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  • From: "Tradingpost" <tradingpost@gilanet.com>
  • Date: Fri, 26 Nov 2004 06:17:46 -0700

forwarded, thanks to Robert Waldrop, president
Oklahoma Food Cooperative
Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House

We are happy to announce the publication of the 5th edition of the Better Times Almanac of Useful Information, in both a print and an internet edition. The internet edition can be accessed at http://www.bettertimesinfo.org/2004index.htm . This 32 page tabloid newspaper format publication is designed to help people make better decisions in their kitchens, cooking healthy, tasty, and nutritious meals from basic ingredients.  It incorporates information about the importance of growing at least some of your own food and buying from local producers.  It is a practical information tool kit.  Reading it should be like having a long visit with your grandmother and grandfather, or perhaps your great grandparents.  Yes, it has recipes.  Redneck Eggs Benedict (and Redneck Eggs Florentine too), chicken fried steak, cooked greens, how to make your own bread and biscuits, the secrets of meatloaf and the theory of casseroles, and Dorothy's Never Fail Pie Crust, among many which could be cited.  I don't know who Dorothy was, I found the recipe in a cookbook of Depression era recipes, but I always considered myself a failure at pie crust until I tried this one, and it really works for me.

To receive a free printed copy of the 5th Edition of the Better Times Almanac, please send a stamped, self-addressed 9" x 12" envelope with $1.06 postage on it to: Better Times, 1524 NW 21st, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73106. There is no charge for the publication, we are happy to send them out for free. If you would like multiple copies, contact me at rmwj@soonernet.com . Donations are accepted, however, to help keep the publication in print -- we printed 4000 copies but they will go fast, checks should be made payable to "Catholic Worker House". Donations of $15 or more will also receive a copy of my CD, Venite Adoremus, which has improvisational piano meditations on Christmas melodies, which I recorded live at Epiphany Church.

Robert Waldrop
Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House
Oklahoma Food Cooperative


We've had a day of cooking, eating, visiting with folks, and writing. The morning was a bit brisk, it was cold and the wind was blowing, but as the day went on the temperature warmed up considerably and the wind went down. Lots of leaves still on the trees, my cayenne, jalapeno, and habanero peppers are putting on new fruit. Not bad for November 25th. The local joke is that one of the consequences of global climate change will be that Oklahoma will get a decent climate. We're grateful for many things on this feast day, but high on the list is the publication of the 5th print edition of the Better Times (Occasional) Almanac of Useful Information, 32 tabloid pages in its print incarnation. It is also available on the internet at http://www.bettertimesinfo.org/2004index.htm .
This fifth edition comes into a world that is troubled and in trouble. Global climate changes, environmental devastation, and waves of violence and destruction are sweeping across the earth. The captains and the kings are marching and shouting, people are dying and there doesn't seem to be much prospect of this changing any time soon. Indeed, the velocity and magnitude of the problems seems to be increasing. Into this world situation comes the specter of sharply increasing energy prices, and the certainty of even more extreme price increases on the horizon. Energy prices are being driven by an "irresistible object" (insatiable demand for ever more fossil fuel energy)" running smack dab up against an "immovable object" (the limits - dictated by the geological facts under the ground and our technology - of fossil fuel production). Everyone in China wants a car now, in fact, they want two cars and a garage to put them in. 

Meanwhile, world oil production appears to be nearing its all-time production peak, after which it is all downhill, with things going from bad to worse for energy production, and then they will get even worse. North American natural gas is already in decline, and that decline rate appears to be accelerating. All this is the beginning of sorrows, so nobody should be thinking about bidness as usual, but unfortunately that is pretty much where most people are at. 

Every calorie of food in a supermarket incorporates many calories of fossil fuel in its manufacture and distribution. Food production in the "developed world" is entirely dependent upon high inputs of fossil fuels, chemical fertilizers, and toxic herbicides and pesticides. Soil fertility is declining, agriculture diversity is being eradicated, thousands of heirloom varieties of food crops and heritage breeds of poultry and livestock have gone extinct. The food industry is increasingly consolidated. A supermarket may look like a competitive marketplace, but in reality most of those brands are owned by five corporations.

If people are ready to do something practical about this situation, the Better Times Almanac is for them. It is a tool kit that people can use to learn how to live better with less - less stuff, less energy, less money, less aggravation, less trouble, less hassle. It has ideas on how to do more with less - more wisdom, more beauty, more fun, more satisfaction, more resilience, more security, and more sustainability, with less energy use, less money, less pollution, less impact. It is for people who are ready to accept personal responsibility for their lives, and who understand that they must literally be the change they want to see in the world. We got into this situation one bad decision at a time, and we will get out of it the same way - one good decision at a time. If we can't make the best decisions, we can at least begin making better decisions, and failing that, we must make good decisions. We should stop, or limit, the damage we do to the earth's biosphere and our human communities when we make stupid, imprudent, intemperate, gluttonous, and greedy decisions.

One of the tragedies of this time is that there has been an almost complete breakdown in the cultural transmission of important knowledge, sciences, and arts between generations. My grandparents, William Glen and Dovie Irene Waldrop, and John and Opal Marie Cassidy, lived on self-sufficient homesteads on the southwestern Oklahoma prairie along the Red River and lived much of their lives as farmers who grew and preserved a substantial amount of the food their families ate. They worked six days a week, 12 hours a day, and my grandmothers were among the best cooks that Tillman County ever produced. My grandfather Waldrop was an artisan of curing hams and making sausage. We still have the wagon bows from the wagon that brought my great grandfather Waldrop and his wife Mollie and family from Sherman, Texas to Tillman County, Oklahoma territory, but we have lost much of the knowledge they and their daughters and sons possessed. He lived in a mostly solar economy, and so did my grandparents up until rural electrification. My grandmother used to say that one of the regrets of her life was that her mother had died before they got electricity, and thus "she never lived to see how easy it was to keep house with electricity."

Thus it is important for people to work together to preserve this kind of "solar economy" information and learn how to incorporate it into our lives again. As we walk this journey, we must learn the value of the slow, the traditional, the small, the particular, the locality, the sense of place that used to be a fact of daily life. We must understand that there are limits and boundaries, and we should respect them. These ideas are so alien now they seem almost exotic.

It is of course all well and good to climb up on a watchtower and shout, "Lo the dust of the war chariots of the enemy riseth above the foothills", or to put on your John the Baptist hat and cry repentance, but it is another thing to actually put these high sounding ideals into practice. Thus the regular editions of this Better Times Almanac of Useful Information, each one building upon the previous work, growing organically in response to the signs of these times. 

If things are going to change for the better, it will only happen because people decide to literally be the change they want to see in the world. And conversely, if things don't change for the better, if things continue to go from bad to worse, it will be because too many people did NOT decide to be the change they want to see in the world. The place for me to start is with the man I see each morning in the mirror. It is said that the world would be a better place if we would all try to be what we want the other fellow to be.

It is as simple as that. Each person is responsible for his or her individual response to the world situation, we are all part of the problem, and we are thus all part of the solution. There is nobody that anyone can blame for not doing their part in the way they lives their lives.. There are many things that many people can do to make a positive difference in the world, and procrastination is the deadly enemy of the loving care and responsible stewardship of Creation. We can do, as the masthead of Better Times proclaims, what we can, with what we have, where we are. And so we should do it.

>From the beginning, if we are talking about ways and manners of living, I have felt that the place to start is in the kitchen. Food First! It is one area where we have a lot of control, and it is a place where changes can be made without spending big piles of extra money. In fact, we can spend less money and have more quality and do less damage to the planet by learning how to be Better Times cooks from the pages of the 5th edition of this Almanac. Food provides instant rewards. Eating is an agricultural act, eating is a moral act, eating is a cultural act. Decisions we make in our kitchens have enormous consequences, for good or for evil. One of the things we need to work for is a world where it is easier to be good. We hope the Better Times Almanac of Useful Information makes it easier for people to make good, better, and best decisions. 

If we want a local food system, where farmers use sustainable, organic production methods, where herds and flocks are free-ranging and naturally managed, where land and resources are conserved and constantly renewed by natural processes, then there must be a market for the products of such a system.

If there is going to be a market for such products, then those of us who are customers must generally change the way we do our food. 

We must stop looking for frozen, prepared, manufactured foods and instead purchase basic ingredients (or grow our own) from which we prepare our meals, always looking for products grown here in this region.. It is not as hard to make this transition as it seems at first, and it really is true that there are instant rewards in terms of both the authentic tastes and nutritional value of true food. The Better Times Almanac of Useful Information is designed to help you to stop being a passive consumer of manufactured junk foods and to start becoming a "co-producer" in a local food system where your grocery dollars support local farmers and local economies instead of feeding the appetites of transnational agribidness corporations and driving the destruction of our soils, biological diversity, and rural economies. In this situation, there is no rich or poor, or middle class in between. Everyone has a place at this table, there certainly is plenty good room.

A holiday, by definition, is a break with the ordinary routine of life and in most cultures is connected with feasting and celebration, so I would like to write a bit about the preparation of our Thanksgiving feast. As with much in our lives, there is good and bad co-mingled. The world is such that making the best decisions can be difficult, in some situations impossible. But we shouldn't let the difficulty of some decisions stop us from making other best decisions which are so easy they are practically no-brainers. That's why I talk about these kinds of food preparation happenings, first so that I can reflect on how I can do better next time, and second so that others can learn from our experiences, both the mistakes and the successes.

We like to cook and eat all day on Thanksgiving, ending up in late afternoon with the main feast. We started our day with strong coffee, free trade and organic certified, from PrimaCafi bought through the cooperative. That's one of those small decisions we all make every morning. Should I support greedy international coffee corporations that are destroying long established local traditions of coffee cultivation in favor of plantation cropping featuring high inputs of fossil fuels, and toxic herbicides and pesticides or should I buy coffee that pays the grower a just return for his product and is grown using traditional, organic production methods? The cheapness of the supermarket coffee reflects my willingness to take advantage of that corporation's ability to cheat small growers by not paying a just price for the coffee. We decided we simply weren't going to do that anymore, and if that means we pay a higher price for our coffee, well, we pay a higher price for the coffee. We pay less for other things and some things we don't buy any more and we don't drink coffee every day. It doesn't hurt of course that the fair trade certified organic coffee tastes better than anything we have ever bought at a supermarket or at a coffee shop. It is as good as the Italian coffee I drank in Rome.

After coffee, we had whole wheat fry breads, made with whole wheat flour ground from Oklahoma grown certified organic wheat (Springhill Farms, Kiowa County), sweetened with Honeyhill Farm honey (Oklahoma County), and Sean made his "Should Be Famous" onion rings (recipe in this edition of Better Times), he also made his cream cheese and green olive and habanero pepper salsa tortilla rollups, which we only make on big feast days. The tortillas were supposed to be from our favorite local tortilleria, but alas they were closed yesterday, so we got store bought tortillas, at least they were from Texas. The basic recipe for the fry bread was my whole wheat biscuit recipe, only I doubled the amount of honey and reduced the milk by an amount equivalent to the extra honey.

Meanwhile the turkey went into the oven, alas again, here we fell back a bit as we were not able to get a locally grown turkey for Thanksgiving. There is a serious unmet demand in the Oklahoma marketplace for locally grown, pastured turkeys. The cooperative has 3 growers who had turkeys but they all sold out before the cooperative monthly order came up. I stuffed the bird with carrots, celery, onions, and from our garden a bundle of sage, oregano, thyme, and rosemary. I cooked the turkey at 325 degrees, covered, and I don't fuss with it. Before putting it into the oven I rubbed the skin with olive oil.

As the afternoon passed, I worked a bit on the web edition of Better Times 5th edition, and Sean made his "Also Should Be Famous" deviled eggs with more of that habanero salsa, which we make from habaneros we grow in our garden. All of the eggs in this feast were from local producers, PDH Farms in Okemah and Horne Organic Farm in Cordell. Besides making great deviled eggs, farm eggs help make perfect baked goods.

I make my dressing in a cast iron skillet. We combined chopped onions and celery, shredded carrots, garlic (from our garden), and sauteed them in olive oil, added crumbled sage, thyme, and rosemary, and when the turkey was done, we dowsed this bread and vegetable mixture with broth from the turkey, and into the oven it went at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. I made the stuffing from biscuits I had made earlier in the week, half white flour biscuits, half whole wheat biscuits (more of our local flour), and this time, contrary to my usual practice, I didn't use any cornbread. It may have been my best dressing to date. The biscuits weren't quite stale enough yesterday so I crumbled them onto a cookie sheet and put them in the oven for about 90 minutes at 200 degrees and they were perfect for dressing. I didn't use all of them, so I put the rest in a jar and they will be fine for "stove top stuffing" two weeks from now.

We feasted on the traditional green bean casserole as a side dish, only we used our own onion rings, and it was very good. Homemade onion rings add a nice touch to this festive dish. There's no point in buying those canned "french fried" onion rings. God only knows how many weeks old they are. We had frozen some green beans earlier in the summer, but they didn't last until Thanksgiving - memo for 2005 garden plan: grow more green beans!

I didn't make any rolls this year, as last night at church after the Thanksgiving vigil mass somebody gave me a nice loaf of homemade sourdough bread, very chewy. I made gravy from the turkey broth, cooking the roux until it was light brown. Making gravy from scratch is easier than making gravy from a mix and homemade gravy tastes much better than gravy from a mix. Gravy making is so important I put a whole page in this edition of the Better Times Almanac on that subject..

For dessert we had cushaw squash pie, and it looked just like any pumpkin pie I have ever seen. I am not sure that people could tell in a blind cushaw/pumpkin pie taste test which was the cushaw squash pie and which was the pumpkin pie. I cooked the cushaw squash 2 weeks ago (baked) and put it in the freezer. We took it out early this morning and let it thaw. I used the "Dorothy's Never Fail Pie Crust" recipe (bless you Dorothy, whoever you are) from Better Times, and for the recipe for the pie filling I used the recipe from a can of pumpkin. It's been on my shelf for so long it is out of date, but I keep it around so I have the pumpkin pie recipe ready when I need it. It has been I think 3 years since I made a pie on Thanksgiving from canned pumpkin. I am glad I bought several cushaw squash from the McLemore family while they were in season. They seem to be keeping very well. I noticed one of them had a soft spot yesterday so tomorrow I will go ahead and bake that squash, first cutting out the soft spot, and freeze it in portions for eating later, either as baked squash or as more pies.) It's been said that most commercial pumpkin in a can is actually cushaw squash, and having now made 2 cushaw squash pies, I believe it. The pumpkins we have stored are also doing fine. They aren't stored in a fancy way, they are sitting on a shelf.

The leftovers are safely tucked in the refrigerator (within the 2 hour limit), and the dogs and cats all got treats too. The compost bucket has a feast for the worms and rolly pollies. The mache (corn salad), carrots, and chard in the cold frame are coming up strong, and the chard in the yard is still going strong. Even the basil is still green, so we really are blessed with kind weather this fall thus far. It has rained so much this past week the ground is super-saturated. I heard from a friend whose dad is farming that it has been so wet in his area his dad hasn't been able to plant his wheat. 

So it goes this Thanksgiving here at Northwest 21st Street and McKinley Avenue in Oklahoma City. As this season of holiday feasting unfolds around us, I pray that everyone will be conscious of the impact for good or for evil of the decisions you make as you observe this season. Discover for yourself the wisdom, beauty, and satisfaction that making better choices about food and lifestyle can bring to your life.

Robert Waldrop, president
Oklahoma Food Cooperative

This "Slow and Oklahoma Food" reflection is abstracted from a much longer essay at 


which incorporates information about the history of the Better Times publication project and its previous 4 editions, and also has considerable religious content, including a new "Letter from Paul the Apostle to the Agrarians" which I redactd from his writings in the New Testament.  If that url breaks up go to http://www.justpeace.org/onpilgrimage.htm and click on the page link for November 25th. 

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