Thursday, July 12, 2012


My son the graduate. He's got a degree in ethics, which you might think would make him a poor businessman these days.

lentil curry. Not pretty but wholesome and tasty and CHEAP.

This morning I wanted to go down to the cheaper grocer, Super Carnival,  as I wanted to buy their  frozen white fish to put in a curry. 10.00 for a big bag. (I'm off meat at the moment.) But my husband wanted to head in the other direction, because the gas to the west of us was 10 cents cheaper than the stations east of us. So we went to Rigaud a few kilometers away and I visited the IGA there. But the only frozen white fish they had was that Vietnamese fish, whatever it is called, packaged in plastic, two fillets for 6.00. I did not buy it. "This is garbage fish," I ranted."Bottom sucking throw away fish  that they've only begun to market and they are packaging it like it is fresh Dover Sole...We're going vegetarian today," I insisted.

Yesterday I saw that old original Star Trek, where a thing called Landrew controls the population of a back lot 1800s' town in Hollywood ;)

"We are of the body."

I first saw it in the sixth grade and my friend and I became obsessed. We went around the elementary school saying "I am of the body," which drove our teacher nuts.

I can see why were obsessed. This episode was about sexual repression or the Repression of Eros and we were 12 and 1/2.. So, you know.

I had a friend in college who liked to spout the Greek  (Epicurean?) saying "Everything in moderation."  But he added, "Even moderation."

In this episode of Star Trek the populace went orgy-mad for an over-night 'festival'.. and that makes psychological sense. That's why human beings have festivals, to let it all hang out after holding it in for so long.

But today, we're not an Everything in Moderation society. We're an All or Nothing Society. We either eat like pigs or starve, we either exercise like demons or sit on our duffs all day. We either make tonnes and tonnes of money, or hardly any at all.

Moderation is not encouraged in today's world, especially when it comes to food.

I'm saying this because the other day I was talking to my son, who works in a high end restaurant as a line chef and he was saying how being a chef, making nice meals, isn't enough. It's about food management. (He phoned me up as he walked home from work  to tell me a customer called one of his concoctions "divine." That was his best ever compliment.)

I always knew that food management was a part of running a restaurant, but it goes farther than even I knew.  It's not only about managing fresh food, it's about managing cooked food. As in what to do with all that left over organic bacon.

My son apparently is good at this, he says.. (He's got a philosophy degree and plays a mean game of poker so he's analytical.) And this makes him the first in many generations of our family to be a good food manager. My mother, his grandmaman was a good cook but being born wealthy she was a terrible food manager. (She'd buy Kraft dinner and only use the macaroni, using her own freshly grated cheese and shallots and seasoning. The little tin packages of seasoning piled up in our pantry, to be thrown out at a later date.)

I like cooking, but am not a particularly good cook ( I hate following recipes so I'm hit and miss and I don't like using knives so I cut everything clunky) and I have no food management skills. I admit it. Indeed, if I could get back all the wasted foods from the past 20 years, my husband and I could live on it until we die. (I'm fairly certain.)

But I'm not nearly as bad as some of our younger relations.  "Waste not want not" is not a phrase they ever heard.

Except that enough is enough, I say.  We've got to get back to the basics or end up paying 1000 dollars for a sprig of coriander because it's been pre-chopped.

Jean Talon Market, the last time I was there last year. Shopping in a market is a joyous experience. A primal experience. (Sometimes I go to YouTube to visit all the famous markets around the world.) Shopping in a modern grocery store (except for Whole Foods) is an exercise in frustration, I think. Remember when Loblaw's first came to Quebec? It was their original market section which  drew people in.. But now that store is  an emporium of over-packaged, over-priced over-salted  kak. My opinion :)

Anyway, a few days ago, a relation of mine, indeed some one of my generation, was making fun of people who do not check prices in the grocery store. "The big sizes now cost more than the smaller per weight, " he claimed. "But people assume the opposite." He said he considers this a 'tax on stupidity."

(I consider it the sad reality that 'legit' businesses now make it a practice of trying to deceive their customers. How about those HUGE packages they keep while diminishing the amount of produce within.)

But good math skills are not all you need to keep from being ripped off these days.

 Many a housewife of yore with not much formal education had much better food management skills than say, my cynical relation, who has an advanced degree in math. It was built into their DNA and encouraged by necessity.

Take Nella Last.. She's the English Housewife who wrote a diary during and after the War, during the austerity period. She describes in her diary (Nella Last's Peace) how she can turn  one lamb shoulder into 4 nice meals. Not that her husband appreciates her skills. Well,  I admire Nella, I think she was a genius as a writer and as a homemaker.

I think we all should start a conservation movement in her honour.

I wrote this On Genius story a long time ago. In it I described a meeting I had on a Montreal -Toronto train with an Italian grandmother who told me her life story.

 She grew up in a small village, spending only a few years in school. She married a landscaper, moved to Toronto, she managed his business. When he died she continued managing the money, investing in property. Her kids went to the finest schools. One became a law professor. At this moment, she was off to his house to visit him - as both he and his wife were very busy. While there she would whip up some outfits for the kids and make all her Italian specialties from scratch for their pleasure. (A genius, you see!) And as is usually the case, her hyper-educated children were 'deskilled.'