the world seems to be going to Hell in a handbasket?
- Or, is it an excellent strategy to stay sane?
March 7, 2020 § Leave a comment
Steve walked into the kitchen today as I sat in the middle of what most people would call a pile of garbage, and asked “What are you doing?”
“Playing.” I said.
“Oh, okay.” he said, walking back out again.
There was a pause before I called after him, “Do you think I’m crazy?”
“Oh, I know it.”
I love my husband.
Of course, I wasn’t sitting in a pile of garbage, because in our house garbage doesn’t exist. Instead I was sitting in the middle of a whole bunch of items we no longer want or need, and now have to figure out exactly what to do with.
Although I was having fun sorting all my non-treasure into piles, it had all started because I had gotten angry. Earlier that morning, in the back of a cabinet, I had come across some ancient, expired boxes of yogurt starter and what normally would have been a two-second flip over my shoulder into the garbage can turned into twenty minutes of me opening each individual foil packet and dumping the powder into our compost, all the while fuming that the foil packages were going to be The Next Problem. Because foil/paper packages are designed to be garbage and nothing else; there is no second life for expired packages of yogurt starter. As I sat there getting yogurt starter powder on my feet and all over the floor I imagined a conversation with the yogurt company that began with me yelling at the folks in the packaging science department.
EXACTLY WHAT are we supposed to do with these after they are used? What do you mean you don’t have a plan? These are just supposed to go sit in an airless, non-decomposing hole for the rest of ETERNITY- is that it? That’s your brilliant solution??
Ah, the poor yogurt starter people. After imagining yelling at them I felt kind of bad about it. Making yogurt starter is a noble profession, and one which enables people to use less packaging in other ways, since they’re making homemade yogurt and not buying those packages, after all.
It’s just that I can’t figure our why on earth the world wide packaging industry is allowed to make things that we have no plan for after their initial use is done. It’s like this giant invisible loophole in our produce-and-consume economy that no one wants to talk about.
And as I wondered about this I was inspired to proceed to the recycling corner of my kitchen and angrily dump out onto the floor the three successive containers of “I don’t know” that I’ve accumulated over the past ten weeks. Surveying the devastation, certain key themes emerged, but one reigned supreme.
Multilayers. By this I mean extruded combinations of paper, foil and/or plastic. Multilayers are almost always pure, unadulterated landfill fodder and have now arisen as the bane of my existence. Frozen food packaging, plasticized produce tags, pull-off seals, stickers, tickets and receipts are among the items that show up repeatedly in my big pile. All of them are multilayers.
It’s hard not to look at this depressing pile and think of the zero-wasters online explaining how all their garbage for the year fits into a thimble. I remind myself for the frillionth time that we’re learning as we go. I make a resolution to attend the farmers market more, so to avoid things like vegetable tags and frozen food wrappers. I vow to redouble my efforts on the “No receipt please!” front, without actually screaming at anyone, although it is difficult when so many places don’t ask if you want a receipt- they just hand it to you. I know it sounds odd, but sometimes I just don’t have the heart to tell them I don’t want it. I need to get better about that.
Lastly, I ‘m tempted to call the information hotline for these multilayer-wrapped products and ask whoever answers the phone, What do I do with this?
I’m pretty sure the response I’d get is a confused, What do you mean? Throw it away!
Then I’d go back to my yogurt-starter-tirade and tell them:
Don’t you know there is no such thing as “away”?
February 28, 2020 § 2 Comments
I can still recall the milk box we had when I was a kid. A cube-shaped metal container sat outside our front door and would fill with fresh, new glass bottles of milk once a week. I never saw the milkman, so it seemed rather like a magic trick: put empty bottles in and- poof– new milk appears! Whenever my parents got home from work, they’d bring them inside.
It kind of boggles my mind now. At the time no one seemed particularly worried about the milk spoiling out there in the non-insulated box… or freezing… or that someone would tamper with the milk. The bottles each had a little round foil cap that peeled off the top when you wanted to open a new one, and it never sealed perfectly again once opened, but no one seemed too concerned about that either.
I know this makes me sound like perhaps I grew up sometime just before the invention of the icebox but this was the seventies, people.
Fast forward to my No Garbage project of today and here I am again thinking about milk. The pile of HELP WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS in my kitchen is ever-so gradually getting smaller, but the empty containers for milk are comparatively large and stacking up, effectively presenting themselves as the next urgent question to answer.
Before this project began I used to recycle milk cartons, thinking: paper. But soon after beginning the project I thought: Wait. Paper coated with plastic. If I have learned anything in the first two months of the Year of No Garbage, it’s that Frankenstein combinations of materials- such as paper and plastic squashed together by heat, say- are inherently evil, unrecyclable landfill fodder, probably invented by Satan.
But I realized that when it came to cartons I just really didn’t know. In search of answers online, I came upon the Carton Council, an industry organization that promotes carton recycling. Oh, hooray!! I thought. On their site you can input your zip code and it will instantly tell you whether recycling that includes cartons is available in your area. Now, when you live in Vermont NOTHING is ever available in your area, so I was sad, but not terribly surprised, to see that mine did not.
Fear not! the Carton Council website assured me, because you can mail your cartons in for recycling. To places like Virginia and Nebraska. It’s free except for postage, and, after all, this is not super-heavy material we’re talking about.
Okay, at least there’s something I can do, I thought. I didn’t love it, first because any additional level of complexity or cost is going to make it that much less likely for the average person to actually do it, and second because the environmental footprint of mailing boxes of cartons across the country to recycle them raises serious questions about the net impact of the whole endeavor. Aren’t we defeating the purpose a bit here?
Then I just happened to take a closer look at my garbage service “recyclable” list. Waitaminute! Contrary to what the all-knowing Carton Council website had indicated, milk cartons are on the list! This was excellent news.
But what about other cartons? The Carton Council’s mail-in locations also accept lots of other cartons, i.e. the boxes that hold shelf-stable things like juice boxes, soup and chicken broth. These items are labeled “Tetra Paks.” I don’t encounter them often, because we don’t drink juice and I usually make my own broth from leftover chicken bones and freeze it, but now that I’m having trouble buying whole chickens without plastic, my broth supply has dwindled to nothing.
Perhaps I could solve this problem, I thought, by buying Tetra Paks of broth for soups and sauces? Maybe those would be the only things I’d have to mail to Denver or Omaha.
But then I noticed something else intriguing on the list for curbside recycling: they also accepted something called aseptic cartons. What was that? The lady who answers the phone for my garbage service had no idea. Back to the Internet.
AHA! It turns out there are two kinds of cartons: refrigerated “gable top” (like the kind milk comes in) and shelf stable “aseptic ” (like the kind chicken broth comes in.) Both are combinations of polyethylene and paper, but aseptic includes a layer of aluminum as well. And aseptic is the generic name for Tetra Pak, which is a brand name. They’re the same thing.
The good news is that both of these kinds of cartons, unlike other paper/plastic amalgams— such as thermal receipts—can be separated back into their components for recycling.
The bad news is that this process still requires a fair amount of energy and effort, such as trucking giant bales of the cartons hundred of miles for elaborate processing. Although it keeps these materials out of the landfill, this still seems to defeat the purpose of being sustainable and earth friendly.
Hmm. So I can put my cartons, both gable top and aseptic/Tetra Pak, in the curbside recycling, and putting them in recycling is better than not putting them in recycling. But better still would be to find alternatives. For milk, I’m looking into a local dairy that has returnable glass bottles just like those of my youth. For chicken broth, my local butcher tells me if I call him ahead of time I can purchase chicken carcasses he’s butchered for parts, and bring it home in my own container no less. Promising leads, for sure.
I do miss the mysterious ways of the Dellwood milkman, though. He made it all seem so effortless.