ORGANIC EGGPLANT AND GOVERNMENT-SURPLUS CHEESE

I’ve no one but myself to blame.  I went to the farmers’ market early this
morning and found some great deals but forgot the eggplant for the pasta sauce
we intended to make and freeze.  No problem, thought I.  “I’ll just run down
the store and be right back with an eggplant, Honey,” said I.

I’m all about organically-grown produce, but something’s wrong when a 1.6 pound eggplant rings up at $6.38.  I understand that the grower, the transporter, the wholesaler and the retailer all need to step on the price to cover their costs and make a profit, but the consumer’s still getting hosed at that price.  I returned the damn thing and we omitted eggplant from this batch of sauce.

This incident really brought home the organic vs. local dilemma.  Organic and local is perhaps the best option but choices can be limited.  When choosing between a certified organic eggplant trucked in from thousands of miles away for $6.38 or a conventionally-grown eggplant from a local farmer for a dollar or two, wouldn’t virtually any sane consumer choose the latter?

I believe that, somehow, the solution to obesity and poverty-related hunger in our nation will come from local food sources and empowering people to grow their own food.  There
will always be those who can’t grow their own food, for a variety of reasons, thus assuring a market for local food producers.

What if the produce from community gardens was processed in community canning centers where paid, trained local residents re-taught the self-sufficiency skills lost in recent generations?  What if young inner-city residents where taught – perhaps even paid – to build, fill and tend raised-bed containers full of vegetables to feed their families and neighbors?  What if broken down garages were transformed into chicken coops for fresh eggs and meat?

There would be significant cost to the taxpayers in the establishment of such programs, but there is significant cost to the taxpayers now for programs that don’t work, programs that find people with no skills and no hope lining up for government-surplus cheese on the second Wednesday of each month.  Which type of program is likely
to be less expensive in the long-term?

I guess that’s a fairly long and circuitous introduction to our pasta sauce recipe; sorry.

  • 1 peck tomatoes, cored/seeded/peeled.  Slice tomatoes into ½-inch thick slices.
    The tomatoes we used were “seconds” purchased for $4 at the farmers’ market.
  • Lots of ripped up basil and lots of any chopped vegetables you like in your
    sauce (garlic, peppers, mushrooms, onions, grated carrots, etc.).  If using eggplant (a.) don’t pay $6.38 for it, and, (b.) chop to desired size then place in a strainer, sprinkle
    with salt then drain in sink for 30 minutes before rinsing and patting dry.
  • Put some olive oil in the bottom of your largest roasting pan – the pan you
    use for your Thanksgiving turkey.
  • From the bottom of the pan up your layers will look like this: olive oil,
    tomatoes, veggies, tomatoes, olive oil, veggies, tomatoes, olive oil.  Season as you go with salt, pepper and other herbs to taste.  Sprinkle a little brown sugar over the top.
  • Cover and bake at 350 for 4 and ½ hours.  Remove from oven, stir thoroughly to combine ingredients and break sliced tomatoes into chunks.  Add 4 x 12-oz cans tomato paste, mix thoroughly again.  Re-cover and return to oven for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  • Use plastic bags or small containers to freeze in pint (2 cup) servings.  We’ve made two batches with each batch resulting in 8 pint-sized servings, enough to take us well into the
    winter.
  • If desired you can brown and add meat – sausage or hamburger – after
    defrosting and before re-heating a serving of sauce.
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