in which food makes me angry

Maybe it started last night when I instant-messaged my husband:

“my motivation to cook supper is falling out of the window….  can it be a palio’s night maybe?”

So we went out for pizza.  It was fine.  Under twenty dollars, easy, quick.  It was fine.

But I knew I had to face grocery shopping today, so I finished out my menu for the next week, and went on my way.  I only needed meat (yes, I know:  I never need meat) for a couple meals, so I thought I’d just knock the whole grocery list out at Whole Foods.  The list wasn’t too long, after all.

One complimentary sack of cookies, two trips to the bathroom for my potty-training two-year-old, and over an hour later, we checked out.

One hundred eighty dollars.  Seriously?  One hundred eighty dollars? I mean, sure, I picked up a few extras: a new bottle of raw agave nectar (It’s cheaper than honey.), some raw carob cacao nibs (I had always wanted these when I was on the raw diet and just found them today, only to find out I misread the package and they weren’t carob. At least they really were raw.), a new mint plant for my pot (surely it will produce mint for many months to come!), some extra Food for Life bread (it’s cheaper at Whole Foods than at the standard American grocery store).  Things like that.  They weren’t stupid, unnecessary foods.

But I left angry.  Isaiah and I were not on good terms.  I really just felt like a hamburger.  That is, I felt like eating one.  You know, I do pretty well with the whole eating-sustainably-grown-meat thing until I’m in a bad mood.  Then I think to myself, “You know what?  It is all just hopeless.  I try to be a good steward of what I eat, and I end up being a bad steward of my money.  I am a lost cause.  I may as well just eat fast food.”  Do you feel sorry for me at all?

Anyway, as it turned out, there was no mouth-watering hamburger joint between Whole Foods and home, so we got tacos.  Isaiah liked that.  And I sucked in my Coca-Cola like it was a drug.

On the drive home, I decided that at the soonest opportunity possible, I needed to take a course in organic gardening.  Really, it seems to be the only reasonable way to be be a good steward of earth, body, and money.  And I have failed enough in my own gardening that I think I could use a little help.  It was a little spark of hope, thinking about taking a gardening class, but still… I still had one hundred eighty dollars worth of groceries in the trunk of my car.  Today it didn’t make me feel much better.

Isaiah spilled his fast food water when we got home.  I yelled at him, which hurt his feelings, so he cried.  I felt more like a hamburger than ever.  That is, I felt as lowly as ground beef between two pieces of bread.  So I told my little boy I was sorry, held him a few moments, and admitted to him that it was only water.

We were on better terms when it was finally naptime.  Isaiah smiled at me before I left his room.  He forgives and forgives.

I set off to the kitchen to do some baking.

Sometimes I slap myself over the head for thinking I have to make food from scratch* — like the pecan rolls I want to serve to some valiant moms of toddlers tomorrow.  I mean, pecan rolls?  Really?  The expense is no less than a simple can of Pillsbury whatever-rolls.  And the work is enough to make me dread my entire day.

But then, in the middle of kneading, I looked down and saw my hands working the dough on my wooden board.  My arms hurt; my breath came out in little puffs.  The exertion grounded me.  I felt human again.  It was like the simplicity of hands in dough — working it, working it — washed away all my guilt and self-hatred for failing again and again in the food department.  If I could only only make bread, and see a few ingredients and a little elbow grease somehow turn into this beautiful, simple staple of the human diet, I could see transformation in grocery shopping, in growing food, in my rocky rollercoaster of a soul.

*One exception to this — an occasion when I never feel like I’m biting off more than I can chew — is when I make this beautiful recipe for crusty, chewy artisan bread.  It is so easy.  Believe me. You should try it at least once.  And the result is something you might buy in a good bakery.  And the best part is that it makes four loaves, only you don’t have to bake them all at once because the dough stores in the fridge for up to two weeks!  Mmmm.  I am salivating right now.  Oh, bread, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways…

  1. Carrie,
    When I was single I used to reward myself for completing my grocery shopping by getting a pizza on the way home. Generally I HATE grocery shopping, unless I just need to pop in and grab one thing or if I’m just browsing at a fancy place with no plans. But regular maintenance grocery shopping, yuck.

    Regarding the organic gardening, I was just talking to Tami about taking some gardening classes. They offer organic introduction and organic gardening certification. So, Feb 26 or March 3 or 14th feel free to come on up and take a class with us!

  2. This article reminded me of your post:

    This week’s idiom is, “Mettre la main à la pâte.”

    Literally translated as, “putting one’s hand to the dough,” it means being willing to participate in an activity that will require some effort. The activity in question is often manual work that is best done by a team, and the idiom is comparable to the English expression, “putting one’s shoulder to the wheel.”

  3. Carrie-I loved this post 🙂 I, too, love working with dough and I have great memories of watching my mom expertly turn a huge bowl full of sticky dough full of air bubbles into deliciousness!! I would love to sample your pecan rolls 🙂 It also reminded me that I was going to share our easy pizza crust recipe for the next time you don’t feel like cooking (seriously it’s so easy and for some reason I feel better about myself by eating homemade pizza :-P) Note: Dan & I both agreed that our crust was too thin the night you were over! Enjoy 🙂

    1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
    1 teaspoon white sugar
    1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
    2 1/2 cups bread flour (we usu. use reg. flour b/c we have it on hand)
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 teaspoon salt

    1. In a medium bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. *If using instant yeast, skip this step & mix the yeast & sugar with step 2 ingred.
    2. Stir in flour, oil, and salt. Beat until smooth. Put in lightly oiled bowl & cover until double in size. (This can be shortened to 5 min, just enough for the gluten to relax.)
    3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat or roll into a round. Transfer crust to cornmeal-dusted pizza stone or pizza pan (can lightly grease the pan also so it doesn’t stick or use the backside of a cookie sheet for use with a pizza peel).
    4. Bake 5-10 min at 450 (until light brown) then spread with desired toppings and bake for another 10-15 min or until cheese is melted.

    • clbeyer
    • January 9th, 2009

    Mettre la main à la pâte. — I like that! Thanks, Dan.

    And thanks for the pizza crust recipe, Tami! You rock. I thought the crust was wonderful the night we had it with you. Thanks again for EVERYTHING.

    I wish I could take a class with you guys! Do you think the sustainability would balance out if I traveled fifteen hundred miles, give or take, to learn how to garden? I mean, just one tomato may travel at least as far!

  4. Carrie,
    I feel your pain. For different reasons though. In Haiti, I have no option but to purchase organic (mostly I think, although there is no way of proving it). I have no option but to cook everything from scratch. And it has all tasted good, except for the rare occasion of buying bad hamburger. I am not as schooled as you, and therefore I didn’t know that your body gets used to no preservatives. So yesterday, when arriving back in the States, McDonalds was whispering in my ear, and I hadn’t even seen the golden arches yet. Needless to say, 2 hours after eating the grease bomb with a not so medium sized soda, I had a worse case of diarrhea, than I have ever had in Haiti.

    • precisionink
    • January 12th, 2009

    I just read Second Nature (Michael Pollan) and now am reading Omnivore’s Dilemma (Pollan again), to be followed up by Food Matters (Mark Bittman), which I hope will prove to be a course in why gardening and what I eat matter, followed by practical advice for what to do about it. The order should probably be tweaked.

    Can you subscribe to local CSA? Cheaper than Whole Foods, and more sustainable (is Whole Foods really sustainable anyway? Pollan disagrees.) Trader Joe’s also helps keep organic on the cheap, but they probably fail the sustainability test, too.

    • clbeyer
    • January 19th, 2009

    precisionink: Our CSAs around here seem to be maxed out. It’s kind of a letdown. I have gone to a nearby farmer’s market during summer months, but I tend to spend a fortune there, too. More sustainable than Whole Foods, though, I’m sure, and much more fun!

    I don’t know that Whole Foods is the best option, but for health conscious packaged foods, meat choices, and non-food products, I think many of W.F. products sound more honest than your average American grocery store. (That Omnivore’s Dilemma discussion about what “free-range” really boils down to was rather disconcerting, though.) We don’t have a Trader Joe’s nearby, but I’ve always wanted to see what they’re all about.

    Please let me know how you like the books! I’ve only read _The Omnivore’s Dilemma_.

  5. I found your blog through Holy Experience’s gratitude list, and I’m grateful I did! I just started making homemade bread on a regular basis this winter (as opposed to maybe once or twice a year), and I’ve found the benefits in the making amazing, almost better than the benefits of always having homemade bread on hand. There really is something about kneading that helps me put my thoughts in proper perspective and settle down any tumult in my heart.

    My husband and I are constantly struggling to balance being good stewards of our bodies (and our children’s bodies) and good stewards of our money. Why is it so difficult to eat healthily? I know there’s a balance out there–hopefully we’ll all find it sometime!

  6. I know this is ridiculously late (my response), but I really love this post.
    I feel the same way sometimes. About the guilt, the desire to make things from scratch and then wondering “who cares?”, and then right back to realizing how alive and warm it makes me feel to be doing things for my family – real, homey things. 🙂
    Perfectly said, Carrie!

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