Friday, April 24, 2015

Book Review: Quick and Delicious Thrifty Meals

Title: Quick & Delicious Thrifty Meals
Author: Johna Blinn
Date: 1987 (hardcover), 1989 (paperback)
Publisher: Baronet Books / Waldman Publishing
ISBN: none
Length: 80 pages
Quote: “Some of the best eating is the least expensive.”
If you’re a true Creative Tightwad, the first thing you’ll notice about this cookbook is that some of the recipes could be made thriftier. Do you really need a bone and bouillon cubes to add a meaty undertone to cabbage soup? Canned chicken soup, chicken soup mix, and bacon to flavor creamed corn?
Tightwad Tip: you can save a lot of money, on today’s groceries and tomorrow’s medical expenses, by using more vegetable protein and less animal fat.  The human body needs some animal protein—although that protein can be found in milk and eggs—but if the body is not being drained of protein, calcium, and other nutrients by efforts to digest saturated fats and simple carbohydrates, the body may actually run better on just one animal protein “feast” per week. The average person’s daily requirement of protein and calcium is calculated on the assumption that the average person is (a) North American, therefore able to eat as much butter, sugar, white flour, cheese, candy, soda pop, beer, and additives as s/he can be persuaded to buy, and (b) so confused by implausible food fads and conflicting nutritional theories that s/he seldom bothers to eat a vegetable. Real Tightwads can do better than that.
Different “health” diets work for different people, according to both hereditary and environmental influences. Nobody has all the answers yet. However, we do know that the average American eats too much saturated fat, too much sugar, not enough fibre, and not enough raw fruit and vegetables. We pay for our carelessness at least twice, once at the grocery store and again when we develop nasty, expensive chronic diseases caused by our unbalanced diet.
Some readers don’t need to be told about this. Some of you do better at sticking to a natural healthy diet than I do. However, statistics still show that for one American who has noticed that raw broccoli has (or should have) an interesting crunch and flavor all by itself, several dozen of us still think raw broccoli “needs” to be buried in some combination of fat, preservatives, and artificial flavoring. You can save money at least twice by learning to eat raw vegetables without “dips” or “dressings.”
So, Creative Tightwads can enjoy these thrifty dishes, but we can make them even thriftier. That corn and fish dish on page 8: the clam juice is recommended to add a hearty fishy flavor to a delicate cut of white fish; you could save money by using tilapia fillets and water, and lots of fresh parsley or some dried tarragon to keep the smell of fish oil from lingering in the house. The chili on page 19 won’t need any corn syrup if you use canned kidney beans and a sweet onion. Salads are more interesting when they’re not uniformly drenched in oil and vinegar; Creative Tightwads eat salads with just a little salt or lemon juice, the natural oil in the main ingredients of the salad, and sometimes a sprinkling of herb seasonings.
Creative Tightwads cook desserts only when (a) children have earned a treat like fudge or ice cream, or (b) we’re participating in a traditional cultural ritual, such as a wedding, that requires a cake, or (c) we can’t find enough good-quality fresh fruit to go around. Gourmet-quality fruit is actually a more “upscale” dessert than a rich, gooey pie or cake. When Creative Tightwads indulge children in the pleasure of making desserts, we remember that children don’t want the convenience of any expensive premixed confections; children have lots of energy to burn off, especially after dipping into the mixing bowl, and need to cream butter, beat eggs, crack nuts, chop fruit, sift dry ingredients, beat it all together while counting five hundred strokes, crank ice-cream machines, and so on, by hand. There aren’t very many dessert recipes in this book but the book is to be commended for avoiding the packaged-mix trap.
This book was thriftily printed; any copy you can find will probably be yellowed by now. There are no glossy photos of food, just recipes snugly packed onto large, thin pages. Since thrifty cooks often have to work with limited storage space, that’s just what they need. 

I'm not finding much information about Johna Blinn on the Internet; what I'm finding suggests that this prolific cookbook writer may be or have been a committee. In the absence of evidence that this name refers to a single living author, I can't offer Quick and Delicious Thrifty Meals as a Fair Trade Book. (If anybody out there knows that Johna Blinn is a real individual, please educate me!) To buy it here, you still send salolianigodagewi @ $5 per book + $5 per package shipped. This is a slim, tidy book and fits comfortably into a package with one or more Fair Trade Books.