Friday, December 4, 2009

Things I will rarely buy again in the US

One of the good and bad things about living in a developing country is the lack of premade products that can be bought for ease of use. In terms of health, it's obvious why this is a good thing, since we eat far too much manufactured/processed foods in the US, to an absurd level that I don't think I fully realized until I got here. But I think less obvious in terms of bad is that that means that more time must be spent on creating meals or even preserving foods yourself for the winter time, which is a clear drain on time for people. Of course, in a country in which most people don't have jobs it's not so much a concern that people (women) could be using their time more productively, because if they weren't spending time preparing things and preserving things it's not like most would be in a job.

But that lack of manufactured/processed foods has had an enormous effect on my own ability to cook. I've long been a good cook, something imparted on me by my mom. I spent a lot of time with my mom in or around the kitchen when I was young. For many years my parents managed a fishing resort in Canada, and my mom was the head chef at the resort. Because of this, I learned a great deal about how to cook from her and gained my love of and passion for cooking by her influence. But the number of things that I've learned to cook since I've been here has vastly increased largely because I've been forced to learn how to cook things that I simply can't buy here. Over the years the PCVs here have collected a large amount of recipes based on the locally available ingredients (and in some cases a few things we'd have to get from either America or Yerevan). So here are the things that I've learned to make that I will likely never buy again pre-packaged in America:

1. Applesauce
2. Granola
3. Granola bars
4. Pie, entirely from scratch, including crust and filling
5. Roasted pumpkin for either bread or pie or soup
6. Chicken noodle soup
7. Salsa
8. Pancakes
9. Hummus
10. Sorting and soaking my own beans from dried beans

This list just happens to top out at 10 right now as that's all I can think of. I mean, I made a lot of stuff in America from scratch anyway, so there's a significant amount that I make here that I already made in America. But a lot of the things above I feel are real basics that I always just bought instead of making. But let me tell you, every one of the things that I listed (excluding the beans--I mean, soaked beans are soaked beans) is twice or more as good homemade as when bought from a store. This is another thing that I can think Armenia for, among the long list of ways that it's changed my life.