Changing the way we do things, from plastic bags to shopping baskets
Paradigm Shift: A time when the usual and accepted way of doing or thinking about something changes completely
First there was plastic. Then, the first rumble of a paradigm shift, “Paper or plastic?”. Shortly thereafter, we were given reusable cloth bags. An avalanche of them! What a great marketing tool! We accumulated great piles of them as we tried to train ourselves to bring them with us into the store. It seemed that they were always, like umbrellas, in the wrong place when needed. And even when we did remember, they were a bit hard to manage, all crumply and flopsy. My epiphany came when, watching a movie in which women in France, thin and stylish as they always seem to be, strutted along to shops with baskets on their arms into which they tossed this and that and invariably a baguette before they hopped on their bicycles and headed for home, perfect posture and wind in their hair. That was it! The secret! I could be all that if only I had a basket! I found two fine, sturdy baskets and, although I wasn’t transformed into a stylish Parisian who looked like she’s might have an interesting secret, I did solve the grocery bag problem. These baskets were so handy, far more than paper, plastic, or cloth, that I really focused on making sure they were with me when I headed to the store. Mission accomplished! Paradigm successfully shifted!
My next target was paper towels. Although fabulous for some, particularly icky jobs, should they really be the “go to” for every little wipe and spill? There is the cost of course, and the toting them in from the store, never mind the environment. Since I already had a stack of tea towels lurking in a drawer, I resolved to call them to action! I considered the extra laundry, which turned out to be nothing because I was running a load of whites anyway so the tea towels could just go along for the ride. It was just a matter of training myself to reach for a tea towel instead of a paper towel. There is quite a lot of grabbing a fresh one whenever in doubt, but with the clear conscience of knowing that they are free and easy!
So now that I’m shopping with my baskets and swabbing the deck with my tea towels, I’m finding that paradigm shifting seems to get a bit easier with practice. When I see a packaged item, in the grocery store, I try to stop and think. Do I need the cut squash in the styrofoam tray wrapped in plastic? Or should I toss the whole squash into my trusty basket? You say that a squash is nearly impossible to cut in its natural state? Take it home. Poke some holes in it with the tip of a knife, chuck it in your microwave for five minutes on high, let it cool and you will find it delightfully acquiescent. Remove the seeds. Cut into thick slices, arrange on a baking sheet, skin still on, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, some thyme if you have it, dried is fine, sprinkle with Parmesan, pop into a 400 degree oven for half an hour and enjoy. Where? Serve as is, next to whatever else you have going on. Delicious and nutritious.
Which brings us to our hydro bills.
It was a fine old tradition in the days of wood stoves, to plan how to most effectively use the oven’s heat. This might be another opportunity to shift from firing up the oven for just one thing, and again later for something else. I am trying to plan ahead these days. If I am baking a pie at 425, why not roast the squash as the oven is heating up? Or the rice for tomorrow? It will be grand with a quick reheat and will make tomorrow’s dinner prep a snap.
Now that you have prepared that rice yesterday, give this a try. I won’t include amounts because it depends on how many people you’re serving, how much you have handy and what you like. No mushrooms? No problem! Leave them out. You like pine nuts? Throw them in!
Chop some mushrooms and spinach, sauté just a bit in a splash of olive oil with some minced garlic. Mix into that rice. Good as is, or kick it op a notch with a good bit of grated Parmesan cheese, some Italian seasoning and a pinch of hot pepper flakes. Reheat in the microwave or the oven – if it’s hot.
I generally make quite a lot of this, portion it, vacuum pack it, label it and have it on the spur of the moment as a tasty side.
When we think of shifting paradigms, we assume discomfort, a stepping down somehow, when we should be thinking instead, of what fun it can be to do things a different way.
Mind you, the elegant French shopper may have inspired me to shop with a basket, but I have not yet opted for her bicycle! Baby steps!