When I was kid, eating out was a treat - even something like going to a fast-food restaurant was a particular adventure for us. Fast food restaurnts weren't as prolific back then, as they are now, and even at those kinds of places, home-cooked meals were still cheaper. So, it was rare ... and perhaps, my mother knew something about the quality (or lack there of) of food most fast-food places served.
As I got older and fast-food restaurants became part of the American food experience, it ceased to be a treat in the same way, and rather, became a reward. Eating out became a status symbol of my ability to be able to afford a "restaurant" meal. There were times when I stubbornly convinced myself that it was my *right* to drive-thru McDonalds. I deserved it, because I worked hard to earn my money, and I could damn well spend it however I wished ... by God!!!
It took a lot of reconvincing to change my attitude. It started with reading some books about what they're really serving us (although I can remember, as a kid, joking that McDonald's burgers were "soy burgers", as if "soy" were some really nasty ingredient that was normally inedible to human beings - most of us kids didn't really know what "soy" was, except that it wasn't "meat", which is what the burgers were supposed to be made of).
And, then, Deus Ex Machina and I really changed our diet and started trying to eat all local food.
Slowly, as I ate more fresh, local food, things started to change in my body, and I found that I couldn't really tolerate the 'junk' food at fast-food restaurants. I couldn't handle some of the preservatives in soft drinks. Even the iceberg lettuce made my tummy hurt.
I still thought I deserved an occasional take-out meal, though.
But then, as I started feeling worse every time I ate the stuff, I started to wonder why I was holding fast to these inaccuracies in my mind, why I was continuing to torture myself by putting substances in my body that just made me feel bad. I felt better when I cooked from home with whole, fresh, local food.
And that's when the lightbulb really went off - the "AHA! Moment" Oprah Winfrey used to talk about.
It's not a treat to eat fastfood if I end up feeling sick afterward. Having a soda is not a treat if it gives me a headache and makes me nauseous. The "treat" is that I don't have to cook, or do the dishes, but if I feel sick in the process, what good has it done me?
I don't like cooking all that much, and I really hate doing the dishes, and the worst is trying to cook in my tiny kitchen when there are dirty dishes cluttering up the counter.
Still, its way better than anything I might pay someone else to cook for me - and I can have a quiet dinner, in my own home, and stay at the table as long as I want, and have it prepared EXACTLY the way I want.
I decided that the ultimate treat was not having to wait for someone else to bring me what I wanted, when I could do it just as well, for a whole lot less with fresher, perhaps healthier ingredients.
The result is that we have a lot fewer stomach aches (food poisoning is the number one cause of what we call the "stomach virus") and overall, we're much healthier, and our pocketbook weighs a little more, too ;).
Of course, when it's hot out, there's a real temptation to let someone else do the cooking, especially for things like bread, which my daughters love (and now that there's a local farmer who is growing and grinding wheat, it's also now a local food ;). To remedy that situation, I found some bread alternatives that I can cook without turning on the oven.
One of my family's favorites is English muffins, and for the longest time, they fell into that category of "mysterious prepared foods" that I thought needed some special ingredient or preparation. I mean, it's bread, but it's not like bread. And my grandma made biscuits, but they're not buscuits either. It's different.
I found this recipe online and tried them awhile back, cooking them on the woodstove.
And if I can cook it on the woodstove, I can cook it on the stovetop, and things cooked on the stovetop don't heat up the house as much (or take as much energy) as using the oven.
Today, that's what I did. I made English muffins.
It doesn't take any longer than making a conventional loaf, and we'll have bread for sandwiches for a couple of days.
Plus, there was some extra dough that's in the fridge (to keep it from rising more), and I can make that into Naan - another "bread" that doesn't bake in the oven :).