Everybody eats…. potato soup!

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This summer we were very lucky to benefit from the contributions of two summer student placements here at Food Hampers: Sarah and Chloe.  In addition to working hard on intake, welcoming and helping people in search of food, they also contributed to the ongoing conversation about food that happens here everyday.

In a series of four posts, Sarah and Chloe will share some of the experiences they had and a few recipes.

Everybody eats, but how and what you eat really depends on who you are and where you are.

What you eat in Canada depends on personal preference, geography and income.  If you live in a different part of the world staple foods can be dramatically different from what you or your neighbor might eat most of the week.  Seafood, roots and tubers, rice, wheat and even insects are all things the people regularly depend on to survive.

If you spend any amount of time in a large urban area at this time of year, you’ll likely see a lot of people buying their lunch from street vendors.  In downtown Toronto, it’s probably a hot dog stand.  In China your options might include scorpion or centipede on a stick.  Depending on how much credence you place in the urban legends that surround hot dogs you may prefer the centipede, but consider this fun fact: insects are actually really good for you and according to some, could solve a lot of resource and food insecurity issues.

What does that have to do with us on Guelph Street?  Well, looking into a food hamper on any given day, you may find a lot of staple food items, or a lot of strange and unusual items that you have never tried.

This summer we wanted to start a community conversation about how the food in a hamper can be used and stretched. Often the food in a hamper is diverse with no readily apparent connection.  We hoped to encourage creative cooking using the foods found in the hampers.

One volunteer connected us with a great resource for budget cooking, The Basic Shelf Cookbook, produced by the Canadian Public Health Association. The books can be ordered online for $7.50 from their website www.cpha.ca. The basic assumption is that there are certain non-perishable items that can be kept long-term, are relatively cheap, and can be used to make nutritious meals with only a few added items. It is difficult for us to know what any one household has on their shelf, but the Basic Shelf Cookbook was a great starting point for discussing what to do with the food in a hamper.

To start the project off we made note of the contents of single person, two person, and four person hampers on three different days. With that information in hand we proceeded to create menu items from the hampers with the assistance of the volunteers.

Some ideas are very simple, like adding vegetables or tomato sauce to macaroni and cheese. Other ideas need a little more preparation. Soups and casseroles are great for stretching one meal over a couple meals. Similarly, baking cookies, muffins or cake for dessert can easily turn into snacks for other days, especially during the school year.

One thing that you may find to be a “food hamper staple” is bacon.  It is not unusual, for us to only be able to provide some bacon for single households.  Another staple that we have are potatoes.  In fact, we spend a lot of time each February, making sure we have enough to last the entire year.

Today’s recipe comes courtesy of Candace. Since bacon was the meat in a one person hamper, Potato and Bacon Chowder seemed like a great first recipe to explore! I make this one often too because it can easily be stretched over a few meals by adding extra vegetables and serving with a bit of bread.

 Potato Soup step 1

Recipe ingredients

Up to 5 strips bacon, diced and cooked crisp or to preference

3 medium potatoes, diced or thinly sliced

1 can soup, in this case fondue broth

1 onion or garlic

Up to 2 cups milk (goat or cow – soy is less preferable)

Canned vegetable of choice, corn is a choice but any other vegetable can work.

I am an impatient chef so when I fry the bacon in this recipe, I only do it until I see the grease creating a layer on the bottom of the pot then I add the onion and potatoes until onions soften.  Candace told me that she cooks the bacon to crisp because it will end up softening in the liquid. Plus it adds extra flavor. So it’s really up to you! I also like to thinly slice my potatoes instead of cubing them because they take less time to cook.

I usually use broth and simmer the potatoes, but if you don’t have broth you can use any cream based soup of your choosing since the dominant flavor will be bacon. If you use a tin of soup instead of broth, mix the soup with milk or water before adding to bacon, potatoes and onions. Simmer the soup until the potatoes break with a fork.  Add canned vegetable of choice including liquid. Finish by slowly pouring in milk (if not already mixed with cream soup) while stirring to prevent curdling. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This recipe should make 2-3 bowls and can be refrigerated for a few days. The soup may separate in the fridge creating a greasy layer on top, but the soup is still good to eat after being mixed and re-heated. Serve with toasted bread or crackers.

Potato Soup in the pot

In the next post, Chloe will share her experiences with sweet potatoes, a root vegetable that is eaten all over the world in many different ways.

What is your favourite food and recipe?  We want to know!  Leave a comment and let us know!

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