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February 20, 2013 / An Anthology of Clouds

What I Learned From Not Living Above Fairway Anymore

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Fairway, as all you Brooklynites know, is about to reopen.

I’m excited, of course, because I live right on top of it, and since it flooded out in October it’s been a hassle of epic proportions to get food, though nice, in a way, to learn about some of the specialty shops in the surrounding area that I never would have visited.

But what’s been really nice, was that in addition to having no Fairway, our fridge broke about a month ago, and then Ivan went out of town, and it’s been too cold and windy to leave the house, and the result of those factors is that I have almost no food. And it’s so much better this way.

All of what I’m about to say, I realize, falls under problems of abundance, and is gross considering that there are people who actually have no food.

But abundance, when it comes to food, is, realistically, a large segment of American society’s problem, and that’s always bothered me about living above Fairway. A lot of Americans waste food, and I think our household wastes even more than normal people, since our supply is so right-there.

I can run down for any specialty ingredient, any recipe essential I’ve forgotten and be back in under five minutes. I have almost every foodstuff known to man at my fingertips, from 8a.m. to 10p.m. And I have the disorganized pantry to prove it, the pileup of unfinished bags of nuts, the boxes of pasta with less than an inch left, the spelt and tapioca flours and one-off oils. The ancient pickles no one will ever eat. The drawer of cheese rinds. The deli container with six olives stuck in an unappetizing chartreuse sludge. The overstuffed vegetable drawer, the rotting herbs. Ivan’s habit of buying a chicken we won’t be home to eat “just in case.”

Now, with the cleaned out fridge, no Fairway and just me and the kids, I’m able to see what I buy, and easily able to understand what we need. Our staples, basically, are milk, eggs, oatmeal and vegetables, and for the rest of it I’ve been supplementing here and there while cooking through the random pantry items.

The discoveries have been exciting. The foodie anathema, dried herbs, worked just fine in my  Bonne Femme bouillabaisse, in which I substituted celery root for fennel, too, and vinegar for wine.  I’ve been making whole wheat pancakes from this recipe (just sub whole wheat), that are better than my usual. I ran out of olive oil and started using unrefined sunflower oil for roasting vegetables with spectacular results. Ditto stir-frying garlic-ginger chicken in unrefined coconut oil. I’m going to stick with both of these oils even after the olive returns. I also rediscovered the Gomasio condiment from my Portland Apothecary share, and have been giving it the use it deserves–it’s especially wonderful as a salt substitute on scrambled eggs. Basically, I’m being forced to cook off recipe much more than I usually would, and use up my impulse buys, and it’s delicious. I’ve been eating more, better, than I have in years.

The best lesson, though, is simply how helpful a pared down fridge and cabinets are to not wasting food. You remember what you have, you see your leftovers right in front of you, nothing slides to the back and is forgotten. You finish things. I want to make this more of a priority in my life, in general, as the right way to live, and this has been a valuable start.

So, Fairway, welcome home, I guess.

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14 Comments

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  1. threefresheggs / Feb 20 2013 3:02 pm

    Dried granulated garlic may be nothing like fresh garlic (really, it isn’t), but it is an awesome condiment, I couldn’t bear to eat pizza, or crisp-fry tofu without it!

    This is a great post. I most certainly need to get myself some unrefined sunflower oil for roasting vegetables, that sounds brilliant. Maybe some brussels sprouts – garnished with toasted sunflower seeds, sherry vinegar, and chopped dried cranberries? Also, I need to ‘grow a pair’ and open up the coconut oil (impulse buy) that has been haunting my baker’s rack for the past several months. I cannot remember what it is that I thought I was going to make when I bought it.

    Not having the Fairway, for me, has meant returning to my old habits of grocery shopping at least two days a week, in several different locations, by bus, with a roll-i-cart. The difference, of course, is when I used to live this way easily, I lived alone – now I am shopping for three, with a 4-year-old in tow. Remembering to pick up my eggs from Borough Hall Greenmarket on my way home Saturday afternoons is the most challenging element.

    I sincerely hope I do not return to my pre-flood laziness when Fairway returns. The wonderfully old-fashioned Sahadi’s is obviously one of the most wonderful and charming markets left in NYC, perhaps on the whole east coast. The bulk nuts, beans, grains, spices and dried fruit are fresher and cheaper than Fairway. The cheese and coffee selections are lovely, & gently priced, the bread is great (smaller batch than anything Fairway can carry), and the hommus is the best in the city.

    All the things that I would get a car service to bring home back in the day; laundry soap, 12-packs of toilet tissue, floor cleaner, etc. I am now having delivered on subscription from amazon – brilliant – and significantly less expensive!

    A few weeks back, I actually wrote to Fairway to tell them just what I thought of their decision to abandon their Red Hook neighbors in the wake of natural disaster(!) in favor of opening up a new store in the service-flooded, frat-swanky neighborhood of Murry Hill/Kips Bay. I was (really!) gentle, but firm in my ‘letting them know’ that our relationship, and their feelings about the community and neighborliness, were now understood. *sigh*

    So, Fairway, welcome home, sure, and we’ll be there no doubt – but we have learned our lesson and won’t rely on you like we used to.

  2. lanceblair / Feb 20 2013 5:10 pm

    You are what you eat – but also where you buy what you eat, it seems! I’m inspired by the idea of finishing what you have (not just food) and not letting life slip to the back of the fridge. So, today I’ll be eating the last half-cup of dried quinoa that never got finished with some equally ignored chickpeas. Tonight dinner will be all made from canned ingredients of bizzare things that never got added to recipes, which will end up basically being Red Curry Seitan over Somein. Coconut Oil is so good! It’s better than honey for a sore throat, too. I’ll be cooking with that tonight as well, as that’s something else we have that we don’t use enough. However, the Lemon Marmalade from the Johnson Adminstration will not be making its way to toast. Instead, it has a date with the insinkerator.

  3. threefresheggs / Feb 20 2013 5:17 pm

    I am going to make some pasties, with coconut oil crust, right now. I am out of butter and am not going to get on the bus to get some ; )

    • lanceblair / Feb 20 2013 7:01 pm

      That sounds better than butter! I wound up making chickpeas and green pepper over red quinoa. Pretty good for a pantry-rummaging job.

  4. threefresheggs / Feb 20 2013 6:44 pm

    Bwahahaha the slivered almonds… Sincerely hoping those @#$%ers were in the freezer all this time!

    • ivalleria / Feb 20 2013 6:54 pm

      Of course they weren’t in the freezer. You know me.

      • threefresheggs / Feb 20 2013 7:58 pm

        You’re gonna eat that??

  5. lanceblair / Feb 22 2013 6:45 pm

    The Red Curry Surprise wound up being an unpleasant expired tinned surprise that had expired in late 2010. Luckily I saw the fine print before opening. I improvised: 2/3rds cup of light coconut milk, one teaspoon of sriracha, and a clove (or 1/2 teaspoon powder) of garlic. Have you tried anything like this? I was informed that this was one of the top all time dishes I’ve made. I’ll add Lemongrass to the mix next time. How was the coconut oil crust?

  6. threefresheggs / Feb 26 2013 6:28 pm

    The sricacha coconut sauce sounds great, but I can’t see how I can present that as Family Dinner with The Boy around. Going to have to wait a few years.

    The coconut oil crust was brilliant. The recipe was easy and extra smart:
    http://food52.com/recipes/18489-collards-and-cheese-pasties

    I didn’t make this recipe’s filling, but a smashed chickpea & braised fennel thing with provolone cheese. The Boy picked out the chickpeas left whole – but happily, and ignorantly ate the smashed pea/fennel mix.

    We had a few leftover dough balls, which hung out several days in the fridge with no trouble, and led to my sleeper hit of the month – soft scrambled eggs, mushrooms and cheese wrapped in crust and baked 25 minutes – we’ve done feta with a bit of greens and gooey cheddar, both with butter sautéed mushrooms.

    I am thinking the thing to do is to make up a batch of this crust, making the eight balls ‘fridge & freezing, and stuffing random things and leftovers into them for lunch at will. It’s like basically Australia over here; everything in a hand-pie. The coconut oil seems lighter than butter, less rich – probably a dangerous illusion.

  7. threefresheggs / Feb 26 2013 6:43 pm

    Also, on the Fairway front, I was realizing how much less fresh, (quasi)seasonal fruit we have been eating this winter with the loss of the enter-through-the-fruit-sale-and-seasonal-fruit-section of Fairway. We didn’t buy ANY pineapples this year, not up front, not 2-for-$5, AND too heavy to carry home from downtown on the bus. What about 2 for $3 in season mango special? CaraCara oranges? *sigh* I really feel sad about the pineapples. We adore pineapples.

  8. ivalleria / Feb 27 2013 6:03 pm

    I really want to do this dough-ball/ filling thing. that sounds amazing and very practical, if I could find something Adeline would eat to put inside of it.

    • threefresheggs / Feb 27 2013 6:54 pm

      Scrambled eggs with lots of cheese?

      Fruit? Apples or pears and cheddar?

      Broccoli and cheddar?

      What does she eat other than pasta and bread? I’ll come up with something.

  9. threefresheggs / Feb 27 2013 7:34 pm

    Part of it is is about not quite telling the whole truth:

    Q: “What is in it?’

    A: “Cheese and fennel, you like fennel. A little bit of chickpeas. I think it tastes like pizza”

    Q: “What’s in it?”

    A: “Feta cheese, scrambled eggs, mushrooms” (notice how i didn’t mention the baby kale/chard/spinach – chopped very fine, used like parsley)

    The other part is adding in little bits. Say you decide she’ll eat shredded chicken and carrots. Try cooking down some fennel or celery (with or without a little onion/garlic/thyme/whatever), until very soft, maybe braising with a little stock. Make it thick but saucy, then mash, or even blender it. Add in braised or roasted diced carrots (or whatever veg she can bear visualize in her food) and the chicken, use that to fill the pies. I cook my onion/mirpoix very soft, then hand-blender it pretty often when I am doing red sauce or soup or whatever. The Boy does not want to see onion floating in his soup (i never did as a kid either!), and he’s not too cool about celery either, and I am pretty unwilling to work without, so I try to incorporate it completely into the sauce or broth. It doesn’t always work, but when it is does, you’ve got a new weapon in your arsenal.

    Have you tried taco night yet? You all have to come over for taco night. I think you will both be impressed and converted. And don’t worry! The Boy and I eat much earlier than we used to!

    5 pm sometime next week?

  10. ivalleria / Feb 28 2013 12:44 am

    Yes, would love to come over for Taco night. Lord, I am not sure what I could fill it with. Adeline won’t eat cheese, she won’t eat scrambled eggs, she won’t eat carrots. She will eat broccoli and peas, sometimes, in tiny quantities. She won’t eat beans or any kind of lentils. She would probably eat a fruit pie, and that sounds kind of tasty. I also could maybe try broccoli and montery jack. She sometimes eats that. She loves seaweed crackers and will eat kale chips, but i think it’s the texture. otherwise she eats rice, pasta, oatmeal, pancakes, and pizza with all the sauce scraped off. And cucumbers, but I can’t imagine them in a pie. She’ll sometimes eat salmon, sometimes chicken, usually just the skin, usually smoked duck. I wonder if I could do little chicken pot pies, like meat peas in a cream sauce. She also loves pesto. This is starting to sound interesting…..

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