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The Thrifty Years

Old Blue Jeans

MY COLUMN: November 2009

Torn Jeans

I have lived through too many years of hardship not to have become enterprising with every type of nutrition.
For very many years, my diet was purist; I only ate organically grown vegetables, very fresh foods from a Jewish outdoor market in Toronto. The freshest and most beautiful breads, excellent cheeses, Halvah and fresh butter were available any day of the week. Health food stores were a new invention in those days, but I frequentled them for brown rice, whole grain or unbleached flours, millet, soy milk and many esoteric foods Canada had never heard of.

Amazingly, health food was not overpriced, and it delivered whole nutrition. People gradually learned that bleaching of foods like flour and sugar was unnatural, and that it deprived them of highly necessary vitamins or roughage.

Of course, like most young people, I really overdid it, making sweet pastries like fudge brownieswith stone ground whole wheat flour, and taking many fasts that amounted to starving my system, one way or the other.
Making the mistake a lot of glamour-conscious women make, I feasted and fasted. At least, even the poor people could viably afford plentiful clean, fresh and nutritious foods in those rather prosperous days in Canada. Liberal years.

No way, you will probably think to yourself when you read this, but truly, a person could purchase a loaf of bread for five cents back then... I remember that brown rice ( a gourmet novelty) was $0.17 a pound. I cried about the cost of this, even if I was a skinny poor kid, myself. Those were the days when we "hippies" waltzed about dirty Toronto streets without shoes, in our bare feet, to protest the exploitation of the Chinese and East Indian people. We wore blue jeans as a symbol of the working class,and it quickly became a fad to wear ragged, torn old jeans, to symbolize the poverty our prosperous West had kept eastern working people in.

Action Now!

Social organizers would have classified my quiet suggestion to Torontos' first Health Food Store owners under "Action for the Revolution".
Many of us wore badges or T-shirts that demanded: "Action Now!" It was time for people to wake up and change things, themselves, and we tried very hard to make the world a better place.

When I realized that I was eating gorgeous brown rice from Chinese farmers who made a penny a day and who had to work 12 hours a day in the fields for this, I asked the owners of the store if they would not mind charging just an exta cent a pound for the rice. I asked whether they could pay the poor working people the extra money that they made.

It was so obvious that importers were exploiting the poor people of foreign countries, and yet these agrarian people owned the land and the farm animals. Their brothers and sisters in the cities had way less to eat, sometimes, and few of them had regular amenities like shoes.

I think that many Canadians became increasingly aware of disparate conditions. We really had some cause to feel guilty, and prices began to rise. As they did, and in especially China, also people from emerging third world nations proved to be beautifully creative, amazingly inventive, and terribly hard working. Imported products from the East were lovely crafts at first, and then the West opened to awesome engineering, business planning, architecture and industrial design of foreign nations.

"Humility Is the Mother of Invention"

We Mothers knew humility in the earlier days of Canada. We also had to win rights and freedoms for women: the right to be payed wages equal in value to those offered to men, the right to work in skills considered to be mans' occupations, the right to be recognized as intelligent, contributing adults and breadwinners.

The quotation above was never far from someones' lips, as we shared money-saving household tips along with talk of our acheivements, dreams and plans.

As a young working mother, I was often so out of pocket, due to childhood illnesses, emergencies and the regular gifting during holidays. Mothers go out of their way to provide the best tools for their childrens' future, and the best possible nutrition.
Our "hip" society made the wearing and recycling of used clothes from thrift shops a fashionable statement. Hip clothes were lovely with added beads, hand-made laces, ribbons and home crocheted or knitted accessories.

Although I often had very little for myself, I made sure that my young son always had something good to eat. Newer recipes passed between we young parents very regularly, and we evolved our own. The way that we purchased and prepared food became the elegant cuisine of today, especially as North Americans discovered the delights of foreign foods.
We already enjoyed Chinese or italian restaurant eating, but we explored Lebanese, East Indian, Jamaican, Korean, Thai, Burmese and, more recently, Vietnamese styles of cooking.

Anyway, any person who is needy but apt will soon discover that the prepared foods they may have become used to when they had theirs (or their parents') paycheck handy can still be prepared at home for way less than through the imported , packaged and retailed fast foods we all take for granted.

I became quite skilled in the art of packing vitamins, fibre, proteins and good taste into foods that cost me perhaps one fifth of the cost of purchase. It's because I often craved tasty snacks, and more than often my son and his little freinds did. I turned my years of thriftiness into a responsible exploration of good eating habits and alternative health possibilities.

Although we middle aged adults have got lazy, buying potato chips and crackers almost every week, I still let myself run out of provisions, and rediscover the freshness of enterprise.
Actually, we have to be thrifty during this era, 2009-?. I certainly have to think hard about surviving the retirement years, as well, having found how difficult and frustrating it is to obtain employment in Canada, when a woman is over sixty. I'm really not ready to retire.

I am positive there are many people in the same situation, and I have to say that my sixties culture has conditioned me to feel that home-baked and prepared whole foods are truly more luxurious, and distinctively innovative by comparison to the preserved prepared purchased foods.
When I run out of something and I am craving the sweetness/saltiness/nuttiness of what has disappeared from my pantry, I create something new in my kitchen. These are the recipes that I choose to share with you, since they are usually nutritious and very, very tasty.

My Stoned Discovery!

Last night I needed crackers so badly. I hit the cupboard for a bowl in two seconds, and started to make an old standby of mine, home made flatbread.
My "crackers" are made the size of a cookie sheet, and then either cut in oblongs or broken in large pieces. The recipe that I concocted last night seemed to have newer multi-cultural authenticity; not only did I make the new rage-baked Lebanese 'pita' flatbread, but this included Japanese soya sauce and Louisiana hot sauce as well as golden raisins and garlic. I haven't seen golden raisins in recipes since I was four or five years old, when my Mom made Christmas cake or British "rock" cakes.

Garlic is associated with Italian cooking and is now a heavenly prerequisite in many hip style Revolutionary official dishes. Italian, Lebanese, Japanese, Cajun? It was STONED OUT OF ITS GOURD, MAN!

Now, pure vegetarians, beware- the soya sauce is the one food that I have used in twenty years that has an actual animal product in it. It is a citron-seasoned Japanese style soya sauce made by Kikkoman. The ingredients list a fish product. Since it does not make me feel sick (and I have used it many times) this must be in very small amounts. So, pass...but I'm writing Kikkoman today to find out whether they make the same without the fish.

I used some of the new flour- finely ground all purpose flour that is a mixture of white wheat flour and wheat bran. It purports to taste like white flour, but no, it really doesn't. Using this for cookies and cakes in full will taste a bit off. I add about a third of a cup of it, though, always, to my unbleached white flour in cakes, cookies and pies. When I made this flatbread (similar to the herbed baked pita in containers now available as a party snack food) using one hundred percent Nutri flour, I realized that it was perfect for hard crackers like this one. Delicious!!

I dunno what it was that gave me such a high - but the flatbread made me feel full of instant energy, like a combination of a Red Bull energy drink and a shared dooby (for visceral awareness). My vision wasn't altered, but the ingredients must have worked away at something in my system, healing it very fast.

Note Well: One side effect that you might not like is that you might not be able to sleep for two hours after your bedtime.
The other is obvious: you can easily eat too much of this snack, especially if you have an herbed sour cream dip to dig it with!

Here's the recipe (a link to the recipe page): Let thrift and need turn around in your mind and tummy by luxuriously creating something no-one ever thought of before. Invent, experiment, and intermarry food tastes and origins.


Take My Advice, Try These Extremely Helpful Links, Too!

How Soy Sauce is Made

Soya Sauce by Definition is...(from Korea, Sempio

History of Soya:

"Of all of Korea's fermented foods, soy sauce, bean paste and other pastes are referred to as "the taste of mother's hands" and "the taste of hometown," reflecting the long and close affinity that Koreans have for them. "

Vegetarian Advisory

(About bonito extract in Japanese cooking: bonito means fish. This article guides vegetarians overseas.)

Bonito and other extracts:

Also called Katsuobushi Extract ,bonito or fish extract is "A purified, concentrated natural flavor extracted from dried bonito by means of trade secret."

Trade Secret, Busted! How? How fish extraction is made, biochemically.

"The bonito extract mainly contained inosine-5'-monophosphate (IMP), glutamic acid as a tasty ingredient and hypoxanthine, histidine as a putrefaction ingredient. "

Copyright 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved

Separation of bonito extract by composite UF membranes of sulfonated polysulfone coated on ceramics

References and further reading may be available for this article. To view references and further reading you must purchase this article.

Yutaka Matsumoto*, Masao Sudoh and Yoshimi Suzuki
Environmental Division, Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Shizuoka University, Hamamatsu, 432-8561, Japan

Bonito extract proves to eliminate some forms of fatigue:

Biomed Res. 2009 Apr;30(2):129-35.

Ingestion of bonito extract ameliorates peripheral blood flow in mice loaded from over crowding stress. Honda M, Nozawa Y, Ishizaki T, Kuroda M.
Research Institute for Health Fundamentals, Ajinomoto Co., Inc.

Bye for now!




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