By Melony Carey
Food by the Book
I could somehow dismiss “The Rich and The Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto” by radio talk show personality Tavis Smiley and Princeton professor Cornell West, if it weren’t for the holiday season, the time of year when we honor the purveyor of charity for mankind, the one who challenged the money changers in the temple, and who multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed the masses. Jesus recognized then that the poor will always be among us.
But according to Smiley and West, a new kind of poverty has invaded our lives, one that affects the future prosperity of our country and jeopardizes not just the American Dream, but American democracy itself. Poverty has become the final battle ground following our hard won victories over slavery, women’s suffrage, and civil rights, and it is indifferent to race, gender or creed. According to Smiley and West, almost 1 in 2 Americans either lives in poverty or very close to it. They claim, and they may be right as we saw during the Great Depression with the rise of the Communist Party here, that poverty even jeopardizes our national security.
Smiley and West also make the very strong point that today’s poor are often people who have no control over their economic situation. College graduates who are working at minimum wage, retirees whose benefits have been robbed through corporate greed, and a dwindling middle class whose dollars don’t stretch as far as they used to all comprise the “new poor.” Lest you think poor is a relative term, the independent PISA exam of math ability shockingly shows American students fourth from the bottom just above Mexico, Chile and Turkey in poverty and student achievement.
Smiley and West predict that ending poverty is the last in a chain of civil rights movements. On New Year’s Day, 1931, the economic crisis was predicted to be over by the end of the year, while Communist International declared that capitalism was entering its final stage. On this New Year’s Day, with unemployment laws changing, we could be looking at what is truly a crisis in survival for American families. Today is a day for resolutions. If we cannot end poverty, perhaps on this day we could vow to be more conscious of the problem or take action against it. We have taken actions before that were effective in reducing poverty from 22% in 1959 down to 11% in 1973. This time the rest of us may have more of a vested interest, if Smiley and West are correct.
Wishing everyone a happy and prosperous New Year. Increase your wealth by thrifty use of those holiday leftovers with these flavorful recipes.
Dr. Marty’s Turkey Stock with Sautéed Greens
1 pint savory turkey stock with meat (smoked turkey preferred)
1 leftover baked sweet potato, diced
1 large yellow onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 bunch beet leaves and stalk, washed and chopped
Handful of spinach leaves or more to taste
1 chopped green apple
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne or to taste
1 can red kidney beans
2 cups brown rice, prepared
1 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
Hopefully you boiled your turkey carcass with herbs, carrots, onion and garlic, and froze the broth with the meat in quart containers. If not use chicken broth and either your leftover turkey or some roasted chicken. Create the recipe as you go along with complimentary flavors, using what you have, for instance substitute Swiss chard for beet greens. Prepare rice according to directions. Sautee onion in olive oil on medium about 2 minutes; add garlic and continue cooking until onion is translucent. Add sweet potato and greens, continuing to sauté until tender. Add apple, cinnamon, cayenne and salt. Add kidney beans, turkey stock; cover and simmer until slightly reduced and flavors are mingled. Serve over rice that has been very slightly burned for a nuttier flavor. Serve with a toasted, hearty bread. Concoct to your heart’s content!
Turkey and Wild Rice Casserole
Another way to use up leftover turkey or chicken from the holidays. Can feed a crowd or freeze half for later weekday meals. Very, very good.
1 package sliced almonds
2 boxes quick cooking long grain and wild rice
1/4 cup butter
4 celery stalks, sliced
1 large yellow onion, chopped
5 cups leftover turkey, chopped
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 can water chestnuts, chopped
1 8 oz. can sour cream
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 cups shredded mild and sharp cheeses, mixed
2 cups soft bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast almonds on baking sheet 4 minutes until just brown; set aside. Prepare rice mixes according to package. Meanwhile, melt butter in large skillet over medium heat; add onion and celery and sauté until tender. Stir in turkey, soups, water chestnuts, sour cream, milk, salt and pepper. Add 3 cups cheese and stir again. Spoon into lightly greased 15x10” baking dish or 2 11x7” dishes. Top with breadcrumbs. (If freezing one, cover it with foil and freeze; use within one month. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour then bake covered for an hour or until heated through. Don’t forget to top with toasted almonds and more cheese after baking.) Bake at 350 for 35 minutes. Remove and top with remaining 1 cup cheese and bake 5 more minutes. Top with toasted almonds and serve. Adapted from Southern Living December 2011.