Some people just get more done in the course of a day than others - my friend Carolyn Heymann is one such individual.
This Lake Oswego woman's plate is already piled high with responsibilities; she has a husband who travels much of the time and four children involved in swim team and other activities. She still finds energy to keep her eyes, ears and heart open to the plight of the less fortunate. In fact, while whipping up dinner for her family she advocates for the hungry.
Though she's probably too busy to recognize it, Carolyn is a food activist. Inventive and solution oriented, she feels the distress of Oregon's hungry and is doing something about it.
It was unsettling to watch Gov. Ted Kulongoski on the TV news recently, trying to buy a week's worth of groceries on the food stamp budget of $21 a person. Do the simple math - this works out to a budget of $3 per day or $1 per meal. That's right - a dollar a meal.
Could I manage to feed my family on $84 a week? The thought pestered me like a too-hot jalapeno for several days after the governor's shopping trip. Could food stamps stretch only far enough to buy boxed mac and cheese and top ramen instead of fresh produce or basic building blocks of 'real' food? The thought of having to eat a diet of ramen and prepackaged foods left me without an appetite. If I had to choose, I'd rather have less of quality food than be filled with lesser quality foods. However, at $21 per week, I doubt anyone on food stamps is feeling 'filled.'
Carolyn had also been struck by the governor's example. She sent me e-mail that shifted my focus from 'How can folks live on that?' to 'Let's see how folks can live on that!'
According to the food stamp budget, Carolyn had $6 to spend on each meal for her family. She was curious to see what the possibilities might be for feeding growing, activity kids on that small amount. She knew that generations of Americans had cooked from scratch and made the most of every morsel. Moreover, our inventive spirit should enable us to do the same again, in support of those who must.
Carolyn shared a bowl of the highly pleasing carrot curry recipe in her original e-mail. That it was tasty and quick was no surprise; the bonus was that it was easily under her $6 per meal budget.
Carolyn's e-mail message stuck with me like syrup on pancakes. I shared her campaign with a group of women who were as startled at the low daily food stamp allowance as we had been. I asked them to share their dollar-stretching tips and recipes, so that I could help pass the information along to food stamp users.
These women were looking way beyond me at the bigger picture. Their concern went further than gathering recipes - they wanted to know how would the recipes get to those who needed the assistance? How would those who needed training in basic cooking skills get it? Would they have to rely on microwaving as the basic food preparation technique?
Oregon Food Bank does offer hands-on cooking and nutrition classes to Oregon's hungry. They offer a six-week series of classes that deals with nutritional information, cooking skills, food budgeting, sanitation and healthy, low-cost menu ideas. Teams of trained, skilled volunteers, many of them professional chefs, work with low-income participants in a kitchen-classroom to prepare the week's recipes. Participants take home ingredients to practice the recipes during the week and to introduce their households to healthy, economical cooking and eating.
Oregon Food Bank also has Learning Gardens in Portland and Hillsboro, which offer cooking demonstrations using freshly harvested produce.
Around lunchtime a few days ago, Carolyn delivered another dish fitting the food stamp dollar-a-day-per-meal restraint. She modified a family favorite recipe, calling on peanut butter for the protein, pasta and readily available inexpensive ingredients. The result: Scrumptious restaurant-quality Sesame Noodles.
Her original recipe called for sesame oil, which she eliminated because it is costly. Carolyn just toasted the sesame seeds a bit longer to enhance the sesame flavor. She was concerned about the fresh ginger because it can be sharp tasting if not grated fine. She was conscious that many low-income kitchens might not have a microplane in them. Ginger can be finely minced with a knife.
How do you stretch your food dollar? Carolyn and I would love to read the recipes and tips and pass them along to Oregon Food Bank. Please e-mail them to me at the address below.
Care to share the pain and try feeding your family on $21 per week per person? As Carolyn so eloquently points out, 'Until we start the discussion by trying it ourselves, we limit our ability to help those for whom this is reality.'
Bon Appetit - Eat Locally!
6 tablespoons peanut butter .50
½ cup honey .75
1 cup regular soy sauce 1.79
4 inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated or finely minced .60
2 pounds spaghetti, cooked, rinsed under cold water, well drained 1.
½ cup white sesame seeds, toasted over medium heat 1.
1 bunch thinly sliced green onion tops .39 - .59
1 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped .59 - .79
Melt peanut butter slightly (either in microwave or a warm water bath)
Whisk in the honey and soy sauce.
Whisk in the grated ginger.
Toss in the spaghetti with the sesame seeds and coat the noodles.
Top with cilantro and green onions and mix into the noodles.
Can be served hot or cold.
Randall welcomes your questions and food research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-635-8811 or by e-mail at brandall@lakeoswegore