August 26, 2009

The Challenge

So there haven't been very many August entries -- partly because, overnight, New York became a sweltering swamp too hot for any activity.  But also because finding ways to work around plastic has turned out to be hugely time-consuming.  Mostly, it's in the way we cook and eat:  plastic affords alot of shortcuts that you wouldn't think of until they're not there.

Like ... take a simple pasta dinner.  I prefer to get the pasta from the excellent array of bulk bins at Integral Yoga on West 13th street, but often "splurge" on the boxed kind, removing the tiny plastic window before recycling the box.  Then, you'd like some cheese on that?  Parmesan options at our three nearest grocery stores are no good:  either a shrink-wrapped block (out) or a square plastic tub of pre-grated cheese (out).  So we head 30 blocks south to Zabar's, where it's the same disappointing story, but we discover delicious Italian Pavia as a substitute. We carry home our victorious slice of cheese wrapped in paper, but have to use it quickly, because without plastic wrap, it dries out almost overnight.   Lesson:  use the pre-summer small box of saran wrap sparingly and wisely, enforcing a wipe-it-off, dry-it and re-use-it rule.

What else.  Thirsty?  We have each drunk tons of plain water this summer, eschewing non-plastic-container drinks and being reluctant to constantly pour milk or orange juice (we have cut back on, but not eliminated, those square cartons  -- which, I recently read, are the WORST offenders), so  ... we have made alot of lemonade.  A perfect alternative, but it ain't fast: squeezing 10 lemons and then making simple syrup to sweeten takes a solid 15 minutes; start doing that every other day or so, and suddenly Vitamin Water starts looking good!

Breakfast ...  requires a fair amount of planning.  We eat alot of fruit, and about once a week I bake a batch or two of muffins.  We make alot of zucchini and banana bread (and sometimes, a weird loaf that combines the two).  There is always yogurt (which we still make weekly, best thing ever) with fruit and granola and honey.  When we run out of granola though, it's a 20-block trip to the health food store; honey, Sundays from the farmer's market. Eventually, the kids are going to crave some Reeses Puffs or Waffle Crisp, and, eventually, we parents will give in to the quick convenience of  breakfast-in-a-box.  Leggo my Eggos!

All in all, this has been a summer of planning and strategizing our meals from a new perspective, beyond just flavor.   And when my grocery basket looks (ideally, not always!) like the one above, compared to the literally piles of plastic containers I see in the baskets around me, it's clear that the effort is worth it.  Articles like today's Times editorial drive the point home:  to avoid plastic garbage becoming an eighth continent, we have to develop new habits and new routines.  Take up the challenge!