Monday, October 15, 2007

One in a Million

This is a non-food post

Actually, make that 1 in 6 billion. That is what each of us is, a teeny drop in an ocean of humanity. If, like me, you are a card-carrying pessimist, then that number will make you feel terribly small and insignificant, and helpless about doing anything for this wounded world we live in. But when I get melancholy about this, a little voice in my head says, "ek chidiya, anek chidiya"...the words of a Hindi children's animation that I simply loved as a kid (nostalgic folks can see it here on YouTube). To be fair, that adorable little animation talks about national unity, but the spirit is the same: if enough people put their mind to something, big changes can happen.

Blog Action Day

October 15th is Blog Action Day, when thousands of bloggers come together and post their thoughts on the subject of our environment. The environment can mean a lot of things- the air we breathe, our food and drink, the flora and fauna we share our world with. A healthy environment also means justice, fairness and an equitable sharing of resources. It means that people should stop exploiting each other and share a little. Or be made to.

I have realized that in our complicated world, an ordinary person like me has at least two trump cards in her hand: knowledge and money. Knowledge because I have the privilege of knowing how to read and write, and access to media of all kinds, including the behemoth internet. Money because every person (wealthy or not) who earns and lives in this material world is making a choice every time they spend a rupee, a dollar, whatever unit of currency. Instead of feeling helpless, I can try and learn about the world and its workings, and then use my power as a consumer to make choices about how I spend my money (or not) and how I live my life.

In the recent past, I have learnt...
...about the unfair trade practices that keep farmers in poor countries under economic slavery. I have started to vote for fairness by buying fair trade products whenever I can find them (coffee and cocoa are two that are starting to becoming widely available in the US).
...about the disgusting employment practices of companies like Walmart, who build their empires on the lives on those minimum-wage workers who toil for them. They won't get a cent from me if I can help it. I might find a dirt-cheap toaster at Walmart but someone else is paying the price for it.
...about supporting companies who manage to do a good job. Once companies realize that people want fair employee and trade practices, eco-friendly ingredients and packaging, and will buy products and services only when these conditions are met, then change will come fast.
...about the fact that "biodegradable" isn't! Products touted as "biodegradable" are tested under optimum conditions of degradation. Our trash ends up in a landfill where even a banana peel isn't likely to decompose! "Reduce" is the way to go, avoiding paper plates and the like altogether.
...about becoming less of a consumer altogether, and finding that life is much simpler and happier that way. My mother does a good imitation of me wringing my hands and saying, "I *hate* STUFF. Who needs all this stuff? Stop buying me more stuff, Aai, and stop buying all this stuff yourself". It amuses her no end when I start my hate-stuff rant, but hating "stuff" (random things cluttering up my home) makes me a happier person :D
...about the cruel nature of breeding pure-bred dogs to satisfy pet fanciers. If you want a pet, don't BUY it, adopt it from the streets or from the local animal shelter. You will have a pet who is one-of-a-kind look and personality, unlike the inbred near-clones with kennel club certificates. I'm proud to say that all my friends have rescued pets, and it is the cutest menagerie you ever saw.

I hope to keep reading and learning and increasing my awareness of how I could change my ways to more fair and eco-friendly ones. Meanwhile, action starts at home, and one of the top places in the home where potential waste can be minimized is the kitchen. Madhuli tagged me for the What's in your Fridge? meme. My experience is that an overfilled, messy fridge is the best way to waste large amounts of food, because (a) you never find anything you need and end up ordering take-out (b) you forget what you already have and buy more of everything (c) you never get to the food, and it sits there and is thrown out after a few weeks. For the last year or two, my fridge has strict "zones" and zero waste.

From the top...
Top shelf: Beverages on the sides (milk/ fruit juice on the left, coffee and beer on the right), cooked (ready-to-eat) food in the middle where I can see it and use it for the nest meal or two, or for lunch-boxes.
Middle shelf: Eggs, cheese, tofu on the left, right side is reserved for "carbs"- bread, tortillas, today there is some dosa batter as well.
Below that is a small compartment for Dale's canned food, then the shelf below has fruits, dry fruits and occasional sweet treats. We are not big fruit eaters, but when I cut up the fruit and save it in boxes, making it convenient to eat, it disappears fast.
Bottom-most shelf is for codiments/preserves that don't fit in the door, and for containers with some coconut milk/ canned tomatoes, half-used veggies...any ingredient that is left over from a recipe and needs to be used up in 2-3 days. The lowest crisper trays (not in the picture) are stuffed with vegetables, which get used all through the week and then in some fridge-cleaning recipe on Thursday or Friday night.
All the food we possibly eat can fit into one or the other zones, and then I know exactly where everything is, which means it is not left to perish in loneliness, plus I don't keep the fridge door open hunting down stuff. Rigid as this system sounds, it actually works :D What are your fridge-organization tips? Write this meme and tell us!

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On the subject of sharing what we have to make the world a better place, I wanted to spread the word about a very worthy cause. The Feed A Hungry Child campaign has taken on the mission of feeding hungry children, one at a time. This is the vision of a fellow blogger VKN of My Dhaba. Please chip in by clicking below and donate whatever amount you wish. Share a meal with a will be rewarded with smiles!

Update: As if smiles were not enough, there are now some very cool prizes to sweeten the deal! Visit Mahanandi to buy one raffle ticket for every 25$ donation. The prizes in the raffle include cookbooks, photography books, spice extracts, children's saris and restaurant dinners!


  1. Amen to your comments on Puppy Mills... disgusting. I am a proud caretaker of 2 pound pups. In addition, we have foster 'pups' who live with us until they find a home. Bravo to you and your friends who have rescued deserving pups and gave them a home.
    St. Francis of Assisi's attitude towards the natural world was awesome. He believed the duty of men to protect and enjoy nature as both the stewards of God's creation and as creatures ourselves. As caretakers, we should consume only what is needed, and no more.
    On you comments about stuff and the over consumerism of this world... heres a poem that to me was thought provoking..
    "The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry
    The garment hanging in your closet is the garment of him who is naked
    The shoes that you do not wear and of the one who is barefoot
    The money you keep locked away is the money of the poor
    The acts of charity that you do not perform, are the many injustices that you commit"..St, Basil the Great
    One person, one kind act times 6 billion.. Awesome!

  2. Very timely thoughts, Nupur. You know,long ago, back in India, we had this nice culture of using really bioldegradable plates and pattals, donas and banana leaves.....that culture has almost faded and looked upon as "dehati". Instead, we now have everybody using paper and plastic cups. And also i am totaly for buying and enjoying local produce.

    Btw, your fridge is really neat and rightly stocked :). I hate overstuffed fridges! oops, hate is strong word. and thanks for featuring FAHC. its a great cause indeed.

  3. Beautifully written, Nupur!

  4. You truly are an inspiration Nupur!
    Buying fair-trade products has been the starting step for me. And I agree--reduce is definitely the way to go. Coz tho I'd like to completely banish plastic from my kitchen, I still need it for the trash bins (as ironic as it gets!).

  5. Very well written post Nupur.And I like the idea of having zones in the fridge..its more organised.I loved how Dale has his own corner in the fridge!:)

  6. A lovely enlightening post Nupur. Thanks for the reminder about blog action for the environment. Your fridge looks so neat and organized, I am green with envy! :)

    PS Both my kitties are adopted. Dale looks so sweet, how are you gonna hide that gorgeous face behind a mask? How about decorating his leash/collar :):)

  7. Nupur, very well written,the amount of waste we generate is unacceptable. the more conveince addicts we become more trash we generate.BTW very neatly stacked and clean ref you have

  8. Do u know that you are one incredible girl!! I loved the way you raised awareness Nupur and i know i will do my bit!! thank you

  9. Nicely written, Nupur. Overstocking has become our way of life, filling up everything literally.

    Thanks for informing us all about Blog Action Day!

  10. Hi Nupur,

    Your post is so enlightening. What we eat daily has such an enormous impact on our environment.

    I recently made Kesar-Pista Nankhatai following your recipe. It was wonderful!

    Thanks Nupur for the wonderful recipes. I also love your pictures!
    They are so beautiful.

  11. Very thought provoking post Nupur. I like your thoughts on reducing waste and simple living. Wish more people thought on similar lines. I love Freecycle and participate trying to give things new uses and avoid filling up the landfill. Thanks for the ek chidiya song, loved those Films Division documentaries!

  12. I knew your post for today would be thought-provoking and inspirational - and it is, thank you! I'm still working on using less, having less stuff, reusing, etc. and haven't yet even factored in fair-trade, labor practices, etc., though I have made a point of staying out of Wal-Mart. Thanks for raising my awareness on these topics and thanks too for your great ideas on organizing the fridge! However, I think I'm at a big disadvantage - you've got an extra shelf in yours!! :)

  13. Thanks very much Nupur for mentioning the FAHC raffle fund-drive.

  14. Reva, YAY for cute pound pups. They are the best!

    Musical, it is heartening that now again, reusable things are coming into vogue! Good old cloth bags and banana leaves rule :)

    Tee, thank you, my dear!

    Shvetha, actually, I have learnt all these things from the blog world, and from others who share what they know. I know, the plastic trash bags...I have no idea how to deal with that :( other than to reduce trash so that we have less bags altogether.

    Dhivya, thank you

    Madhuli, thanks for tagging me :) yeah, Dale needs space for his yucky canned food :D

    Linda, no way is this pooch wearing a mask! He might run away from home if I try something like that :D

    Sreelu, living in the US, it is incredible how much more wasteful I have become :( time to change that...

    Raaga, thanks :) poured out my heart and now I feel a bit silly actually...oh well.

    Padmaja, you and your family are already doing your bit with your lovely garden!

    Swaroopa, just trying to be thoughtful...long way away from getting there :)

    Indosungod, sometimes I think I will go nuts with all the malls and supermarkets and more stores and more malls :D I loved your post BTW

    Kumudha, glad the nankhatai worked! Thanks so much for the feedback...and for your kind words. You are too sweet! My pictures are happy to hear it :) I never like them much.

    Namita, I love freecycle too! I had a link to it in this post but it ended up being edited out :) I'm so glad you mentioned it here.

    Cathy, I have just started to learn more about fair-trade etc. but now I realize that it is the only ethical thing to do. I just hope more products become fair trade and it becomes standard practice...

    Indira, your commitment to this project is admirable.

  15. Hi Nupur,
    Very thought provoking. I've always worried about things like wastage and the impact on environment, but never did anything to try and stop it. Now, I have taken inspiration from the picture of your refrigerator.

  16. great post ur well organised refrigerator i am inspired to do something similar :-)

  17. Very interesting post Nupur. I am ashamed at how we waste "stuff"..really.And yes too many stores overwhelm me too.

    I also liked your way of organizing the refrigerator. Shall surely give it a try.

  18. Ah, that fridge organization is brilliant! I may have to force certain other members of the household to pay attention.

    Also, the "stuff" rant? I so do that too! :-)

  19. I loved reading this post. I've been trying to make changes in my life to be more eco-friendly, but never thought about something so simple as keeping my fridge organized. Now, I'm taking inspiration from you and will be doing zones in my fridge and cabinets. We do waste a lot of food, and that's shameful. Especially now that our budget is getting a little tighter, we need to be more careful.

  20. Long time reader. Thanks for all the recipes.

    However, why pick on just Wal-Mart...why not all the stores such as Target, Sears, KMart etc? How are they any better than Wal-Mart?

    May be we all should quit buying cheap Chinese made stuff which are produced by underpaid workers, at an less than ideal working conditions, no matter who sells them. Or for that matter, several Indian made stuff as well.

  21. Yogita, I think each of us can do a little bit, and maybe we will see some positive change :)

    Spice of Life, organization is a simple thing, but makes life much easier for me in so many ways!

    Sandeepa, "overwhelm" is the exact word, when I enter some of these giant stores.

    MizD, oh good...I am not the only loon with the "stuff" rant then :D ;)

    Sasha, that is really the best part about wasting less food: you save so much money! Which can be used for something you really want or need, rather than be thrown in the trashcan, right? :)

    Dministrator, you make a great point: absolutely, those mass-produced often cheap goods made in sweatshops are all contributing to the ill-treatment of workers everywhere in the world.
    I picked on Wal-mart for their treatment of their very own minimum-wage employees here in the US: not allowing them to unionize, restricting hours so that they will have to forgo health insurance etc. All these policies have been widely criticized, even as walmart builds new stores every day.

  22. Nupur,
    I've been away from food blogs for a couple of weeks now and wanted to catch up on my favorite blogs and I come here and see this post. What a truly thought-provoking post. You truly are an inspiration.

  23. hi
    great to look into your fridge, so neet and well organized do you always manage to keep it in this way,as i find it very difficult to stick to a certain pattern when it concerns the fridge arrangement.


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