My grandmother, a staunch conservationist and environmentalist way before it was cool, was also the most frugal person I ever knew. Famous for birthday cards that didn’t open–“Happy Birthday to a Girl Who’s . . . “–once you tear the front off the card to give again, the recipient remains forever in a state of suspended anticipation. She was much too midwestern and Anglican to ever dream of finishing the sentiment herself. She saved every scrap of wrapping paper, insisting you open gifts slowly to prevent tearing the perfectly good paper. Her environmentalism was fueled by this same frugality. She hated waste, and that included waste of our natural resources. If we ruined and trashed this earth, we’d have to get a new one, and God knows what that would cost! The very idea of polluting water, ravaging the soil, frittering away our natural resources . . . you could see it made her furious. Equally frugal in the kitchen, “Where should we go eat afterwards?” was always the follow-up question to, “We’re going to Granny’s for dinner.” We swore we never saw the original meal, but dinner was always “dibs and dabs” of leftovers. She actually was not a bad cook, in a Junior League sort of way–copper pennies, cheddar wafers, chicken in aspic–but there was never very much of it. I lean more towards abundance myself, but the lessons in thrift were not lost on me. I love luxuries in the kitchen–cold-pressed Texas olive oil, pink Himalayan salt, truffle oil, but in my Anglican protestant way, feel I must earn them. There is no way I could talk anyone in this house into the dibs and dabs of my youth, but nevertheless, everything must be put to use. My solution is to reincorporate everything into something new. We eat leftovers all the time, but no one ever knows that’s what they are. Leftover pot roast becomes bolognese sauce, last night’s sauteed greens are fabulous in risotto, roasted carrots and potatoes are revitalized by a vinaigrette and a handful of herbs, the entire contents of a vegetable bin become minestrone. Every ounce of value must be squeezed from each ingredient as well. Chicken bones are never thrown out without first being made into stock. Bacon grease always goes into a jar to add smokiness and salt to a pot of greens. The stems and leaves of broccoli and brussels sprouts plants are the most nutritious and delicious, Boggy Creek’s CarolAnn tells me, so into the pot they go too.
I have said repeatedly that eating local is indeed much more expensive if you simply replace your old “convenience” ingredients with local versions. If we instead make a real change in the way we do things, scrimping and saving along the way, making our own convenience foods (salad dressings, stocks, sauces, etc), freezing and preserving what we can’t use immediately, we’ll find that our grocery bills actually go down. Leaving enough in the budget for little luxuries. Life is about balance. My grandmother would have wholeheartedly embraced a return to localism. It is her legacy that each little act of thrift in my life is filled with meaning and intention for the larger world I live in. The smoked trout? That was my idea.
Roasted Beet and Radish Salad with Pistachios, Smoked Trout & Creamy Dill Vinaigrette
8 oz mixed baby lettuces, washed and spun dry
1 bunch radishes, washed and sliced thin
2-3 spring onions, sliced thin
4-6 beets, roasted, peeled and cut into quarers
4 Tbs. pistachios, toasted
1/4 c. white wine vinegar
3/4 c. olive oil
2 Tbs. minced dill
3 Tbs. creme fraiche or Mexican crema
1 smoked trout, removed from skin & bones, flaked
Place vinegar in a small bowl and slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly. Season with salt and pepper and whisk in dill. Toss lettuces with vinaigrette, reserving 1/3 in bowl. Arrange greens on serving bowls and place beets, onion and radishes on top. Whisk creme fraiche or crema into remaining vinaigrette and place a dollop on top of each salad. Top with smoked trout and pistachios and serve.