Monday, May 10, 2010

The Gasto: The First Week

Emma's cooking on Wednesday went much better, although she did not cook what she had planned. I had picked up my chicken co-op order and had taken over a sizable part of the kitchen as I separated five-pound poly bags of chicken into smaller portions and placed them into labeled freezer bags. So Emma decided to make a quick and simple meal using the already-defrosted chicken tenders. She sauteed them and served them in a salad with cheese and the last of our store-bought tortillas, which she tore into bite-sized pieces and mixed with the other ingredients. She had supper on the table at 6 p.m., a big improvement over the night before. Her dad was grateful and let her know it. Even Nathaniel complimented her, saying, "Flavor flows from this chicken!" Fiona was grateful as well. Emma did not forget to take her back to the pasture after the evening milking.

This simpler meal gave Emma time to make ice cream for dessert and to bake biscuits to have ready for the following morning, when she wrapped them in foil and re-heated them in the oven while she cooked scrambled eggs with diced ham.

Receiving my chicken order, which comes every other month, caused me to pause and reflect on how this would affect Emma and the gasto. I haven't bought chicken from the grocery store in years because of the disgusting way the chickens are raised and processed. Likewise, I have avoided grocery store beef by buying the best alternatives I could find. For the last year or maybe more, I've been lucky enough to buy grassfed beef from the Sisks, a homeschool family we know. I have it custom cut and pick it up at the slaughterhouse, which is less than five miles from where the beef was raised and about 45 minutes from our house. I'm ready to order again, but I think the beeves won't be ready until next month.

I dislike depriving Emma of the shopping experience for poultry and beef, but I dislike the alternative more. So I guess I will just give her a price list and let her shop from our freezer. Another thing I need to think about is roosters. Emma has about 40 chicks in the brooder, and they are healthy and growing fast. (Sir Roosterlot is an awesome breeder!) Probably half of those chicks will be roosters, and Emma and her dad will butcher them for the freezer. I don't make her take money out of her gasto for using our milk and eggs, because she is the one who takes care of the cow and chickens, so I won't make her take money out of her gasto for roosters that she raised and butchered herself. In fact, I should probably credit her gasto for these items--another thing I need to figure out.

Though Emma was not scheduled to cook Thursday, she did anyway. She told me that she is happier now that she has more to do.

She spent the afternoon practicing making corn tortillas. We ate them just about as fast as she made them, spreading them with butter and sprinkling them with cinnamon sugar or salt.

The first try, Emma's dough was too dry, and she had to press really hard to get them to flatten. I had invited the Ladners over to pick mulberries and blackberries. We ended up in the kitchen first, and it's a good thing. Mrs. Ladner is Mexican and is well-versed in the nuances of tortilla making. She told Emma to add enough water to make the dough a peanut butter consistency.

Before adding more water, Emma had to push down with all her might.

Mrs. Ladner told Emma to hang the tortillas on the side of the bowl until the whole batch is pressed and ready to cook.

My dad bought me this griddle at Ace Hardware when I was a child. I wanted it for cooking pancakes over a fire in the woods adjoining our house.

Thomas was the official taste-tester. This proved very helpful, because he alerted Emma to when she had cooked the tortillas too long, which she couldn't tell at first by the way that they looked.

Emma didn't get to cook Friday's meals because she went to San Antonio for the pilgrimage to the mission churches. So the first week of the gasto had lots of things that didn't go according to plan, but we adapted. This is pretty much the way our life goes generally. I am really happy that we are trying to do this. It is much more realistic than the cooking classes that we did before, where the planning and shopping were done by the teacher, and the actual cooking was shared by three students.

This week I am increasing the gasto to $15, and I am going to add an allowance for flowers. I'm going to get all our cloth napkins and place mats washed and have Emma practice the napkin-folding skills that she learned from The Joy of Decorative Napkin Folding. Also, she will be starting as a mother's helper to Mrs. E. Hopefully she will get to assist in the kitchen while balancing a baby on one hip.

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