Saturday, April 2, 2011

Series of Significance: It’s time for Frontier Stew

[The following posts were originally published separately. They now appear below, all in one place (!), for your convenience. No extra charge.]

It’s time for Frontier Stew PT 1

[QMI Parliamentary Bureau - Get ready to pay even more at the grocery store.

“We haven’t seen the worst of it yet; it’s going to impact all prices of pretty much every food,” said Francis Fong, an economist with the TD Bank group.]

When Francis Fong was just a wee tad, classmates used to sing, “Francis Fong is never wrong. That’s why we sing this little song.”

Francis would smile. They won’t sing it in high school, Francis thought, and was right. Never wrong.

All prices. All prices of pretty much every food. It got me thinking.

Is it time to share my Frontier Stew recipe? No? You’re still hanging in there?

["It's so easy to make Frontier Stew better than canned stuff": photo GH]

Well, maybe I’ll share just a bit of background then.

See, my theory (call it a well-grounded philosophy, if you must) is that as food prices rise a door of opportunity will open for us.

Oh, it will seem pretty darn scary at first to peek through the door, let alone walk through it, especially for those folks who suck up fast food and restaurant meals and processed supermarket food a lot of the time and who forget what a slow cooker or stove looks like.

You know the opportunity I’m talking about, the one where you cook your own meals and save a ton of dough over the course of a year?

“Pre-heat oven to 375, then bake for 30 minutes! What the heck does that all mean?” many folks will say when it comes right down to it.

“I’m pretty sure my new luxury condo doesn’t even have a stove. Maybe it does. Stink. I never looked. I don’t know. Maybe I can Google some images,” others will say. While pouting.

Listen. Let’s not all get into a panic. Higher food prices will not be the end of the earth.

Ever heard of Frontier Stew?

More to follow.


It’s time for Frontier Stew PT 2

[Economists say the cost of food in Canada could jump by 8% in the coming months and stay that way for the next year. Breads, grains and cereals will rise the most, with the global costs of wheat, corn and soy increasing. Analysts say the cost of meat also will rise, because livestock consume the same grains.” - Food Prices Forecast To Rise, Mar. 21, London Free Press]

To stay alive, maybe McDonalds will make the Big Mac just a bit smaller.

Maybe Canadians will eat a meatless meal once per week. Maybe twice.

Maybe some will switch from Double Chocolate Oreos to McVitie’s Digestives. They are ‘The Original’ after all.

Maybe PM Harper will increase corporate taxes by 1 per cent and we’ll all live happily ever after.

What do you think? Any of those ideas stand a chance?

Here’s what I think. In order to survive, save a few dollars here and there, all Dads and Moms and kids over 14 need to learn how to make Frontier Stew. And I don’t mean heating up a tin from the corner super market. I mean the real Frontier Stew. The stuff that early Canadians ate from a pail. The stuff that made this country strong.

Yes, we’ve had some downturns and recessions, many Thing$ are going North $$, The Leafs won’t make the playoffs, and we may have to throw a handful of oatmeal into our next batch of BBQ burgers - to stretch the ground chuck, you know what I’m saying - but deep in our genes lies the ability to make stew so fine it makes tinned stuff taste like the crap that it is.

["You should try my wife's spaghetti sauce. Priceless": photo GH]

(Admittedly, Puritan Irish Stew, with its preformed chunks of meat, passes muster while camping).

And not only can we make fine stew, we have the opportunity to save money in the process.

Warning: A digression ahead.

Years ago, while shopping, I saw a pan of frozen lasagna on sale for $9.99, and for a brief moment I was tempted to buy it. Then I recalled what a pan of frozen lasagna tasted like at the last staff supper I attended. It was crappy stuff, especially compared to homemade. It lay there in the tinfoil pan like a wet pair of socks.

So, believe it or not, I stepped back and challenged the makers of Equity frozen lasagna to a duel.

“I bet I can whoop your skinny little butt,” I said (inside my little round head) to the CEO of Equity Co.

I tore up my grocery list, turned my cart away from millions of dollars worth of prepared and frozen food and tracked down all the ingredients for fine lasagna.

Though my bill came to more than $9.99, I left the store certain in the belief I would whoop serious butt when I got home.

Stay tuned.


It’s time for Frontier Stew PT 3

[“George Weston Ltd., one of Canada’s biggest bakers and owner of the Loblaw grocery chain, recently announced it would increase prices by 5%, effective April 1, 2011. The United Nations reports that average global food prices have soared 40% since June 2010.” - Mar. 21, London Free Press]

I make darn fine lasagna. Not the world’s best maybe (chefs get paid big money to make stuff better than my homemade, and occasionally they succeed), but darn fine nonetheless.

I also save money by making it myself, even compared to the $9.99 frozen lasagna (Equity brand; the kind that lays in the pan like a pair of wet socks) from local grocery stores.

I know this for a fact. I’m the guy who challenged the CEO of Equity to a lasagna cook-off and won. I made much finer lasagna for less money per pound. My wife and mother-in-law gave it the thumbs up. Big sloppy smiles all ‘round. I wrote a column about the feat years ago. Talk about the street cred - and kitchen kudos - I got out of that one.

Due to the inevitability of higher grocery prices, I believe it’s time for another cook-off challenge to inspire Dads and Moms and kids over 14 to learn how to make great Frontier Stew - and save money - all by their lonesomes. With no help from a CEO or anything.

["Are you ready to make your own stew?"]

What’s Frontier Stew?

Well, according to the photo on a ‘no name’ label, the stew consists of preformed chunks of meat, potatoes, carrots, corn niblets, peas, green beans and gravy.

I tried a can two weeks ago. It was no taste treat. A chilling memory of wet socks came to mind while I supped. If I was already heading toward the frontier, this would make me go farther west.

My own slow cooker stew recipe consists of the following:

half of a small beef roast cut into bite-sized chunks, cooked in covered fry pan with butter and olive oil

lots of potatoes, carrots, green beans

1 can brown beans ‘maple-flavoured’

large Spanish onion, 2 bay leaves

gravy: 1/2 beef Oxo cube, 1 cup water, 1/2 can of Guinness and 1/2 cup of red wine per batch

["The only thing better than two batches of my stew is three!": photos GH]

(Note: Make two batches back to back to use the whole roast and so the remainder of the Guinness doesn’t go flat. Or... freeze the beef and bottoms up!)

Two slow cooker batches fills 3 - 4 large casserole dishes or large plastic containers. The smell, taste and price are all definitely in the ‘super supper’ category.

Yes, it’s a new frontier out there with rising food and fuel prices, etc., but there are so many ways to survive, while eating better stews and soups and sandwiches, and getting healthier all at the same time.

Live small and prosper.


Please click here to read another series of some significance about rising prices. Kleenex required.


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