It’s hard for me to trash some stuff. Not because I think I’ll miss it, but because I imagine the landfill rounding up several inches. I get this vision whenever I hold an empty plastic box in my hands. I’m talking about those eternally sturdy containers with a “4” or “5” molded into the raised triangle on their bottoms.
So I’ve got a cupboard stuffed with those round plastic boxes—in all sizes—each of them waiting for a new assignment. About half the time the cupboard door doesn’t close tightly, it’s so full. When I start to nick up my knuckles getting a stack in or out, I finally take a bunch of boxes out and retire them to the back room of the basement—where teetering piles are gathering, mostly out-of-sight.
I’m a partly converted locavore, but one of the dark, dirty secrets of eating locally for me is this accumulation of untold numbers of plastic boxes. I shop regularly at our downtown farmers market, where the vendors hand me their produce either in plastic boxes or plastic bags (yeah, it’s almost as hard for me to toss bags as it is boxes).
I do carry my grandma’s wicker market basket (it’s at least 50 years old and still doing its job), and I do return empty egg cartons to the woman who sells me eggs. I’ve thought of coming equipped with part of my army of empty plastic boxes and bags and asking that the standholders put the chicken breasts and the fresh pumpkin in them while I wait. . . and while a restless crowd grows behind me as this whole operation consumes precious minutes.
Sometimes when I’ve cooked a big meal and have lots of leftovers, I pull out a raft of plastic boxes and fill them for my mother and daughters and son-in-law. I love getting those boxes out of our house almost as much as I like giving the food away.
Then my mother gives the boxes back. I tell her I don’t want them. She says she doesn’t either.
When I send food home with our daughters, I confess to chortling about handing off as many plastic boxes as I can. Two years ago, our older daughter broke her leg and needed a bit of help around the house. That’s when I discovered her cupboard of empty plastic boxes. I closed the door quietly and asked no questions.
Our younger daughter has been snickering at me for years about this practice of mine. She suspects that I do this more because I’m cheap than because I have an ecologically attuned conscience. She’s probably right.
She prefers buying storage containers with matching lids, thus saving herself lots of frustration and many minutes by not needing to search for lids that fit. I remind her that I did take a couple of hours a few years ago to organize and categorize my boxes and lids.
She’s not impressed. And then she grins and reminds me that she drives a diesel car.
Okay, here’s a recipe that’s so good, you shouldn’t have any leftovers to worry about boxing up in something. I could eat this recipe at least once a week. I think it’s the dressing. . .
Black Bean Taco Salad with Lime Vinaigrette
Fix-It and Enjoy-It Cookbook, page 171
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes (if the chicken is already cooked)
¼ cup chopped, seeded tomatoes
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. grated lime rind
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. chili powder
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 garlic clove, peeled
8 cups thinly sliced lettuce
1½ cups roasted, boneless chicken (a rotisserie chicken works well, or leftover chicken does, too), shredded or chopped fine
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup diced onions, optional
½ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups tortilla chips, partially broken or crushed
1. Combine vinaigrette in a blender or food processor until smooth.
2. Combine lettuce, chicken, tomatoes, onions if you wish, cheese, and black beans in a large bowl.
3. Add vinaigrette just before serving. Toss well to coat.
4. Serve with tortilla chips.