Thursday, September 11, 2014

Failing homemakers, or Spice up that Carbonara!


The other day I cooked with goat's milk. It wasn't any definitive recipe or attempt at being more "organic" or "natural" (Goats aren't exactly wandering around downtown Manhattan), but I was in the dairy aisle, it was on sale in half a liter size containers , and I felt like trying it.

The results were tasty, although I can't say for sure goat's milk lent that final piece of specialness. And the results certainly weren't any healthier because a goat was involved.

And then there was this bit of experimentation: Ancho Whole Wheat Carbonara


Mmmm...that's a spicy pasta!

Not as light as my fluffy dinner balls, but a pretty amazing piece of work. In fact, here's the recipe:

The Streamlined Ska Librarian's Ancho Whole Wheat Carbonara
(Serves 2-4, depending on portion needs)

2-3 dried ancho chiles
1 cup boiling water
1/2 pound smoked bacon, chopped into pieces (or other smoked not-too-lean meat)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
1 cup onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
Apple Cider Vinegar
Chicken Stock
3 eggs
1 cup half & half (or other fatty dairy milk product)
1 cup Asiago cheese, grated
Salt & pepper to taste (depending on meat choices, you may need extra salt).
1/2 lb whole wheat pasta

1. Stem and seed chiles, place in bowl and pour boiling water over to cover. Let steep for at least 15 minutes
2. Puree chiles (with water)  in processor until smooth
3. Sautee the bacon pieces until crispy. Drain on paper towel.
4. In same pan, add olive oil, corn, peas, onion and garlic. Sautee until beginning to brown. Deglaze pan with vinegar and stock. Keep flame on low and stir veggies occasionally.
5. In separate bowl,  beat, eggs, half & half, 1/2 cup cheese and chile puree until mixed.
6. Boil pasta until just al dente.
7. Drain pasta (saving some of the water). Put pasta back in pot. Add veggies, bacon and egg-chile mixture and stir until incorporated. Add a few spoons of pasta water if needed.
8. Top with rest of cheese, pepper and salt, if needed.

(and for dessert, there was goat's milk pudding!)

It's been a while since I've put something like this together on a weeknight. I realize that's one of the possible upsides of my recent cohabitation: I'm willing to cook more elaborately because someone else is doing all the dishes! And this recipe does leave a lot of stuff to be washed.

It is definitely the drudgery of domesticity which can prevent a lot of more "home spun" creations. It's time consuming, it can be economically unfeasible and sometimes just not pleasant.

Which is why I am once again rolling my eyes at Michael Pollan and his call for the "old fashioned" ways. In the past few years, he's been touting that home-cooked meals eaten with the family are what's truly missing from our lives now and blame is placed solely on those modern thinking housewives. (I've ranted about his smug attitude before). 

I love cooking. I even love healthy Streamlined cooking. I love the sense of creating and sharing something out of food, even if it's just for my own gullet. But when I've worked 12 hours and still want to get some stress relieving exercise in the mix and have to clean the house, do homework, and yes, write this blog, well then, I'm not above going the less than "made from scratch" route. Or even a pizza or pannini from down the street.  


A recent study did show that perhaps the decrease in household maintenance has contributed to decrease in energy expenditure which one can try to correlate to an increase in obesity. Although it doesn't really take into account that perhaps energy is being expended elsewhere. 

But is that what we're looking for? Women who do nothing but chop wood, milk cows, mill grain, and start cooking the meal at 5 AM so we can have dinner? I think most modern working mothers (at whom Pollan seems to be aiming) really do not have time for this crap. Even my mother, she of Julia Child influence and natural "treats," didn't always make her own tofu and pickle her own crab-apples from our backyard tree. She had better things to do.

A recent sociology-anthropolgy study on this topic takes Pollan to task:

"While Pollan and others wax nostalgic about a time when people grew their own food and sat around the dinner table eating it, they fail to see all of the invisible labor that goes into planning, making, and coordinating family meals. Cooking is at times joyful, but it is also filled with time pressures, tradeoffs designed to save money, and the burden of pleasing others"

Basically, we have been creating ways to ease the burden of much our worklife, but it's supposedly bad when we then deny this nostalgic view among those who can afford to have said nostalgia. 

Yes, you shouldn't just shovel fast food at the family for dinner all the time. There are studies that show that kids' tastes start early, so healthier dishes and fruits and vegetables thrown in between the mac and cheese dinners might make for better choices as they get older.  

But we're not in Donna Reed land anymore. Even Donna Reed wasn't in that land:

OK, enough award-winning "bad girl" roles, Miss Reed. Those radishes aren't going to rosette themselves!


So, Mr. Pollan, go try working for drudge wages and see if you still want to pluck your own ducks before starting the home made croquembouche. The rest of us have reality to deal with. 

Experiment in the kitchen. Just don't chain yourself to it.


References:

Archer, Edward, Robin P. Shook, Diana M. Thomas, Timothy S. Church, Peter T. Katzmarzyk, James R. H├ębert, Kerry L. McIver, Gregory A. Hand, Carl J. Lavie, and Steven N. Blair. “45-Year Trends in Women’s Use of Time and Household Management Energy Expenditure.” PLoS ONE 8, no. 2 (February 20, 2013): e56620. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056620.


Bowen, Sarah, Sinikka Elliott, and Joslyn Brenton. “The Joy of Cooking?” Contexts 13, no. 3 (August 1, 2014): 20–25. doi:10.1177/1536504214545755.


Louis, Catherine Saint. “Childhood Diet Habits Set in Infancy, Studies Suggest.” The New York Times, September 2, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/02/health/childhood-diet-habits-set-in-infancy-studies-suggest.html.

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