One young Catholic family on a Journey towards Intentional and Communal Sustainability. One Artist, one full time Mama and two babies, we'll tell you about all our successes, and failures, as we try to make it in our overly Consumeristic society on just the bare necessities.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sustainable Patriotism

I recently heard a story on NPR regarding the first televised presidential address, despite economic woes and post-war needs for revitilization President Truman's address was about food, well... more about eating.

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During his address he recommended (well...recommended like the guilt inducing recomendation of a stern grandmother) to the American people that they should adopt a few simple eating rules so that those in Europe (and America for that matter) would have enough to eat as nations rebuilt after the war.
The food rules he suggested were:

1- No meat on Tuesdays.
2. No poultry or eggs on Thursdays
3. Save a slice of bread every day.
4. Public eating places will serve bread and butter only on request.

I was intrigued by these rules as soon as I heard them. Partially because I already ascribe to a modified version of them (fasting on Fridays etc.) Also, having grown up in Colorado during a decade of drought I am familiar with a similar "by request" imposition at restaurants in an attempt to conserve water.

As a patriot (not a nationalist, mind you, a patriot) I am deeply interested in the notion of growing toward not self-sufficiency but community sufficiency. While doing some more research on President Truman's food rules I stumbled across an article which expanded on the fruits of reducing the national consumption of meat by means of reducing the household's consumption of meat.:

"If every family will reduce voluntarily its consumption of meat, whether it now has meat on the table three, four, five, or six days a week, the nation will achieve a maximum saving of meat and reduce the demand for grain to feed cattle and hogs. This will also produce a downward pressure on meat prices, and help curb living costs."

I know that the news is rife with the pros and cons of the dreaded "austerity measures" that certain countries (including our own) are seeking to adopt but frankly as the old cliche' goes "all politics is local". If every family utilized less resources and also shared the surplus resources with those in their community there would be ample food(/shelter/housing etc.) to go around, regardless of the unemployment rate, the threat of double dip recession or whatever politician jargon is currently a "threat to the nation's future."

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That being said, we have come up with our own, amended and expanded, food rules list so that we can reduce our own consumption and allow for less fortunate members of our community to have enough when we have more than enough. I'm not a big bumper sticker slogan guy but "live simply so that others may simply live" is just too poetically true to be ignored.

Anyway here they are, the Catholic, Patriotic, Sustainable Family Food Rules:
1- No meat on Fridays.
2- No poultry or eggs on Wednesday.
3- Use "cheap cuts" of meat for at least 1 meat meal each week.
4- Monday is soup/stew day.
5- Make only enough food to feed the family at each meal.
6- Treats only on feast days or important family holidays.

The break down of our motivation for these food rules is relatively simple.

First of all, we already ascribe to a meatless fast on Fridays as our form of Friday penance. While our diocese does not require meatless fasting it is a nice way to nod to tradition as well as share in sacrifices of our brethren around the world who are obliged to the meatless fast.

Fasting on Wednesday is also something traditionally Catholic in honor of St. Joseph. Rather than extending an additional meatless day outright Britt and I have been discussing options for other small sacrifices we can make. This one may actually be more difficult than the meatless Fridays because a substantial amount of our protein comes from chicken, turkey and eggs. With that in mind though, it should make the fast more efficacious both spiritually and secularly.

Rule 3's adoption on the other hand was strongly influenced by my (albeit brief) research into the Truman food rules. From the article I mentioned earlier: "...suggested also that housewives buy the cheaper cuts and grades of meat, rather than choice steaks and chops, to bring down prices and reduce waste...75 per cent of the cheaper meats were not being used on the average American dinner table. If the housewife will make greater use of the cheaper cuts we will have about 25 per cent more use of the entire animal. This will help feed starving Europe and cut our meat bills at home. All that is needed is for the housewife to learn how to cook the cheaper cuts. They are fully as nutritious as the choice cuts if properly prepared. Unskillful cooking will, of course, produce unpalatable dishes. It is time the American housewife learned how to cook the cheaper cuts." Beyond the sustainability and economy of using the whole animal, our self-education regarding Whole Food diets has shown that some of the "less desirable" cuts of meats are in fact more nutrient dense than others. Boneless, skinless chicken breast for example is actually pretty weak when it comes to chicken options. My housewife has already begun some of this by making wonderful, nutrient dense bone broths from our "left over" bones. I'm sure she is also eager to investigate other ways to incorporate "mystery meats" into our regular diet.

Which brings us to soup/stew Mondays. Part of the reason is that if we are making these splendid broths from bones, fat, celery trimmings, carrot tops etc. we might as well take advantage of them and get a fully gamut of meals out of our food (stay tuned for a future post about how to make an entire week's worth of dinners from one roast chicken!). The other thing is that soups and stews are notorious ways to make a little bit of food go a long way. If you start with a nutrient dense bone broth, you needn't add any meat, or if so, very little and the rest (beans, carrots, potatoes etc) end up acting as texture and filler more than needed mineral and nutrient contributors.

Rule 5 has a loose association with the Truman food rules in that rather than "saving a piece of bread" each day, we only make enough food to feed us each day, thereby saving bread (or meat or veggies or whatever) because its not even set on the table. This has an added benefit of healthful portion control and digestive health. We should eat until we are no longer hungry, NOT until we are full.

The final rule is probably the most sensible, but strangely the most difficult. Americans love treats, snacks, novelty foods, easy foods, appetizers etc. But frankly a lesson I know from our Catholic fasting practices is that feast days are always more delicious and celebratory when they are special...go figure. The interesting thing is that our Faith is all about feasting, in fact a big feast is one thing we're all looking forward to for eternity. So this rule boils down to no special treats (beer, ice cream, cake, going out to eat etc.) unless it is Sunday, a feast day or a very important family holiday. By abstaining from those special treats day to day we allow them to remain special when the time for celebration comes.

Finally, beyond consuming no more than our share of resources, saving money, reducing the strain on our farm/graze lands, there is a wonderful side effect that our family is looking forward to: aid in planning. Britt mentioned that she is undertaking the Plan-It-Don't-Panic meal planned challenge. How much easier is it to know that Friday will be meatless, Wednesday won't use eggs or chicken and that we're having soup on Monday? It just becomes a game of fill in the blank after that.

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