Monday, April 6, 2009

Debi: Baby Steps

I have a long, long, LONG way to go before I could even approach Stori's family's ability to be self-sustaining, but among the people around me, I'm definitely on the more hippy-dippy end of things. That photo over there is of my little crock-pot, which I didn't even know was little until I saw someone else's giant slow cooker and they told me theirs was standard size. This one holds about a gallon of liquid, which is just perfect for making vegetable broth.

And vegetable broth, if you didn't know this already, is just perfect for making a house smell amazing.

Backing up a few steps here, I've been a vegetarian for twenty years now. I was a teenager when I decided to stop eating meat, and while there are a whole ton of reasons why I think it's a good idea to stop eating meat, I am NOT an evangelical vegetarian. If you want to know all my reasons, please feel free to ask me when we are not at the table with you and your burger, or my husband and his chicken sandwich, or my in-laws and their ribs. We can talk for hours about it. In the end, it's a choice I defend as strongly as I defend someone's right to think I'm nuts while they eat bacon-wrapped bacon. Eat meat or don't eat meat, it's not my business.

That said, because we are a vegetarian family (David eats meat outside the house), we eat a lot of vegetables. Now don't go saying "duh" to me; lots of vegetarians live on bread and cheese. We, however, eat lots of broccoli and green beans and greens and peas and corn and celery and leeks and potatoes and yams and cook with tons of onions and garlic. And we use lots of fresh and dried herbs from our summer garden or from the farm box we get from Angelic Organics for 20 weeks of the year.

Have you ever looked at a kitchen at the end of preparing a vegetable-based meal? It's a mess. Nubs of things here, skins of things there, shavings and ends and shnibbles and pieces all over the place. If I didn't live on an alley with rodent issues, maybe I'd compost all that stuff, but I can't do that and let my kids play in the yard. For years and years, I threw it all away...until the last year. I read a post on one of my favorite bulletin boards about making your own vegetable broth. Apparently, all I needed to do was save all those shnibbles from my chopping, store them in a bag in my freezer, and when I had enough, dump them in the crock-pot with a bunch of water. Simmer them for a good 24 hours, and you have a wonderful, flavorful broth!

I was skeptical. Onion skins? Potato peels? Broccoli stalks? Eyew. But I was spending lots of money and using lots of fossil fuels on buying canned vegetable broth for our soups, and thought it couldn't hurt to try. After one batch, I was hooked. The broth was delicious -- rich and lovely and dark golden in color, and it freezes perfectly to use later. The house smelled like my mom had been there for a week of someone's cold, making the chicken soup I remembered from my childhood. It turns out that what I loved about chicken soup was the vegetables...the earthy smells of celery, onion, potato.

In fact, the house smells so good that, weeks after our first batch when I was making my second batch, I did have a cold, and the smell that crept through the house as I slept peppered my dreams with memories of soups past. Deep in my sinuses, the feelings of WARM and LOVE and HEALING penetrated, and I smiled in my half-sleep. We may not be able to milk our own cow or plant enough food for a year, but right now my basement freezer has about 4 gallons of broth in it...just enough for a few serious viruses. And that shnibbles bag in the freezer is getting full again!


  1. I have a pile of old ice cube trays in the garage... I use them to free homemade broth for single servings. Makes a good cuppa soup without a messy pan.

    I read you guys' blog and have decided I'm somewhere in the middle. Call me Eco-Friendly Suburban Mouse. lol

  2. that's supposed to say freeze, not free.

  3. What a great idea, fleeee! I'll have to try that!

  4. I think I am finally going to have to try this!