Friday, January 9, 2009

So Far, So Good.
And, A Few Thoughts on "Shelf-Stable"

You know, I think I need to clarify my "resolution."
For myself, that is.

It's not so much "eating like my great-grandmother" as it is "eating foods my great-grandmother would recognized as food.

For example, I just bought a couple of rutabagas.
I tried them for the first time last year and really liked them.

Now, I have no idea if rutabagas even grown in Greece.
But, chances are good that she would have recognized a root vegetable as food.

So, a couple of days ago I hit the grocer, Trader Joe's and my local butcher.
My purchases were:

The aforementioned rutabagas.
sweet potatoes
russet potatoes
onions and garlic
milk and cream
handmade sausage
pork tenderloin
chicken breasts (bone-in and skin on)
chicken base
ground almond meal
powdered non-dairy creamer.

Now, granted, the chicken base was a convenience item. I would imagine my great-grandmother might have used her own stock and a scoop of schmaltz.

And, the ground almond meal is a convenience, too. I'm sure she would have done what I usually do. Put the nuts in a towel - or my case a ZipLoc - and crush them with something hard. I just found out that you can buy nut meal pre-ground and I'm trying it out in a certain cookie recipe that I can't seem to get right.

The item that is a TOTAL convenience is the powered non-dairy creamer. Can you imagine telling her it's what you put in your coffee? (I doubt she put anything but water in her Greek coffee. But, still...) Not cow's cream or goat cream, just...powder? LOL. Non-dairy creamer, that one stated around 1961, if you believe Wiki. I do buy half and half but I never seem to use it all before it goes bad. So this is my cheat. I buy something shelf stable.

Shelf stable - interesting term.
While Nicolas Appert did successfully ship safe and tasty bottles of partridge, gravy and vegetables to French troops in 1809, I don't think that counts. (I wish I could find the video of Alton Brown explaining Napoleon's challenge to inventors regarding food preservation, but the best I can do is a transcipt of it. Still fun reading.)

I imagine that if I used the term "shelf-stable" near my great-grandmother she might have suggested I grab a hammer or fold up a piece of cardboard and put it under the table leg.(Apparently matchbooks were patented in 1892. In case you were wondering.)

So, for lunch today I have a bowl of soup very similar to Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana.
Good stuff, Maynard. Pin It


Anonymous said...

She probably wouldn't have used that terminology, but my great grandmother knew that if you had more venison than you could eat, you could soak it in salt water (i.e. coat it with a chemical preservative) and dry it -- which is pretty much the same concept used with powdered milk. Jerky lasts just about forever. In face, I'd say my great grandmother had a lot more awareness of the concept of "shelf life" than we do.

Potatos could be kept in the cellar for months and months. Plums spoil quickly, so you can them pretty much as you pick them, and then you have fruit all year, and you don't have to worry about keeping it cold. Beans you can keep a longer before you start canning if you need the time. You can kill chickens as you eat them, but you only butcher a hog once a year, so you make things like sausage, salt pork, and bacon so that you have meats that will last much longer (and you know how long each will keep, and which are better off in the cellar.)

Dana @ Cooking At Cafe D said...

All excellent points, Rachel. :)
I think I'm gonna head over to and do a search for photos dated around 1880. It will be fun to see what is on the grocery store shelves.

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