The nasty bits: shortages, resourcefulness, and keeping yourself well-fed.

Howdy, pandemic buddies,

I’m coming to you live from my couch, where I am recuperating after putting in so asparagus and rhubarb plants that I will hopefully be able to eat in a few years. (They take a while to get established, but then they’re perennial producers. And I do like asparagus and rhubarb.)

I also just ate a somewhat unappetizing lunch, so I’m really looking forward to those asparaguses and rhubarbs. The lunch was braised beef tongue, which I had eaten A Tree Grows In Brooklyn style, cold with mustard and horseradish, for a couple of days. Today I decided I had really had enough of that, so I turned it into a pate with some Caesar dressing, lemon, more horseradish and mustard, and onions… I still don’t really like it, but at least it’s a different thing I don’t really like! And honestly it was okay on toast with pickles.

Why, you ask me, am I eating beef tongue when I don’t really like it?

Well, because it’s a good source of protein, and I’m still trying to avoid those grocery stores, and meat is a little hard to come by, and the farm share had beef tongue and not much else. Also, I’d never had beef tongue before, so I didn’t know I wouldn’t love it. We try to buy as much of our meat locally as possible (benefiting from living in a community that’s still replete with lots of local small farms) but now that the nationwide supply chains are strained, the local sources we’ve relied on are getting more use by people who normally get their meat at the supermarket.

(This is fine: I’m glad we and our neighbors have these resources. But anyway, that’s how I wound up eating beef tongue.)

I hear good things about tacos de lengua, anyway, so I’ll probably try it at least once more in my lifetime.

Anyway, it got me thinking about food shortages, and this changing world we live in, and how I rather expect that shortages and crop failures and more expensive groceries are going to be a way of life for more and more of us as climate change continues and everything and everyone come under more of a strain. This has been an unprecedented time of plenty in much of the world, and I can’t promise that that’s going to be a thing we can rely on 100% anymore.

So for the time being, we live in a world where if you know you’re going to want flour, it doesn’t hurt to order it a month in advance. And if you want meat, you might have a choice between something you’re not overly fond of, and no meat at all. (Not that reducing meat consumption is a terrible idea for many Americans, of course. But it is what it is and I’m not hear to preach any given orthorexia at you.)

Or perhaps what you want is fresh vegetables, and you prefer cucumbers and tomatoes, but there are no cucumbers and tomatoes to be had. How the hell are you expected to deal with artichoke hearts? Or kale?

The same way our ancestors, who often had a heck of a lot less choice about what they would eat and when, dealt with food they didn’t particularly care for: drown it in something that kills or disguises the taste. There are reasons our ancestors ate so much horseradish and mustard and onions.

And I’ll give it to you in one: organ meat.

(I’m not suggesting you force yourself to eat things that make you gag, naturally. Me and Limberger cheese will never be in the same room, by my preference. I can smell that shit right through the wrapper.)

It’s okay to eat stuff you don’t absolutely love if it’s what you can get. Especially if it’s as healthy and fresh as can be managed under the circumstances. I’ve got canned peas in my house for the first time in thirty years right now, because I can’t find the frozen ones anywhere and that’s something it’s hard to order from Target for UPS delivery. If they had any in stock. Which they don’t.

There are plenty of frozen lima beans and brussels sprouts around, though, and creamed spinach.

I didn’t even know you could buy frozen creamed spinach.

I mean fortunately I like lima beans and brussels sprouts. But imagine you didn’t. Imagine you only liked peas. What the hell do you do with the lima beans?

Soup is a good place for non-favorite vegetables. Cook them separately from the broth so their flavor doesn’t permeate, and just slurp them down. Cheese sauce hides a lot of ills. So does hot sauce. So does lemon or lime juice, or sauteeing things in butter or olive oil and garlic. (In the horseradish category.)

I actually trained myself to like cauliflower by putting melted cheese and chili ginger garlic oil on it. Now it’s one of my favorite vegetables. Especially the purple kind, which is so good roasted I can’t stand it.

You can bake with parsnips, as if they were carrots. Shred them fine and put them in muffins (if you can get any flour). Unpreferred fruit can go into smoothies or baked goods. Zucchini and other summer squashes as well. (Spinach and kale and other greens can also go into smoothies and if you add a little citrus is actually pretty undetectable.)

Mustard sauce can cover up a lot of funky flavors; so can a tangy brown sauce like A-1 or the superior British version known as “brown sauce.” Vinegar, lemon, garlic—all friends.

Anyway, I’m probably not going to buy tongue again, even though peeling the skin off the cooked tongue is satisfying gross in the same way as peeling dried Elmer’s glue off your hand.

But beef hearts, though. I’ve discovered that if you grind them up and use enough sage, onion, and garlic, those make a pretty good sausage, after all. The ground up chicken gizzard taco meat was only so-so, unfortunately.

Good luck with those lima beans.