Thursday, June 13, 2013

Don't Throw the Eggplant Out With the Bath Water

In Skokie right near the sculpture park is a statue of Mahatma Gandhi. Around the base are several of his quotes including “Poverty is the worst form of violence.”
I pondered that quote yesterday as I volunteered at the monthly produce truck in Evanston. This project, which is trying to alleviate some of poverty’s affects in the Evanston area, is a joint effort of the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD) and Interfaith Action of Evanston (IAE). While the GCFD has had monthly produce trucks going to over 30 neighborhoods in the Chicago area for quite a while, the produce truck is relatively new to Evanston having begun on December 11th . Although in the popular perception Evanston is an affluent area, it was identified as having a population that is 14% food insecure (don’t know if they’ll have access to their next meal).

On December 11, the first day of their food produce distribution, organizers for Interfaith Action of Evanston hoped that word had gotten out to at least 100 people. Despite the fact that it was the coldest day of the winter thus far, people lined up bright and early.  In all, 335 people came to get free vegetables and fruit for their families. Since then, the produce truck has run monthly addressing a growing need. This need will grow even faster if the agricultural bill passed by the Senate Agricultural Committee becomes law. This bill was much kinder than any that are being discussed in the House. It would cut $4.1 billion from the SNAP (Food Stamp) program. As it is, most Food Stamp recipients can only stretch their monthly food stamp allotment for two weeks. If someone has medical issues such as diabetes, this allotment may last for one week. That is why Matilde (not her real name) came to wait for the food truck at 7:00AM and stayed around for hours for the free produce. “I have diabetes,” she said. “I’m learning to eat healthy and I need these vegetables.” The produce trucks address a need, but why is private charity increasingly being called upon to address it? 

The vegetables that the Food Trucks bring are of high quality. Last time I volunteered, they brought eggplants. I was surprised that about 10% of the people didn’t take them because they didn’t know how to cook them. In hopes that won’t happen again, here are two easy eggplant recipes. Eggplant is a very versatile vegetable high in fiber, with some protein, and some vitamin A, B complex, and C.

Frequently asked question: Should I peel it? If you want to. If you don’t, cut it in slices or chunks and put salt on it.  Leave it in a colander for 20 minutes and then rinse. Or slice it and then steam it for 10 to 15 minutes first. Either way, it takes out the bitter taste of the skin.

Sauteed eggplant slices
1 eggplant sliced
1 egg
garlic powder, onion powder, basil, oregano to taste
olive oil
Mix the seasoning with the breadcrumbs. Heat some olive oil in a skillet. Dip the eggplant in the egg and then the breadcrumb mixture. Saute in the olive oil.

Eggplant Sauteed with tomato sauce and other vegetables
1 eggplant peeled and cut into chunks
1 chopped onion
1 clove of garlic minced
1 green pepper diced
a few Tbsp tomato sauce
oregano to taste
olive oil
Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the onion and garlic and let cook five minutes. Add the eggplant and other vegetables. Add the tomato sauce. Put heat down and simmer for 10 minutes.




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