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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Soup Chronicles : The Poor Man's Diet

  My grandmother was a magnificent woman . She was a true survivor and the eldest of 9 kids born before and during the Great Depression . Her and her kin fought through immense poverty and managed to survive it all despite being poorer than their neighbours. My grandmother grew to have 9 of her own and felt the guilt of outliving all of her siblings and watching her kids struggle with all kinds of medical problems . She told the outside world that she was just lucky , almost a genetic aberration . However , as she aged she told me the truth . It was what she called " poor man's diet" . While she would cook and serve divine and rich meals for her guests , her day-to-day eating pattern was far different . Her pantries were always stocked to the brim with rices , grains , pulses , and fruits and vegetables often self-canned . She stockpiled root vegetables and squashes and had a freezer filled with frozen produce . She had meat for the boys , for she never wanted to deprive her beloved sons of anything she may have been . But her personal favourites came from the ground she walked . My grandmother made bean burgers long before they ever came out on the market and would even eat oatmeal for supper if she was alone . Dairy was always a minimal ingredient and often went bad in her fridge until she got Taz , the incredible feta-devouring cat. 

Most people were confused and somewhat concerned when I dropped meat from my diet , but not Granny Annie . She saw it as an opportunity to show me a whole new world of wonderful foods and spices from her youth . Along with this spectacular food there were stories from her days working in a pre-war kosher hotel (in tiny Collingwood , Ontario!) , her farm days subsiding on turnips , and spicy soups that fed her family during the war . She told me things she never told another soul all because of something as simple as food . All old resentments vanished . During these little lessons my grandmother actually changed into something she never let the outside world see as the words flowed about not just food , but anything and everything imaginable . I hope that in her later days I gave her some of the comfort she provided me with . When I came from work to find her spirit gone , I closed her eyes .

The simple things really do matter.

Poor Man's Savoury Potoato Pancakes

1 large Sweet Potato , grated (preferably by hand. Yes it's work . Get used to it.)
2 large spuds , finely ground (yes , you can get electric here with this and the next few ingredients)
4 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
1 inch cube ginger
Salt , more if baking , none if frying
Ras El Hanout  (you can find this in another of my blogs) , Garam Masala , or simply Paprika and Pepper .

mash these fine things together 

As a binder , use as much Whole Wheat or Rye flour (yes , you can use the other kind if you must) mashed in with a fork to absorb the water and create a glorious mess . (Yes , Tyler , you can use your greasy paws) 
Let the mess sit for 10 to 15 minutes while you are preheating your cooking apparatus . While a great many people use the frying method , if you are on a healthy diet or want to avoid a grease coma you can bake these in the oven on a lightly sprayed or oiled pan . (you will need to flip them to make them brown). Cooking times vary , so you will have to pay attention for the first couple of batches. (Step AWAY from the bong..) 
This recipe will feed a small army and the leftovers can be frozen for a quick toaster oven snack . And don't tell your guests , but these are so healthy you could actually live off of them . 

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