Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Old stuff

Use it up
Wear it out
Make it do
Or do without

When my daughter was in the second grade, she had a sweater. By which I don't mean she had a sweater that she liked to wear, or a favorite sweater. She had a sweater. Just one. So in the winter, she wore it pretty much every day.

She only had one for different reasons. Mostly, I'm the world's worst mom and have been known to do things like forget to bathe, clothe, and feed my children. (I have a key chain that says "Oh No! I left the baby on the bus!") But also, at the time, we didn't have any money. So we just didn't buy multiple items like a sweater for every day, plus she had all her brother's hand-me-downs if she wanted them.

Some horrible little princess asked her one day, rather snidely, why she always wore the same sweater. She answered that it was the only one she had. Shock! Horror! (My kids went to a private school on scholarship; Nordstrom's functioned as the corner store for these people.) When challenged by Princess at the inappropriateness of this, my daughter just asked her "well, how many sweaters do you need, anyway?"

It was at this point that I knew my kids would be all right.

We all have closets full of old stuff; basements full of old stuff. Fifty years ago there was no such thing as a self-storage industry; now it is the fastest growing sector in commercial real estate. When you enter "we have too" in Google, the top guess is "much stuff." Clearly, this is on people's minds.

We have too much stuff because we don't buy mindfully. We have too much stuff because we stuff our faces, so that our clothing size goes up and up and up and last year's clothes, or the year's before, don't fit anymore, so we have to reoutfit ourselves. We don't seem to be able to get rid of the old stuff. We get that it's irresponsible to abandon a coat simply because we decided we don't like the color.

But we don't use it. We want to use new stuff that we didn't need in the first place. Don't buy a new sweater. I have it on the authority of a pretty smart second-grader that you've got a perfectly good old one.

Two slaws: Basil coleslaw
1 small cabbage, shredded
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 carrot, grated
1/2 medium onion, grated


1/2 cup (homemade, see below) mayonnaise
1 T honey
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons cream
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

Toss the vegetables together. Whisk the dressing, and mix.

Traditional cole slaw
1 green cabbage, shredded
2 large carrots, grated

3/4 cup (homemade) mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 small red onion, sliced very thin
1 T honey
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons celery salt (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Toss the vegetables together. Whisk the dressing, and mix.

Homemade Mayonnaise
Adapted from The Perfect Pantry via Little Blue Hen
Makes about 1 1/2- 2 cups

2 egg yolks, at room temperature
4 tablespoons warm water
1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 cup canola or olive oil, or a combination (using olive oil gives the mayo a pronounced olive oil flavor)
1 teaspoon salt
juice of 1/4 lemo

Put egg yolk, water, and mustard in the bowl of a 3-cup food processor. Run the blade to make sure it catches the mixture, dribble in a bit more water if needed or stir up the yolk to get it to catch. Run the food processor until the mixture is pale yellow (about 30 seconds or so).

The oil must be added very slowly to ensure that the mixture emulsifies. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil in a narrow (pencil tip width) steady stream. You can tell the emulsion is working because you'll start to hear slapping sounds as the food processor runs. Some recipes recommend stopping when about 1/3 of the oil has been added, and then continue to add by teaspoonfuls, but I've found it works fine to just keep the steady stream going. Stop the motor and check the mayonnaise to make sure it is emulsifying. If so, continue adding the oil slowly until it is all combined.

When all the oil has been added, add the salt and lemon juice. The lemon juice will help increase its shelf life. I've had this mayo last 3 months in the fridge.

It took me about 3 tries to get my rhythm on homemade mayo, but it is so superior to even the best store bought that once you get the hang of it, you'll never buy mayo again.


  1. Thanks for this. I'm definitely going to give it a try. I confess that the kids have a lot (like A LOT) of clothes because we have time of day billing and so I only do laundry on non-peak times (read weekends) but even then, they still have FAR more than any child would need for a full week.

    I'm definitely going to try to more mindful when outfitting them for summer this year.

    I love this Mayo recipe too! Fits in well with The Real Food Challenge going on in March on Not Dabbling in Normal.

  2. Julie- it was the Real Food Challenge that turned me on to homemade mayo! Check out Little Blue Hen, which is where I got the original recipe; it's a great blog.