By Arabella Forge
Melbourne, Australia chapter leader Arabella Forge combines gardening and chicken-raising basics with practical advice and yummy WAPF-friendly recipes in this little gem of a cookbook. Subtitled “How to grow your own, buy local, waste nothing and eat well,” Frugavore introduces modern readers to the fundamentals of peasant cuisine, in which nothing is wasted, every part of the animal eaten, abundance from the garden preserved in traditional ways, and delicious meals prepared from scratch with fresh, local ingredients.
“Many people would like to eat differently,” writes Forge, “but aren’t sure where to start or don’t think they can afford it.” The author takes her readers by the hand and shows them step by step how to shop, how to keep a garden and a few chickens, how to stock a pantry, which fats to use, and how to prepare meals quickly and efficiently. She explains that living frugally does not mean purchasing cheap food, but rather buying the best quality food possible and making the most of it.
Forge describes an exercise in cost comparison in which she took her sister’s family out for a fast-food meal. The total bill for three adults and three children was thirty-five dollars, and the total time expended on the meal was half an hour—the time it took to drive to the restaurant and back. The following week she invited the family to her place for a meal of lentil soup, arugula salad (from her garden) and coconut pudding. Total meal preparation time was one hour and the cost less than half the cost of the fast food meal—without the sugars, trans fats, preservatives and flavorings, all with very expensive health consequences. Any leftovers can go into soup—or fed to the chickens or tossed into the garden compost pile. The notion that convenience food is cheaper is a myth!
And then come the recipes. . . lots of delicious, nutrient-dense, easily prepared dishes that will tempt even the most reluctant cook into the kitchen: cauliflower with bacon, potato and nutmeg omelet, Spanish-style chicken casserole, fish pie, Moroccan rabbit hot pot, oatmeal slice, baked fruits stuffed with ricotta and honey and a brewed pineapple beer! Forge does a lot with a simple oatmeal pastry crust—soaked overnight— and puts a big emphasis on sourdough bread, stock-based soups and raw milk. She explains how to make kefir, curds and whey, yoghurt and curd cheese.
The book contains a discussion on good and bad fats which is refreshingly simple and accurate, along with a section on the benefits of dairy products. Another plus: instructions on how to make your own inexpensive, environmentally friendly cleaning products.
Best of all, the book is infused with the spirit of cheerful can-do. As Forge points out, obtaining your food from farmers, through farmers’ markets, a co-op or CSA, directly from the farm gate or your own garden, and then preparing it yourself, not only supports the local economy, not only costs less, not only provides superior nutrition—it is also a lot of fun.
Frugavore is available in the U.S. through Amazon. A USA-version of Frugavore will be available in all good bookstores throughout the USA as of September 2011. In the meantime, it is currently available on Amazon.com
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2010.