I’ve been mulling over a 2012 Challenge. I’ve enjoyed the challenges. The first one – 2010’s Muesli Bar Challenge – was a version of me yelling at the TV originally. I got so irate about the LCM ads, so indignant about the blatant hypocrisy of an advertising campaign that tried to claim that a cheap concoction of starch and sugar was actually coveted by kids, let alone healthy, that I set out to bake a low sugar, low fat, lunch box treat every week that my school age reviewers actually preferred. And to make it based on fresh in season ingredients, at a fraction of the price of supermarket “muesli bars”. And to make it fast and easy enough that it was a real preferable option for busy working parents. The reviewers were recruited from local kids aged 5 to 15, and they were told they could write whatever they thought. You can find the complete series – a year’s worth of recipes, filed under the Recipes tab, and I won every Challenge.
Then the 2011 the Breakfast Cereal Challenge – a year’s worth of weekly healthy and low GI recipes, based on fresh in season ingredients, fast and easy enough to make for breakfast, as a way to delete the big mostly empty packets of junk food marketed as “breakfast cereal” from the shopping list.
I think food is important, for the quality of my own and my family’s lives, but also for life in general. For most of its millions of years of history, every single thing, every atom, every molecule on this planet was food for something, some plant or animal or fungus or bacteria. Food was the way the finite resources of this planet got constantly reassembled, like a kaleidoscope, into an infinite variety of ever more complex and beautiful patterns. So I’m keen to do another fake food challenge.
I’ve had a few ideas for 2012. There’s a heap of “groceries” I’d like to take on – things like tea bags and mayonnaise. I’d like to push myself to be a bit more diligent and inventive about taking packed lunches. I’m really enjoying sourdough. But in the end, I think I’ve decided the 2012 Challenge will be “Tuesday night Vego”.
We eat vegetarian meals quite a lot, but still, if I’m tired and uninspired, my first impulse is to pick up some meat or fish on the way home from work and just do a salad or steamed veg with it. The meat is most usually kangaroo – if I’m going to eat red meat, I like it to be free range, organic, and have a low environmental and carbon footprint. And I take more and more care these days to choose fish that is sustainable. But still, I have a garden full of vegetables and even if I didn’t, shopping at a farmer’s market is so much cheaper and more fun than that depressing barrage of manipulation in a supermarket.
The temptation comes from the idea that vegetarian meals take more preparation, and that’s the idea that I want to take on. So the Challenge is a year’s worth of weekly recipes for vegetarian mid-week meals. The rules:
- The have to be based on ingredients that are all locally in season together. I think it is fine for spices to travel half way round the world, and grains, legumes and seeds to travel interstate. But asparagus air freighted from California will just be a very expensive, very jet lagged, mummified version of the real thing.
- They have to be healthy, as in, low fat, low sugar, whole grain. Cream based carbonara sauces are fine for a special occasion, but if you eat them as a regular mid-week dinner, you better be very active!
- They have to use, or at least be able to substitute, equipment that you can probably find in an op shop.
- They have to take less than half an hour to make, mostly from scratch.