Joy of Cooking

In 2017 it was reported that for the first time Americans spent more money eating out that at home.  I am not sure if that means they also eat more meals out or not since dining out can be more expensive.  Surveys report that we also eat more meals today somewhere other than at a dinner table than ever before, be it a plate on our lap in front of the TV, or on a breakfast bar reading our emails.  I get it because when I worked the corporate life we too ate out or picked up carry out often because it was easier than getting home late and making something to eat.  I enjoyed cooking but it was restricted to free time, mostly weekends that I tried to pack everything else into as well.   Now that I am retired I find myself discovering once again the joy of cooking.

 

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I love to use the chef’s knife and chop.   It is one of those things I find relaxing.

 

I am experimenting with new and old recipes.  I am pulling cards out of the recipe box my grandma wrote for me in her handwriting all those years ago. I am looking at my collection of cookbooks and browsing them for something new to make.   Of course, we can not exclude the recipe apps and Google.   Some of what I am cooking is Midwestern comfort food, some dishes reflect the different places we have lived, other meals are ethnic foods from around the world,  some dishes are healthy, other times what I make is just for special occasion splurging,  some are fully from scratch and sometimes it will be a store box or can that I doctor up.

I invite you along on this journey as I share some of what I make.  Sometimes it will be a recipe, other times just a photo of the dish, or the dinner table.   I hope you enjoy and are inspired.

 

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I like to measure out everything now, as a way to make sure I have all the ingredients before I start.   I did not do that before, but now I am not likely to drop everything and run to town to the grocery to get a missing ingredient so has become an important step

 

 

 

Expand Your Palate – Expand Your World

An icon of the 60’s family dinner.

I grew up in America’s breadbasket, and most of what I ate in my formative years  could be defined as a  classic white Wonder bread world.    Illinois was prime farmland, and I grew up in the middle of it.   My family ate the things that were grown in the our garden.  Our garden was big and contained largely common things like corn,tomatoes, and beans.   It also contain a few not so common things at the time such as …kale…cauliflower…beets.     My parents bought their pork and beef from the local meat lockers.   It allowed our family to have extravagances like steak.   But we also ate some not common things because nothing was wasted, such as  the heart, liver and things like pudding meat.  (I am not sure today what pudding meat was even was made up of, and I probably don’t want to know.)

My family also were hunter-gathers.  We ate wild asparagus that we cut from along fence rows, my dad remember the location year to year from his time driving the milk truck.   I never knew morel mushrooms were a delicacy.   We used to go out and bring home empty feed sacks full each spring.    My mom would freeze them and put them on pot roast in the winter.  (That  seems almost obscene knowing what they sell for today).   The men in the family  hunted, as a result we ate all sorts of small game.   Our family fished and occasionally ran bank poles.  It meant we ate blue gills, sunnies, bullheads, catfish and turtle that came from the local rivers, creeks and backwaters.

My mom was a town girl, but here wasn’t a thing that she would not try to make.   It was the days before the internet so she was at the mercy of friends, family, cookbooks and the recipes reported in the newspaper. If something bombed she would look for a new recipe for the next time.  Some of them years later as an adult I  confess they were not anything I would want to repeat.  (No disrespect intend Mother).

What this did do, was set me up so that as an adult I would have an open mind about trying new foods.  Eating my mother’s forays into the less than common cuts of meat and veggies, I learned that I may not like someone one or two ways, but there were just as likely five or six ways to prepare it that were worthy of repeating often.  It served me well when I moved to the city.  In the city,   I was always wanting to try new ethnic restaurants.   I did not want eat just at Italian, Chinese and Mexican restaurants. Even in the more common cuisines,  I did not want an Americanized menu.     I ate food from Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Greece, Turkey,  Morocco, Viet Nam, India and other countries I had never heard of.   I often  had to go home and look up to see where many of the countries were on a map.   I wanted to learn more about the culture of country where the food I was eating came from.    I quickly learned like the US there were many regional flavors within a country, so eating at different restaurants yielded different menus.

I may never travel the world, but I have gotten to experience the cuisines of the world through my palate.   It will never be the same as going to these countries, but I have used it as an opportunity to travel in my mind.   Expanding my palate has expanded my world.

Food on the Road

Last week I was on the road for work, which meant that I ate out all week.   Having been on a mission to incorporate more vegetables into my diet this week drove home to me how crummy your choices are when dining out.

Let me set my personal stage:   I am a meat eater and eat plenty of that at home.   I have multiple veggies with each meal.    At our house we do try to do one meatless meal a week.   My reason for this meal lifestyle  focus on vegetables is an effort to have a more  well rounded nutritionally balanced diet.  I really have come to depend the variety of tastes and textures that having an assortment of veggies with a meal. It makes me full and satisfied after a meal.

I ate many of my meals at the conference center/hotel restaurant.   In four days my choices for the vegetables was asparagus with a mornay sauce, or steam carrot/cauliflower/broccoli mix.   Based on that I can assume it wasn’t fresh, but likely some frozen “bag veggies.”  I also ate some meals at chain and local restaurants and found that my choices really no better.   Vegetables were absent for the most part.

I have come to the conclusion that the public is not demanding veggies and so restaurants are not providing them.  They are not inexpensive because we repeatedly are offered the same ones.   Now all this has me thinking of my next business trip, when I will be on the road for a full week.   What do I plan to do for myself to not go for a full week so few veggies?   I am not sure, but I have a couple of months to think about what I will do.   I would love to hear from others their thoughts on this challenge.