Last night, my husband, Clif, and I spent a quiet but oh-so-nice New Year’s Eve. Our daughter Shannon and her husband, Mike, came over for a simple supper of homemade bread and beef stew. Although this was not a fancy meal, I decided to make Marjorie Standish’s oven beef stew—which is made in stages—rather than just throw everything into the crockpot. Because we seldom eat beef, it was worth it to spend the extra time on the stew. Simply put, this is the best beef stew recipe I have ever tasted—a rich broth with meat so tender it literally falls apart when you put in your mouth. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a copy of this recipe on the Internet, so readers will have to seek it out from the great Maine cook herself in one of her many books.
Shannon baked what is coming to be known as her “signature” chocolate cake, using a recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. Then, we rolled up our sleeves and played a trivia game called Foodie Fight, a present from our eldest daughter, Dee. This kept us happily engaged until midnight, when we toasted in the New Year.
All in all, this was a New Year’s celebration that didn’t cost us much. We stayed close to home—my favorite place—ate good food, and played a fun game.
On a similar note, this morning I was tickled to get an email—one of my first of the New Year—from my friend Kate Johnson. In it she described making ginger banana scones from ingredients she had on hand. She knew I would like that part, making good use of what was in her kitchen. As Kate put it, “How many times do you have 1 banana, a bit of heavy cream left over from Xmas cooking, a lemon, and crystallized ginger, all at the same time?!!” Kudos to Kate for using these ingredients rather than letting them go to waste.
When I started this blog in 2009, I didn’t really envision a direction for it other than a focus on food, of course. But over the past year and a half, some things have become more and more obvious to me. That is, our species is confronting “a perfect storm” that includes peak oil, climate change, and overpopulation. (We are almost at 7 billion, up from 6 ½ billion when I first started the blog.) Add environmental pollution, and we have a very serious situation. As Sandra Steingraber exhorts in her excellent Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment, it is time for humans to play “the Save the World Symphony.”
To carry on with the symphony metaphor, we can’t keep playing the same old tune of overconsumption, burning fossil fuels, and pumping gargantuan amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. To put it bluntly, we have to change our wasteful, polluting song. This won’t be easy because in many ways it is a sweet life, at least for those of us in affluent countries, to run through resources as though they are infinite.
Yet I refuse to give up hope. Perhaps it is because I am an American, but I have a perverse optimistic streak that allows me to believe that not only can we overcome these tremendous challenges, but we can also flourish and have a good life while doing so. It will take determination, creativity, and hard work. We will face adversaries who are either willfully blind or who are making such a big profit with the way things are now that they will do all that they can to stop change. We will face our own reluctance to change the way we do things. Still, I believe it can be done. It must be done.
As I see it, my part in “the Save the World Symphony” is to write honestly but optimistically about living an environmental life. The focus, naturally, will be on food, and I plan to profile people of all ages who are doing what they can to live sustainably. I’ll link to articles and other blogs that might be of interest. I’ll ask questions, and occasionally, offer suggestions. I might even set forth some challenges for myself, and I already have a “Let them Eat Bread” project, where I have vowed to give away at least one loaf of bread a week. (I’m off to a good start. Last night, after midnight, I gave Shannon a loaf of bread to take home.)
So welcome 2011 and to the challenges ahead! Today is a binary day—1/1/11—and as my friend Sybil wrote, “A very auspicious sign for a happy, happy, happy-happy year mayhap?”
Kate Johnson is apparently better at finding things on the Internet than I am. Here is the link she sent me for Standish’s oven beef stew: http://books.google.com/books?id=3OGR11aYBs8C&pg=PA28&lpg=PA28&dq=Marjorie+Standish‘s+oven+beef+stew&source
One more bit of advice: At the end, don’t add the flour/water mixture all at once unless you want a really, really, really thick stew. Add a little at a time until you get the consistency you like.
Finally, the recipe calls for browning the beef in margarine. I never use margarine. Never. For me, it’s always butter.