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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Defrosting the Mammoth

Our house has something right now we've never had before: a completely empty freezer. (Well, except for a bag of frozen corn niblets and half a pint of Haagen Dazs Rocky Road ice cream, it's an icy wasteland.)

Last night I defrosted the one remaining piece of meat we had in there, a brisket of beef. I don't want to say for sure that I moved to SF with this frozen piece of meat, but I must have come pretty darn close. When I read the date on the cellophane (once it had defrosted), I was a little shocked at myself for "saving" this meatsicle (saving it for what, so I could learn to extract the DNA and clone my own cow?), and the date I had purchased it.

But I had already come so far, and then the meat kind of seemed like a science experiment as well as a potential dinner. I figured I should at least give it a shot.


Luckily for us, the mammoth tasted fine. (And we feel okay this morning.)

I've been cleaning out the bomb shelter. What I call the stockpiles of food we used to have regularly in the olden days, when I had a car and went to Costco on a regular basis. (Also, having a job really helps with those shopping exploits.)

I didn't realize how much old food we had and what got thrown out regularly until I moved to SF. Until then, my old routine of filling up the car with food and then eating a portion of it, storing some of it attractively on my shelves and throwing the rest away was an unconscious activity made effortless by a stable income and a sporty, fun car.

It really never dawned on me how wasteful I have been for many, many years (both with food and money) until I recently opened (and ate) a can of tuna that had expired two years ago. (That tasted fine, too.)


Living in the city has made me retool a lot of my thinking in a way that I'm happy to have brought to my attention.

What I realize now is that I can only consume what I can carry. Even with that, there are still plenty of good intentions (ie., fruits and veggies) that get tossed but not on the level of my former Costco/Safeway life. Our neighborhood has several small corner markets, where I can pop in and get just a few ingredients that I really need and more importantly, that I can carry in bags back to my house.

I have to be discerning. I have to question my motives and not tell myself, Oh get whatever you want! like I would have if I could load up my trunk with stuff just because it sounded yummy. I also have to be discerning because I can't afford to buy everything I want anymore either. Unemployment will do that to ya.


But mostly, I think I enjoy shopping more these days. I like the experience of being in my little corner grocery stores. I like knowing the people that run them and seeing the same faces. How the people help you pack your tote bags comfortably because they understand you have to walk home with these groceries. And if one store doesn't have what I need, I walk a block to the next one. Imagine that... I walk! Not something a little gal from the 'burbs was used to doing. (I remember being in Paris and going to the boulangerie on the corner, and the cheese shop in the next block and of course the patisserie as well. I loved the nearby street market on Blvd. Raspail and watching people shop for their daily needs from vendors they knew well. It's a very different experience than loading up at a Safeway and befriending the check-out girl.)

If I don't want to walk, I can take the N-Judah down several more blocks to the small Chinese markets on Irving, where instantly I am on a gourmet and cultural trip to Asia, as well privy to some of the cheapest produce in town.

I thought about this a lot on one of my recent visits to see my family, as I revisited my old stomping grounds and supermarkets I used to shop in. In the middle of the day, the suburban grocery stores were so vast and empty of shoppers, the air conditioning blasting through the sliding front doors as we entered, the shopping carts tremendous, and the aisles mostly filled with lots of processed foods I never knew existed. Our little markets don't have room for the plethora of prepackaged crap out there, so they need to be discerning too.

I'm not saying that my neighborhood corner markets have the answers to everything, but I do wonder how much the national problem with obesity and unconscious overconsumption and overspending has to do with these mega-markets, filled to capacity with so much food it makes your head spin, people blindly filling up those upsized shopping carts to the brim and then loading up the car, slamming the trunk down on all of it. Out of sight, out of mind. It's so easy to do... I should know.


ps.: I normally find it easy to use images from my own private stock photography studio, but I didn't have a personal photo of a woolly mammoth for this post. I snagged the image from this article in The Telegraph.

Funny thing, I couldn't find a good image from the mind-blowing (and not in a good way) Creation Museum's website, a very scary place in Kentucky, but at least some paleontologists found their trip there amusing.

(See, I had to circle back to the mammoth somehow.)


Mari July 1, 2009 at 8:42 AM  

That museum in Kentucky is so scary! Take it easy on eating the old stuff- I hope you're almost out so you will be safe! I have a love/hate relationship with Costco. I am happy if I stick to my list- but a lot of their stuff is just too big for my family.

ModernTanguera July 1, 2009 at 10:40 AM  

I recently started freezing unused vegetables, and it has been awesome! I have always been guilty of tossing out half an onion, or the last few sticks of celery, etc. Freezing them saves me money and makes me feel better about not wasting food. (It also helps to have discovered the SUPER cheap veggies at our local Vietnamese grocery store.)

LouDuk July 1, 2009 at 11:14 AM  

I would love to have your urban lifestyle. It really is what I want in life. I definitly agree that those mega-stores do contribute to the way out of control obeisity rate in this country.

I would love to hear you sit down and have a conversation with my family. After reading what you wrote about the Creation Meuseum, I think it would be an amazingly interesting converstaion. My parents are so far right, especially on things like this. (Dad is a preacher, Mom is a Sunday School teacher) They are hard-core creationsits. They think it is terrible sin that I believe in evolution that happened during creation. I know, I am such a moderate.

What do you think about places like the creation meuseum and the holy land experience in Florida? I take it your no Jerry Fallwell, but are you as far as Bill Maher? (I actually watch Bill Maher on YouTube all the time, and I made my parents watch Religilous, that was interesting)

I find I sit more along the lines of somewhere between Rick Warren and Joel Osteen. Where do you sit?

Sorry for writing so much, but this is one of my issues of semi-expertise.

poet July 1, 2009 at 11:28 AM  

I can totally relate! It's having a car that does it - back in Germany, when I used to haul everything uphill on my poor little bike, I'd only buy what I needed, and if I was laying in provisions (which I did a couple of times a year, with a lot of pain to my back), they'd be canned or frozen and keep for half a year... here, with a car and the bounties of Berkeley Bowl at my disposal, me and The Fiancé tend to buy way too much fresh groceries, more than we can eat before they go bad... I will now proceed to read about the scary museum.

Wishing you a good day!

Silliyak July 1, 2009 at 11:33 AM  

The placement of this post above the previous makes me ponder how far one could go....

Char July 1, 2009 at 12:16 PM  

I try to do this by shopping at the farmers market for produce and fruit. I've gotten better about using up the items I have on hand instead of buying more that I don't need (yet).

Sandra July 1, 2009 at 12:36 PM  

I grew up in an urban environment, but I have been in the country for 16 years. But I have not become a person of those habits. As was mentioned, freezing is good. I load up on canned and frozen goods and keep the fresh to a minimum. I am fortunate to have a vegetable garden, a fruit tree and wild blackberries and rhubarb! You are fortunate to live in such an accessible city with so many choices.

glnroz July 1, 2009 at 1:21 PM  

Nice narrative, I felt as if I were walking along, parallel, eventhough in reality my projection might be perpendicular.
smiles here, thnx

Cartooncharacter July 1, 2009 at 2:17 PM  

Ginny is miffed that you ate that whole can of tuna by yourself, without coming over here and offering her some, too. ;)

Marilyn Miller July 1, 2009 at 3:14 PM  

I have been out of touch for a few days, but I am back now. Freezers are like caverns that just take in food and so easy to forget are there until finances are slim. Thanks for the thoughts.

Yoli July 1, 2009 at 6:29 PM  

You are funny girl. I hope you have a wonderful weekend and a Happy 4th of July.

Just Jules July 1, 2009 at 8:18 PM  

I agree with the food wasting. Amazing what we just don't think about... until one day! We throw a lot of scraps away around here. A serving of carrots, one meatball etc. sigh...

I do agree if you have the capabilities of shopping often it is the way to go - fresher, healthier, more nutritious.

I think in the long run if you are not throwing things away paying for them out of your corner market is the way to go - plus keeps the money local Who knows who gets it at safeway!

julochka July 3, 2009 at 3:27 AM  

i've been consciously leaving the car at home and biking to the store. it makes me a much wiser shopper. i think we do so many things so mindlessly at times, so much without thinking about them--like filling that cart to the brim and filling our freezers. all this research i've been doing about climate change recently has me thinking about all of this in a much more conscious way.

but we're still not good enough at eating everything we get in our weekly organic box that's delivered. doing that is the next step. it should be fairly easy these days when it's full of fresh, light, healthy things that are locally produced (and not so many root veggies like in the winter). :-)

thanks for the food for thought (literally)...and happy the mammoth meat didn't get you. i think husband would have made me throw old meat away. he's not very adventurous that way. :-)

The Rambler July 7, 2009 at 12:33 AM  

you are a brave lady.

you and my husband would get a long.

I am the expired no eat queen here :)

Sarah Elizabeth July 9, 2009 at 10:06 AM  

I definitely know what that's like. To find at the back of your freezer, when you've eaten everything else in front of it, a rock solid chunck of something waiting to be unwrapped. But see, there are people like you and I, who would find it just because we've already eaten the rest, and then there are people like my mother, who cook and prepare a whole meal, and then freeze it for another night later. And then maybe a year later (I swear, she did this the other night) she finally remembers it's in there and tries to serve it to everyone. Let me tell you - that's when it's not a good night to eat with the family. : )