A Meal without Plastic

This past Sunday my church’s confirmation class helped lead the worship service. The kids reported on their research project this semester. They have been studying a depressing but worthy topic—the proliferation of non-biodegradable plastic in our world and our lives.

To fit in with this theme, our minister Cara asked church members to participate in a pot-luck luncheon for which we were to prepare foods that had never touched plastic. I am always up for a challenge—but I have to admit that this invitation was a bit more of a challenge than I expected!

I decided to make a quiche since I had leeks from my farm share in Virginia. They had arrived in a cardboard box, and I had by chance chosen to carry them north to Massachusetts in a paper bag! I had garlic in the house from last year’s Massachusetts farm share; fortunately, the house had been cool enough in my absence to keep it fresh.

I used eggs from neighbors’ chickens. And I asked Paula at the meat counter of our general store, Avery’s, to cut me some cheddar from the big wheel in the back of the store and wrap it in paper instead of the customary plastic. If this tactic failed, I was prepared to go to B.J.’s Wholesale Club, which sells Cabot Cheddar in wax-covered bricks. Luckily, Paula came through for me.

I ran into a couple of snags in my ingredients. When I realized that my salt poured through a plastic spout, I scrounged around until I found a half-dead (i.e., very wet) salt container that poured through cardboard.

And I was dismayed when I realized that my Crisco tub had a plastic lid that could have touched the stuff on the inside. Fortunately, a search through the cupboards uncovered a lone, foil-wrapped Crisco stick for my pie crust.

(I realized later that I could have made the pie crust with butter, but at the time I was fixated on Crisco for some reason.)

Pepper was out. My grinder is wooden, but the peppercorns inside came originally in plastic. Most of my spices are in plastic containers. Happily, I found a glass jar that held a whole nutmeg, some of which I could grate into the custard using my handy (stainless steel, thank goodness!) Microplane.

The real plastic revelation came not with the ingredients but with my cooking utensils. I hadn’t realized how much plastic I use on a daily basis.

I reached for my nonstick sauté pan, only to realize that its coating was probably some form of plastic. Out came the cast-iron skillet.

My usual silicone spatula needed to be replaced by a wooden spoon. I had to eschew my plastic dry measuring cups. It took me a long time to find the metal ones hiding on the bottom of a shelf.

I forced myself to remember to use a wooden cutting board, not a plastic one. And just in time I realized that I couldn’t roll the piecrust out on my usual plastic mat.

The quiche was a hit. I am out of leeks but will make it again very soon substituting our regions’s famous local asparagus, which is starting to come into season.

The whole exercise did educate me about the pervasiveness of plastic in my life. I will try hard to minimize the number of plastic bags and bottles I use. I won’t give up my plastic utensils, however. After all, they are already IN this world; it serves the environment to use them!

Other contributions to the feast included a lamb stew made with meat from the farm of my friends Erwin and Linda Reynolds, applesauce cake, homemade bread, and something yummy with rhubarb. (I’m on the trail of that recipe, never fear!)

I hope the kids felt proud of their Sunday in the spotlight. They certainly taught me a lot.

Here's the stew Cara made from local lamb.

Non-Plastic Quiche

Ingredients:

2 large (or three medium or four small) farm-fresh leeks
3 large (or four medium or six small) cloves of garlic that have never touched plastic
a splash of extra-virgin olive oil in a bottle that has no plastic, plus a bit more if needed
four eggs that went from chickens to cardboard to you
1/2 cup cream (from a container with no plastic)
a pinch of salt (watch for plastic spouts!)
a little freshly grated nutmeg that has not touched plastic
6 ounces (more or less) sharp cheddar cheese that was not wrapped in plastic, grated
1 8-inch pie shell prepared with ingredients that have not touched plastic

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Clean the leeks, and remove the root ends and most of the green stalks. Cut the leeks into quarters lengthwise, and clean them again; then chop the quarters into 1/2-inch pieces.

Cut the garlic cloves into thin strips.

Heat a stainless-steel or cast-iron pan and add a splash of oil. Heat the oil until it shimmers; then sauté the leek and garlic pieces until the leeks start to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add a little more oil if necessary as the vegetables cook. Remove from heat.

In a non-plastic bowl whisk together the eggs, cream, salt, and nutmeg.

Place the pie shell in a pie pan. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the pie crust. Top the cheese with the sautéed vegetables; then pour on the cream/egg custard, and top with the remaining cheese.

Place the tart (or quiche or whatever you want to call it!) on a rimmed cookie sheet to prevent spillage, and bake it for about 40 minutes, until the custard is set and the top is golden—but the leeks peeking out are not burning!

Serves 6.

Some participants in the meal opted to bring canned goods...

If you enjoyed this post, please consider taking out an email subscription to my blog. Just click on the link below!

Subscribe to In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens by Email.

Tags: , ,

8 Responses to “A Meal without Plastic”

  1. Susan says:

    Tinky … I love this one! Well done!

    Sorry to have missed the non-plastic extravaganza!

  2. Jill says:

    What a great minister you have and what a great “assignment” she gave. I’ve been trying to limit my plastic use or at least reuse any plastic to the max for years. Like you, I have to accept that the plastic storage containers I have (tons) are on this earth whether I use them or ditch them, I recycle every bit I can–companies are reutilizing plastic now to make new products–and I even wash out and reuse those expensive plastic bags that are good for protecting paper wrapped packages from freezer burn.

  3. Cara says:

    Hey, thanks for sharing about our “non-plastic potluck!” It was great fun…and I learned a lot, too! Great to have you back in town!

  4. Jean says:

    Kind of like a “treasure hunt”. The quiche looks wonderful, and kudos to you for persevering and finding the ingredients without plastic. Is silicon plastic? I thought it was sand, and with a wooden handle it should have been ok. Wikipedia says that silicon is the 8th most common element in the universe, and that it is in sand, but other forms as well. I think it is “natural”.

  5. Robert Jon Daisher says:

    Cannot count the number of times the use of plastic in every form known to man/women has been on my mind inclusive of looking around in daily life in every environment around us. Mind boggling to say the least and, especially, disturbing when considering its’ source with all the chemical processes required to manufacture a product which our “home planet” has difficulty digesting. In the name of progress comes to mind; especially subjects which lead the mind to many other manufactured products counted in the long list of what is not good for us and or our home planet.

    With most of humanity condensed around cities and, continuing to do so in the foreseeable future, the conveyance offered in the endless supply and demand processes would seem to guarantee a long life for plastics in every form. Clearly the industry is “huge” with a huge voice behind the scene in government as well. Even now as I look around my office it is clear how I would be unable to function both personally and in a must-communicative process without plastics.

    The list of ever-increasing things raising my sadness level includes plastics to be sure. I love my/our home planet in, perhaps, a similar way as the American Indians did and would dearly love to turn back the hands of time in ways to extensive for a writing such as this. But there is an equal list of impossible things to do in these modern times that, unfortunately, continues to grow.

    As I continue to survey such things from my seat here on the moon, where the view of all things seems to be and or become much more clear from such a distant perspective, my heart understands the path and or course of humanity will continue to damage my/our home planet while there is nothing that can be done to stop events in any meaningful way. To use a term from these modern times, it is what it is. At least I recognize that on this small plot of land of mine I am able to leave it in much better condition from that which I found it in when I pass away.

    Consequently, and with all things considered, my message for a possible life changing and possible earth changing endeavor is simply to leave ones home environment in a much better condition from when one moved in. With this mind set as a beginning, other things can happen. Just my dime’s worth.

  6. tinkyweisblat says:

    Susan–I’m sure we can recreate the experience for you!

    Jill, she is great indeed, and I applaud your recycling.

    Cara, I love being back–and I thank you for organizing this event.

    Jean, you are right about silicon–but unfortunately, silicone (with an “e”) is a man-made materal and only includes silicon as one of its ingredients. I’m working on figuring out how to recycle it.

    Robert, well put! You inspire me.

  7. BumbleVee says:

    hahhah…you are too funny Tinky….. of course, you absolutely know that your donation was the one …and, the only one…that did not touch any plastic. Everybody else wouldn’t even have thought not to use plastic coated utensils…plastic grinders..etc..acckk..even pepper that came in a plastic bag before it went into their wooden or stainless grinders.. I’d bet good money on it…. what a great post to remind us of exactly what we DO use anymore that hasn’t been contaminated with vile plastic…

  8. tinkyweisblat says:

    Thanks, Vee. It was certainly an adventure!

Leave a Reply