Friday, May 24, 2013

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Changing times and dress sense

If this becomes the style I will bemoan the kids of today.
Warning: Rambly post.

Last Saturday I celebrated a friend's 70th birthday. The group of us all chipped in and had high tea; we hired someone who actually brings the high tea to you.  It was a lot of fun.

One thing this tea maven does is bring hats that you can choose to wear if you want.  Now, I can rock a hat like nobody's business, but because my hair is long and no longer bobbed, it's a challenge if I'm wearing it up (which I was that day).  I did manage to get a wide-brimmed pink at on my head (my bun was low enough).

I've joked that I wish hats were still a thing. It's one of the few articles of clothing I can wear and look good in (except for baseball hats, which should be outlawed for everyone, men included*). Everyone was joking about how we looked like we were going to the races.

I've always been into history--especially knowing about how everyday people lived in different eras. (I swear I do have a point.)   I had had a vague feeling that hats were a thing in the past, but I wasn't sure if they were something everyone wore, or only wore at certain times and for certain events (like today) or what.  As it turns out, yes, a woman would not consider herself fully dressed if she went outside without a hat on.  Unlike men, she did not take it off once inside (hence the hat pin, to fasten it securely to your hair).  And up until recently (say, the late sixties), it was perfectly normal (and desirable) for women to wear gloves when they were out and about.  There was an etiquette around all of this, of course. You'd hardly eat your meal at a restaurant wearing gloves, for example, so you'd take them off and put them under your napkin on your lap.  But they were something women wore as a matter of course. I can't imagine wearing gloves unless it was cold outside. But there you go; times have changed a lot.

I've talked to my parents about what was normal for people to wear.  Blue jeans--heck, any sort of pants--were unheard of for women.  If you were home, you wore those (perfectly awful looking) house dresses, or a shirtwaist.  I have been trying to picture my mother doing the housework in a house dress, and I'm really grateful that she and Mr. Levi Strauss are good chums.  Jeans weren't even a big thing for men for a long time; they were favored by rebellious teenage boys and people who did physical work (they were originally made for miners back in the 1800's).  I'm pretty sure if you used the term "designer jeans" with a straight face back in that era that people would think you were having them on or that you were an odd duck.

T-shirts are also a relatively new thing.  My father told me that when they started to become popular, it was teenage boys wearing their white undershirts as shirts.  I'll bet the older set was bemoaning the popular trend of boys wearing their underwear out in public.  (That doesn't happen anymore, does it? Oh, wait. Ha! It does.)  T-shirts with writing on them weren't a thing.

And of course, people dressed up, at least compared to today.  You didn't go out to dinner in jeans, designer or otherwise.

I'm not bemoaning the fact that we don't dress up as a matter of course anymore--far from it.  Sometimes you'll see me in the local Rite Aid getting a jug of water because I have been working in the garden and drank what I brought.  I'll look a fright--old jeans, ratty t-shirt, hair up and flyaway.  Sometimes you'll see me in my gym clothes if I'm going out for a hard power walk or if I was on my way to the gym.  Sometimes you'll see me in jeans and a t-shirt because they are comfortable.  (And you will never, ever see me in high heels.  I wore them when I was younger, and my feet, knees, and back thank me for eschewing them now.)  My mother is far more comfortable in jeans than in anything else. There's a reason why they have become so popular.

It's just really interesting how our mores change over time.

*Obviously, I don't think they should really be outlawed, I won't judge you for wearing one, I promise.  I just think they look terrible.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Being sensible is such a bummer

It was certainly an interesting Sunday.

As the regular readers of my blog know, I've been looking for a house.  It's been quite an adventure.  There is one that I'm actually seriously considering though the jury is still out (I want to take a second look at it).  But one popped up that was just a little more than the one I'm seriously considering (which is dirt cheap), far bigger, with an attached garage and a fireplace.  Huge kitchen. I was intrigued.

There was an open house on Saturday and Sunday, with a "best bidder" sale on Sunday; the listed price was the starting bid.  Huh, I thought.  Trying to start up a bidding war? Is this something where they'll try to cut someone's real estate agent out of the process? (Agents work pretty hard for you so you don't want to do that!)  It's a way to sell your house quickly if you're motivated; it is probably a good way to get more for it in a shorter period of time than letting it sit on the market will do.  It's also a great way to jack up the price of the house--bidding on something will often impel people to go higher than they would in the hopes of "winning"--and sometimes will bid beyond the value of the object. (One well-known example is the experiment where a researcher had a roomful of people bid on a $20 bill. The "winner" got it for $22 or something like that.)

My agent told me to check it out, regardless.  I went, and was honestly enamored of the house.  It was a split level, and the kitchen was well-laid out (most split levels have little cabinet space in the kitchens for pots and pans, and they tend to be small.  I'm okay with a small kitchen but I want space for my pots, pans, slow cookers, baking dishes, etc. That's the one area where I have a fair amount of stuff and I use it all.)  It had a breakfast bar (with lots of cabinet space).  Decent sized dining area.  Hardwoods (except in the living room and the hallway, which I don't understand--why not make that hardwood as well?).  A fireplace. A good sized deck. Newer windows.  Lots of light.  Good-sized bedrooms and the master bedroom had a slider leading to a balcony.  Part of the basement was finished with a little guest suite--a sleeping area and a living room area with a bathroom.  A garage (not a necessity for me--I'm quite realistic about my price range--but oh, a lovely perk). Huge, fenced-in sunny yard aching for garden beds.  Views of a cranberry bogs.

The house was out of my league.

There were a few things I wasn't enamored with but that I could live with.  The cabinets were those awful contractor special things (white press board with "wood" lining the bottom, ugly) and the counter was a blah shade of gray.  You know what? It was still in good condition and it's not a deal-breaker.  The closet doors were all different (in one room, there were no doors, just a curtain).  There was a huge pine tree near the master balcony that made me nervous (those things snap in a good storm) and I knew if I got the house by some miracle I'd have to take that thing down for my own piece of mind.  But these were small details.

That was it.  Had the short sale I looked at a couple of weeks ago been like this house, I would have made an offer.

So what the heck. I put in a bid.

How it works is that they call you at 5:00 or so that evening (in order of who wrote down bids), tell you how many people are bidding, what the bid is up to, and ask you if you would like to increase the bid or bow out.  If you end up with the highest bid and if the buyer accepts it (which they might not), they will let you know but will contact your real estate agent (if you're working with one) to get the official offer and the details.  If you have the winning bid, you can bow out since it's not an official offer, and they'll go to the next lowest bid.

I did not think I would get the house (spoiler: I didn't).  I was nervous that I'd get caught up in the bidding process and end up bidding more than I should. There were five bidders when we started. By round two, there were four.  By round four, there were three.  By round five, there were two.  I was one of the two.

Color me shocked.  So for a minute I thought, Oh my god I might actually get this house! 

But alas, I did not.  Had I been further along in my lease or had more money to put down, I likely would have gotten the house--or I would have been willing to bid more.  I could have gone to the top of my price range (and yes, the house was worth it).  But I am in a lease and I don't know if I could find someone to take it over for me on such short notice; so it would be conceivable that I'd have to carry rent and a mortgage payment.  Depending on the mortgage payment it would be doable, but the higher the price is,  the less able I am to do it. The lower the price (and/or the further along I am in my lease), the higher I can go. I call it pain in the derriere math.

I did go $1,000 over the amount I swore would be my cutoff point.  I figured what the heck, maybe the other bidder would bow out and that amount wouldn't be onerous.  It would be well worth it.  But they increased it and I couldn't go on.  I mean, I could have tried.  I suppose I could have upped it (I only upped the bids by the minimum amount, which was $1,000).  But I knew that it would be a strain financially.

So congratulations to the best bidders.  They really did get a good deal on that house (it was worth more, for sure).  I'm disappointed but I don't regret bowing out.  Still, being sensible can be such a bummer.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Things I have stopped doing that lessened the stress on me and my wallet

Frugality isn't a matter of strict Puritan discipline, where you soldier through hardship and grit your teeth, promising yourself a reward when it's all said and done. It's really just a way of living. 

For a long time, I found myself struggling because quite honestly, I just wasn't making that much money.  I did not live in a huge place. I did not drive fancy cars. My expenses were low, but so was my paycheck.  All of the barking I heard about the latte factor frustrated me because I wasn't spending money on that kind of stuff!  Once I started making more money, I banked it. It was a great feeling.

There are times when I slip up and there are times when I knowingly splurge (which is a different situation altogether).  I find that what helps keep me on track are things that aren't necessarily focused on money-saving, but on sanity-saving.

I take a lot of walks and try to get to know the place where I live.  For a long time, in my old place, I didn't do this, and I missed out.  There was a small state park nearby that had ponds, beautiful trails for walking, biking, and horseback riding as well as an old mansion with tours on certain Sundays (it was the old estate of a local moneyed family that left it to the town).  There was conservation land nearby.  There was another old estate a short drive down the road.  Here, I'm near the ocean so that's definitely a draw.  There are also woodland trails and ponds to explore. 

Walking outside does several things for me. It gets me out of my own head and I start noticing things outside.  I breathe fresh air. And it feels a lot different than even doing a hard workout inside (though I'm not against that either).

I don't watch TV anymore besides the odd DVD.  I don't have cable (I did for a few years because the bundle was cheaper than my phone/DSL package, but that changed soon enough--and prior to that, I didn't watch much TV).  This is not because I must live like a pure and holy monk but because TV sucks away a lot of my time.  When I had cable, I got home and I turned on the TV.  I'd blink and find that a few hours had passed.  Now I get home and cook and eat and read and clean up.  Maybe I'll go for a walk or call a friend.

I don't subscribe to magazines (well, I do get Mother Earth News but that's really about it, and I'll probably let that subscription lapse).  Years ago I got Gourmet and Food and Wine as part of an inexpensive subscription offer.  It was escapist fun but it also ended up making me feel awful.  Those recipes called for ingredients I couldn't find or afford easily.  The magazines featured through their articles and ads the shiniest, best, most expensive kitchens and dining ware and wine glasses (and wines).

I don't go window shopping.  First, it's irritating--I don't like getting jostled and dealing with all the noise involved.  Second, if I don't need anything why look at stuff? You're more likely to buy stuff when you're in a store than if you're not.  So I don't go window shopping. That was a challenge for certain friends of mine who always wanted to go shopping; I'd decline and suggest something else.

I try to stay social.  I tend towards being a hermit at times, and so I will force myself to make plans.  I haven't really regretted it.  I'll also invite people over and make dinner.  It doesn't have to be anything fancy--maybe just chili in the slow cooker--but it's fun to get together.

I cull a lot of extraneous stuff.  I tend to feel a lot better if I don't have a lot of stuff to keep track of.  I do have a lot of kitchen stuff but I use it all.  If I haven't used it in a year, I donate it or give it away.  When I had a lot of stuff, I felt like I had to organize it better.  It was hard for me to keep track of things and I got overwhelmed. It was depressing.  I was no hoarder, but it was still a little much for me.

I don't let extraneous stuff  into my house, and I discourage people from getting me gifts (especially around Christmastime, which is a season where people lose all reason).  I really only exchange with my immediate family, anyway.  This is mainly because of the above culling.  If I need something, I will get it (or will tell the few people I exchange gifts with that the needed thing would be much appreciated).

I don't tend to go to yard sales.  I used to.  You can find cool things there.  When I needed certain things--such as casserole dishes, etc., I went.  However, it's too tempting to pick up a bunch of things you don't need because they're so cheap.  One good thing about going to yard sales was that I'd see certain things in all of them.  Those things you see on TV that look so awesome? Will likely be in every yard sale within a few years.  So if you really want the newest doohickey, wait a few years and then hit the yard sales and only look for and buy that thing you want.

What have you stopped doing?





Monday, May 13, 2013

Is it a cuddly cutie, food, or both?

Okay, this is another thing I refuse to eat.
Human are omnivores, though you wouldn't know it by the way we refuse to eat certain things.

I'm the same way, mind you.  There are things I refuse to eat (bugs, for example, at least the land dwelling ones, because I imagine them coming alive as I eat them and OH MY GOD I NEED MOUTHWASH AND LYSOL JUST THINKING ABOUT IT. Before you say Well, that makes sense, there are things like chocolate covered ants and grasshoppers, and there are places where people eat things like pan roasted grubs quite happily, and I'm told they are quite tasty).  So I'm not judging by a long shot.  But I can't help but notice what is considered food in different places.

There was a horse meat scandal in Ireland and the U.K.--apparently, the ground beef in the burgers sold in several major chains had horse meat in it.  IKEA also ended up being affected by this scandal. I was of two minds.

We all want to know what is in our food.  If you have a health or religious reason--or any other reason--to not want to eat something, you know if an item will violate your religious rules, endanger your health, or just gross you out.  I have Muslim and Jewish friends who will not eat pork; if they learned the meatballs they ate had pork in them, they would not be happy.  I have Hindu friends who do not eat beef. I have friends who will not or cannot (due to allergies or intolerances) eat dairy or wheat (celiac disease is no joke).

So what I'm saying is that I get it. I do! And we should be able to buy say, ground beef or ground chicken and be confident that we are getting that and nothing else.

But I am also bemused by the reasons--outside of religious or health--why we won't eat certain things.  Some people are horrifically offended by hunting but happily eat factory farmed chicken.  Some people are horrified that I eat venison and rabbit (you're eating Bambi and Thumper!).  Some people can't stomach the thought of eating goat (which is delicious, by the way. It tastes a lot like lamb).  We class animals into "those we can eat" and "those we do not eat" and sometimes the reasons are "but that animal is very cute" or "that animal is gross" or "that animal is noble and pure and wonderful" or "that animal was featured in a Disney movie and it offends my inner five-year-old."

It's not only meat.  Try and pick a bunch of dandelion greens and steam them for your friends. You will get a mix of reactions, I guarantee it.  Pick poke weed growing your yard? Better make sure it's served to people who aren't squicked by it.  You're eating weeds! Is a reaction I hear. Yes. They are edible. They are actually quite tasty.

In some parts of the world, horse meat is actually considered to be a great meal.  Lobster, currently seen as an expensive luxury item to eat here in the US, was considered trash food not so long ago.  Back in the time when white people in the US owned black slaves, it was served to them up North. And there is a rule on the books that prisoners will not be served lobster more than three times a week.  You know why? At the time, prisoners rioted after getting nothing but lobster.  Can you imagine the scandal now? My God! Why are we feeding criminals such luxurious and expensive food? But at the time, a lobster was considered a giant sea roach. (I try to forget that it's a big cockroach when I eat it as it is delicious.)

We would never eat dog or cat in the west, but we eat beef all the time.  Among Hindus that's just perverse.  I love me some sizzling bacon, but in I don't think it's going to be on any menu in the Middle East.  In some places, frog legs are considered viable food, as is snake.  (I have had both, actually, in Thailand.  The frogs legs were okay but way too much work for little meat.  The curried snake, or "serpent" as they called it, was good, if you didn't mind all the bones. By the way, neither taste like chicken. They taste like frog and snake.)  Historically, people ate songbirds, and there are places where they still do though I believe it's against the law now.  Seabirds used to be on the menu on coastal restaurants here until we realized we were clearing out the population.

I won't judge anyone's taste or repugnance. But I can't help but note our cultural love for certain foods, and cultural revulsion at others. 


Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Mom

One of the most resourceful frugalistas I know is my mother.

When we were growing up, she and my father were very careful with their money, yet we always had plenty.  On Christmas we would get one of the things we really wanted, and we'd get smaller gifts to unwrap as well.  We didn't drown under a mountain of toys but we always felt like we had a great Christmas.

She grew everything we ate.  Well, almost everything. We always had huge gardens (with maybe one exception because one house we lived in didn't get a lot of sun).  Those gardens produced things like tomatoes, garlic, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, corn, zucchini, summer squash, acorn squash, butternut squash, peppers, cauliflower, lettuce, beets, radishes, shallots. . .you name it, it was there.  She would freeze the surplus and supplement it with vegetables from the grocery store throughout the year.  I must have driven her up the wall, as I didn't like vegetables except for spinach and raw carrots and celery. (I was a very picky eater.)  When I was a kid I wanted a vegetable garden, and she and my dad made a little raised bed for me.  Then one day, I went out to it and saw a huge spider, screamed at the top of my lungs and ran far, far away from plants for the next 22 years. I think she's very amused by my urge to garden as an adult.  She doesn't really do it anymore--my father tends to a few tomato plants but they're finding it's taking up more of their energy than it used to.

She is a champion deal-finder.  When I was a kid, she had a desk set up with her coupons and rebate forms.  She never got to the level of extreme couponers, but she didn't want to.  She'd stock up to tide us over for the next sale.  She didn't want to hoard.

She makes the best pie I have ever had. I hated pie growing up and then, when I tried it again, I loved it. But hers is the best. No one has ever been able to top it.  I'm trying to get as good but it takes a lot of practice.  She made braided bread (not challah, but a thick, chewy bread that was just delicious). She made fried dough for me when she realized I loved the stuff.  She baked cookies and brownies and cakes a lot while I was growing up. She used to knit our slippers (best slippers ever) and she knit small stockings that held packets of Lifesavers for the Christmas tree.

She and my father have always been a true team, which meant I couldn't get away with anything when I was a teenager.  There was none of this "ask your father" or "ask your mother." Nope.

She was strict but not unreasonable. (Well, looking back I don't think she was unreasonable. As a teenager I thought she was SO! UNFAIR!) She persevered no matter how hyper, obnoxious, awkward, or rebellious I was. She's always had good advice and she always wants to lend a helping hand.  She will leap to our defense in a hot minute.  She loves being a grandmother to my niece and nephew.

She was and is a great mom.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom! And to all of the mothers reading this, Happy Mothers Day to you too!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday blogaround

In the wake of the Bangladeshi factory collapse, some retailers are showing where and how their clothing was made.  I would point out that it's not just clothing that is made in export processing zones--toys, electronics, small appliances, etc. are also made in export processing zones, and those workers are also exploited and working in terrible conditions.

Cash Only Living did 10 money-saving things this week.

What really happens to recycled electronics.

The Economies of Kale is doing a $21 challenge.

Questioning the idea that homeownership is good

The new luxury kids' bedrooms.  I feel the need to add, for a small subset of families! Most of us can't afford such things.

Lilli practices produce triage.

Five tips for DIY motorcycle maintenance.

How to save like your mother.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Giving without adding to the toy pile

Every so often, I see letters to advice columns about parents whose kids have every toy imaginable.  The parents want to instill in their child the value of charity and want them to give toys away. Or people complain that kids are materialistic and don't appreciate what they have (yet add to the present pile).

I do wish people would stop complaining about how materialistic kids today are.  I heard it when I was a kid; I'm sure my parents heard it as well.  Yet the very same people who complained about that were part of the problem by adding to the present pile. If you think there's a problem, don't be part of the problem. And while we're at it, let's keep in mind that sometimes people have very good reasons for doing things we may not advocate. Here's the thing: I used to be absolutely certain that I'd never let my kids watch TV if I ever changed my mind on the kid thing, that TV was evil, and that kids didn't need it. Then I babysat my niece (and later, my nephew). No, they do not need TV. But I needed them to sit in front of it for 15 minutes so I could use the bathroom. Or catch my breath. Or clean up the mess the toddler tornado made.  So. . .let's just say I got schooled quickly.

OK, rant over. Now, here are some alternatives I have used instead of adding to the toy pile.

Get them a book.  This seems counter-intuitive as you're getting them something, but if they're readers they will appreciate it. (Also, I'm not against gift-giving, but am for giving in ways that won't add to the toy pile). It will also encourage them to be readers. I have never heard a parent complain their kid has too many books (and if they truly do, they can swap them for other books).  Both of my niece and nephew enjoy reading. 

Send money to their college account if they have one.  You'll have to get the information from their parents (the bank, the address, the account number, etc.) and they may not be comfortable with that if you're not close.  You can also get a savings bond for the child for college.

Spend time with them.You can take them to a movie, take them to the park, do a project with them, or just hang out.  You don't have to plan a flash Disney vacation.

I used to have my niece over for sleepovers. We'd go to the playground near my place, we'd make her favorite dinner (well, I'd make it--Chinese food), we'd read stories and take walks and build quilt forts.  When my nephew was born, their family was busy enough that we weren't able to do that as much, but I did have him over for the day.  Yes, we took full advantage of the nearby playground, watched cartoons, and (I) made his favorite dinner (meatballs).

You'll have to do this when they're younger; as they get older they get into sports and hang out with their friends more often.  My parents and my sister and brother-in-law used to say that I didn't have to watch my niece (and later my nephew) when we were all together; but I knew that soon enough they'd be older and would rather do other things than hang out with their Aunt Pamela.  Which is as it should be. That they have a friends they want to hang out with and sports they want to play is a good thing.


What are things you do for the kids in your life? What are alternatives to yet another toy that the kids in your life will enjoy and their parents won't object to?



Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Soy and lemon fish with mushrooms and wild onion

Last week was the final week of the CSA fish share my friend and I had.  We might do the next round (still undecided).  I certainly have eaten well.

My friend was all booked up last week and simply wasn't going to be around to eat the fish. Not to get together and cook a big meal, not to even take half and make something--she had stuff going on every evening and weekend day.  She told me to take the fish and enjoy it, which I did.  Our share was yellowtail flounder and pollock.  The yellowtail flounder dish turned out to be a big fail (here's a tip: do not smother fish in cilantro base, just a little is sufficient).  The pollock dish I made was a success, however.

This is what I did:

The humble wild onion.
First, there are wild onions growing all throughout my yard.  They are everywhere--in my parent's and sister's yard, in my garden plot, everywhere. Well, they are edible, and they are tasty, so why not? I pulled a few bulbs out of the ground, washed them well, chopped the bulbs and minced part of the tops.  I tossed this into a shallow porcelain baking dish that was lightly oiled. I sprinkled pepper on both sides of the fish, placed it in the dish, and put a generous amount of powdered ginger and garlic on the fish.  I added a splash (about 1-2 tablespoons) of soy sauce and lemon juice. 

While the oven was preheating (I set it to 400 degrees), I soaked the last of my dried mushrooms in hot water; once they were soft I added them and a tablespoon of the stock to the dish.  I also added some long fronds of the wild onion tops. I covered it and baked it for about 20 minutes, until the fish flaked easily with a fork.  I added a few more onion tops for a garnish.

I ate it with short-grain rice and spinach. It was delicious. The sauce would also make it good for a lo-mien style stir-fry the next day for leftovers.


Friday, May 3, 2013

Friday blogaround

Happy Friday, everyone! Let's get to it!

A great post about using your slow cooker in the summer.  I use my slow cooker in the summer--maybe more often than I do in winter.  It's great for cooking meals without heating up your entire kitchen.  Slow cookers are not just for heavy stews, as Stephanie shows.

A recipe to make homemade wallpaper paste.

More Americans work in the underground economy. That's thanks to long-term unemployment, unemployment benefits expiring, and people going through their savings.  Of course, the article had a note about the tax revenue lost to the underground economy.  Well, maybe that wouldn't be an issue if these folks could get jobs. Unfortunately, most employers won't even look at the resume of someone who's been out of work for a long time.

Feral swine are a problem in many parts of the US.

Oslo needs more garbage. Seriously.

Five ways to fight allergies.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Reality Check for Food Scolds

Obviously, a FEMINIST mother!
I have been harping on this of late, but I'm not the only one.

Emily Matchar points out the sexism and the revisionism in the slow food movement.  I'm with her.  You could be forgiven for thinking that Betty Friedan was some sort of pied piper, leading women to run from the kitchen and abandon their families to a hell of over-processed foods to hear Michael Pollan or Barbara Kingsolver and their ilk tell it.  So I would like to inject some reality into these discussions.

From jabs about Betty Friedan convincing women to leave the kitchen to insinuations that people (especially mothers) are lazy, these foodies remind me why I had little to do with learning the art of homemaking when I was younger.

Betty Friedan didn't "convince" (affluent, white) women of anything.  The Feminine Mystique documented what her fellow (affluent, white) housewives told her about how they felt, which was bored, stifled, and frustrated. They weren't convinced to not like being housewives. They already didn't like it. She was no pied piper.

Barbara Kingsolver made a crack about how no one said women would be stuck doing it all.  Actually, less affluent women who had to work paying jobs and who had families already knew this thank you very much. However, in the supposedly good old days of woman at home cooking healthy scratch meals (more on that in a minute), women were also dismissed from their jobs when they got married. In some cases, they were hired back as temps. After all, you'll be busy raising your family! Depending on the place you worked for, your status as a temp could mean you worked on the weekends or on major holidays (like Thanksgiving and Christmas). You certainly didn't get the pension permanent employees got. Oh, and it was just fine to openly practice pay discrimination, since men had families to support (so did the women, but they weren't "supposed" to work, therefore, they got pin money).  The assumption that all women were affluent housewives is a little irritating, frankly. I'd rather live in a world where that kind of gross discrimination is not okay, and if that means I eat ramen noodles, I'm okay with it.

Processed foods were introduced and popularized by the food industry, not by feminist harpies who longed to overthrow God, America, and Apple Pie. Thanks to advances in technology to develop it and the war to make it a necessity, dehydrated, canned, and (eventually) frozen foods were widely available.  They were touted as a good thing and housewives were exhorted to buy them and use them.  People saw this as a sign of progress and prosperity and did so. This had jack squat to do with women running away from the kitchen to go find themselves or become CEO's. And frankly, my homemaking mother (who yes, had a garden, and yes, froze the surplus) and her homemaking friends used the convenience foods that affluent slow food evangelists recoil from.  Canned or dehydrated soups, instant coffee (that was all the rage for a long time), Wonder Bread, cereal, frozen prepared vegetable sides, etc. . . yes, they did. 

Have a chat with someone who grew up just after the war. Who raised kids before and after the war. Let me tell you something, it's illuminating. All of that rose colored claptrap about the days of yore neglect the inconvenient truths that in the winter months, the available vegetables were sparse (sometimes canned and soggy).  Frozen vegetables were not common for a long time because most people didn't have freezers! And unless you had a plot of land to garden, you weren't about to can all of the produce for your family for the year.  The food available was pretty narrow.  People still worked hard, they worked long hours, no matter what they did. Food that didn't require a lot of preparation provided some relief in that regard.  And quite honestly, the food people ate tended to be high in fat, high in salt, meat-heavy, and depending on the time of year, light on the fresh vegetables. Take off the rose-colored glasses already. You look stupid in them.

Many slow food aficionados wax lyrical about how wonderful cooking is, how great farmer's markets are, how rewarding gardening is. They never remember to add at the end of their sentences "for me."  Because here's the thing: what's great for you is not great for someone else. It may well be stifling and frustrating to them. They may hate every minute of it. They may not have a particular talent for it. And they may prefer to do something else. Some people--some women--feel perfectly fulfilled working a job outside of the home, and I think that is great. We're human beings and we have the same variety of desires and skills that men have. I'm sick to death of the assumption--unconscious or otherwise--that our domain must  be the home. It's not for everyone. (And frankly, that attitude is what kept me from wanting to learn to do any of this stuff.) If you live in a home and want to eat and live in a clean place, you need to do your share and not expect someone else to do it. And if you are going to extol the virtues of scratch cooking, etc. you need to start very vocally expecting the menfolk to do their share. I have yet to see this from the affluent foodies out there, who only say it when we point out how narrow-minded they're being.  Then it's a grudging "Well, of course men should take part. . ."

And they often don't stop there. They want to do everything themselves.  I mean, great! Make your own yogurt. Make your own cheese. Bake your own bread. Grow your own vegetables. I do many of these things myself! But don't point-score. In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Barbara Kingsolver made a comment about how a woman proclaimed her a real housewife when she learned that she made her own cheese. Indeed. My mother was a slacker in comparison to you, Ms. Kingsolver, because she didn't make cheese. Even when women do what they're supposed to do, they are still shamed for not doing it "right" or for not going far enough.

The other thing they forget is that when it becomes someone's job, it can be a source of frustration and resentment, especially if your kids refuse to eat what you made (and trust me on this, your assertions about how you'd never let your kids get away with that make me laugh--you never had me as a kid. Trust me, Ms. Formerly Picky Eater here would have made you go gray early). It's tiring. It's endless. And if you don't enjoy it, it's drudgery. Heck, even if you do enjoy it, it can be drudgery.  When you have a bunch of relatively affluent scolds lecturing you about how you're doing it wrong, it becomes a bigger source of resentment.  Why even bother when it's never going to be good enough?

Foodies already cast a jaundiced eye at the food system.  But they seem to blame women for not harkening back to the 1950's and staying in the kitchen, or individuals for not cooking meals from scratch. If these foodies don't like the food system, they could work to make it easier for people to have access to healthier and sustainably grown food. They could understand why processed food was popularized, and understand why people actually still use it. They could drop the shaming little jabs made at women for having the gall to be human beings with desires that may not include homemaking. They could give people room to be different from them. They could encourage people and not tear them down.


Or they could continue to proselytize, shame, scold, and harken back to a past that didn't exist. That's worked swimmingly so far.